RELIGION AND POLITICS IN NIGERIA.
Religion and politics have been bound in a passionate love-hate affair since the beginning of time, it seems. Bearing in mind the volatility of Nigeria and the havoc religious crisis have wrecked in the country, one may ask: Should religion and politics be mixed, most especially in a secular state like Nigeria? And if they are mixed, would the mixture be like “manna from heaven”, or a powerful poison that burns everything it touches?
Nigeria as a state is very volatile when it comes to issues related to religion. It, therefore, is gravely baffling when the government that is supposed to be the unifying force begins to instigate religious disaffection amongst its citizens by its (in) action. This is particularly evident in the desperate attempts to mix politics with religion by some agents of the two leading political parties in order to score some political points. Whereas politics is meant to regulate social behavior so that men can co-exist peacefully and gainfully, religion regulates individual behavior and beliefs in a higher power. Thus, politics and religion both play important roles in the way people live and societies operate.
The politicians haves succeeded in manipulating various religious bodies and leaders into instigating religious sentiments just to grab power on religious grounds. Nigeria is a country where religion can make individual most educated behave and express attitude not expected even from a completely illiterate person. We must vehemently reject every attempt by politicians to divide this nation. Religion and politics must be kept separate. Religion is meant to unite people with similar beliefs into a “moral community”, e.g. Muslims, Christians etc., while politics is meant to unite all people of a country like Nigeria into a single community regardless of ethnicity, personal beliefs and practices
The phenomenon of conflict and its attendant effects with our day-to-day struggles over inter-locking agitations on issues like primordial ties, national resources distribution, power sharing, ethnic tolerance, social justice and welfare should be critically examined. Religio-political conflict is a very big problem facing Nigerians today, and this calls for more serious research, thinking and study in order to find ways of minimizing its frequency and devastating impact on the people. Religion contains an overwhelming and complex variety of positions as a result of conflicting truth claims. Religious particularism is a unique feature that cuts across nearly all matters relating to every religious belief system.
More importantly, religions build brotherhoods across human races. Members of the same religious sects therefore offer each other unmerited help, favours and considerations. In Nigeria, the recourse to same ‘brotherhood’ in public offices blurs merit in appointment and performance in a heterogeneous community. Hence, politicization of religion appears to be a natural outcome of a multi-religious society. Then, these exclusive ideological world outlooks make religions not to co-exist easily. This is because, once religions are politicized, they become exclusive political parties whose members may never adhere to nor respect the outcome of normal democratic processes. The result is instability and bloody rivalries.
Today there are major religious groups with numerical strengths that significantly affect the outcomes and direction of a democratic political process in Nigeria.
Religious conflict is conceptualized here as a specific form of conflict between groups which differed ideologically along religious lines within a pluralistic setting with each striving for political relevance. One distinctive feature that is ubiquitous with all religions is the categorization of the world, such that every religion is characterized by sharp subdivisions of the world, specifically with clear-cut dichotomies as follows: the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, the ‘we’ versus ‘they’, the ‘saved’ and the ‘lost’; ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’, or ‘brethren’ versus ‘the rest of the world’, who are expected to share in the life after. This ‘we’ feeling among members propels the fencing out on non-believers who are technically condemned to hell except they repent. Historical trends have been found replete with various atrocities committed in the name of God. All these come about as fall-outs of either inter-religious or even intra-faith competition for political supremacy in Nigeria.
The use of religion as a tool for achieving political ends has contributed immensely to the problem of religious conflicts in Nigeria. Some politicians in Nigeria are known to engage in reactionary recourse to religious fervor as a means of either holding on the power, or as an instrument for political ascendancy. In such circumstance, their fellow religious are often adherent manifested, mobilized and utilized to achieve selfish political goals.
There is no way a nation riddled with violence in almost every stratum can enjoy development. It is important for political actors in Nigeria to realise that the position and power they seek is held in trust for the people. And that opportunity to lead is an opportunity to serve. This is will eradicate the “do or die” syndrome that is always exhibited. The pace of killings and assassination will be reduced if the right motive is embraced. With regards to security of life of the people, while it is important to point out that security operatives should always know that protection of lives and not the destruction of it is their duties, it is advised that they should be exposed to sound training and skilled in the art of negotiation. Empathizing with aggrieved persons and persuading them to pursue a different alternative other than through violence has been found in most cases to be really effective. It takes intelligent, educated and very skilled security officers to achieve this noble objective and completely eliminate a violent option.
– A Discourse on Religious Conflicts and Tolerance in Multi-faith Nigeria by S. Awoniyi Phd, Department of Religion and African Culture Ajasin University Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria.
– An Assessment of the Political Violence in Nigeria Politics Eassay: Published 23rd March, 2015
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