Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and culturally diverse country, consisting of 36 self-governing states and the Federal Capital Territory. Although its diversity extends to religion, Christianity and Islam are the two main religions. Sadly, religion is one of the key factors that have kept the country divided for a long time since independence.
Irish writer Jonathan Swift once said: “We have just enough religion to make each other hate, but not enough to make each other love. These words capture the exact situation in Nigeria today. Instead of keeping people united in love, religion has become the cordon of enmity leading to intractable differences between the various ethnic groups in the country.
According to a report published in The World Fact Book by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Nigeria’s religious population is estimated at 53.5% Muslims, 45.9% Christians (10.6% Roman Catholics and 35.3% other Christians) and 0.6% for others.
As Wikipedia notes, Nigeria was amalgamated in 1914, only about a decade after the defeat of the Sokoto Caliphate and other Islamic states by the British, which were to constitute a large part of northern Nigeria.
In Nigeria, violent religious crises, especially between Christians and Muslims, have left thousands dead and property worth hundreds of millions of naira has been destroyed. For example, between 1980 and 1992, 26 religious riots were recorded and the death toll is estimated at 6,775.
In 1993, the Human Rights Committee, an independent body of 18 experts selected through a UN process, described religion or belief as “theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well. than the right not to profess any religion or belief ”. In addition, article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This includes the freedom to change religion or belief and the freedom, alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest one’s religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Unfortunately, the reverse is happening in Nigeria, as the country’s two most important religions are embroiled in a struggle for supremacy. It has in effect transformed what should be the basis of peace into war. One wonders what caused the enmity.
Research shows that the 1980s saw an upsurge in violence due to the death of Mohammed Marwa, aka Maitatsine. In the same decade, the then military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, enrolled Nigeria in the Organization of the Islamic Conference. This decision has exacerbated religious tensions in the country, especially within the Christian community. In response, some members of the Muslim community pointed out that some other African states had smaller populations of Muslims, as well as Nigeria’s diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
Fear of domination is a major problem fueling religious crises in Nigeria. The country is also struggling with the fear of the domination of a particular ethnic group over the rest. As Voltaire rightly reasoned, who said: “If you have two religions in your country, the two will kill each other; but if you have thirty religions, they dwell in peace, ”Muslims and Christians in Nigeria still disagree.
The rule of law has been displaced and there is no respect for the right of individuals to practice the religion of their choice. Human lives are wasted almost every day because of religious intolerance.
As the same writer mentioned in an article titled “Factors Boosting Poverty in Nigeria”, that lack of access to education is a major problem that contributes to poverty in Nigeria, poverty stems from lack of education and education brings enlightenment. Statistics show that beyond the national average, the distribution by geopolitical zones places the geopolitical zone of the South-East in the lead with a literacy rate of 95.4% and the North-West with the lowest at 38 %. The South-East, the South-South at 94.8%, the South-West at 92.6%, the North-Center at 62% and the North-East at 41.9% in 2018 follow.
As a result of the illiteracy rate, people are poor and easily brainwashed to kill their fellow citizens under the aegis of religion.
Another cause of religious turmoil is government involvement at all levels in religious matters. Anyone who will rule a multiethnic and religiously diverse Nigeria does not have to be a religious extremist or an ethnic supremacist. Such a leader will bring nothing but disunity among the people. It is quite unfortunate that the government gets involved in issues related to tribal differences and the struggle for religious supremacy. CS Lewis says, “Of all the wicked, the religious wicked are the worst.
As the saying goes, idle hands are the tools of the devil. The country’s high unemployment rate, which has risen by 33% in recent times and is currently ranked second in the world, is also contributing to religious crises. When people have paid jobs, they have little or no time for frivolities. The unemployed can be easily bribed with money to wreak havoc on society.
The crises in Nigeria, in particular the religious crisis, have affected the growth of the economy in general and the development of communities and individuals. Many lives have been cut short, properties worth millions of naira destroyed, and innocent Nigerians have been displaced and turned into refugees in their own country.
In tackling religious violence, the government should make education affordable to all and efforts should be made to hire more people. In addition, the government should refrain from getting involved in religious matters, as this can lead to discord, unrest and disunity in society. In addition, there should be respect for human rights and tolerance for an individual’s religion.
In conclusion, the people should keep in mind that God is not someone for whom or against whom one can fight and stop causing trouble under the pretext of defending God.
• Adeparua Damilola can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org