Nigerian Culture

What is Culture?

Culture is people’s way of life. It could be communicable, which has to do with language, music and greetings, and non-communicable, which is in terms of food, and dressing, among others.

Overview of Nigerian Culture

Nigeria, like any other country, has a culture characterized by distinctive elements. Nigeria is located in West Africa with three major ethnic groups- Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba. Nigeria has the largest population of any African country (Aremu, 2008). In July 2000, Nigeria's population was estimated at more than 123 million people. The eastern part of Nigeria is the home of the Igbos, mostly Christians. Their traditional religion is known as Omenala. Socially, they are led by monarchs who had limited power historically. These figures are expected to confer subordinate titles upon men and women that are highly accomplished, known as the Nze na Ozo title system. The Yorubas are in the western region of Nigeria, and their leadership is monarchical. Their chiefs are monarchs and titled individuals, with most of the latter group making up the membership of the Ogboni secret society. The Hausas live in the northern part of Nigeria. They are the most populous ethnic group in the country. They have monarchs and are known for celebrating the Hawan Sallah festival.

With more than 250 minor ethnic groups, the country is multi-lingual and multi-cultural in all senses. Despite the peculiarities attached to these ethnic groups, there are common grounds that they culturally share. Though we have Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba as the major languages, English is the official language of Nigeria, used in schools and other official business. According to Onyima (2016), Nigeria is endowed with much cultural heritage sourced from its multicultural communities with diverse identities. A communal lifestyle is an essential cultural characteristic among average Nigerians. There is a sense of family union and commitment. In Nigerian culture, inclusiveness of interest is to enhance unity in communities.

In Nigeria, strong emphasis is placed on respect for relationships. Anyway, this situation differs among cultural societies in Nigeria. The manner of greeting is one of the ways to show this respect, especially between younger and older people. Among the Igbos, they greet with an exchange of handshakes. The younger ones greet their elders by prostrating among the Yorubas, then raising a fist is peculiar to the Hausa. In Nigerian culture, a dressing style depicts the glamour of the three major ethnic groups. The dressing pattern is culturally different among the major ethnic groups in Nigeria. In the Yoruba tradition, women wear an iro (wrapper), buba (loose shirt) and gele (head wrap). The men wear buba (long shirt), sokoto (baggy trousers), agbada (flowing robe with wide sleeves) and fila (a hat). In the Igbo tradition, the men's cultural attire is Isiagu (a patterned shirt), worn with trousers and the traditional Igbo men's hat called Okpu Agwu. The women wear a puffed-sleeved blouse, two wrappers and a headwrap. Hausa men wear barbarigas or kaftans (long flowing gowns) with tall decorated hats, while their women wear wrappers and shirts and cover their heads with hijabs (veils) as shown in this link;

The conceptualization of the Nigerian culture suggests focusing on those phenomena that underscore Nigeria as a distinct cultural entity. It can also revolve around literature, media studies and archaeological backgrounds of Nigerian society. There are specific and unique Nigerian foods that underscore the cultural identities of the Nigerian people. Those foods offer a rich blend of traditionally African carbohydrates such as yam and cassava and the vegetable soups with which they are often served. Maize is another crop that is commonly grown in Nigeria. Garri is the number one staple carbohydrate food item in Nigeria. Yams are frequently eaten and revered as the king of crops in most Nigerian cultures;

Traditional Music Instruments and Performances

Nigerian culture has cultural kinds of music and unique instruments that accompany it, such as the Gongon drum, ekwe, the kora and the kakaki:

There are other cultural musical expressions in various forms found in the various masquerades in Nigeria, such as the Eyo masquerades of Lagos; The Ekpe and Ekpo masquerades of the Igbo people of coastal south-eastern Nigeria; The Northern masquerades which are distinct by peculiarities in certain smaller cultural societies in Northern Nigeria;


Aremu, D. A. (Ed.) (2008). Preservation of Land, Culture & Wildlife for the Development of Ecotourism in Africa. Ibadan: Spectrum Books Limited.

Onyima, B. N. (2016). Nigerian Cultural Heritage: Preservation, Challenges and Prospects. A new Journal of African Studies, vol 12, pp. 273-292.