Attitude and Group Conflicts: the Nigerian Experience

Table of Content


Attitudes are our beliefs and feelings about people, places and things. With attitudes we can like or dislike people and we can be positive or negative in our approach and in our feelings. Attitudes come from real and fictional heroes and mentors and from life experience. They range from minor to explosive, depending on the context and behaviours and social reactions they cause.

Attitudes may be rational or based on hearsay and faith. Attitudes can be good or bad; right or wrong; nice or not nice; desirable or undesirable; safe or harmful; healthy or toxic; normal or abnormal; and compatible or incompatible etc. It is in the human nature to observe, conclude and create attitudes, and once attitudes become incompatible, conflict results This paper therefore examines the concept of attitude as a psycho-social construct which determines the behaviour and thinking of people about various issues affecting human life.

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In the attempt to explain why people behave the way they do, conceptual issues such as attitude function; prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination; group conflict theory, behaviour and relations were discussed. It is the perception of the paper that the current level of group conflicts, manifesting in ethnic, political, religious, land and/or boundary crisis etc, and which has become a subject of much discourse at different fora is a direct fall-out of the wrong attitudes of Nigerians to issues The quest for a change in attitude therefore presents an appeal to our orldview, seeing that we live in a world of differences: different people, different cultures, and different opinions.

Attitude And Group Conflicts: The Nigerian Experince

Whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members, (James Chapter 4 verse 1) 1. Introduction The concept of conflict has been an object of analysis in diverse studies. Behavioural scholars have observed that for every conflict situation, there are bound to be conflict indicators and triggers.

However, the main stream of conflict management literature has not concentrated much on what causes conflicts and what environments may trigger them as to the process of conflicts and the means to resolve them (Deutch, 1990; Thomas, 1991; Wall & Callister, 1995).

Researchers have concentrated so much on ways of resolving conflicts such as negotiation and mediation as effective and ineffective means, as the case may be (Neale & Bazerman, 1991; Carnevale & Pruitt, 1992; Thomas, 1991) to the detriment of issues that may cause conflicts.

After a review of literature, it has been discovered that a very important socio-psychological concept has not been given adequate attention in the study of group conflicts. This important concept is human attitude. We all know that attitude, especially attitude difference, can cause social conflicts. Different attitudes toward the same issue can lead to conflicts between individuals, groups, organizations, or even countries.

For example, different attitudes toward marriage could lead to the breakup of a family; different attitudes toward the issue of religion have caused many serious debates or even bloody fighting between religious groups; and different attitudes toward social institutions once separated the world into two camps – communism and capitalism. (Yan, 2010) Attitude is a very important construct in social psychology. It is often defined as a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor (Yan, 2010).

It is assumed that attitude is an evaluative state that intervenes between certain classes of stimuli and certain classes of responses. Evaluation is the key word in understanding the latent construct of attitude. Responses to stimuli are evaluative, and these evaluative responses include approval or disapproval, favor or disfavor, liking or disliking, approach or avoidance, attraction or aversion, or other similar reactions (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). In real life, we can observe different attitudes from the same person toward different issues, or from different people toward same issues.

We also could observe that the longer people work or live together, the more similar their attitudes toward some issues, while in the meantime their attitudes toward some other issues still differ as before, or more seriously. Attitude differences seem to be a very important source of human conflicts in many social environments. It is in the human nature to observe, conclude and create attitudes. But we all do observation of our surroundings, making conclusions and building attitudes in different ways.

Once people with different attitudes meet, they may have different views to some situations. Everybody is having his/her own opinion about resolution of some problem. In that situation conflicts appear as normal reaction to different attitudes. (Yan, 2010) Communities in Nigeria are made up of a people from varied backgrounds. We are from different cultures, faiths, experiences and traditions. We have different interests, fears and ways of doing things. We have different preferences in music and food.

We have different arrangements in our living situations, and in our domestic and social relationships. Our differences sometimes enrich us and unfortunately at most times are sources of conflict. They are sources of conflict, perhaps because of our attitudes. Rather than nurture harmony and unity, these complex diversities tend to give birth to crises, such that conflicts have become commonplace in Nigeria. The vicious cycle of violence continues to oscillate between various ethnic groups involving minority and dominant groups.

According to Edoh (2001), Nigeria is a complex and plural society with over 250 ethnic groups whose components and social aggregates remain sharply divided. The main groups are the Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani and the Igbo, none of whom constitute a majority of the population. On top of the ethnic and linguistic divide there is also the religious divide, mainly between Muslims (who dominate in the North) and Christians (who dominate in the South).

Over the past few years thousands of people have been killed in ethnic and group clashes. Gaye, 1999) All across Nigeria there is an ever-lengthening thread of ethnic violence exemplified by the carnage and rabid killings in the [continuing] Jos conflicts, the 2000 Kano/Kaduna Sharia riots, the countless Tiv-Jukun clashes in Benue and Taraba states, the 2001 Tiv-Hausa riot in Nassarawa state, including the numerous OPC (the Yoruba sectarian group) – Hausa clashes, the Aguleri/Umuleri war and the Ijaw-Itsekiri riots, Share-Tsaragi communal conflicts, among others, were indications of how terrible the situation has suddenly become in Nigeria. These are not isolated events but are interconnected.

What is more, they do not drop from the sky; attitudes and behaviour patterns, fuelled by powerful social and economic factors give rise to them. (Gaye, 1999) Although attitudes do not always predict our behaviour, psychological research has shown that they can affect how people behave. Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes are a secret power working twenty four hours a day, either for good or for bad. It is our experience that a negative attitude will possibly lead to negative response and by extension negative consequences in the form of violent conflicts, as we have all over Nigeria today.

Attitude Structure and Function Attitude is a construct that is theoretically assumed to be built up on or manifest itself as beliefs, values, cognition, knowledge and human behaviours which are very important for the study of group behaviours. It is closely related to various kinds of human interaction, saying between friends, co-workers, relatives, strangers, enemies, etc. Attitudes are a class of beliefs that are polarized between good and bad; right and wrong; nice and not nice; desirable and undesirable; safe and harmful; healthy and toxic; normal and abnormal, etc.

They come from real and fictional heroes and mentors and from life experience. They range from minor to explosive, depending on the context and the behaviours and social reactions they cause. Thompson and Hunt (1996) propose a hierarchical attitude structure model that includes three levels, each with different contents. On the superordinate level – the highest level – is overall attitude. On the second level – basic level – are evaluative and non-evaluative beliefs that will determine the overall attitudes.

On the lowest level –subordinate level – are the values that determine the beliefs on the second level. From this model we can easily see that it is the basic values a person hold toward an attitude object that finally determine one’s attitudes. For example, if one person values individualism over collectivism, he or she will have such evaluative beliefs about his work as “I like to be individually responsible for my work” and such non-evaluative beliefs as “I am individually responsible for my work”. Thus at the superordinate level, the overall attitude is that he or she favors individual job responsibility.

According to Gerlach, (2010), all kids and adults form conscious or unconscious attitudes: judgments about persons, places, and things. Attitudes may be rational or based on hearsay or faith. Attitudes are said to have three components: (1) a cognitive component, which comprises a set of beliefs about the group or individual; (2) an affective component, which is a feeling towards the group or individual; (3) a behavioural component, which is a set of behaviours or actions directed towards the group or individual based on the other two components. Blacksacademy, 2005) Daniel Katz (1960) proposed a functionalist theory of attitudes. He takes the view that attitudes are determined by the functions they serve for us. People hold given attitudes because these attitudes help them achieve their basic goals. Katz distinguishes four types of psychological functions that attitudes meet. A. Instrumental – we develop favorable attitudes towards things that aid or reward us. We want to maximize rewards and minimize penalties. Katz says we develop attitudes that help us meet this goal.

We favor political parties that will advance our economic lot – if we are in business, we favor the party that will keep our taxes low, and if unemployed we favor one that will increase social welfare benefits. We are more likely to change our attitudes if doing so allows us to fulfil our goals or avoid undesirable consequences. B. Knowledge – attitudes provide meaningful, structured environment. In life we seek some degree of order, clarity, and stability in our personal frame of reference. Attitudes help supply us with standards of evaluation.

Via such attitudes as stereotypes, we can bring order and clarity to the complexities of human life. C. Value-expressive – Express basic values, reinforce self-image, for example, if you view yourself as a Catholic, you can reinforce that image by adopting Catholic beliefs and values; Also, we may have a self-image of ourselves as an enlightened conservative or a militant radical, and we therefore cultivate attitudes that we believe indicate such a core value. D. Ego-defensive – Some attitudes serve to protect us from acknowledging basic truths about ourselves or the harsh realities of life.

They serve as defense mechanisms. eg: Those with feelings of inferiority may develop attitude of superiority. Katz’s functionalist theory also offers an explanation as to why attitudes change. According to Katz, an attitude changes when it no longer serves its function and the individual feels blocked or frustrated. That is, according to Katz, attitude change is achieved not so much by changing a person’s information or perception about an object, but rather by changing the person’s underlying motivational and personality needs.

As your social status increases, your attitudes toward your old car may change – you need something that better reflects your new status. (For that matter, your attitudes toward your old friends may change as well). But Nicolaides (2008) argued that attitudes tend to relate more to the aspects of cultural violence and when examined together, the correlation seems logical. If attitudes relate to; a) how we see / perceive ourselves; b) How we see /perceive the ‘others’ and; c) How we see / perceive the conflict, then the link with aspects of cultural violence becomes evident.

Maintaining that cultural violence implies the intent to harm, injure or even kill, through the use of words and images and the association of us vs. them, right vs. wrong and good vs. evil, it becomes quickly evident how the two can be inter-related. If a specific ethnic group, for example, views itself as legitimate in the ruling of a state and perceives the secondary ethnic group as illegitimate in wanting to partake in the administration of the state, the development of aspects of cultural violence quickly become noticeable. In this scenario, ethnic group A may begin to develop that sense of ‘us vs. hem’ and ‘right vs. wrong’ which categorizes cultural violence.

Additionally, they may also begin through the use of words, speeches and images, attempt to rally general support for their aims and ‘bully’ the secondary ethnic group economically, politically, culturally and / or spiritually. This can easily be achieved through discriminatory economic, exclusionist political, culturally un-supportive and spiritually oppressive policies. In short, the correlation between the development of negative attitudes and the occurrence of forms of cultural violence is extremely evident. (Nicolaides, 2008)

Therefore with regard to attitudes, it is necessary to examine their contribution in the development of conflict specifically through the three categories that define attitudes: How we see or perceive ourselves; how we see or perceive the ‘others’ and; how we see or perceive the conflict. We do know that one conflict producer is emotional baggage or a bad attitude. Each and every one of us carries baggage, and must constantly be aware of keeping our attitudes in check. We also have emotional “blind spots,” which occur when people or situations produce an irrational reaction in us.

They may be people that we just don’t like or don’t know how to deal with. As commonly used in psychology, attitude manifests in prejudice, stereotyping and/or discrimination. 3. Prejudice, Stereotyping & Discrimination as attitudinal issues Prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination are distinct from one another, even though in daily life they often occur together. They often go hand-in-hand. As commonly used in psychology, prejudice is not merely a statement of opinion or belief, but an attitude that includes feelings such as contempt, dislike, or loathing.

Where prejudices lurk, stereotypes are seldom far behind. Throughout the past century, research on prejudice has closely reflected the ideological trends, telling us as much about the personal biases of the scientific community as about prejudice itself. According to John Duckitt (1992), psychological research on prejudice first emerged in the 1920s and was based upon American and European race theories that attempted to prove White superiority over Blacks. However with progress in civil rights; successful challenges to colonialism; and the rise of anti-Semitism, perspectives changed during the 1930s and 1940s

Following the Holocaust, several influential theorists came to regard prejudice as pathological, and they searched for personality syndromes associated with racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of prejudice. The most prominent of these theorists was Theodor Adorno, who had fled Nazi Germany and concluded that the key to prejudice lay in what he called an “authoritarian personality. ” In their book, “The Authoritarian Personality”, Adorno and his co-authors (1950) described authoritarians as rigid thinkers who obeyed authority, saw the world as black and white, and enforced strict adherence to social rules and hierarchies.

Authoritarian people, they argued, were more likely than others to harbor prejudices against low-status groups. The authoritarian personality, according to Adorno, is supposed to be hostile to people of inferior rank, and servile when in the presence of people with higher status. The type is said to be rigid and inflexible, and to dislike ambiguity and uncertainty. Authoritarian people resist introspection and self-examination. But Blacksacademy (2005), in their work, “Psychological Theories of Prejudice”, stated that prejudices serve a cognitive and emotional function.

They see prejudice as an attitude which functions are outlined in a theory by Katz (1962) as: (1) Knowledge function, claiming that attitudes explain experience. With an attitude we think we understand what we are seeing. There is a great need to feel that you understand the world you live in. (2)Adjustive function (also called utilitarian or instrumental function). An attitude becomes associated in people’s minds with rewards and punishments. If you share an attitude that others have they will reward you with approval, or perhaps more material things – like contracts, and money.

This motivates people towards adopting the attitudes of their reference group. (3) Value-expressive functions. Through attitudes we achieve self-expression. It is part of the quest for self-actualisation that we adopt an attitude. By adhering to a system of values we achieve integrity and self-belief. (4) Ego-defensive function. Attitudes help to protect our fragile egos from damning self-criticisms. A prejudice gives the holder a sense of superiority over the discriminated group, which is almost certainly not justified rationally. Thus, prejudices are linked to ego-defence, and this in turn leads to scape-goating.

The theory of scape-goating is derived from Freud who argued that (1) people seek to display their aggressions and frustration on to substitute objects when it is impossible to express anger towards its real cause. (2) He also argued in favour of a frustration-aggression hypothesis – that is frustration causes aggression and aggression causes frustration. This means that once the subject has entered on the path of ego-defence and scape-goating he has entered a vicious circle in which one emotion (frustration) will cause the other (aggression) and vice-versa.

Stereotyping Psychological studies have found that stereotyping is a natural and common process in cultures around the world. Stereotypes, like other generalizations, frequently serve as mental shortcuts and are especially likely to be applied when people are busy or distracted (Gilbert & Hixon, 1991) The term “stereotype,” coined in 1798 by the French printer Didot, originally referred to a printing process used to create reproductions (Ashmore & Del Boca, 1981).

Journalist Walter Lippmann (1922) later likened stereotypes to “pictures in the head,” or mental reproductions of reality, and from there, the term gradually came to mean generalizations — or, quite often, overgeneralizations — about the members of a group. As with prejudice, these generalizations can at times be positive (e. g. , women are nurturing, Japanese excel at math), but for the most part, they tend to be negative and resistant to change. Stereotypes are not only harmful in their own right; they do damage by fostering prejudice and discrimination. Once activated, stereotypes can powerfully affect social perceptions and behavior.

Also people who are stereotyped face a second burden: the threat that their behavior will confirm a negative stereotype. Claude Steele and his colleagues have shown that this burden, known as “stereotype threat,” can create anxiety and hamper performance on a variety of tasks (Steele, 1997). According to Blacksacademy (2005), a stereotype is an example of an implicit personality theory. Such theories attribute internal properties to a person, such as character traits, on the basis of external properties. In a stereotype this attribution is based on a physical external property, such as skin colour.

Other implicit theories base attributions on, for example, behaviour. For example, a person could implicitly argue about a person, “he is loitering about, therefore, he is delinquent”. However, a person does not have to be conscious of making the inference. A group stereotype makes an attribution to a whole group. An anti-semitic person might argue, “all Jews love money” – it is not an attribution about a particular Jew, but about all Jews in general. An individual stereotype passes a judgement on an individual. Making an attribution means making a judgement about someone – which judgement could be about a whole group, or about an individual.

Group stereotypes are attitudes based on whether the person is a member of an in/out group, and such attitudes are not strongly distinguished from prejudices. Discrimination Although many countries have passed civil rights legislation over the past 50 years, discrimination continues to be a serious problem throughout the world — even in democratic countries that publicly affirm the ideal of equality. For instance, here are just a few documented examples of discrimination in the United States:

  • According to a review of more than 100 studies by the U. S.
  • Institute of Medicine, discrimination contributes to racial disparities in health care and higher death rates among minorities from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and H. I. V. infection (Smedley, Stith, & Nelson, 2002).
  • Hispanics and Blacks spend an average of over $3,000 more than Whites to locate and buy the same house (Yinger, 1995), often receive harsher criminal sentences than Whites for the same offense (Mauer, 1999), and are generally less likely to be hired than comparable White job applicants (Turner, Fix, & Struyk, 1991).
  • Women earn an average of $. 6 for every male dollar (Bowler, 1999) and face employment discrimination of such magnitude that recent settlements have run into the hundreds of millions of dollars (Molotsky, 2000; Truell, 1997).
  • A U. S. Justice Department study found that handicap-access provisions for disabled people were violated in 98% of the housing developments investigated (Belluck, 1997). Despite the prevalence of discrimination, however, one of the greatest barriers to its removal is, strangely enough, the difficulty people have detecting it at the individual level.

Individuals cannot serve as their own control group and test whether they would have received better treatment as a member of more privileged groups (Fiske, 1998). Also, discrimination is easier to detect with aggregated evidence than single cases, because single cases are easy to explain away (Crosby, 1984). Another argument is that individuals may deny discrimination to avoid feeling that they are being mistreated by others or that they do not have control over their situation (Ruggerio & Taylor, 1997; Taylor, Wright, Moghaddam, & Lalonde, 1990).

Group Conflict Theory

There are distinct social-psychological bases of intergroup conflict, which primarily concern what is special about our behaviour as members of social groups. This is because the phenomena of intergroup conflict are potentially vast, including prejudice, discrimination, injustice, perpetuation of inequality, oppression, ethnic cleansing, and genocide etc. This general tendency can be seen in preferences for in-group characteristics, products, customs, languages, speech styles, and such biases as resulting from intergroup competition and functioning to preserve in-group solidarity and justify the exploitation of out-groups.

Group Conflict theory (Brewer, 1979; LeVine & Campbell, 1972; Sherif, 1966) assumes that group conflicts are rational in the sense that groups have incompatible goals and compete for scarce resources. Thus the source of conflict is “realistic. ’ ’ Sherif and colleagues carried out a number of famous field studies of boys at summer camps, who were split up into different groups and engaged in various competitive behaviours. They concluded that competition causes intergroup conflict, and that there needed to be some positive and functional interdependence between groups, before conflict between them would abate (i. e. hey must be made to cooperate).

Superordinate goals- goals that neither group could attain on its own- created this interdependence. Notwithstanding the pioneering influence of Sherif’s work, it did not show that conflict of interest was a necessary requirement for the emergence of intergroup hostility. As Billig (1976) noted, anecdotal evidence from Sherif’s studies actually indicates that the negative reactions to an out-group emerged at a stage prior to the planned introduction of competition. Thus mere knowledge of the other group’s presence was sufficient to trigger the first instances of intergroup discrimination.

This realization of the potency of social categorization led to Tajfel’s later work on social identity. According to Tajfel & Turner, (1979), individuals define themselves to a large extent in terms of their social group memberships and tend to seek a positive social identity. This social identity consists of those aspects of an individual’s self-image that derive from the social categories to which the individual perceives him- or herself to belong; and to the value and emotional significance ascribed to that membership.

Thus it is a self-definition in terms of group membership. A positive social identity is achieved by comparing one’s own group with other groups to establish a positively valued psychological distinctiveness for the in-group. Emphasizing that motivational as well as cognitive factors underlie intergroup differentiation, social identity theory holds that positive comparisons (intergroup differences seen to favour the in-group) provide a satisfactory social identity, whereas negative comparisons (differences that favour the out-group) convey an unsatisfactory identity.

Social identity differs from earlier group perspectives in two key respects. First, in contrast to Sumner’s claim that ethnocentrism is rampant, social identity theory predicts that members of social groups will differentiate primarily on dimensions that provide them with a favourable view of their own group (i. e. dimensions on which the in-group is superior to the out-group). Moreover, intergroup discrimination is often driven by in-group favouritism rather than out-group derogation (see Brewer, 1979).

Second, in contrast to Sherif (1966)’s claim that competitive goals cause conflict, social identity theory argues that social categorization per se can cause intergroup discrimination.

Group Relations & Common Stereotypes

As noted earlier, while most of the social and political problems in Nigeria are not always related to ethnic and linguistic differences and attitudes, camps are often pitched along these lines. For example, the major ethnic groups – Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo are often suspicious of each other and that this has considerable impact on attitudes towards each other.

Ethnicity or loyalty to one’s ethnic group is one major bane of Nigeria polity. Since ethnicity and language are often closely associated in Africa, they both tend to constitute critical factors impinging on political, economic, religious, educational and social issues in Nigeria. According to Salami (2005), the failure of the Yoruba ethnic group to secure the Presidency of the country in 1993 led to a series of developments, one of which was the resurgence of Yoruba ethnic nationalism.

The failure also seemed to confirm, for the Yoruba, their accusation of the Hausa-Fulani ruling class of marginalization in running the affairs of the country. This development further heightened the cry for a separate Yoruba nation from Nigeria as well as the resurgence of Yoruba consciousness. Beginning from 1993, Nigeria continues to witness the rise in the activities of ethnic and regional organizations, militias and other armed groups.

Thus in the last few years, a relatively large number of ethnic and regional organizations have evolved in the country. They include the national/ethnic movements like EGBESU, MOSOP, OPC and OHANAEZE representing the Ijaw Ogoni, Yoruba and Igbo ethnic groups respectively. In conflicts, people tend to develop overly-negative images of the other side. The opponent is expected to be aggressive, self-serving, and deceitful, for example, while people view themselves in completely positive ways. These stereotypes tend to be self-perpetuating.

If one side assumes the other side is deceitful and aggressive, they will tend to respond in a similar way. The opponent will then develop a similar image of the first party, and the negative stereotypes will be confirmed. They may grow worse, as communication is shut down and escalation heightens emotions and tension Stereotypes are generalizations, or assumptions that people make about the characteristics of all members of a group based on an image (often wrong) about what people in that group are like.

For example, one study of stereotypes revealed that Americans are generally considered to be friendly, generous, and tolerant, but also arrogant, impatient, and domineering. Asians, on the other hand, were expected to be shrewd and alert, but reserved. Clearly, not all Americans are friendly and generous; and not all Asians are shrewd. If you assume you know what a person is like, and don’t look at each person as an individual, you are likely to make errors in your estimates of a person’s character. (Wehr, 2010)

Attitudes that Cause Group Conflicts in Nigeria

While there may not be one single attitude or behaviour pattern, (as the case may be), that can be said to be responsible for the avalanche of conflicts recorded in Nigeria, a number of attitudinal issues can be identified as follows: Mutual suspicion, Pride, Arrogance, Spite, Hatred, Self-centeredness, Greed, Intolerance, Aggressiveness, Laziness, election rigging, thuggery, godfatherism, flagrant disregard for the rule of law etc. It is important to state that all these are brought to bear on the nations’ social, political, economic, religious and cultural life which in turn manifests in stereotypical categorizations.

During conflicts, there are such labels as, ‘settler’; ‘native’; host community; foreigner; native foreigner; stranger element; squatter; non-squatter; immigrant; migrant; indigene; non-indigene; Mbak; Gambari; Hausa-Fulani; Nyamiri; Nasara; Ngwa; Arna; Kirdi; and among many others used daily in Nigeria to describe, stigmatise, or stereotype the other as a category who does not belong (Danfulani, 2003) In Nigeria, all the major ethnic groups have their stereotypical characteristics.

For example there is the perception that, “The average Ibo man is too proud, too crafty and always with a tendency to cheat you” “Igbo people are crafty and ethnocentric” “The Igbo people like themselves, selfish and self-centred. ” While the Hausa-Fulani are greedy, fanatics, extremists…” domineering and imperialistic” (Reported by Salami, 2005) In earlier work on the conflict between Share (Yoruba) and Tsaragi (Nupe) communities, Mamman (2003) reported stereotypes expressed by the two groups. The Nupe man at Tsaragi sees the Yoruba man thus: “The average Youruba man sees himself as the best person in any group of people.

He never sees any non-Yoruba as wise, knowledgeable, gifted and talented. In fact, he sees himself as somebody with a better sense, better intellect, and better wisdom and thus tends to underrate and deride you. He looks at you with disdain. To him you are Eran Oko (bush animal)”. How do you make peace with that kind of person? While the Yoruba man on the other hand sees the Nupe man as “somebody who loved trouble. He never lives in peace and he is always very difficult to satisfy. He finds your trouble and always unhappy with you”. It will be difficult to live with him!

It is worthwhile to remark here that with this mind sets, meaningful negotiation in the conflicts becomes difficult. S. G. Best et al (1999) also talked about common stereotypes found among conflict-prone communities in Nigeria. According to them, people on each side of the conflict divide believed that the problem was with the opponent and never with themselves. From a case study of the Tiv-Jukun conflicts in Wukari LGA of Taraba state, Best and his colleagues reported the stereotypes among the feuding groups thus: “You see, these Jukun people are people who loved trouble since the day that God created them.

They will never live in peace with anybody. How can you make peace with a Jukun man? ” (A Tiv interviewee at Wukari) “A Tiv man, what will make him happy? Nothing, except that which he chooses. They are a very stubborn people and you can’t satisfy them permanently” (A Fulani interviewee at Wukari) “The Tiv people have a unique problem, different from others. They don’t consider anybody of fame, except criminals who cause trouble. They prefer such people to lead them to prison. The Tiv have no structure of authority. If for example, you bring their elders to talk about peace, they may agree but the youths will reject it, and it stands.

The elders will remain helpless” (A Jukun interviewee at Wukari) Nigerians’ attitude to religion and issues of religion can be worrisome. The divisions between Christianity and Islam are more than symbolic in Nigeria. There is high level of religious intolerance in Nigeria which usually plays out in most of the conflicts. Much of the world’s religiously motivated conflicts – oppression, murder, mass murder, and genocide – are found in the religious believer’s own concept of the nature of his own religion as compared to other religions (Barrett, D. B et al, 2001).

Most religious adherents in Nigeria tenaciously believe in the truth of their faith to the exclusion of all others, and that is why we have the kind of discrimination and violence witnessed today. People kill, maim and destroy in the name of God, forgetting that God’s supremacy and sovereignty is such that mere mortals are not needed to intervene in His behalf (Adelakun, 2010). According to Matthew Henry (accessed 2010), what is sheltered and shrouded under a spacious pretence of zeal for God and religion often comes from men’s pride, malice, covetousness, ambition, and revenge.

For example, the Jews had many struggles with the Roman power before they were entirely destroyed. They often unnecessarily embroiled themselves, and then fell into parties and factions about the different methods of managing their wars with their common enemies; and hence it came to pass that, when their cause might be supposed good, yet their engaging in it and their management of it came from a bad principle. Time and time again, we see leaders and members of religions incite aggression, fanaticism, hate and xenophobia – even inspire and legitimize violence.

Often times religion is used to motivate violence and even sometimes manipulated to justify violence. Our experience shows that men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. Religious strife, once started, has a tendency to go on and on … to become permanent feuds. Today we see such intractable inter-religious wars in Northern Ireland; between Jews and Muslims and Christians in Palestine; Hindus and Muslims in South Asia and in many other places. Attempts to bring about peace have failed again and again.

Always the extremist elements invoking past injustices, imagined or real, always succeed in torpedoing the peace efforts and bringing about another bout of hostility – Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohammed, Prime Minister of Malaysia, addressing the World Evangelical Fellowship on May 4, 2001 (see Juergensmeyer, 2000) There is also the story of discrimination amongst the Igbo themselves, vide the Osu Caste System. The Igbo, discriminate against each other by reason of the Osu caste status. The Igbo people refer to the Osu in varied names; it is referred to as Adu-Ebo in Nzam in Onitsha.

In the Nsukka area it is referred to as Oruma; it is called Nwani or Ohualusi at Augwu area. These names, Osu, Ume, Ohu, Oru, Ohu Ume, Omoni (Okpu-Aja), have the same connotation in Igboland. The people referred to by the names are regarded as sub-human being, the unclean class, or slaves. In some communities in Igboland an Osu is regarded as a worthless human being. As Things Fall Apart notes in a conversation, which ensued over the question of admitting outcasts to a local little church in the village of Mbanta, between Mr.

Kiaga, a missionary teacher, and one of the converts, the Osu is: a person dedicated to a god, a thing set apart – a taboo forever, and his children after him. He could neither marry nor be married by the freeborn. He was in fact an outcast, living in a special area of the village, close to the Great Shrine. Wherever he went he carried with him the mark of his forbidden caste – long, tangled dirty hair. A razor was a taboo to him. An Osu could not attend an assembly of the freeborn, and they, in turn, could not shelter under his roof.

He could not take any of the four titles of the clan, and when he died he was buried by his kind in the Evil Forest. How could such a man be a follower of Christ? (Achebe 1959, p. 156) Other common stereotypes which played themselves out in group behaviours towards groups in Nigeria are, “Hausa man as a security guard or suya seller with low intelligence and low educational attainment; Igbos love for money; Edo girls are international prostitutes (always sneaking to Italy); and Yorubas who love to show-off at public functions” (Wilson Orhiunu, 2010).

Here we ascribe emotions, thoughts and characteristics to others. We unconsciously project an interpretation which is entirely subjective and is a reflection of us and what we believe about the world rather than what the person whose identity we are interpreting is, thinks or feels. Others are, Igbiras are aggressive and quarrelsome; Tivs are territorial expansionists and trouble makers; Igalas are not friendly people and always egocentric; While Calabar girls are promiscuous.

In fact a comedian once put it thus: Calabar girls know how to take care of man; Dem o cook for you; Dem go wash your cloth; Dem go make your belle; Make e extra sweet Na inside bedroom dem dey get their power: Bleep, bleep, bleep. (Offensive to Christians); Dem get degree for sexology; Dem be professors for knackiology E reach bedmatics dem no dey taya; Because Calabar girls they are ever ready Maybe na the dog meat wey dem dey chop; Maybe na dat one dey give dem extra power (Wilson Orhiunu,2010). It is important to say here that though these views are expressed by a Comedian, it is fairly widely believed in Nigeria and the likelihood of ladies being raped during violent conflicts around those areas is high.

Defensive or insular or negative body language, depicting assumptions and generalizations are also negative attitudes that are capable of causing group conflicts. For instance, in disagreement or conversation, do we mimic a listening posture, nod often, say “Mm-hmm,” and maintain eye contact or fold arms, cross legs, frown or squeeze faces, hiss or tone-up voices? . It is a common feature of neighbour disputes and other disputes that people experience in villages, offices and even on the street. A conflict arising from these attitudes often begin small but sadly snowball into very big crisis.

Inappropriately said or uttered words or statements or what can be simply regarded as derogatory language is another negative attitude that is capable of causing group conflicts among groups in Nigeria. We can build a better world with the words we speak. Talk is NOT cheap. Words are our most valuable and most powerful assets. Through words, we can forge or tear down relationships, inspire or demean our children, spouses, or friends, offer comfort or inflict pain. Through words, we can create an atmosphere of harmony or discord, contentment or conflict.

Controlling and properly channelling our words can seem as impossible as stopping a rushing river though, but the Torah teaches that people can … and just must. (Jewish World Review, 2010) 7. Group Conflicts Religious conflict (Muslim/Christian): Religious conflicts constitute a serious cause of violence in Nigeria. Much of this violence has occurred in the North, although anti-Muslim incidents often occur in the South as well. Low-level incidents seem more or less a constant of daily life, and more or less manageable at that level; but when they escalate, the costs in lives, property, and political and economic stability can be devastating.

This latter kind of violence can touch off ricochet riots in other parts of the country (e. g. , in Aba after the two Kaduna religious riots during the first five months of 2000). Northern Muslims’ support for application of criminal aspects of the shari’a legal code appears motivated by lack of economic development, disparities of wealth between rich and poor, and relative insecurity, as well as forms of behavior (drinking, prostitution, etc. ) stigmatized by their faith. Religious and political leaders have seen in the shari’a movement a vehicle to advance moral or personal agendas.

The issue of shari’a has taken on real economic significance for southern Christian entrepreneur settlers in the North who often operate restaurants, hotels, and bars where drinking and prostitution occur. Under these circumstances, potential for violence remains high. Ethnic politico-economic conflict: Conflicts spurred by competition over economic opportunities have been part and parcel of life for more than 150 years in the area now known as Nigeria (see, e. g. , Cohen, 1969).

Such competition has long been managed with varying degrees of success in many places in the country, but it can erupt at any moment into violent confrontations (Boer, 2000: 13–20,). For example both Kano and Lagos, Nigeria’s two largest urban centers, attract immigrants from most other parts of the country. They come seeking economic opportunities, and frequently gain access to employment through kin networks or, failing that, through membership in an ethnic group. This means that economic competition often occurs between groups organized on ethnic bases.

At the same time, such economic competition, like other forms of dispute, can be managed successfully if local leaders have the training and institutional facilities that allow them to diffuse ethnic tensions before they boil over into open violence. Political and electoral conflict: Nigeria’s political and electoral history has been punctuated repeatedly with violent incidents. In the North, political and electoral competition, though often fierce, tends to be relatively peaceful.

In the South, and particularly in the Southwest, violence has more often characterized political interactions and especially elections. Both have the potential to destabilize the civilian rule and democracy. Both can spill back into patterns of ethnic competition; but, most often, such conflicts pit members of the same ethnic group against each other in struggles for leadership posts. Land and renewable resources: Conflicts concerning these resources can and do escalate into lethal violence among protagonists, but they tend to be localized incidents.

They oppose indigenes, the term Nigerians use to designate those who first settled in a region, and settlers—the term for immigrants who arrived later in an already claimed area. Not infrequently, they occur between members of the same ethnic group. Indigenous governance structures versus contemporary secular constitutional governance: The popular consensus holds that most contemporary secular governments at all levels in Nigeria are “broken,” in major part because those who lead them view public office as a means to enrich themselves and their communities by raiding public funds.

This fuels popular desires for alternatives. Particularly in the North, the emirate system put in place after Usman dan Fodio’s successful jihad against the Hausa states in the early nineteenth century retains in many places a capacity to provide some essential government services, particularly resolution of certain kinds of disputes. In Yoruba areas as well, indigenous structures retain some authority. By contrast, indigenous leaders are discredited in many Ibo and minority areas (particularly the Delta).

Corrupt practices associated with secular governments undoubtedly retard development. 7. Need for Attitude Change Call it by any name: inter-ethnic hostilities, tribal warfare or national question, it has become a serious dangerous signal in Nigeria, with its attendant barbaric acts. It is not uncommon to hear that during the numerous inter-ethnic (as well as intra-ethnic) clashes, all kinds of barbaric activities take place, including countless burning of houses and rampant killings, in various styles.

For example, it is not uncommon for babies, as young as seven days old to get their heads cut off or for older ones to get their stomachs ripped open in the course of such clashes. (Ogunde, 2002) It is particularly worthy of note, that the number of such clashes in the past five years is clearly much higher than those that had occurred in all the previous history of the country. (Ogunde, 2002) According Hamburg, (1993) the capacity for attachment and the capacity for violence are fundamentally connected in human beings.

Altruism and aggression are intimately linked in war and other conflicts. We fight with other people in the belief that we are protecting ourselves, our loved ones, and the group with which we identify most strongly. Even though in-group/out-group distinctions are ubiquitous in human societies, easy to learn and hard to forget, there is certainly the possibility that we humans can learn to minimize these tendencies. This may be one of the crucial roads we have to travel in order to cope with conflict in the transformed world of the future.

Can we find a basis for common human identification across a diversity of cultures and national groups? It is not likely, for instance, that the various hostile ethnic groups will suddenly agree to quietly move out of their present places of abode to their “lands of origin”. Such beliefs will no doubt, be a fantasy, as recent experiences have shown. What happened in south west Lagos in February 2002, during the Idi-Araba ethnic violence, between the Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) and the Hausa settlers pushed to the fore the strength of the above statement.

The Hausa settlers had come out clearly to say that Idi-Araba belongs to them as it belongs to all other Lagosians, and to that extent, they will only leave their present abodes over their dead bodies. (Ogunde, 2002) Sadly, the above enumeration is the general thinking in the country: the Igbos in the north will not abandon their wares except death do them part; just as the Modakekes (a Yoruba sub-group) have not abandoned Modakeke for their Ife “landlords” (another Yoruba sub-group). They will rather fight to the finish.

What is needed now is rather that attitudes of hate, unbridled anger, arrogance, intolerance, and superiority should be checked. While joy, peace, love, tolerance, understanding, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, and compassion should be encouraged 8. Conclusion Intergroup conflict is an ancient part of the human legacy, and tyrants have long understood how to exploit it for their own selfish ends. The human tendency to attribute malevolence primarily or solely to other groups, deflecting anger onto the hated others, who are blamed for all their troubles is a negative attitude.

There is also the wrong attitude of mobilizing political, social, economic, and pseudoscientific ideologies to support hostile positions toward those who are outside the primary community or who deviate from community norms. There is therefore the need to create the conditions under which various identity groups can sort out their differences and learn to live in a state of harmonious interaction with their neighbors. Ways must be found to foster self-esteem, meaningful group membership, and internal cohesion without the necessity for harsh depreciation of out-groups and without resort to violence in the event of a clash of interests.

A fundamental requisite of mutual accommodation is development of a genuinely free civil society within a democratic framework, where there is truly equal citizenship, respect for human rights, protection against the abuse of power, freedom to express differences openly and constructively, and a fair distribution of opportunities. Many paths to mutual accommodation are possible: nonviolent agreed secession; peaceful, negotiated territorial border revision; federation or confederation; regional or functional autonomy; and respected cultural pluralism, within each nation and across national boundaries.

Each case presents a particular set of opportunities and constraints, and each solution will inevitably be reached only after painful deliberation, taxing the patience and support of all. Whatever the outcome, it must eventually satisfy the reasonable claims of most Nigerians, though not necessarily the intolerant militants or extremists. 9. Recommendations • Efforts should be made to establish or strengthen institutions that promote cross-cutting or overlapping group memberships.

Cross-cutting relations are those that connect subgroups of society or connect nations in ways that overcome in-group/out-group distinctions and prejudicial stereotypes. They involve the opportunity for members of alien, suspicious, or hostile groups to spend time together, to work together, to play together, and even to live together for extended periods of time, gaining a sense of shared humanity. A good example is the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme

  • Inter-tribal marriages should be encouraged in the country.
  • Promote or strengthen the activities of Nigeria
  • Inter-religious Council (NIREC)

IPCR should instigate a national analysis and survey of Nigerians about their attitudes on ethnicity, religion, economic power and opportunities, political power and offices, and group memberships with a view to combating perceptions of superiority and we-against-them syndrome.

  • LASTLINE: Change your attitude towards life, and do not look for perfection in everything in life References Achebe, Chinua; Things Fall Apart; Anchor Books, Doubleday, New York, London; 1959, p. 19; p. 155
  • Adelakun, T (2010) Murdered in the Name of Islam: Religious Conflict in Nigeria at http://www. elium. com/knowledge/80485-murdered-in-the-name-of-islam-religious-conflict-in-nigeria Adorno, T. et al (1950) The Authoritarian Personality, at www. worldandi. com/specialreport/2002/? December/Sa22748. htm
  • Ashmore, R. D. , & Del Boca, F. K. (1981). Conceptual approaches to stereotypes and stereotyping. In D. L. Hamilton (Ed. ), Cognitive processes in stereotyping and intergroup behavior (pp. 1-35).
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