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Project topic for Political Science department.


1.1       Background of the Study

The name Nigeria was coined out from two words ‘Niger’ (River Niger) and ‘Area’ referring to people of the River Niger Area; by a British Journalist, Flora Shaw Lugard who was married to Lord Lugard, a British colonial administrator. The existence of people that currently make up Nigeria could be traced back to 1100 BC. These ancient dwellers were attributed to rich cultural heritage and civilizations which gave rise to powerful empires that scattered around the area. They include the Nri Kingdom that settled at the east of the River Niger, Benin Empire that controlled the mid- west of the Niger, Oyo Empire at the west, then  Borno Empire at the North, and Sokoto caliphate (Fulani Empire) also in the North among others. It is important to note that these Empires controlled various tribes which claim to have different origins.  These tribes have different cultures, languages, traditional beliefs and system of worship which are peculiar to them (This could explain why we have many ethnic groups in Nigeria). These original former dwellers prior to colonial invasion had existed independently on its own and had their own socio-cultural, political and economic systems by which the entire lives of its members were organized. These systems varied quite markedly among these ethnic groups so much so that in some cases, they were mutually antithetical and contradictory. It was rather these disparate ethnic groups that the colonial masters forcefully hammered into one geopolitical amalgam as Nigeria. Religion is a major make up of an African man since/and you cannot separate both. Religion enters into every aspect of an African man including politics. The history of religion in Africa could be said to be as old as man. Religion may be defined as beliefs, practices and system of worship. It deals with norms, values and rules, a behaviour process or structure whose orientation is supernatural, that is, emanated from God and which must be followed by the believers. Suffice here to say that all religions acknowledge the need for peaceful co-existence and tolerance even in a situation of differences of modes of worship. Before colonization, Africans had their various indigenous traditional beliefs which are centered on the worship of ancestors, objects or deities as Gods and are transferred from generation to generation known as African Traditional Religion. Islam entered Nigeria through Borno Empire with Jihad war making the Northerners predominantly Muslim while Christianity entered through Southern part, and from there spreading to other parts of Nigeria.

 However, with the three dominant religions; African traditional religion, Islam and Christianity, it may be necessary to observe that irrespective of the seeming divide; indigenous Christians are in large numbers all over the northern states (Yakubu and Rothfuss, 2012). They further explained that Christians are in majority in at least seven out of the nineteen northern states while north-western and north-eastern regions have the largest concentration of Muslims. The North-central also known as the Middle Belt, is considerably mixed with a Christian majority. Indigenous Muslims are in large numbers in south-western states and are in small minority in the south-south while practitioners of African traditional religion can be found all over the country. Some are syncretistic, combining Islam or Christianity with traditional religion (Yakubu and Rothfuss, 2012). In the South East Christianity dominates.

With the colonization of Britain, the people that lived in the Niger area were divided into Northern and Southern Protectorates. In 1914, Lord Fredrick Lugard, the then governor of both the northern and the southern protectorates amalgamated the both protectorate to form one country Nigeria, for ease of administration. I will add here that the Southern and Northern protectorates were unified only politically, as each side still maintained their Socio-cultural and economic system. According to Uka (2008:3) “Since this geographical expression known as Nigeria was forcefully put together by a foreign power, its disparate units… live in mutual suspicion”. Since then, there have been allegations of favouritism or jealousy by both sides over government policy, having both sides behaved like two wives of a polygamous husband. It is against this background that the researcher would examine Nigeria and religious crisis in the following context: historical origin of religious crisis after Independence; causes of religious crisis; the contribution of colonization in fostering perpetual rivalries between the North and South; and the contribution of the North - South dialogue towards peaceful co-existence of citizenry and achievement of national stability.   

1.2       Statement of the Problem

Nigeria’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious diversities coincide with the North and South divide, with Muslims and Christians dominating each part respectively. These have created geo-religious identities; a situation where religion and its concomitant tension generation enthroned a threat to security of the country (Ukandu 2011). One would think that the presence of these religions would foster peaceful co-existence and unity in a multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic society like Nigeria but multi-religiosity has tended to impact negatively on the nation creating tension and unrest. Since an African man is very religious in nature and allows religion to enter into every aspect of life, his inability to separate religion from politics in making policies and other matters of national administrations lead to conflict of interest that triggers off crisis.

Some crises are minor and are contained through dialogue by the parties involved while some are major leading to loss of lives of innocent citizens, properties and economic hardship. As Jega (2002: 22) observed “Socio-ethnic conflicts are deflected and fought under interreligious banner. This is because there is a strong overlap between ethnic and religious boundary in Nigeria’s plural setting”. Lending credence to the above, Adejo (2002:248) stated that “each conflict does not just happen…, they are rooted in some basic dissatisfaction or grievances which await detonation at the slightest opportunity”. This has led to suspicion and unhealthy rivalry among the diverse ethnic groups including adherents of Islam and Christianity.

Another contributory factor to ethno-religious conflicts was that British colonial government protected the North from Christian proselytizing influences. Ibenwa and Ngele (2010:127) underscored this point by saying that “the emirs entered into a serious agreement with Lord Lugard that no Christian will be allowed to evangelize the North and that in the event of any “crusade or public preaching” they must get permission from them to do so”. This restricted the Church Missionary Society and other Christian missionaries from penetrating the northern part of the country. This undue privilege given to Muslim North could be said to be the beginning of distrust and unhealthy relationship among the religious and ethnic groups in Nigeria that has led to the ugly trend of ethno-religious conflicts that have ravaged the country for years.

Furthermore, a careful study of the relationship between the two religions show that instead of using the areas of common interest between them to foster better understanding, the leadership of the two religions particularly the intellectuals use considerable amount of their efforts in terms of literatures and sermons to incite or create sense of hatred and enmity among the followers. Many books have been written not to bring about reconciliation and understanding but in order to present “ugly side” of the other faith, even if this so-called “ugly side” may even been deliberately falsified. The scholars, though knowing quite well that only tolerance and the spirit of give and take can bring about peaceful co-existence, refuse to recognize and accept the right of other faiths to exist in the first place, and even less of giving other rights that make existence meaningful.

Finally, there are crises that are more of politico-tribal in nature than religious even though some people may see them as religious simply because each group involved come from a different religion. Some political analysts posit that conflicts arise from clashes of values and claims to scarce resources, power and status rather than for religious differences.

1.3       Research Questions

The following shall be the research questions for this piece of work:

  • What are the causes of religious crises in Nigeria? The politics of the North and South divide, is it a function of religion or socio-ethnic?
  • Did the colonial government contribute in the rivalry that perpetually exists between the North and South?
  • What impact would dialogue between the two divide make in fostering national peace?

1.4       Objective of the Study

The objective of this study will be:

  • To analysis religious clashes between the north and south divide in Nigeria since independence
  • To find out the relationship between religion and politics in Nigeria.
  •  To examine the dialogue that had existed between the north and south in maintaining one Nigeria.
  • To find out ways a multi – religious society like Nigeria can accept and respect each other’s faith while politicking for a common goal.

1.5       Scope of the Study

This study will cover religious crisis between the two major religious groups (Christianity and Islam) in Nigeria since independence in 1960. It will analyze the politics of ethnic and religious identity, the history of religious conflict in Nigerian, causes of religious crisis in Nigeria and ways to enhance religious tolerance in Nigeria to promote unity and peaceful co-existence among citizens.

1.6       Significance of the Study

The significance of this study is to enlighten Nigerians to identify each citizen as a human being rather than a function his/her religion or ethnicity. Take for instance, whenever there is misunderstanding between the Christians and Muslims in the North, the Muslim youths will start destroying properties of Igbos in the North. Forgetting that being a Christian does not automatically make you an Igbo indigene or a southerner. This was what triggered off Biafra which led to the Civil war of 1966. There have been uncountable instances from the 80s till date where there were attacks on area largely dominated by Igbo known as Sabongari especially in Kano and Kaduna killing numerous innocent people and destroying properties just because of little misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians. Similarly, when there are news of such attacks, Igbos will retaliated by killing innocent Hausa/Muslims around them.

Another typical example was when Boko Haram abducted Chibok girls. The emphasis was not on the ‘girls’ as individuals but on ‘Christian girls’. This emphasis created bias in the heart of an average Nigerian and further widen the hatred that existed between the both religions. The essence of this study is to provide information to promote religious tolerance such that when individuals commit offences, they will be punished as private citizens according to the provisions of our laws and constitution. When citizens are identified as human beings irrespective of their religious orientation and they have equal access to basic human rights, religion or tribe would no longer matter in our national politics. Then we can pursue and achieve common national goals.

1.7       Hypothesis

This research work will be tentatively hinged on three basic premises:

  • There would be peaceful co-existence in Nigeria if religion could be separated from politics
  • Amalgamation of the North and South in 1914 may be the root of religious crisis in Nigeria
  •  There is  a strong overlap between ethnicity and religion in Nigeria as some dissatisfied group express their grievances under the pretence of religious war

1.8       Definition of Terms

Antithetical:   Directly opposed or contrasted; mutually incompatible (people whose religious    beliefs are antithetical to mine)

Conflagrations: Extensive fire that destroys a great deal of land or property

Ethnicity: The fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition

Ethno-religious: That involves both religious and ethnic factors, relating to connection between religion and ethnicity

Disparate: Essentially different in kind, not able to be compared

Precipice: A very steep rock face or cliff, especially a tall one

Politicking: The act of engaging in politics or in political campaigning 

Vendetta:  A blood feud in which the family of a murdered person seeks vengeance on the murderer or the murderer`s family

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