Constitutional Provisions on religion
In the Federal Government of Nigeria Constitution of 1999, in Part II, section 10 it states the following:
The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion.
The sub-section 1 under section 15 of Part II of the same constitution where it is said that the motto of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be Faith, Unity, Peace and Progress it also stipulates the following:
Accordingly, national integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited.
The Federal and State governments have complied fully with the provision (i) above but the same affirmation of adherence cannot be said of provision (ii) both at the Federal and State levels. The challenges and negative consequences that this non-compliance has posed in undermining the effective management of resources at both levels of government will be enunciated later in the synopsis.
These constitutional provisions confirm the secularity of the practice of religion within Nigeria and guarantee its citizens freedom so to do if it does not present threats to life and property of others or constitutes itself into a nuisance thereby inconveniencing the peaceful way of life of others or breach their fundamental human rights.
Though these conditions are not explicitly stated in the provisions, they are considered intrinsic in their definition towards living in peace with each other with mutual understanding.
Geographical Religious Diversity
Contemporary statistics indicate the following as the percentages by the population of the major regions in Nigeria:
Muslim – 50%
Christianity – 40%
Others – 10%
All states in the Federation have a mix of all these religions in different ratios and we can state a generalisation that the Southern part of the country comprising the South West, South Central, and South East are more predominantly Christian and the Northern part of the country comprising North West, North Central, and North East are predominantly Muslim.
Before the late 70s and early 80s, the state governments and previously regional administrations were religion agnostic and did not participate in religious activities formally or as governments. The relationship between adherents of these major faith was simple, non-hostile, tolerant, accepting to the extent the Muslims enjoyed Christmas celebrations with Christians and Christians enjoyed Idel Malud and Idel Kabir celebrations with Muslims so much so that gifts and food were exchanged during these times between themselves. There were no incidents of hate speeches between Christians and Muslims and intermarriages did not meet with resistance from either faith as such.
The moral values of followers of both faiths and in general everyone else was founded on age-old cultural dos and don’ts that had stood the test of time and continued so to do. It is a fact also that traditional idol worship namely Ifa, Ogun, Oya, Oshun were mixed with these major faiths as well.
Religion was private, and many adopted or were brought up in these faiths by following what their parents taught them and practiced.
Religion and Governance
Religion in government started late in the 80’s where States in the northern part of the country to help many more Muslims in their states fulfill their religious obligations to go to Mecca started to subsidize the flights and gave logistical support to operationally and effectively manage a fulfilling experience for its adherents. This provided the opportunity for many more Muslims to embark on this journey annually. What used to be a privileged journey for the rich or those that could afford it became commonplace and the proceeds of the oil boom that enhanced the size of the disposable income of many also played a very crucial part.
The equivalent activity of traveling to Jerusalem for Christians was not a religious obligation in their faith and consequently, it lagged when it came to state support. For many Christians, this remained a spiritual desire which they finally were able to influence the state governments to subsidize and support as well. Religious organizations have since been set up formally in some states of the Federation to manage these activities every year to which resources are allocated from the state budgets.
Though religion remains private, the involvement of state governments has given it a different coloration. The backdrop of committing state resources to supporting these activities has in effect empowered State Governors to push the boat of their religious beliefs further into the sea when they are in office thereby endangering the secularity of religion in states. We see this in attempts made by some state governors to compel the wearing of the hijab in some secondary schools in the South Western segment of the country.
The knock-on effect of this state government involvement in religion has led to the establishment of Sharia courts in some states of the Federation particularly in the northern part of the country. This has been a direct impact on the Judiciary in the country leading to a parallel judicial system in some parts of the country.
Religion and Faith
The growth of religious tourism in the country has become an industry in the country to which significant resources are committed yearly. The inherent expectation of these activities would be that adherents of these faiths will be more pious in their behavior reflecting their beliefs in the teachings of these faiths. Sadly, this has not been the case. Religiosity now straddles the country, particularly in the Christian faith where churches number over 25000 across its length and breadth.
Despite this growth of places of worship in the country, there is more corruption in all facets of public and private sectors of the economy. Crime in various forms has also become a commonplace which prior decades ago was not the case. These include kidnappings, ritual killings, large-scale embezzlement of government funds by public officers and criminal conspiracies between banks and government establishments to defraud.
To state that the motivation for the growth of places of worship in the country was more financial than spiritual would not be far from wrong. In the counterproductive message of miraculous and sudden wealth by many churches, the work ethic of the adherents of the Christian Faith has been severely undermined with a consequence that creativity, innovation, and hard work have stunted and become moribund. The deliberate and conscious mis-emphasise of wealth as a message primarily for self-enrichment of Pastors has severely damaged the economic benefits that honesty, integrity, and accountability have afforded our economy and by extension our country.
Religion and Politics
The rather primitive mentality of ‘do or die’ in Nigerian politics and the obsession for political office for self-enrichment as against service has resulted in the use of every deviant device and mechanism to secure a political position. Religion, therefore, has become a victim and a tool exploited by politicians in very manipulative ways to get support and undermine opponents. The mixture of politics and, religion, however, is very toxic and rhetoric by politicians in attempts to secure votes exacerbates religious intolerance and results in conflicts and clashes between different party supporters that sometimes leads to the loss of life.
Exploitation of religious beliefs also blinds the views of the electorate about the capabilities of a potential candidate and constrains their ability to evaluate objectively what such a candidate will deliver if elected. Consequently, incompetent, inexperienced, unprincipled and morally bankrupt people find their way into public office on the back of religious beliefs to the detriment of the people for a minimum of four years.
The loss in the mismanagement of resources, the under-development of the state of the economy, the visionless posture of such people causes irretrievable damage and the consequences last a long time. In some cases, the quality of life of such people fall and standards of behavior are compromised all around. The society is then the victim of religion that has been abused for self-gain.
Points to ponder
That official involvement of state governments in religious tourism should be discontinued as there is no empirical and visible evidence of tangible benefits to these activities
That the non-intervention of state governments in religion will deter the abuse of governors in their offices to arm-twist the electorate to adopt their personal beliefs via the imposition of educational policies that are sympathetic to their own religious disposition
That the non-intervention of the government at all levels in the country will further respect the multi-religious society that we are and strengthen our nation as one that is secular.
That the non-intervention of government in religion and religious affairs will further disarm politicians from its exploitation and better empower the electorate to make informed decisions about candidates to ensure people of good standing and right competencies are elected into office.
That the non-involvement of government in religious affairs will help to deter the religious extremists among us from exploiting the ignorant and poor youngsters from becoming terrorists and focus their attention in the delivery of good service to all Nigerians
That the non-involvement of government in religious affairs will help the peaceful co-existence of people of different faiths better live in harmony across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
That the resources currently used in funding the subsidies to religious locations be better utilized in meeting the developmental goals of medical, educational, social infrastructure in the country.
It is evident that politicians for the past four to five decades in Nigeria have not delivered good governance to Nigerians nor managed our resources to improve the well being and welfare of its citizens. It is common knowledge that these politicians in their estimation have perfected the cycle of deceiving the electorate by literally buying the votes of the people and foisting incompetent people on the citizens on the platform of their political parties. Strategies of manipulation also include exploitation of ethnic sentiments and religious dispositions of the electorate to impose these visionless, corrupt and ethically immoral people of them. This current government set us back many years with the level of nepotism that we thought had died in our country and many lives have been lost in what could be considered the archaic and backward policies of cattle herdsmen that has resulted in many deaths.
Change of leadership could not be more compelling than in 2019. This is why the electorate has to be enlightened to no longer be deceived by N1000 or a piece of Ankara to mortgage their quality of life and those of their children to hirelings and charlatans who wear political garbs with no understanding or desire to serve their people. Good governance is about is about service to the people. Valuing with integrity the trust that is reposed on leaders to judiciously and efficiently manage the nation’s resources to the direct benefit of the people of Nigeria. It is not about ethnicity or religion or tribe. It is about being accountable, transparent, committed to meeting the goals that have been set to deliver to the electorate in a timely manner. Let us do all we can, using the social media and other media to disarm money politics in our country that undermines our ability to choose wisely those who will deliver on their campaign promises and stop the rot of incompetent leadership in Nigeria.
The time for change is 2019. Please, do not sit on the fence. Get involved. Join a movement to change Nigeria. I have joined the Red Card Movement. Let us take charge of our destiny and drive change that will deliver good governance and the benefits of a progressive nation for our country. Let us educate the electorate. The time to start is now.
Posted By C&L Alumni Core Group.
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