Religion, Politics and Democracy in Nigeria
The conflict between religion and politics in Nigeria is older than the Nigerian state. Religion formed the basis upon which the Fulanis invaded the Hausa homelands and established the Sokoto Caliphate. It also served as a forerunner of colonialism from the coast as it paved the way for the British to overrun the southern coastlands, exploit its economic resources, abolished the peoples’ traditions and socio-cultural practices, and implanted Christianity. Nigerians therefore became religious before their unification into the modern Nigerian state in 1914 by the British. One way or the other, people do seek meaning in life, a sense of purpose that politics cannot adequately provide but can be provided by religion. However, religion itself cannot provide the organizing mechanism through which the society can deal with the perennial issues of power and the need to adapt to changing circumstances. This paper therefore examines how religious practices have endangered the development of democracy in Nigeria. It finds out that the multiplicity of ethnic groups in the country gives rise to social conflicts over resources, and that these social conflicts are cloaked under religion; and that religion is used as an instrument of internal colonization and disenfranchisement in Nigeria; and these have militated against the development and consolidation of democracy in the country which if unchecked would lead to the disintegration of the country. The paper therefore recommends the secularization of the state to guarantee the institutionalization of democratic practices in the country; and; guarantee fundamental rights of the citizens and the independence of and the survival of the state.
Key words: Religion; Politics; Democracy; Religious fundamentalist; Ethnicity; National question; Contending elites; Dominant elites; Political financier; Political client
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