CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1.1 Background to the Study Nigeria is the largest country of the black race in the world. It is also the most multi-religious among the countries in Africa. This is in line with the view of Akumu et al (2006:3) who opined that, “Nigeria is the most populous African state and one of the world’s most ethnically diverse societies being made up of over 250 ethno-linguistic groups.” The Nigerian ‘ethnic nationalities’ before the amalgamation, in 1914, comprised two separate geo-political zones: Southern and Northern protectorates. These two geopolitical zones which constituted the ‘One Nigeria’ consisted of various cultures each with different traditional religions. Makozi in Okere (1988:9) asserted that Nigeria as one entity was born in 1914 when the two protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated by Sir Fredrick Lugard. The name “Nigeria” derived from the River ‘Niger area’ was proposed by Miss Flora Shaw in an article she had written as a press correspondent to ‘The Times’ in January, 1897, that is fourteen years before the amalgamation.
One would then be right to say that Nigeria as a country is an artificial creation of Lord Lugard. The “artificiality” in making up the country is a fundamental problem besetting Nigeria as a state in all facets of life (religiously, economically, politically, geographically, and so on). The various cultures with different traditional religions influenced governance in Nigeria tremendously, especially on the negative side. Logically and traditionally, each culture with its inherent religion, has some peculiar doctrines. These cultures had already been operating by different types of governance. For instance, the Igbo race within the South East zone was strictly under democratic rule, while the Hausa/Fulani race was ruled by the system of oligarchy or strictly indirect rule. These different ruling methods which were merged together created a lot of problems. The worst of it all was the merging of the two ccompeting religions (Islam and Christianity) inherently existing in different areas under the canopy of two different geographical locations (North and South). The emergence of these two foreign religions (Islam and Christianity) with the already existing traditional religions coupled with multi-populous nature of the country has made, and continues to make, both positive and negative impacts on the democratic governance of this giant country-Nigeria. Diara in Achunike (2011:162) stated that: With well over 145 million inhabitants, Nigeria is unarguably the most populous African nation. After independence in 1960, Nigeria was to run a full democratic government, but military dictatorship unfortunately sprang up and took more than 30 years of the country’s 50 years of existence as an independent nation. Nevertheless, the country is today considered a democracy, having held general elections for four republics of four years span each – 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 – uninterruptedly. At independence, the pioneer leaders (Founding fathers) chose the system of democracy as the system of governance for Nigeria. Atubi (2011) attested that: “the founding fathers of this country created a democratic system that separated church from state so that, as a country, we could avoid the slippery slope of getting into the business of telling people what to believe”. It suffices to note that the reality of democracy could not be achieved under this circumstance (the coexistence of the three different religions as well as the multi ethnic groups). According to Udeh (2011: Oral Interview) “one concrete reason for the failure of democracy in Nigeria is the attitudinal nature or logical concept.
Statement of the Problem Nigeria is a country replete with diverse religious groups among which are the major ones such as; African traditional religion (ATR), Christianity and Islam. Each of these religions has some influences on Nigeria and her governance. However, our task in this thesis is to streamline the major influences which these three major religions (ATR, Islam and Christianity) had and have continued to exercise on Nigeria and her democracy at least from the time of Nigeria’s independence in 1960 till the year 2012. Religion should be an institution for stability, peace and progress in the life of Nigerians especially from the year 1999 – 2012 when it appeared that Nigerians would be living the real democratic life. Ali, et al (2002:88-89) noted that: General Olusegun Obasanjo later assumed the mantle of leadership of Nigeria and in his speech to the nation, promised to hand over power to a democratically elected government on 1st October, 1979 as earlier promised by his predecessor in office, the late General Murtala Mohammed …. On 1st October 1979 he handed over to Alhaji Shuhu Shagari. It must be noted that government at all other levels had been democratized. There were also elected representatives of the people in the legislative houses at both the state and federal levels. The researcher’s worry is that the three major Nigerian religious bodies have been functioning all along within the entity–Nigeria. It seems however paradoxical that religion that would be promoting harmony, unity and peace is now the agent of quarrel, squabbles, disaster, conflict and disintegration in Nigeria. In Nigeria, religion has done more harm than good. First, religion has been in the forefront of spilling blood because