The Role of Religion in Nigerian Politics

Topics: Religion, Sharia, Islam Pages: 22 (7237 words) Published: August 13, 2013


Oluwaseun Olawale AFOLABI, PhD (in view) (Ibadan)

Institut Français de Recherche en Afique (IFRA) - Nigeria Research Fellow,

Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

Nigeria has a pluralistic State has taken religion to a position of importance in every facet of her politics. The nation is the most populous country in West Africa vest with religious diversities: Christianity, Islam and Traditional Religion. These religions are intertwined with political activities in the country. The political office holders are misusing religion as a tool to get to power while religious leaders are mishandling it to get personal gain from those who hold public office. Thus, religion has been mostly used negatively in Nigerian politics since independence. The study explores how religion impulse has affected political development and how it can bring sustainable political development if used positively. Keywords: religion; politics; religious violence; religious tolerance; sustainable political development

There is an incontrovertible connection between religion and politics. While the actual role that religion plays in politics has remained debatable, the nexus between the two concepts has long been established. Religion does not make people good or bad. On the contrary, it is being used as an instrument of oppression and deceit in Nigeria. It appears that Nigerians have resigned themselves to fate and this is possibly further compounded by poverty, illiteracy, and lack of political education on the part of majority of Nigerians. This position is further aggravated by the general perception that politics is a dirty game and that only people that can deceive, manipulate, and greedily accumulate wealth are meant to participate (Egbewole, W. O. and Etudaiye, 2011). The number of religious people in Nigeria run into million, yet the level of insecurity, destruction of lives and properties and crimes committed in God’s name is overwhelming. The need for political stability in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. A major variable in the Nigerian polity is the relationship between religion and politics which some consider as inseparable while some support the notion of the separation of religion from politics so that the former will not imbibe the corruption inherent in the latter. Generally speaking, there is a common fallacy that religion and politics are two different fields of social activity. This leads observers sometimes to speak of the politicization of religion and to say that this is against the original intent of the founder of religion, or God himself (Van der Veer, 1996, p. 50). All over the country, religion plays an important role in the daily lives of her citizens; the way we interact with one other, our choice of dressing, food, and politics are mostly affected by religion. In other words, religion and politics are intertwined and it empowers man to function in his society by contesting for a political position so as to contribute his ideology. Nigeria's population of over 140 million is divided nearly equally between Christians and Muslims. The importance of this division is well illustrated by the fact that religion, not nationality, is the way in which most Nigerians choose to identify themselves though; this does not happen in all cases. Thus, the domains of religion, secularism and politics are becoming increasingly intermingled in both overt and covert ways. Invariably, sectarian politics is inherently problematic. Thus, there is a need to look at the effects of religion on politics in Nigeria since independence. In addition, the study intends to find out how religion can bring sustainable development to our politics. It concludes by agitating for religious tolerance and the hinging of politics on moral codes. Religion and...
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