Between 1986 and 1993, ethnicity went through a mix of negative and positive changes in Nigeria. On the negative side, there was an intensification of ethnic conflicts at various levels. At the inter-group level, there were violent clashes between minority groups and the dominant Hausa/Fulani in several parts of the north, notably Bauchi, Kaduna, and Plateau states over issues of trade, religion, language, culture, and domination; there was a resurgence of bloc ethno-regional conflicts which deteriorated badly after the annulment of the June 12 presidential election in 1993, leading to separatist agitations and fears that a civil war could ensue; oil-producing minority groups went on the offensive to protest their political and economic marginalization despite being the source of the country's wealth, and one of them, the Ogonis, engaged the state in a battle to assert their right to self-determination; and there were isolated clashes amongst members of different minority groups. At the intra-group level, there was an unprecedented increase in inter-communal clashes mostly over issues of a local nature, especially disputes over land ownership. The struggles for, and eventual creation of, new states and local government units in 1991 did a lot to intensify conflicts at this level. Finally, at the interpersonal level, although it was more difficult to discern conflicts of a clearly ethnic nature, it was easy to see that the levels of ethnic consciousness and the usage of ethnic connections were on the increase as diminishing resources and opportunities intensified competition for jobs, contracts and other benefits. And the importance of ethnicity for success in the informal sector which previously escaped the attention of students of ethnicity, became very prominent.
Alongside the intensification of ethnic conflicts and the salience of ethnicity in the lives of individuals was an increase in the positive uses to which ethnicity had previously been put. This mostly involved the mobilization of local capital through self-help efforts and government support, the provision of social services and other amenities by ethnic organizations and various community development associations, and the involvement of ethnic unions in urban areas in the development process. The period under review also witnessed an unprecedented upsurge in the number and activities of ethnic unions of various complexions: ‘development’ unions, ‘progressive’ unions, ‘hometown’ associations, social clubs, community development associations, cultural . . .