There is no doubting the fact that the traditions of origin of the various people of Nigeria have played very outstanding roles in nurturing ethnicity and ethnic sentiments in the history of the country. But a more careful examination of these traditions can reveal some areas of cohesion, which can be exploited to the benefit of the nation building process in the country.

The traditional culture of Nigeria’s more than five hundred ethnic groups remains poorly known, the reference list includes some of the better known anthropological monographs and surveys, but it is important to emphasise that many groups are recorded by only a single line in a reference book. Many of these accounts are very outdated and perhaps unhelpful in understanding modern developments. Culture is often represented by artificial dance performances or shunted museums.

Anthropology is not a favoured subject at University level and few anthropological monographs have appeared in recent years from Nigerian, or indeed any, researchers. Nigeria is well known internationally for its cultural artefacts, such as the Nok terracottas, the Ife heads and the Benin bronzes and these have been the subject of several international exhibitions. Despite this, the museum service is in disarray, with exhibits kept under poor conditions and theft of their holdings. Little effort is made to preserve major archaeological sites such as Birni Gazargamo, where illegal excavation is tacitly accepted. There is little dissemination of knowledge about this heritage in the schools, and universities are certainly not major driving forces in research into the rich cultures of Nigeria.