Religion As An Instrument Of Social Control In Nigeria
The thrust of this work, “Religion as an instrument of social control in Idoma Nigeria
Historical research method was used in this thesis. The data collections, among other sources, were comprised of two major sources: primary and secondary sources. These data collections were analysed socially, critically and descriptively. It was found that positively, religion was credited with the following: the provision of Idoma identity and political unity, curbed of evils, uplifting the human development of the society through education and health care sectors and other developments. Above all, it rehabilitated, restructured and reconstructed the society. In conclusion, the researcher advocated that religious personnel should endeavour to live out practically ethics of their religion. Ultimately, some synergies of actions are absolutely required between religious bodies (particularly between Christianity and Islam) and largely between religion and government in the society. This filial collaboration will enhance attainment of true democracy and more positive impacts of Religion in Nigeria>
Nigeria is the largest country of the black race in the world. It is also the most multi-religious among the countries in Africa. This is in line with the view of Akumu et al (2006:3) who opined that, “Nigeria is the most populous African state and one of the world’s most ethnically diverse societies being made up of over 250 ethno-linguistic groups.” The Nigerian ‘ethnic nationalities’ before the amalgamation, in 1914, comprised two separate geo-political zones: Southern and Northern protectorates. These two geo-political zones which constituted the ‘One Nigeria’ consisted of various cultures each with different traditional religions. Makozi in Okere (1988:9) asserted that:
Nigeria as one entity was born in 1914 when the two protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated by Sir Fredrick Lugard. The name “Nigeria” derived from the River ‘Niger area’ was proposed by Miss Flora Shaw in an article she had written as a press correspondent to ‘The Times’ in January, 1897, that is fourteen years before the amalgamation.
One would then be right to say that Nigeria as a country is an artificial creation of Lord Lugard. The “artificiality” in making up the country is a fundamental problem besetting Nigeria as a state in all facets of life (religiously, economically, politically, geographically, and so on). The various cultures with different traditional religions influenced governance in Nigeria tremendously, especially on the negative side. Logically and traditionally, each culture with its inherent religion, has some peculiar doctrines. These cultures had already been operating by different types of governance. For instance, the Igbo race within the South East zone was strictly under democratic rule, while the Hausa/Fulani race was ruled by the system of oligarchy or strictly indirect rule. These different ruling methods which were merged together created a lot of problems. The worst of it all was the merging of the two ccompeting religions (Islam and Christianity) inherently existing in different areas under the canopy of two different geographical locations (North and South). The emergence of these two foreign religions (Islam and Christianity) with the already existing traditional religions coupled with multi-populous nature of the country has made, and continues to make, both positive and negative impacts on the democratic governance of this giant country-Nigeria. Diara in Achunike (2011:162) stated that:
With well over 145 million inhabitants, Nigeria is unarguably the most populous African nation. After independence in 1960, Nigeria was to run a full democratic government, but military dictatorship unfortunately sprang up and took more than 30 years of the country’s 50 years of existence as an independent nation. Nevertheless, the country is today considered a democracy, having held general elections for four republics of four years span each – 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 – uninterruptedly.
At independence, the pioneer leaders (Founding fathers) chose the system of democracy as the system of governance for Nigeria. Atubi (2011) attested that: “the founding fathers of this country created a democratic system that separated church from state so that, as a country, we could avoid the slippery slope of getting into the business of telling people what to believe”. It suffices to note that the reality of democracy could not be achieved under this circumstance (the coexistence of the three different religions as well as the multi ethnic groups). According to Udeh (2011: Oral Interview) “one concrete reason for the failure of democracy in Nigeria is the attitudinal nature or logical concept of each religion regarding governance (democracy) coupled with different ethnic rationale”. A prime reflection goes to Islam.
Islam has different ideas altogether about governance. For Islamic culture, there is no separation of religion from governance. This concept was clearly buttressed by Ali (2002:81) who stated that:
Muslims believe that their religion, Islam, is a complete way of life which has made copious provisions for all facets of life: practices, social involvement, economic undertakings, political participation, technological innovations, legal phenomenon and religious beliefs.
If one should reflect on the above, it is pertinent to say that Islamic religion is one with all the sayings above including political participation and governance. This concept is contrary to the belief of Christianity: “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”. For the Islamic religion, adherents of non Islam are referred to as infidels. This means that such infidels cannot go to heaven not to talk of ruling or having a say in the human society. For Moslems, it seems that only their adherents can rule and can exercise governance. Manchilla (2003: np) confirmed this statement when he said that:
Muslim recognized that “he (the leader or ruler) must be a Muslim” and the main reason they gave was that if the ruler is not a Muslim, he is unable to rule because he does not have the knowledge of Islam. If he is not Muslim, he doesn’t have any idea, he does what he wants according to his own religion, he doesn’t know what Koran says. If he is not Muslim everything is different. Islam is a complete way of life, so if he is non-Muslim completeness is not there.
Considering this fact in Nigeria means that democracy should not be a reality. For Christianity, governance and religion are separate entities. Though the two (governance and religion) have complex inclinations in every human person. For instance, man is a religious being (homo religiosus) as well as a political animal (zoo politicon). This means that the two virtues (religiosity and politics) exist outstandingly but independently in the same man and in every subject (man) irrespective of colour, culture, race and religion. Judging this tenet in Christianity, one will then say that the system of democracy for Christianity is better relaxed unlike that of Islam. This not withstanding, Christianity abhors a totally free concept of democracy. Christianity welcomes democracy to a certain level. Christianity is rather bureaucratic. This is because it follows rules and laws rigidly. Its officials are also dogmatic. Amidst the bureaucratic nature of the church, Christianity respects and cherishes democracy so well for the sake of human right.
The traditional (indigenous) religion, which had been in existence before the advent of the two foreign religions (Islam and Christianity) had a profound system of democracy. Indeed, traditional religion is very democratic in nature. Many scholars relate Igbo governance with that of Greece. On this, Onwubiko, (1973:108) wrote that:
As in the assembly of the Athenian citizens, in ancient Greece, every grown-up male has the right to air his views on a matter under discussion. After the Assembly had listened to several speakers, some members were appointed to consult among themselves for a decision. They withdrew and after the consultation, returned with a decision which was unanimously accepted by the Assembly. In this way, decisions were reached not by voting but by a consensus.
We can see that Igbo traditional society respects commoners. It could also mean that even the council of elders cannot act authoritatively without seeking the minds of the commoners. Such was the existence of democracy in Igbo area before the colonial era. In Igbo traditional set up, religion and governance (Politics) were formally intermingled. This is shown in the case of Eze being a ruler and a priest. But this is advisable only when the society is of one category. In this case democracy is safe. This is because the Eze respects and takes decision from his cabinets who are the representatives of the different villages and families.
Reflecting through these three prominent religions in Nigeria, one will not hesitate to assert that each of them Islam, Traditional Religions and Christianity has different notions of the type of governance (democracy) which Nigeria operates. Ngwudike (2011: Oral Interview) stressed that “for Islam, Nigeria and her democracy are a sham. Democracy or no democracy, governance or no governance, Islamic law is supreme and autocratic”. For Christianity, Nigeria and her democracy must have a limit (ie to a certain extent) even though it (democracy) is welcome and respected. And for traditional religion, democracy is a choice with relaxation.
Hence these diverse conceptions cause a fundamental problem or conflict in Nigerian governance. These different levels of welcoming Nigeria and her democracy had provoked cultural and religious wars, riots, squabbles, conflicts and loss of wealth. They also hamper the system of governance. With these different notions, religion as an entity could not have enough positive impacts on the country. Onwujiaku (2011: Oral Interview) opined that, “the worst is that religion is loosing its focus and functions to certain extent in sensitive issues.” Even though it has made some positive impacts in the country Nigeria, yet it had registered more negative effects. For example, some of religious adherents have been responsible for the shedding of much blood. They caused these atrocities in a bid to intervene in Nigerian democracy and governance.
Similar to the mistake of the colonial masters in merging the different cultures and many religions together, was their planting of the seeds of majority-minority syndrome in the country. The colonial lords apportioned very large geographical location (area) to the North. They also sowed into the minds and hearts of the Northerners the superiority of their life and their religion over others through the incorporation of Sharia into the governance of sections of the Nigerian society, that is, Northern Nigeria. Ubaka (2000:24) wrote that:
Islam with its law – the Sharia, pre-dates Nigeria: Islam came into the area known as Nigeria today through the trade links with North Africa and Middle East. Historians agree that there was some form of Islam in the Kanem Bornu area around the 11th century AD and the Hausa land area around the 15th century. Then it thrived as a court religion while the few comers practiced it in their private lives.
In view of the above, truly, Islam with its law – the Sharia has been in existence as a religion before the birth of Nigeria. But the grave mistake the colonialists made was the promotion of Sharia, especially in the Northern Nigeria. The British established the Sharia court in Northern Nigeria. Kukah in Onwubiko (1994:111) commented on this:
… Muslims look at English courts in Nigeria as Christian courts, and that because of the problem it created, the British decided to take steps to pacify and appease the Emirs. In 1956, the British established a Muslim Court of Appeal which was welcomed by chiefs and Muslim jurists as a means of protecting Muslim law from encroachment as a result of appeal to English court.
The problem here is that English law (ie Nigerian Constitution) was mistaken to be Christian law. Really this mistake is a misnomer. The colonial masters did a selective justice which disdained other areas (with their cultures and religions) which were also amalgamated. Other Religions have their own religious laws.
The inclusion of Islamic law in governance (Indirect Rule) in the Northern Nigeria by the colonial masters makes the Northerners to always swell, sway their heads and raise their shoulders above other groups in the affairs of Nigeria. It should be noted that Christianity also predated Nigeria and she has her laws too. Nonetheless, referring to Onwujiaku (2011: Oral Interview) “Nigeria absolutely could not have been merged to one state hence; the existence of two distinct constitutions. The idea it portrays is that the Nigerian Constitution and Sharia laws rule Nigeria. This is a disdain to Christianity and traditional religion. How will it look if one state embraces Canon (Christianity) law and another embraces traditional law so strictly as the Islamic adherents? It would be unwise and would have been another major mistake.
Another background cause of problem in Nigeria is the competitive nature of Islam and Christianity. The two religions are rivals to each other. Apart from being rivals to each other, they (Islam and Christianity) are suppressing the traditional religion. By this suppression, traditional religion is rapidly losing its values pertinent to the Nigerian society. The most outstanding of these values is the traditional education. Traditional education deeply grooms human conscience. Real traditionalist-brought up can not spill human blood. Very unlike the traditional religionists, some Muslims and some Christians are insensitive to human life. Odeh (2000:8) lamented that:
Today, as Nigeria wrecks with so much blood being spilled in the name of religion, it is evident that the evil genius of confusion is spreading not only confusion but also death. In an attempt to arrest the advance of the Christian south and thus allay its fears, the Muslim North grabbed political power long ago, indiscrimately mixed religion and politics and with both inflicted so much pain on the entire nation and the rest of us.
The above quotation clearly indicates the effects of competition between Islam and Christianity which resulted in the suppression of indigenous religion. The resultant effect of this competition always occasions the spilling of blood. This problem is a regular occurrence in Nigeria. It was not like that in the olden days when indigenous religion was predominant or alone.
More significantly is the constitutional favour which Britain granted to Northern Nigeria. This is another fundamental problem rocking the Nigerian governance. Onwubiko stressed (1973:391) that:
…in Nigeria, the constitutional legacy bequeathed by Britain created a situation over the other three southern regions. With its built-in 50% representation in a legislature of 312 seats at the center and with 53.3% of the country’s population, the North was assured of a permanent control of the federal government. It was the frustration which this situation created among Southerners that partly explains the army coup of January 1966.
This explains clearly the superiority of the North over the South in terms of politics as the colonialists had made it. The above quotation gave the North opportunity for more people in the constitutional assembly. It would therefore appear that the British colonial masters deliberately sowed the seed of rancour in Nigeria. The Northerners (whose majority are Islamic adherents) and the southerners (whose majority are Christians), because of the aforementioned mistakes of the colonial masters, live in constant conflict hence the constant problems in the Nigeria’s democracy.
Nigeria is a country replete with diverse religious groups among which are the major ones such as; African traditional religion (ATR), Christianity and Islam. Each of these religions has some influences on Nigeria and her governance. However, our task in this thesis is to streamline the major influences which these three major religions (ATR, Islam and Christianity) had and have continued to exercise on Nigeria and her democracy at least from the time of Nigeria’s independence in 1960 till the year 2012. Religion should be an institution for stability, peace and progress in the life of Nigerians especially from the year 1999 – 2012 when it appeared that Nigerians would be living the real democratic life. Ali, et al (2002:88-89) noted that:
General Olusegun Obasanjo later assumed the mantle of leadership of Nigeria and in his speech to the nation, promised to hand over power to a democratically elected government on 1st October, 1979 as earlier promised by his predecessor in office, the late General Murtala Mohammed …. On 1st October 1979 he handed over to Alhaji Shuhu Shagari. It must be noted that government at all other levels had been democratized. There were also elected representatives of the people in the legislative houses at both the state and federal levels.
The researcher’s worry is that the three major Nigerian religious bodies have been functioning all along within the entity–Nigeria. It seems however paradoxical that religion that would be promoting harmony, unity and peace is now the agent of quarrel, squabbles, disaster, conflict and disintegration in Nigeria. In Nigeria, religion has done more harm than good. First, religion has been in the forefront of spilling blood because many religious and political crises in Nigeria are caused by religious adherents. Secondly, the competitive nature of the two foreign religions (Islam and Christianity) always destabilizes the Nigeria democracy and progress. Another problem is to harmonise the concepts of the three major religions in Nigeria. That is the fundamental problem.
This thesis stresses the fact that Nigerian colonial masters made serious mistakes by merging two separate geo-political zones (cultures) and making one superior to the other. Each of these two separate zones imbibes one of these competitive religions like the other. This means that the two merged regions see each other as combatants. Above all, the colonial masters implanted the superiority-inferiority cultures in Nigeria during the amalgamation. Anugwom and Oji (2004:151) averred that:
It is to be noted that most of the ethnic tensions and violence in Nigeria during the colonial epoch were political in character …. Sowed the bitter seeds of majority – minority syndrome in the geographical structure and organization of the country. This also dictated the pattern of socio-political relationship and the distribution of economic bounties of the country among these different nationalities.
This was done by granting constitutional favour to the Northerners (with Islam) leaving the Southerners (with Christianity) with less opportunities in the federal offices. In the face of all these stated problems, how can a true democracy be achieved? Again, religion, which should be the agent of unity, has become the agent of disintegration in Nigeria. Above all, Nigeria, which is blessed with outstanding religious personnel has become known for violence and belittling political disorder as a result of religion.
Many events motivated the study of the thesis. They are both negative and positive events. Religion, without doubt, has contributed positively to the Nigerian democracy. Nevertheless, its negative effects outweigh the positive ones. Hence there is need to study those anomalies for a change of direction for a better Nigerian democracy.
The objectives of this study are as follows:
- To critically analyze the duties of religion so as to correct abuses
- To examine the principles of good governance and how to instruct both the political and religious leaders
- To investigate the influence of religion in Nigerian traditional culture
- To assess the functionality of religion on the Nigerian democracy.
This thesis is of much relevance because many people of different categories will find it very useful. The main important points are as follows:
- The thesis will be an eye opener to the entire Nigerians on the failure of religion on the Nigerian democracy.
- Scholars and researchers will find the thesis highly invaluable for further research. It will furnish and enrich libraries.
- The thesis will generate awareness and knowledge for the political leaders in handling both religious and political problems that may crop up in Nigeria.
- It will be of much benefit to religious leaders in piloting religious affairs in their respective denominations.
- Both Christians and Muslims will find the thesis very useful for a change of attitude (ie living in harmony) towards each other. Also it will enhance dialogue between Christians and Muslims as well as ecumenism (Intra-discussion) among Christians.
The work will serve as a reference point to the government and the legislature. It will let them see that the Federal Constitution of Nigeria needs to be revisited either to include Canon law (Christianity law) or to remove Sharia in the administration of Nigerian society.
The study affected particularly the three major religions (African traditional religion, Christianity and Islam) in relation to Nigeria and her democracy. As sample for due course for religion, Christianity was chosen since it has the more balanced concept which reflect the studied area.
The historical research method was used in this thesis. Data collection among sources comprised two main sources: the primary and secondary sources. Firstly, in the secondary source, the researcher employed the ideas of previous scholars already in print. These included: works from text books, literature, works from archieves, encyclopedia, internet materials, journals, magazines, newspapers, and unpublished works (articles and lectures). Furthermore, the primary source embraced the followings: eye witness account by the researcher as a social observer and oral interviews which were granted by resource persons. The respondents of oral interviews came from the people of various categories of proessions, classes and cultures within Nigeria. Such people were religious leaders and other eminent personnel. The analysis of the data was simply descriptive and evaluative. This means that the data were analyzed through the description of numerous incidences. Finally, the researcher proffered his personal contributions and suggestions.
1.7.1 Religion: Religion according to Robinson and Davidson (1999:1173), is “a belief in, or the worship of, a god or gods”. Secondly, it is a particular system of belief or worship, such as Christianity or Judaism”.
For Okwueze (2003:3) “Religion can be understood as a regulated pattern of life of a people in which experiences, beliefs and knowledge are reflected in man’s conception of himself in relation to others, his social world, the physical as well as the metaphysical world”. Ugwu and Ugwueye (2004: 3) define religion as “man’s relationship with God. Man as a dependent being freely and internally acknowledges his dependence on God and expresses this in acts of individual and communal worship”.
However, the definition of religion by Kukah as put down by Emekwue (2000) which sees religion as a set of rituals by which human being relates with the higher being has been widely accepted. The word religion, etymologically, comes from the Latin word ‘re-ligare’ to bind. Broadly speaking and as the researcher conceptualizes, religion includes actions of man with supreme being or divinities in respect of worship and loyalty.
Etymologically, the word ‘democracy’ is a combination of two Greek words. Demos (people) cracy (rule) which literally means the rule or governance by the people. According to Ezema (2007:39) in quoting Lincolns said that:
The term democracy is derived from the Greek word “demos,” which means people” and cracy’ which stands for rule” or government. Thus, literally democracy signifies” the rule of the people…Abraham Lincolns definition of democracy is government of the people, by the people, for the people.
For Lincolns, the ruling in any democratic society is for the people. However, the situation of ruling in Greek city state does not welcome the decision of women and children.
Gadsby (2001:360) defines democracy as “a system of government in which everyone in the country can vote to elect its members, a country that has a government which has been elected by the people of the country or a situation or system in which everyone is equal and has the right to vote, make decisions”, etc. For Gadsby, ‘democracy’ implies the following: system of government, a country itself being controlled by democracy or a constitutional state based on human rights and equality. For Robinson et al (1999: 355), democracy is “a form of government in which the people govern themselves or elect representatives to govern them. It is a country, a State or other body which is a form of government”. Robinson’s definition implies the strength in which the country is governed or the body of people governing themselves or electing representatives to govern them. For Echeta in Achunike (2011:43). “Democracy is government by the people. A form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system”.
Again Echeta (2011: 37-39): stated that: “The Characteristics of democracy include, citizen’s right, freedom of speech, government accountability, free and fair elections, constitutionalism and rule of law”.
Nweze in Achunike (2011:130) wrote that:
… democracy for the purpose of clarity is the complete application of rule of law and human rights in any given society. This respect of democracy has been a far cry in almost African countries especially Nigeria. This has brought many struggles for true democracy in Nigeria for the past five decades of our political history”.
Also Echeta (2011:38) quipped that:
Herskovits (2006) writes on the history of Nigeria and clearly states that Nigeria was granted full independence in October 1960 and became a Federal Republic in 1963. The political history of Nigeria assumed a new dimension in 1990s with the introduction of democracy under President Obasanjo. It took a period of sixteen years of civil rule before a steady process of democracy began.
The quotations above reveal that Nigerian state has been experiencing democracy but not in its full force. However, the full fledged democracy was institutionalized in 1999. The Nigerian state began practicing democracy after some decades of years including decades of military rule. This thesis embraces the phases of these democratic periods (ie the developing years of democracy in Nigeria). In Nigeria and in the context of this study, the word “democracy” assumes a wider and more elaborate meaning.
The researcher hereby opines that in Nigerian State, democracy entails the life being lived in reference to governance through electoral processes and representations, the checks and balances in the exercise of power, the leadership and responses, the rights and duties between the government and the governed and with the reality of authority and freedom under the rule of law and constitution.
The word “governance” is defined by Robinson and Davidson (2003:580) as “the act or state of governing. It is the system of government or authority to control”. The word “act” could further be defined as the process of ruling or doing something. It may be the act of performing the authority. Simply put, governance is the manner or the science of ruling. In this vein, one may correlate “governance” with politics. Similarly, “politics” is the science or business of government. This is concerned with the acquisition of power. The word “politics’ is in like manner defined by Gadsby (2001:1090) as “The ideas and activities that are concerned with the gaining and using of power in a country, city etc”. It is the profession of a politician. It is the study of political power and government. Analyzing the concepts of both Robinson and Gadsby regarding the two words, “governance and politics”, the result is that they (two words) are synonyms and can be used alternatively in this thesis.
Sharia, according to Robinson and Davidson (2003:1289) is “the body of Islamic religious law”. Such a law is Arabic in nature. According to Muslims, the law is of divine origin. Thus, the source is from Koran, the holy book of the Muslims (Qoran/Quran). The Muslims believe that the book was composed of the true word of Allah as dictated by Mohamed. Gadsby (2001:1312) defines Sharia as “a system of religious law followed by Muslims”. It is clear that Gadsby’s definition of sharia tallies with that of Robinson. Conceptually, Emekwue (2000:14) described sharia as “the sole basis of the existence of a Muslim”. According to him, sharia is the ‘be all and end all’ of the life of a Muslim. This means that depriving a Muslim the right to live Sharia is tantamount to denying him his fundamental right. Sharia is the faith and life of Muslims. The faith of Islam is that every other person who is not a Muslim is a non believer (an infidel) (Sunna 2:23-24). Sharia embraces spiritual, moral and social life. Hence, it also controls the governance of the Muslims. For strict Muslim, there is no other law except Sharia. It is supreme. It is obligatory for all (Sunna; 2:2).
Robinson and Davidson (2003:207) and Gadsby (2001:185) defined canon law as “the laws of the Christian Church”. Canon law is therefore the embodiment of the laws that guard, protect and lead the Christians. The word Canon according to Nwabude (2008:29), is derived from the Greek word, “Kanon” which means standard rule or measure”. It embraces the regulations and directives of the Christian church. According to Stravinskas (1991:164), “The earliest Church laws were regulations, called Canons, enacted by territorial Synods or Councils of Bishops that met to discuss problems and other issues related to the Church and to propose solutions”.
The very important word here is that it is a set of regulations enacted particularly for Christian Churches. The law is not for all. It is not obligatory for everybody. It is for Christian religious denominations alone.
The word ‘Culture’ is etymologically derived from the Latin word-Cultus-habit or customs. Literally, this means that culture is the habit or customs of living organism. In a broad sense, Robinson and Davidson (2003:327) define culture as: “The customs, ideas, values, etc; of a particular civilization, society or social group, especially at a particular time.” Reflecting on the definition highlighted by Robinson and Davidson, one will not argue or think that culture almost embodies all the behaviours of man in the society. The definition extends to the life of the living being in a particular environment. For Gadsby (2000:330), culture is “the ideas, belief, and customs that are shared and accepted by people in a society”. In this particular definition, Gadsby brings into focus that culture embraces belief (element of religion) which is shared and welcomed by that group of people in that society (environment). This definition is more anthropological. A celebrated anthropologist, Mondin (1985:145), had a wider and wholesome view on culture. According to him, culture has three meanings and three principal parts: elitarian, (great quantity of knowledge) pedagogical (educational), and anthropological. The last – anthropological is the one which will be of much use in this thesis. Mondin (1985:146) stated: “culture signifies that totality of customs, techniques and values that distinguish a social group, a tribe, a people, a nation: it is the mode of living proper to a society”.
Mondin’s definition is “ad rem” to the conviction of Taylor. Taylor (1891:1) defined culture as “that complex whole which include, knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habit acquired by man as a member of society”. In this definition, beliefs and morals are major products of religion. In cognizance of the above definitions, one can state that culture is an integral part of every society. Culture gives each society its particular identity. It is that by which each society is known and identified. To be precise, according to Onwudinjo (2003:5) culture embraces: “religion, habit, customs, language, behaviour, art, way of dressing, eating habit, belief, knowledge, law, etc”. The most important concept in this analysis is that religion has a large part in culture.