Culture is a way of life in a given society. The Culture of Nigeria is shaped by Nigeria‘s multiple ethnic groups. Every ethnic group in Nigeria has its own stories of where its ancestors came from. These vary from tales of people descending from the sky to stories of migration from far-off places.
Archaeologists have found evidence of Neolithic humans who inhabited what is now Nigeria as far back as 12,000 B.C.E.Culture is manifested in art, dance, language, literature, folklore, mores, music, governance, and even the environment. Nigerian culture is as old as 2000 years and what makes it stand out is its diversity.
Nigerian Culture: – Nigerian Language
The number of languages currently estimated and catalogued in Nigeria is 521. This number includes 510 living languages, 2 second languages without native speakers and 9 extinct languages. English is the official language of Nigeria, used in all government interactions, education, business transactions and for official purposes. In a country with more than 250 individual tribal languages, English is the only language common to most people though English as a first language, however, remains an exclusive preserve of a small minority of Nigeria’s urban elite, and is not spoken at all in some rural areas.
The dominant indigenous languages of the southern part of Nigeria are Yoruba and Igbo Prior to colonization, these languages were the unifying languages of the southwest and southeast Nigeria respectively, regardless of ethnicity.
Hausa language is the common Nigerian language predominant in the northern Part of the country. In northern Nigeria many people who are not ethnic Hausas speak both Hausa and their own tribal language. Hausa is the oldest known written language in West Africa, dating back to before 1000 C.E.
Pidgin English in Nigeria: This is a mix of African languages and English, also is common throughout southern Nigeria. It basically uses English words mixed into Yoruba or Igbo grammar structures. Pidgin English originally evolved from the need for British sailors to find a way to communicate with local merchants. Today it is often used in ethnically mixed urban areas as a common form of communication among people who have not had formal education in English.
Nigerian Culture: – Nigerian Religion
There are many religions in Nigeria since the Nigerian constitution guarantees religious freedom. Adherence to Islam, Christianity, or indigenous African religions is central to how Nigerians identify themselves.
In the late 19th century, Christianity became established in southern Nigeria. In the Yoruba southwest, it was propagated by the Church of England, while in the Igbo southeast the Roman Catholic Church dominated. Today, close to half of the south-western Nigerians and far more than half of the south-eastern Nigerians are Christians, divided into Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran, and Baptist sects. Christianity is also widespread in the middle belt, but it is virtually absent in the far north except among migrant populations. In recent years, Protestant fundamentalism has grown, particularly in the middle belt. Nigeria also has many independent African churches, such as Cherubim and Seraphim, which incorporate African cultural practices.
Dominant in the north, Islam continues to spread, especially in the middle belt and in south-western Nigeria. However, Islamic practices such as the seclusion of women and strict fasting tend to be rigorously observed only in northern part of Nigeria . Islamic fundamentalism has gained followers since the 1990s and become a potent political force in northern Nigeria.
Native religions in which people believe in deities, spirits and ancestor worship, are spread throughout the country. Religious affiliation estimates vary, however, due to the lack of census data and the fact that many of Nigeria’s Muslims and Christians adhere to beliefs and practices associated with indigenous religions. Recent estimates suggest that 50 percent are Muslims, 40 percent are Christians, and 10 percent adhere to traditional religions. The major Christian celebrations of Christmas and Easter are recognized as national holidays. Muslims observe Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, and the two Eids. Working hours in the north often vary from those in the south so that Muslims do not work on their holy day, which is Friday.
Religious Practitioners in Nigeria.
According to Muslim and Christian traditions, officials in these religions tend to be male. For most Nigerian indigenous religions, priests and priestesses are common. Traditional priests and priestesses get their power and influence from their ability to be possessed by their god or by their ability to tell the future or to heal. In the Igbo religion men serve as priests to Igbo goddesses, and women serve as priestesses to Igbo gods. While both men and women can rank high in the Yoruba religion, women usually are among the most respected of traditional priests in Nigeria.
Nigerian Culture: – Meeting and greeting in Nigeria
Age is greatly respected in Nigeria. In an area where the average life expectancy is not very high, those who live into their senior years are seen as having earned special rights of respect and admiration. This is true of both Nigerian men and women. The most common greeting in Nigeria is a handshake with a warm, welcoming smile during such greeting; men may place their left hand on the other person’s shoulder while shaking hands. Smiling and showing sincere pleasure at meeting the person is important. As in the rest of Africa, it is rude to rush the greeting process hence, you must take the time to ask about the person’s health, the health of their families.
Observant Muslims will not generally shake hands with members of the opposite sex.
People are usually addressed initially by their academic, professional or honorific title and their surname.
Shaking hands, eating, or passing things with the left hand are unacceptable. The left hand is reserved for personal toiletries and is considered dirty.
Nigerian Culture: – Nigerian Marriage
There are three types of marriage in Nigeria today: religious marriage, civil marriage, and traditional marriage. A Nigerian couple may decide to take part in one or all of these marriages. Religious marriages, usually Christian or Muslim, are conducted according to the norms of the respective religious teachings and take place in a church or a mosque. Christian males are allowed only one wife, while Muslim men can take up to four wives.
Civil official weddings take place in a government registry office. Men are allowed only one wife under a civil wedding, regardless of religion. Though customs vary from group to group, Traditional marriages usually are held at the wife’s house and are performed according to the customs of the ethnic group involved. Most ethnic groups traditionally allow more than one wife. According to old customs, women did not have much choice of whom they married, though the numbers of arranged marriages are declining. It is also not uncommon for women to marry in their teens, often to a much older man. In instances where there are already one or more wives, it is the first wife’s responsibility to look after the newest wife and help her integrate into the family.
Many Nigerian ethnic groups follow the practice of offering a bride price for an intended wife. Unlike a dowry, in which the woman would bring something of material value to the marriage, a bride price is some form of compensation the husband must pay before he can marry a wife. A bride price can take the form of money, cattle, wine, or other valuable goods paid to the woman’s family, but it also can take a more subtle form. While women who leave their husbands will be welcomed back into their families, they often need a justification for breaking the marriage. If the husband is seen as having treated his wife well, he can expect to have the bride price repaid.
Culture in Nigeria: – Inheritance pattern in Nigeria
Inheritance is basically a male affair in many Nigerian ethnic groups such as the Hausa and the Igbo. Though women have a legal right to inheritance in Nigeria, they often receive nothing. This is a reflection of the forced economic independence many women live under. While their husbands are alive, wives are often responsible for providing for themselves and their children. Property and wealth are usually passed on to sons, if they are old enough, or to other male relatives, such as brothers or uncles. For the Fulani, if a man dies, his brother inherits his property and his wife. The wife usually returns to live with her family, but she may move in with her husband’s brother and become his wife.
Nigerian culture: Housing pattern in Nigeria
Nigerian architecture is as diverse as its people. In rural areas, houses often are designed to accommodate the environment in which the people live. The Ijo live in the Niger Delta region, where dry land is very scarce. To compensate for this, many Ijo homes are built on stilts over creeks and swamps, with travel between them done by boat. The houses are made of wood and bamboo and topped with a roof made of fronds from raffia palms. The houses are very airy, to allow heat and the smoke from cooking fires to escape easily.
Much of the architecture in the north is heavily influenced by Muslim culture. Homes are typically geometric, mud-walled structures, often with Muslim markings and decorations. The Hausa build large, walled compounds housing several smaller huts. The entryway into the compound is via a large hut built into the wall of the compound. This is the hut of the father or head male figure in the compound.
Igbo houses tend to be made of a bamboo frame held together with vines and mud and covered with banana leaves. They often blend into the surrounding forest and can be easily missed if you don’t know where to look. Men and women traditionally live in separate houses.
Though recently, modern houses have taken over these old pattern of building but they are still present especially in the rural parts of Nigeria.