The Politicization Of Religion In Northern Nigeria And Its Effects On The Nigeria Federalism

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

The Politicization Of Religion In Northern Nigeria And Its Effects On The Nigeria Federalism


This project is basically on the politicization of religion in Northern Nigeria and its effects on the Nigerian federalism.

The essence of this study is to look at how religion is politicized in Nigeria and suggests possible ways of resolving its attendants problems on Nigerian federalism.

The study is carried out using both the primary and secondary data methods, where questionnaire is used to sample the views of the people in the society, particularly those in Northern parts of the country on issues of religion politicization.

It was however gathered that quest for money, position, and influence are the root cause of religion politicization.

Also, its effect on Nigerian federalism is severe as it generates no small amount of riots and communal clashes in the country.

It is however deduced from this study that religion politicization though very common in the north, but can still be curved through proper orientation of the public, particularly the clergy persons in the region.

More importantly, it is also gathered that with time, as a result of globalization, rely on politicization would be a tuning of the past in the country.

Table Of Contents

  • Title Page
  • Table of Contents
  • Abstract

Chapter One


  • 1.1 Statement of the Problem
  • 1.2 Objectives of the Study
  • 1.3 Research Hypotheses
  • 1.4 Significance of the Study
  • 1.5 Scope and Limitation of the Study
  • 1.6 Organization of Study

Chapter Two

Literature Review and Theoretical Framework

  • 2.1 Theoretical Framework
  • 2.2 Analysis of Elites in Nigerian Politics
  • 2.3 Historical Foundation of Religion in Nigeria Politic
  • 2.4 Politicization of Religion in Nigeria: The Genesis
  • 2.5 The Strategy of the North

Chapter Three

Research Methodology

  • 3.1 Research Design
  • 3.2 Research Methodology
  • 3.3 Questionnaire Design
  • 3.4 Sample Size and Sampling Techniques
  • 3.5 Data Collection and Data Collection Instrument
  • 3.6 Method of Data Analysis
  • 3.7 Test Instrument (The Hypothesis)
  • 3.8 Population of the Study

Chapter Four

Data Analysis and Interpretation

Chapter Five

Summary, Recommendation and Conclusion

  • 5.1 Summary
  • 5.2 Recommendation
  • 5.3 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix

Chapter One


Before Nigeria became independent on October 1, I960, the nation went through a long period of colonial administration.

This, what is today known as Nigeria was actually a large vast of land consisting of various indigenous political systems. In the northern part of the country, there were the Hausa – Fulam Caliphate, the Kanem-Bornu Empire, the Nupe Empire system and a host of others. In the south were the Benin Kingdom, the Yoruba and / or Oyo Empire, the Ibo acephalous society among others.

Before the series of amalgamation that followed the advent of colonialism, there was already in the northern part a hitherto strong political organization of the whole north sequel to the 1804 Islamic Jihad of Uthman Dan Fodio. It was thus well-organized northern Nigeria that the colonialist imposed their indirect rule system.

The casual relationship between the colonial mind-set and Darwinism is skewed to Plato’s philosophy of education and statecraft. For instance, just as Plato calls for a class based education for a class structured society where individuals must aspire to remain in the proscribed class, the educational policy of the colonial state was similarly structured and intended.

Rather, it was against any form of education, Muslim and Christian alike, not seared towards the realization of the colonial state’s agenda. Hence, the colonial state neither destroyed nor developed the Islamic education system, though it appropriated the cultural and socio-political ethos of the Islamic faith it met in Nigeria to serve its interest. Similarly, the colonial state neither destroyed the Christian missions in Nigeria nor spread them from constrictions even though the state, to sustain itself, relied heavily on the services of the products of the Christian educational system. In place of both the Islamic and the Christian educational systems, the colonial state initiated a secularized system of education. It was secularized mainly because religion was made an appendage – something merely recognized ‘some what tardily’ – rather than the nub of colonial state’s educational policy2.

By the time Lord Lugard left Nigeria in 1918, the secularized educational policy of the colonial state and its antecedents, the Indirect Rule policy and the 1914 amalgamation of Nigeria, were already firmly established. So too was the administrative division of the country into three unequal groups of provinces. This was to the advantage of the favoured.

Islamic North in comparison with its Western and Eastern counterparts in the Christian South.

By the mid-1930s and the 1940s the colonial system become firmly consolidated. Given the largest minimum in contact between the different parts of the country, especially between the North and the South. It was not surprising that the colonial system spawned in the religious and socio-political life of the country animosity, suspicion and all sorts of divisive practices. For instance in the North, the Northern indigenous Christian were perceived as posing political threat to the Fulani- Islamic hegemony.

From the point of view of national politics, the colon nil administration in the North, unlike that in the South, had congealed into what came to be known as the ‘Northern Systems,, that is the Anglo- Hausa-Fulani Islamic Hegemony.

The Governor, Sir Donald Cameron (1931-1935), in the trace of shift opposition from the Northern Residents, was so unimpressed by the system that he described the Region as:

….The sacred North, a land apart, suspended in place and time… (which)… held up development in the Region and kept it in an exotic back water, attractive to its

British protectors but administratively ineffective corrupt, and insensitive to the needs of its own peoples especially the non-Muslim and non-Northerners3.

With the successful implantation and consolidation of the Northern system, Christian missions had to find away to survive in a hostile environment part of their survival mechanism was to undertake ecumenical meeting either to counter the restriction imposed on the missions by Indirect Rule Policy or to see revenues of compromise with the colonial administration. This led to the establishment of the Northern Christian movement. With perceived feelings of strength the mission decided to make to way into the political terrain like their Muslim counterparts.

Suffice it to say that many years after independence, religion has determined political victories and decisions in the Northern part of the country. The heat this has generated and attendant effect on the nation’s federalism stimulates intellectual investigation such as this.

1.1 Statement of the Problem

Political pundits have always opined that political developments in Nigeria have historical and colonial under pinning’. This statement is an incontrovertible fact. The issue of the politicization in Northern Nigeria in particular and the nation in general is one of them. From the colonial days although the formation of the Jamia Islamiya Mautaneen Arewa (JIMA) which was formed and led by Dr. R. A.B. Dikko a Christian) which later became Northern People’s Congress and was hijacked by the Northern oligarchy, religion has been politicized by politicians in Northern Nigeria to score political goals. This is because religion appeals to the emotion and psychology of the people and spurs various reactions usually violent reactions as seen in the various riots like the Sharia riot that had to do with religion in Northern part of the country.

Religious riots have often threatened the foundation of Nigerian unity such occasions have been followed by calls for the victims of such riots to come back to their home, where they can’t be assured of their protection and safety. This has implications national integration. There are clear indications that religion will in the near future play a dominant role in the election of appointment of political leaders from that part of the country.

What is the effect of politicized religion on the nation’s federalism in general and Northern Nigeria in particular? This is what this project tends to unravel.

1.2 Objectives of the Study

  1. To identify the immediate and remote causes of the politicization of religion in Northern Nigeria.
  2. To identify the implications of this development oil the Nigerians federalism.
  3. To examine to what extent this phenomenon has undermined national integration and unity in Nigeria.
  4. To proffer possible solution and make recommendation to government.

1.3 Research Hypotheses

To guide this study, the following hypotheses have been formulated for testing:

  1. That politicization of religion is likely to lead to disunity.
  2. The politicization of religion will undermine the principle of federalism.
  3. Politicization of religion will result in violent re-action in the Northern area of Nigeria.

1.4 Significance of the Study

The significance of the study cannot be over-emphasized, especially now that there is a nascent democracy and government is looking for ways to promoting things that unite the country and discontinue those that tend to divide it.

The significance of this study is as follow:

Firstly, it would provide an insight into the role that religious is playing in Nigeria politics.

Secondly, it is hoped that the study would provide the Nigerian leaders with enough information that will guide them in formulation that will guide them in formulating policies in the areas of religion and the state.

Thirdly, the study will go a long way in changing the orientation of the people with respect to the negative perception of religion in politics. Such understanding it is expected would help to engender the spirit of tolerance and accommodation among the people of diverse religion.

1.5 Scope and Limitation of the Study

The study is concerned with the politicization of religion in the northern part of the country. Essentially, it will focus on the attendant effects that politicization of religion in the Northern studies have on the Nigerian federation.

The limitation of this study is defined by the sensitive nature of the main subject matter which is religious, a subject that evokes a lot of emotion and sensitivities.

1.6 Organisation of Study

This research work will be organised such that the chapter one will talk on introduction, objective of the study, scope of study, research hypotheses and definition of terms. While chapter two will reflect on literature review and theoretical framework. And chapter three will however, talk on research methodology while chapter for will deals wit data analysis and interpretation, leaving the last chapter with summary, recommendations and conclusion.

Chapter Five

Summary, Recommendations and Conclusions

5.1 Summary

By way of summary, it may well be that political Sharia (Islam) is a serious business in Nigeria, which will mean that we have under-estimated its inner resilience and force. It is that the sophistication of the new Ulamas hide the reality; that the Sharia issue, largely driven by Saudi Arabia or Libyan petrodollars, is merely a show off; a job for the boys, a justification of sorts of the huge foreign funding or to forestall political mistakes of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections and the ‘power shift’ of May 29 1999. There is no doubt that the streaks of both positions are at work.

There is however very important formal and informal ties that bind orthodoxy and heterodoxy on the one hand and the two and the state on the other-ties that cut across class and resulting often in playing the politico-religious name on a more or less level ground. And the state knows that to do-enlightened self-interest and self-preservation, among other factors, noblesse oblige that is when the ground begins to slide its levelness and evenness. And, of course there are millions of Muslims in the South and millions of Christians in the North who are there and ready to help the state, however, otherwise irrelevant, in achieving this lofty objective.

However, Rev. Fr. Matthew Hassan Kukah argued that democracy as a project “will not be sustained by any grandiose supplicatory religiosity which continues to call on God to take control of our problems on our behalf’1. He wondered why political engineering, democracy in Nigeria has succeeded in giving Nigerians “the right to be irresponsible, lawless, vengeful, violent down right hostile towards constituted authority”2.

To all intent and purpose, the exhumation of the Sharia legal system at this period of the nation’s political history is found not to be on pursuit of religion. Rather, the current trend is seen as a deliberate attempt by a callous few to subvert the democratic process and by implication sabotage the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo because he is a Christian, a Southerner and an envisaged stooge, puppet, protcge and surrogate who has also carried out superficial socio-political changes that cannot be coped with. It is strongly believed that if Sharia is unmasked the under belly will reveal that the issue is about power and control.

Even among the Moslem, it is the poor, voiceless, and powerless that would suffer the adverse consequences of Sharia, for in the North, there is an entrenched oppressive structure that puts the poor at the receiving end, a situation more difficult to dismantle even with Sharia and ipso facto, these people swing of inexorably in the pendulum of hopelessness, voiceless, despondency, disenchantment and disillusionment.

Yet another finding of this research project is that Sharia is an agent and instrument of discrimination, deprivation of women, gender inequality, segregation, human rights violation, confinement (of women in the purdah), denial of opportunity and alienation. This is as a result of the denial of women’s freedom of movement including getting circular jobs (purdah system), mobility and association. Non-Muslims in a Sharia society are treated as unequals and second-class citizens. ‘The right to modern or Western form of education is denied the teeming population as Arabic schools or makaranta become the order of the day. This will further accentuate the level of socio-economic disequilibrium between the North and the South.

From the analysis above, it is discovered that since the introduction of Sharia legal code, there has been a benign call for a Sovereign National Conference which is a euphemism for an improved federation. Other groups have called this restructured or True Federalism where people are allowed to develop at their own pace and in their own ways, resulting from the. discussion at a round-table conference the terms and modes that would determine the natural co-existence. This is a pointer to the fact that for Nigeria things have fallen apart, the centre cannot hold and the hand writing are lucid on the wall that the days of the Nigerian nation are numbered. The spectre of disintegration looms large.

It was discovered also that the morbid adoption of classical and unlimited Sharia by some northern states in Nigeria is obviously a journey on the road not only to social disorder and chaos, but also to socio-economic cum social stagnation and a descent to political suicide and abyss.

The political Sharia and its attendant violence is merely a political strategy, device or tactic employed in inter-class struggles of the various regional factions of the privileged class. For the Northern elite it is to extricate itself from the seeming political irrelevance it has relapsed to due to power shift from the North to the South, although some analysts on the other side agreed that it is a political tool but other analysts tend to see it from a different perspective. They see the clandestine activity by some political opportunist and anarchists to achieve what they could not otherwise have achieved’ through the ballot box, thereby subverting the nascent democratic process and consequently undermine the authority of the Federal Government.

A cursory look at the whole scenario reveals that the North is aggressively reacting out of the loss of political power. It would have been tantamount to advancing the course of the Southern elite if the Northern elites did not react in the manner it has done. This buttresses the assertion that “the prince who advances the course of another prince diminishes his own”3. Here is the efficacy of the frustration-aggression theory deployed in analyzing this work.

5.2 Recommendation

To ignore to implement the decision of the people is to hijack the love of the country, pillage her rights, deny the flag of freedom and fairness that should fly over the homes of all citizens, breed greed rather than patriotism, divide the nation rather than unit and be blind to the future and deaf to the past4.

It is in line with the above assertion and after a critical critique of the Sharia phenomenon that the researcher makes the following recommendations. This is imperative, germane, efficacious and pivotal to the academic and intellectual utility of a scientific or empirical research. Although, these recommendations may either be imbibed or jettisoned. However the point has to be made that history will forgive the researcher for making recommendations, albeit, wrong that are jettisoned, but history will certainly pardon her for not embarking on such an endeavour. It is on the basis of the findings of this study that the following policy recommendations are made. After the 1914 Lugardian episode, the major and leading nationalists found no basis for the amalgamation but compromised on burning national issues and welcome independence, at least to banish and ostracize the British colonial masters.

Little did they know that the opportunity to discuss the basis of Nigerian national unity will never come their way again. Thank goodness that the Sharia debate has underscored the need for a round table dialogue on the basis and future of our co-habitation. This makes the recommendation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) compelling to the researcher. Of course, which is afraid of it when all sections of the country, the North (East and West), the Middle Belt (North Central), the South-East, the South West and the South-South have all called for it. Who then is afraid of the SNC? The truth is that the SNC will move Nigeria away from the brink and precipice that presently threatens her existence. There is need for a handshake across the Niger and Benue. Enough of the violent monologue and soliloquy in which Nigerians have ethnically, religiously and politically engaged in. The convocation of the SNC will give a platform for the ventilation of pent-up grievances, primordial and ancient anger and ill-will and the mutual mistrust and animosity that have ravaged the life fabric of Nigeria as a nation.

Yet another recommendation is the integration of the beliefs and values of the various sections of the country in order not to jeopardize the rights of others including those aspects of all religions that are not repugnant to modern laws into the body polity of the country so that all will have a sense of belonging in an indivisible, indissoluble and united Nigeria.

The government should set machinery in motion wherein there should be mutual respect for different religious views for this would unfailingly create a commonwealth of free believers united to one another by love and justice.
Also, government at all levels should steer clear of religious matters. Since we are a secular and multi-religious country, care should be taken to ensure that the religious sensibilities of citizens are not toyed with. In the light of this, the state and religion should be allowed to go their separate ways. This underscores the need for government to hands-off sponsorship of pilgrimage to Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem and Rome. Religious issues should be treated as personal issues.

There should be the provision of qualitative and affordable education to the teeming population; for, education is a sine-qua-non for social interaction, national integration and development of any nation. It helps individuals to live in harmony with one another regardless of variations in their classes, occupations, and races, political and religious orientations. The launching of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) by the Federal Government is quite commendable in this regard but implementers in various states should not let the effort and labour of government to be in vain.

Nigerians should see themselves as brothers and sisters created by the same God, although tribe and tongues may differ. This will make Nigerians see themselves in the virtues of peace, tolerance and understanding which are the tenets of every religion and civilized behaviour.

We should also shun religious extremism, fanaticism and fundamentalism and be moderate. For religious irredentism is an ill-wind that blows none any good. It is infact the costliest venture to the individual(s) and the entire nation as we have seen in Algeria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, and Bangladesh and from the religious riots that had taken place in Northern Nigeria.

There is a popular maxim that says that “the idle heart is the devil’s workshop”. This is altruistic of the teeming population of young and able-bodied men and women in our towns that are unemployed, deprived and frustrated. Government should prosecute laudable programme that will engage these people and pursue such programmes with all eagerness and military vigour. This people will now dissipate energy into productive use as against becoming veritable source and tools of manipulation and wanton destruction of lives and property. Programmes such as the Poverty Alleviation Programme, Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructures (DFRRI) with direct labour, School-to-Land, Better Life for Rural and Urban Dwellers, Family Support Programme (FSP) etc are indispensable in this regard. This will help to reduce the level of deprivation, aggression and frustration which have been experiential and existential here.

Again, in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like ours founded on the principle of federalism, there are certain indices of co-existence. The secularity of the state as enshrined in the constitution belongs to this category and ipso facto must neither be negotiated nor compromised.

Excerpts from president Obasanjo’s broadcast to the nation in the aftermath of the Kaduna mayhem also becomes pertinent here: “We must return to tolerance, constitutionality, decency and good neighbourliness. Extremism in religion, nationalism, or in any other human emotion is self-destructive, in addition to possibly destroying its victims.

If Nigeria is to tread the path of greatness, it cannot be along the line of religious violence, intolerance and bigotry. It must be almost the path of constitutionality, democracy, the rule of law and mutual respect for each other in all respects in our lives”5.

These constitute the only way Nigeria can remain one indivisible and indissoluble entity that can attain the socio-economic cum political heights that are necessary for national development and further helps the nation to reap the gains of her nascent democracy through attraction of foreign investments and meeting the yearnings and aspirations of the citizenry. This will also make the country to reposition her and assert her role in the African International system as a “giant’ of Africa and thus an open-sesame to sustainable national growth and development.

5.3 Conclusion

The Sharia question in plenitude and depth is fascinating and very controversial and has ipso factor held the entire nation spell-bound and agitated for over ten months now. The international community has itself joined the affray in righteous indignation, with America barring her citizens from having anything to do with the Northern part of the country.

It has been discovered that, in timing, the adoption of Sharia law by some Northern States is inauspicious, contemptuous of the feelings and sentiments of other Nigerians and disruptive of the nascent democratic experiment.

In scope, its application is barbaric, archaic, primitive and retrogressive and indeed horrendous. Politically, its adoption is self-immolatory, reckless, self-serving, pertinently absurd and amounts to playing to the gallery by visionless religious fanatics.

Economically, the adoptors of Sharia law will sooner than later discover that the aridity of the Northern hemisphere will only yield sorrow, misery, penury and rebellion by a deprived, repressed, pauperized, mesmerized and impoverished citizenry.

Legally and constitutionally, the adoption of Sharia is nothing but “herakin” and bare-faced contempt for the nation’s constitutional order and legal frameworks. However, its constitutional violations appear to be a child’s play when compared with the wanton loss of lives and destruction of property that greeted its adoption in some

Northern States (e.g. Kaduna State) and the subsequent reprisals from some Southern States.

Once again, the nationhood of Nigeria is brought under searchlight and the divergent interest and dispositions appear almost irreconcilable. If not handled with care, someone suggested rather mournfully that President Olusegun Obasanjo may without his knowing it be playing the part of the former President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev, in the disintegration of the state, called Nigeria.

Mr. President and all those with the responsibility for resolving the Sharia quagmire should maintain their cool, be perpendicular as ever, circumspect, responsive to realistic suggestions, amendable to constructive criticisms, consultative across the national bounds and remember that our goal of a united nation is not to remove our differences but to live with them in a workable national scheme.

Government should hands-off religious matters because the fact cannot be denied that to use state funds and apparatuses to promote the beliefs and practices of a particular religion to the detriment of the other religious groups is both unjust and antithetical to the principles of federalism and secularism.

It was gathered from this study as a finding, that religion politicisation is more pronounced in the northern parts of the country particularly in the North West region of the country. This study shows that the Moslems sees themselves as being different from the other people beloing to other religion.

Besides, the study shows that religion politicisation could amount to riots, violent and conflict situation in the country. This was in collaboration with what Usman Aaliko (2006) said “that various riots and crisis in the country are borne out of religions identity”.

More importantly, from the study, we are able to understand that excessive politicization of religion would definitely undermine Nigeria’s federal system. The study shows that politicisation of religion rather painted Nigeria’s federalism as being quasi-federalism than blue print federalism as practiced in western world, particularly in U.S.

This study however gave the result that majorly of the respondents who were administered with questionnaire gave a very terrible comment about religion politicisation. Meaning that religion politicisation is seriously antagonized and subjected to public criticism by the people in the country.

From this study, it was also gathered that religion politicisation has no useful value rather than it causes or could lead to dis-integration and disunity of the country. Reloads have shown that, over the years, religion politicisation has caused lots of differences between the Moslems and Christians who see themselves as two different poles that can never embrace one another particularly in terms of doctrines and worships.

This study no doubt reveals to us that not less than 90% of the people intervened had bad attitude and negative feelings towards religion politicisation.

But the study also tells us that religion is politicised because of high taste for money, and pursuit of position and higher post. For instance, in collaboration with this, Mayowa (2006), asserted “Pastor Chris Okotie who ventured into politics did that in an attempt to seek for higher post and get more influential”. This was one of the findings gathered from this study.

Lastly, this study however reveals to us that religion politicisation could not in any way takes Nigeria as a country anywhere good, rather it would amount to no small amount of conflicts crisis and riots across the country. Bolanwe (2006) argued that “once there is a spark of religious conflict in any part of the country, it degenerate to more conflicts in other part of the country”.

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