A. O. Omotosho
Swedish Missiological Theme
2003, P. 15-31
M. M.C. K. Ajuluchukwu in his rejoinder to Northern Zone of the Christian Association of Nigeria’s booklet Leadership in Nigeria observes: “Ordinary Nigerian know nothing about inter-religious cleavages except when incited by their respective doctrinal leader. 1” This remark is a challenge and indictment to Nigerian religious leaders, and worth taking up keeping in mind the recent history of Nigeria in term of inter-religious harmony. So the purpose of this article is to examine the causes of inter-and intra-religious violence in Nigeria. It will also examine the role of religious intellectuals in the unfolding disturbances witnessed in Nigeria within the last twenty years, and what could be done to prevent recurrence and promote an environment of peaceful co-existence in Nigeria.
Survey of religious violence in Nigeria
Within the last two decades Nigeria has witnessed a variety of disturbances some of which have threatened the existence of the country as a nation. Some of these disturbances could be described as intra-religious while the others are inter-religious. There are others 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. Below is a brief account of these disturbances according to the above classification.
In December 1980, the Maitatsine riot broke out in Kano, claiming many lives. The exact number of people who lost their lives is very difficult to ascertain. Government presented a figure of hundreds while others put it at many thousands. It was the first major religious violente in the recent history of Nigeria. In October 1982, there was another Maitatsine uprising in Maiduguri in which considerable numbers of lives were also lost. Later on, the same riot spread to Kaduna and to the Sabon Gari area of the city of Kano. In the middle of February of 1984 there was yet another Maistatsine riot in Jimeta-Yola of what was then Gongola State. Some lives were lost. There was another Maistatsine disturbance in Gombe (now capital of Gombe State) in April 19822. Little information was given about it. Inter-religious violence
The first major inter-religious violent broke out in Kafanchan on 6th o f March 1987. It later spread to Zaria and Funtua (now part of Katsina State). Many lives were lost on both sides 1
M.C.K. Ajuluchukwu, ‘C.A.N., Christ and Government’ published in Democratic Weekly. Sunday August 13, 1989,pp. 9-10.
C. O. Imo, Religions and the Unity of the Nigerian Nation, Almqvist and Wisksell International, Uppsala, 1995 p. 21-22. Also see National Concord Newspaper of 27th Otober 1982.
though that of Muslims was higher. Large numbers of properties were destroyed, most especially mosques and churches. This riot was a result of the misrepresentation of Islam by one Revd Abubakar Bako, who distorted some facts in the Qur’an and made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad3. In April 1991, roasted meat otherwise known as suya brought about a violent confrontation between Muslims and Christians of Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi State. This dispute spread later to Bauchi City and other parts of Bauchi State. Many lives were lost and properties worth millions of Naira were destroyed. These include mosques and churches4. Later in the same year, there was more violence known as the Reinhard Bonnke riot broke out in Kano City. Many people died and properties worth millions of Naira were also destroyed5. The most recent religious violent is the one reported in the Guardian Newspaper of May 28 1998 in which twelve people were said to have been killed at Abule-Taylor on the outskirts of Lagos6. According to the police report, it was a pre-emptive attack on another Maitatsine sect...