causes of religious crises in nigeria

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Religious Crises in the North: Which Way Out of this Quagmire?


Aliyu A. Ammani

This essay is an attempt at identifying the remote and immediate causes of the incessant religious crises in northern towns and cities, if you’d rather the so-called middle belt political zone of the north. In expressing this view, there is no intention on my part to mock the bones of those who died so long ago and who tried, however ineffectually, to lead their people.

The thrust of this piece is that the nuisance of religious crises in the North is essentially a result of the manipulation of religion to score political goals: using religion to confuse or destabilize; which set the stage for what we experienced time and again: series of violent provocations, reactions and counter reactions; all in the name of religion. This manipulation of religion is orchestrated and masterminded by selfish elements within the so-called elite class of both the Islamic and Christian religions, herein referred to simply as the manipulators.

The motive for the manipulation of religion is a self centred one, a means through which selfish politicians seek to attain undue political leverage in an otherwise politically competitive level playing field. The reason for this is, in the words of the late Dr. Yusufu Bala Usman “to enable this class (the manipulators) to cover themselves with religious and ethnic disguises in order to further entrench division among our people (and) slow down their awakening at any cost.” This is because any single one of them (the manipulators) “cannot appear as what he really is in the political economy of Nigeria. He has to find a cover. He cannot claim political leadership openly on the grounds that he is, or wants to be, an exporter-importer, a contractor (etcetera)… he has to take cover as a Muslim or Christian … the manipulation of religion in Nigeria today is essentially a means of creating the context for this fancy-dress ball, for this charade of disguises.” (See Dr. Y. B. Usman’s The Manipulation of Religion in Nigeria 1977-1987).

Ever wonder why religious crises in Nigeria are essentially a northern affair? Kafanchan, Zangon-Kataf, Tafawa-Balewa, Yelwan-Shendam, Jos, Kaduna, Bauchi etcetera; in most places it happened more than once.

Between 1804 and 1812, an Islamic state, what we now referred to as the Sokoto Caliphate was established as a bye-product of the Islamic reform movement started by Shehu Usmanu Danfodio in Hausaland at about 1774. The Sokoto Caliphate comprised of a large chunk of pre-colonial Hausaland: Kano, Katsina, Gobir and Zazzau; Western flank of the pre-colonial Borno before the Shehus of Kukawa: Hadejia, Gumel, Kazaure, Katagum, Misau and Gombe; Benue valley and the Bauchi Plateau, including the present Jos Plateau; Nupe and Ilorin emirates.

The Sokoto Caliphate was regarded as a bye-product of the Islamic reform movement because Shehu Danfodio did not set out to conquer lands and territories, but rather to call, as Sheikh Abdullahi Fodio wrote in Tazyin al-Waraqat “to the revival of Faith, and Islam, and good works, and to abandon customs contrary to them.”

Following the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate, the successors of the Shehu and the flag bearers failed to sustain the spirit of the Islamic reform movement; rather they were so much after the luxury of life and the delights of power. As Sheikh Abdullahi Fodio lamented in Tazyin al-Waraqat “ I am left in the midst of liars and hypocrites who say one thing and do entirely another, people who do not value knowledge and its pursuit… people whose preoccupation is attainment of political power for the procurement of sensual comfort through concubines, flutist, gorgeous clothing and brisk horses…”

Having derailed from the path concretely mapped out by Shehu Danfodio, the successors of Shehu and the flag-bearers found it more convenient to subjugate and...
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