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Ibaba Samuel Ibaba

Department of Political Science, Niger Delta University,Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State
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This paper examines the linkage between education and national integration in Nigeria, and explores the argument that education can be a viable vehicle for integration in Nigeria.   To achieve this objective, the role of education in the strengthening of ethnic loyalties was discussed, and unequal access to education and the curriculum content were identified as the major challenges.  To focus Nigerian education on integration, the paper advocates  the democratization of education to enhance equal access, and the Nigerianisation of education through curriculum reforms to develop national consciousness.
Keywords: Education, national integration, democratisation, Nigerianisation


Possibly, the greatest challenge facing Nigeria today is the threat to national unity, as centrifugal tensions, resource control and self-determination, ethnicity based identity politics and religious cleavages have enveloped national consciousness.  Since independence in 1960, national integration has been a top priority of governments in Nigeria.  The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme, the Unity Schools, the Federal Character Principle, and State Creation are examples of state policies intended to achieve this goal. (Enegwea &Umoden, 1993; Alapiki, 2005; Ekeh & Osaghae, 1989). 
It is clear that the outcome of integration policies and programmes in Nigeria have fallen far below expectation, as primordial ethnic loyalties are still deep seated.  Ethnic particularism is seen as the major cause of this failure (Naanen, 1995), and consequently, suggestions on policy options are targeted to deal with this issue. This paper explores the use of education as a strategy for integration. Integration is a process that is anchored on values, and this can better be achieved through education.  The democratization of education and curriculum reforms to capture the true essence of national unity will enhance multiculturalism, the coexistence among different cultural entities (Kymlicka and Norman, 2000) the process is linked to respect for differences which relate to culture, religion, politics and values, that can be effectively harnessed and managed through education. Thus, the specific issue analyzed in this paper is, how can education enhance integration in Nigeria?

Conceptual and theoretical issues:  education and national integration
What is education?  This question has elicited different answers.  The development of man to enable him create and recreate himself (Okorosaye – orubite, 2008); the pursuit of a wide-range of activities, planned and managed for the benefit of society and its members (Audu, 2004); the systematic influencing of peoples knowledge, skills and attitudes (Nduka, 2006); the transmission from one generation to another, the accumulated wisdom, knowledge, skills, values and attitudes of the society (Nyerere, 1967).
It is clear that education makes man moral and ethical; inducts the individual into the shared values of society; develops commitment to societal goals in the individual; prepares the young members of society for the future; defines behavioural patterns of individuals and society; and also enhances the productive capabilities of individuals and by extension the society.  Education is the gateway to development, and the literature has adequately highlighted this.  One of such studies has noted that:

Formal education has a vital role to play in the development and social change of human communities.  For development and change to take place, education is a must.  It creates the environment and conditions conducive for change to take place… education is the builder and molder of attitude and behaviour of members of the society which lend support to the process of development and change (Ekin-Okut, 1985:54).

Whereas the above reference emphasize formal education, it is imperative to note that informal education also enhances the goals of development.  Although the dominant expectation of education is development, it is also expected that it will enhance the integration of sub-populations that are divided by language, religion or ethnicity (Peshkin, 1967). Education is noted for three political roles– agent of political socialization into a nation’s political culture; the training and selection of political elite; and the enhancement of political integration and national political consciousness (Fagerlind and Saha,1989) 
Indeed, education is a product and process that reforms society and induces desirable change in behaviour patterns of individuals (Okorosaye-Orubite, 2008).  This provides the basis for the thesis of this paper that education can be a vehicle for national integration in Nigeria.  How?  The sections that follow will provide the explanation.

National integration
The word integration suggests a process of structural linkage between two or more parts of a system or systems (Onwuka, 1982).  Its essence can be discerned from the functionalist view of society.  Anele (1999) captures the functionalist perspectives thus:

functionalism sees human society as a social system comprising sub-units or interdependent parts.  These sub-units are interdependent on each other and are functionally interrelated.  What this means is that every phenomenon found in the society performs useful functions towards the survival of the entire system or society.  It equally means that the sub-units of the society otherwise referred to as social institutions – the family, religion, polity, economy, education, technology; are integrated and interdependent and all perform useful functions towards the survival and stability of the society.

It is discernible from the above reference that plural societies, with distinct ethnic nationalities operate as a system that requires each unit for the good of all.  Thus, the different ethnic groups are the interrelated and interdependent sub-units that must function in unity.  Integration can be political, economic, cultural or social.  However, integration at the level of the country is mainly conceived as political integration, which is the outcome of a process whereby political actors of different ethnic nationalities or groups in a country abandon primordial ethnic loyalties, and embrace national identity (Hassi, 1958).

The nation is a cultural entity that binds people together on the basis of culturally homogenous ties – common or related blood, a common language, a common historical tradition, common customs and habits (Rodee et al, 1976).  A nation is thus an exclusive group, and its essential features include: a homogenous cultural unit; specific and shared identity among members; deep attachment to a specific territory – the earthly home; membership is limited by ties of blood, intermarriage, kinship and common descent; members have a shared understanding of who they are, how they originated and have developed over time, as well as collective belonging (Parekin, cited by Nna, 2005).
It is clear that individuals are the units of integration, and members of a nation are integrated as they share a common identity. Thus, the term national integration is not

applicable to a single nation, but involves two or more nations.  A state is a political entity that is in many cases made of more than one nationality group.  Thus, for example Nigeria is made of about 250 ethnic groups (Enegwea & Umoden, 1993, Coleman, 1986).
The plurality of groups many times throw up centrifugal forces that tend to tear countries apart.  This reality imposes the need to integrate the distinct ethnic groups to become a monolithic whole that shares a common identity and destiny.  Essentially therefore, national integration is a process that attempts to erode the presence of micro-nationalities in place of a spirit of nationhood (Alapiki, 2000).  This is achieved through the breakdown of ethnic barriers, the elimination of primordial ethnic loyalties, and the development of a sense of common identity.
Integration approaches and policies differ in many respects.  The assimilation and

multicultural approaches appear dominant.  Assimilation attempts to fuse distinct ethnic groups into one.  It presupposes that some groups will abandon their identity and incorporate themselves into a national identity.  This could be the culture of a dominant group, or the creation of an entirely new culture out of the distinct entities.  Alapiki (1998) has noted that the assimilations’ approach to integration has failed to provide a useful model of integration in Africa.  This probably explains the preference for multiculturalism that emphasizes coexistence among different ethnic nationalities, guided by respect for differences and common interests (Ibaba, 2007).
It is imperative to note that behaviour patterns, attitudes and values of groups and individuals are largely defined by social interactions that are equally coloured and recoloured by cultural diffusionism.  Kroeber (cited in Anele, 1999 :) has noted that:

Diffusion is the process, usually but not necessarily gradual by which elements or systems of culture are spread; by which an invention or a new institution adopted in one place is adopted in neighbouring areas, and in some cases continues to be adopted in adjacent ones, until it may spread over the whole earth.

It is clear that positive attitude and coexistence over a prolonged period of time can weld people of distinct nationality groups together and thus create a new society out of an old one.  The actualization of this is based on factors that include: the acceptance of other members of the civic body as equal fellow members of a corporate nation; recognition of the rights of other members to a share of common history, resources and values; and development of a sense of belonging to one political community (Elaigwu, 2001).
Integration can be categorized as a three-phased activity – as a project, process and product.   Integration as a project is the desire for unity and the efforts directed towards it.  The processes of integration are the practical actions that are taken to transform distinct nationality groups into a single nation.  The product of integration deals with the outcome of integration process (Morgan, 2002).  Enegwea and Umoden (1993) have noted two integration processes that can tackle the centrifugal forces associated with inter-ethnic diversity.First, is the use of state policy to prevent the dominance of one group at the expense of other groups.  Examples are federal character and quota system.  The second is the use of policies and programmes to de-emphasize differences among nationality groups, and the promotion of harmony and understanding among the ethnic groups.  An example is the National Youth Service Corps Scheme in Nigeria. The success of such policies in enhancing national integration is largely predicated on education, in terms of its content and access.

Education and the challenges to integration in Nigeria
The literature on integration in Nigeria has noted some factors that negate the process:  Perverted federalism and ethnicity based political domination, (Naanen, 1995); politics of ethnicity and political cleavages (Nnoli, 1978; Alapiki & Ibodje, 1996, Alapiki & Barikor, 2002 ;); the backlash of colonization (Ademoyega, 1981, Coleman, 1986,, Enegwea & Umoden, 1993; Alapiki, 2005) and bland education (Peshkin,

1967).  Whereas Nigerian education impedes integration, this has not been adequately highlighted. It is crucial to note that the integration process is anchored on the mobilization of the citizens of a country.
Importantly, the mobilization of people to achieve target goals is enhanced by education.  Education develops the mental capacity of the individual, and certainly, it is easier to mobilize a population where the average individual has an enhanced mental capacity than otherwise.  Education also makes man moral and productive, and thus endows him with the capacity to enhance the achievement of collective interests (Okowa, 2003).Education enhances the development of values and also defines the level of development for individuals, groups, and societies.  Thus, access to education promotes positive attitudes that enable progress.  It is clear here that unequal access to education creates unequal opportunities and uneven development, which in turn undermines stability and development.
The nature of British contact and colonization induced unequal access to education in Nigeria.  A major consequence is unequal access to the opportunity structure of the country and development imbalance (Coleman, 1986;Naanen, 1995,).  A significant outcome is the clear dominance of some ethnic groups over others, in the running of the state and management of the economy and bureaucracy.  Ethnicity based politics partly resulted from this objective reality created by unequal access to education, and created feeling of alienation and deprivation that impedes integration.
It is clear therefore that suggestions that devolution of power, is an alternative to the centralized nation state) may be deficient in the promotion of integration (Naanen, 1995, Alapiki & Barikor, 2002)  Similarly, unequal access to education pervades all the nationality groups, and thus domination and feelings of alienation and deprivation are not limited to a single ethnic group. 

The education of a society is expected to induct its people into its values, culture, ideology, national interest, and common destiny.   Nigerian

education is deficient in this regard.  The philosophy of Nigerian education, as contained in the National Policy on Education (1977) center on: a free and democratic society; a just and egalitarian society; a united strong and self reliant nation; a great and dynamic economy; and a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens.
The point of fact is that the curriculum content of and administration of education is out of sync with the philosophy of education.  The issue of national unity is the interest of this paper, and a number of points have been noted in this regard.  First is the lack of ideological orientation that should indoctrinate citizens.  Second is the problem of inadequate Nigerian background, as shown by the gap in the teaching of Nigerian history and culture (Okoh, 1995).  This robs citizens of the knowledge that should enable them understand other groups and thus help to eliminate ethnic prejudices.
Separate ethnic identities are also strengthened and deepened by a number of other interrelated factors:

  1. Religion based schools, as evidenced by Muslim and Christian Schools dotted all over the country;
  2. Indigenship policy and practice on the appointment of heads of tertiary institutions (Vice-Chancellor, Provost Rector, Registrar), staff recruitment, and student admission;
  3. Discriminatory school fees in tertiary institutions, based on indigenship;
  4. The quota system of admission into tertiary institutions and unity schools (Federal Government Colleges) that tend to reward ethnicity and undermine merit or academic excellence. This constantly reminds Nigerians of their ethnic homeland, and throws up feelings of rejection and deprivation.

The point to note from the above discourse is that the curriculum content and educational administration in Nigeria block the development of national consciousness, a fundamental requirement for national integration.  Nigerian education is an obstacle to integration, not because education cannot enhance integration, but because Nigerian education has not been

adequately focused to promote the integration of the distinct nationality groups in the country. 
Democratization of education in Nigeria
In politics, democratization implies the institutionalization of democracy.  Its ingredients include: Participation, equality, justice, rule of law and freedom (Nwabueze, 1993; Gauba, 2003; Ake, 1996).  Essentially, democratization is a process that requires the removal of all barriers to the effective practice of democracy.  At the level of education, democratization pertains to the making of education accessible to all, irrespective of class, religion, ethnic affiliation or other discriminatory factors (Babarinde, 1995).
For integration purposes, the access is at two levels.  Firstly, all members of the ethnic nationalities must have unfettered or unlimited access to education to enhance even development and access to the benefits of the Nigerian union.  This will help to erode feelings of neglect and alienation, arising from the lack of capability to compete for national resources due to the lack of educational opportunities.
The second level of access is the opportunity to have admission to any tertiary institution in Nigeria, without the limitations of quota and indigenship.  This should also apply to the recruitment of staff into these institutions.  The gain here will be to lay the foundations of multiculturalism, by expanding the coexistence policies of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme and the Unity Schools.  The dominant objective of the NYSC is to develop common ties among Nigerian youths with a view to promoting national unity by ensuring that:

  1. As far as possible youths are assigned to jobs in States other than their states of origin;
  2. Each group assigned to work together is as representative of the country as possible;
         The youths are exposed to the modes of living of the people in different parts of the country with a view to removing prejudices, eliminating ignorance and confirming at first hand the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups (Enegwea &Umoden, 1993).
The application of this philosophy to university admission will promote the concentration of Nigerians, living together for four to six years, as against the one year provided by NYSC Scheme.  The unity schools sought to achieve this, but its scope was not far reaching.  This goal of getting a representation of Nigeria in tertiary institutions can be achieved through a number of policies.
First, Nigerian character, the representation of ethnic groups should be made a requirement for the accreditation of programmes and approval of universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education.  This means that ethnic-group mix ratio will become a compulsory requirement for institutional accreditation by the National Universities Commission(NUC) and similar institutions.
The second policy option, which is voluntary, should introduce a special financial grant for educational institutions that satisfies the Nigerian character policy.  The focus of the Education Tax Fund can be shifted to pursue this objective.  Similarly, scholarships should be awarded to Nigerians who attend institutions located outside their states of origin. 

Nigerianising education through curriculum reforms
Education is made of components that include the curriculum, the philosophy and the methods of teaching.  The curriculum deals with what to teach and the philosophy – why it should be taught. (Joof & Mezieobi, 1995) It is deducible that the curriculum is based on the philosophy, and thus changes in the growth, development, and objective realities of societies must be captured by the curriculum in the form of reforms.  This means that curriculum reforms are based on established philosophies (Alapini, 1984).  The objective of Nigerian integration is “one nation, one destiny; thus, the curriculum reforms should capture this.

Nigerianising the educational system means making Nigerian unity the focus of schooling, in order to place Nigeria in the minds of all citizens.  Attempts should be made to use the curriculum to develop linguistic and cultural unity The

curriculum reforms should also introduce excursion and exchange programmes at the secondary school level.  Students will be required to visit and study in states other than their states of origin, at the expense of the host state.  The six geo-political zones can be paired in rotation to promote this goal.  Essentially, the Nigerianising curriculum should be based on the following:  An articulated political ideology; a clear definition of the ends or goals to be pursued as national interest; and a clear knowledge of the Nigerian history and destiny – that is who we are and what we want to be (Okoh, 1995).
This paper has demonstrated that although education can serve as a vehicle for national integration, Nigeria has not adequately exploited education to promote integration.  Nigerian education has rather undermined integration through unequal access and curriculum/administrative practices that have deepened ethnic identities.

The paper notes that integration is predicated on the mobilization of citizens, just as it is enhanced by education through the development of the mental capacities and morality of individuals. The paper calls of the democratization and Nigerianisation of education.  This, it argues will help to erode ethnic prejudices, promote better understanding among the different nationality groups, develop national consciousness, reduce attachment to the ethnic group, and foster the development of national identity.
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