Religion, Politics and Democracy in Nigeria
Akwara, Azalahu Francis, Ojomah, Benedict O., Canadian Social Science
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
When there is a conflict within a group or between groups, an attempt is usually made for a negotiated settlement of the issues among the parties involved. This would involve the continuous adjustment of issues and dialogue and only in the last resort if deadlock cannot be broken that force could be applied by a legitimate arbiter to bring the conflict to an end. This can only be made possible through politics. Politics therefore arises from accepting the fact of the simultaneous existence of different groups with different interests and different traditions within a territorial unit under a common ruler (Crick, 1964). People have conflicting interests because they want several things at the same time and everyone cannot have his or her way. The way the society gets to resolve these conflicting interests simply means politics.
Religion has been defined by Kegley and Wittkopf (2004) as a system of thought shared by a group that provides its members with an object of devotion and a code of behavior by which they can ethically judge their actions. As a system of thought or belief, it provides its members with their main source of identity. This identification with, and devotion to a religion, Kegley and Wittkopf (2004) maintain, springs from the natural human need to find a set of values with which to evaluate the meaning of life and the consequences of their choices. Religion therefore is the belief in the supernatural and the practices sustaining that belief. It is the ultimate superstition and a level of consciousness mostly centering on good and evil; God and Satan; gods, spirits, and deities. It arises from historical, socio-economic and political factors in a society (Igwe, 2004).
Democracy can simply be seen as government by elected representatives. Its evolutionary process in every human society has never been a smooth one. It has always been punctuated by crises and conflicts between dominant and contending elites and classes in the society as each group tries to create a balance of power in the society; and to create a balance between liberty and equality. The history of democracy has been more or less the history of taming democracy to make it safer for free trade, capitalism and protection of minority rights (Christenson et al., 1974). As Christenson et al. (1974) rightly pointed out, democracy is no longer about imposing the rule of the majority, but about protecting the interests of the minority. Democracy depends on the participation of the people in their nations' socio-economic processes without discrimination based on colour, race, and religion. It involves the sincere commitment of national leaders to be transparent and accountable to the people. It depends upon the separation of powers in the arms of government; by the existence of an independent judiciary; and by the dedication of democratic institutions to the identification and training of present and future leaders (Christenson et al., 1974); and by the commitment of the leaders to upholding democratic values. It thrives on the respect for the rule of law and the respect for the fundamental human rights of the citizens; free, fair, and periodic elections; transparency and accountability in governance; and free access to information, and access to political and economic processes of the country by all persons and groups in the country (Christenson et al., 1974).
The failure of democracy in Nigeria cannot be attributed to the failure of the nation to develop economically alone; or to the artificiality of western democracy itself with its sets of institutions and practices; or to the absence of supporting values for democracy, and or, the relationship between the developed western nations and Nigeria, especially the effects of colonialism and neo-colonialism on the country (Ake, 1997); but on the negative effects of religious practices on the nation's political processes; engaging in the political process from a religious perspective, and turning political differences into ethno-religious conflicts.
The conflict between religion and politics in Nigeria is older than the Nigerian state itself. Religion formed the basis upon which the Fulanis invaded the Hausa homelands and established the Sokoto Caliphate and all other emirates all over Northern Nigeria'. The Fulani jihadists in Nigeria were on a state and empire building adventure; and in search for greener pastures or economic resources (Onwubiko, 1978). Religion 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. The people therefore became religious before their unification into the modern Nigerian state in 1914 by Lord Lugard. Without this unification, the present day Nigeria could have been three or more geopolitical entities; it could have been anything but modern day Nigeria. Thus, Nigerians have not only become very religious peoples due to outside influences but have allowed religion to play a destructive role in the politics of the country due to ethnic differences.
Ethnicity is a political concept and denotes the expression of ethnic sentiments or ethnic nationalism. It involves the practice of ethnic ideology which enables a group to exploit natural differences in nationality for specific purposes. As Igwe (2004) pointed out, it is an outwardlooking chauvinistic attitude towards one's nationality and cultural group with a correspondingly suspicious and hostile attitude towards others, especially those held to be in competition with one's own ethnic group.
Ethnicity manifests in the political, economic and cultural processes of a country and is propagated by the family, economic groups, and political groups in the labor process. As Nnoli (1989) noted, it is determined by the size of a linguistic group, location of the group, strength and cohesion of its leadership, the nature and leadership of under-privileged classes, foreign influences and dominant ideology.
Ethnic conflicts had been in existence in Nigeria before the advent of colonialism just like religious conflicts had been. Ethnic wars were fought over natural resources, farmlands, grazing lands, water supply, fishing rights, hunting rights, items of trade such as slaves, ivory, gold, etc. Later, religious beliefs and power positions became issues keenly contested in and across the length and breadth of the country, leading to wanton destruction of lives and property across the country (Ifemesia, 1965; Aderibigbe, 1965;Tamuna, 1965).
Ethnic, political and religious conflicts in Nigeria are therefore generally caused by struggles for power, natural and economic resources; migration; state and empire building by migratory ethnic nationalities (Ifemesia, 1965; Aderibigbe, 1965; Tarmino, 1965). Because religion formed part of the basis for state formation process in Nigeria, it is extremely difficult to differentiate religious conflicts from ethnic and political conflicts in the country; and many people especially Muslims in Nigeria still believe that the state formation process is not over until the entire nation is Islamized and politically controlled by the Hausa/Fulani oligarchy. This is exactly why the middle-belt region in Nigeria where Usman Dan Fodio's jihad was checkmated by the Tivs has witnessed more cthno-religious and ethno-political conflicts than all other parts of the country put together.
The relationship between religion and politics has not always been a cordial one in almost all nations of the world where both realms are headed by entirely different elites. As Elandi and Adel (1994) observed, people all over the world are alarmed about the latest development in religious practices all over the world - the rise of religious fundamentalism or religious nationalism - because it undermines the legitimacy of governments, democracy and good government; it disrupts cordial international relations and peaceful coexistence of nations; and undermines the development and progress of the human race. In some nations where religious fundamentalists are absent, religion becomes a source of peace and humanitarian concern. But if present, it becomes an instrument of provocation, persecution, domination, exploitation and intimidation; and has been at the center of many bloody ethnic wars especially in Nigeria.
According to Rourke and Mark (2003) the rise of Islamism and its subsequent expansion in the late 6th century and the reaction of Christians in Europe caused a series of clashes one of which was the Eight Crusades (1095-1291) between the two sects. The Protestant Reformation of 1517 that divided Christianity; and the rivalry between Protestants and Catholics was one of the causes of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and other conflicts in Europe (Rourke & Mark, 2003).
Religion played a role in the imperial era as Catholics and Protestant missionaries were among the early European explorers and colonizers of Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America. However good the intentions of these missionaries may have been they ended up promoting and legitimizing the political, economic and cultural domination of the indigenous peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America and Australia by the Europeans (Rourke & Mark, 2003). The political conflicts between the Arabs and Israelis are more or less seen from a religion perspective - Muslims and Jews. And the division of India into religions lines on the nation's independence from Britain in 1947 has persisted till today; and the IndianPakistani relations have always adopted religions stance of Hindus versus Muslims, and their religious differences and skirmishes have undermined the independence of the Kashmir Province from India and Pakistan.
With the fall of communism in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, religion came to dominate the political scenes of the Eastern European countries. The disintegration of Yugoslavia was more or less on religions lines - Catholic Croats, Muslim Bosnians and Orthodox Serbs. The same religion plays a role in the division between Serb and Muslim Albanians in Serbia - Montenegro province in Kosovo; and between Macedonians and Muslim Albanians in Macedonia. The Irish political landscape has been greatly influenced by religion, and characterized by bloody conflicts between Catholics and Protestants.
Lewis (1994) is of the opinion that communism failed in Eastern Europe because it attempted to provide an all-encompassing secular faith to regulate all aspects of man's relations to man, thereby making the idea of man's relation to God superfluous and subversive; and maintains that in those nations where communism failed, there have been a revival of traditional forms of religion, showing a deeply felt need by man to believe in something beyond the evidence of everyday life; and that something is God. People therefore do seek meanings 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 (Lewis, 1994). That is why there is always an element of politics in religion, though this may be hidden in social life.
The issue of religion and politics is a very important one and has come to the fore this period for a number of reasons - crimes are being committed daily against humanity in the name of God and religion within and across national frontiers by religious fundamentalists; the globalization of democracy; and developments in communication, science and technology which makes the world a global village, thereby bringing the conditions of life of some other societies to our knowledge. We share their lives and feelings with them, and often reach out to give them helping hands, and, or use their experiences in solving our societal problems. However, the way religious faith glosses over to the political realm in Nigeria makes religion incompatible with politics especially to the development of democracy. The level of religiosity is so high that religion has acquired the capacity to impose and assert its perspectives in the country's political agenda and this makes secularization of the nation imperative. This paper therefore examines the effects of religion on the nation's political processes especially on the development and consolidation of democracy.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Politics and religion are so interwoven that their separation in society is not impossible but problematic. The assertion of religious authority over secular authority for the democrat undermines the legitimacy of the state and the fundamental human rights of the citizens; and the assertion of secular authority over religion "questions" God's authority over his creations on earth and "undermines" the power and authority of God's representatives on earth. The questions that arise therefore are: what really gives rise to the incessant ethnoreligious conflicts that characterize the Nigerian political processes as religious conflicts; does the gloss of religious beliefs and practices over to the nation's political process engender or endanger the growth of democratic beliefs and practices in the country; and; how can religious and political practices be reconciled to guarantee the institutionalization of an enduring democratic order in a multi-ethnic society as Nigeria.
THEORITICAL ORIENTATION AND FRAMEWORK
Shields (1958); and Marx et al. (1975), are of the view that the state should be organized or ruled based purely on a secular creed devoid of religious implications. As Shields (1958) puts it, "democratic beliefs about the principles of political conduct are derived not from religious dogmas but from the practice of politics". And Marx (1975) looks at religion as an optical illusion, and a smokescreen laid down by the oppressors among the oppressed, and as an opium of the people because once it is administered by the oppressor to the oppressed, it intoxicates and the intoxicated can go on any destructive errand including suicide bombing and arson.
For Marx et al. (1975), the inability of the proletariat to challenge the bourgeoisies (capitalists) gives rise to the belief in a better life after death, and beliefs in gods, devils, miracles and the like. Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught by religion to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward. Marx et al. (1975) therefore saw religion as opium of the people - a sort of spiritual booze in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man. Religion therefore should be a private affair so far as the state is concerned. Religion must be of no affair to the state; and religious societies must have no connection to the government authority. Everyone must be free to profess any religion of his choice, or no religion whatsoever. Discrimination of citizens on account of their religion is wholly intolerable. And no subsidies should be granted to the established church nor state funds be allocated to ecclesiastical and religious societies. There should be complete separation of the church and the state (Marx et ah, 1975).
RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM AND ITS DANGERS
One aspect of religion that appears to have gained strength in many countries is religious fundamentalism. A religious fundamentalist is one that holds conservative religious beliefs or values and wishes to incorporate those values into the secular political realm by making laws that would apply not only to their faithful followers but to everyone else in the society (Rourkela & Mark, 2003). As Kegley and Wittkopf (2004) observed, when religious groups are radicalized, politicized or become fanatically dedicated to the promotion of their cause, they oppose each other violently. They are also of the view that all radically politicized religious groups share these characteristics in common:
1) Militant religious groups tend to view existing governments as corrupt and illegitimate because it is secular and not sufficiently rigorous in upholding religious authority or rigorously sanctioned social and moral values, (especially if such governments are headed by elites from other religious or ethnic group).
2) They attack the inability of governments to address the perceived) domestic ills of the society in which the movement exists. In many cases, the religious group substitutes itself for the government at local levels and is involved in education, health and other social welfare programs.
3) They subscribe to a popular set of behavior and opinion that they believe the political authority must reflect and protect in all governmental agencies and social activities. This generally means that government and all of its foreign and domestic agencies and government activities must be in the hands of believers or subject to their close oversight.
4) They are universalistic - that is, they tend to see their views as part of the inheritance of everyone who is a believer. This tends to give them a trans-state motivation, a factor that translates their views on legitimacy of political authority into a larger context for action. In some cases, this means that international boundaries are not recognized as barriers to the propagation of their faith, even if this means the resort to violence.
5) They are exclusionists - that is, they relegate all conflicting opinions on appropriate political and social order to the margin - if they do not exclude them altogether. This translates as a class citizenship for any non-believer in any society where such a view predominates.
6) Finally, they are militants, willing to use coercion or violence to achieve their only true end.
The actions of the fundamentalists as Kegley and Wittkopf (2004) also noted, not only lead to violence but they also have five other specific national and international implications:
a) If the religion is a dominant religion, or is practiced by a dominant ethnic group, there is always the tendency to lay claims to adjacent territories, or reclaim previously possessed lands from another ethnic region or group or state that controls it.
b) They encourage secession - they always encourage the attempts by an ethnic or religious minority to break away from an internationally recognized state in a secessionist or separatist revolt if such ethnic or religious minority subscribes to their religion.
c) Militant religious groups tend to incite migration - the departure of religious minorities from their countries of origin (either by force or by choice) to "escape persecution". The migration leads to other consequences.
d) The emigrants create diasporas or communities that live abroad, and from their host communities maintain economic, political and emotional ties with their homelands.
e) They sponsor national and international terrorism in support of radical co-religionists abroad or in their host and home countries.
There are some unfortunate facts about the two largest religious groups in Nigeria - Christianity and Islamism - both are internally divided though they use the same sacred texts. The acceptance of these sacred texts by the groups has not in any way prevented the growth of serious conflicts caused by different theological interpretations of the texts. Nevertheless, factional and sectarian differences linked to ideological, political and leadership issues seem to have had more far-reaching implications than theological differences; in other words, both religious faiths have fundamentalists (Christian and Islamic fundamentalists).
Both fundamentalists attack non-practitioners of their religions in their regional enclaves or neighborhoods, with the major purpose of converting them (Ebije, 2009). The basic difference is that while Islamic fundamentalists would use force, terror and human rights abuses to assert claims to state power and to force people to convert, the Christians would use charity, prayers and subtle persuasion saying that "the fight is the Lord's".
While the Islamic fundamentalists in Nigeria are found within such Muslim Brotherhoods as the Shiites, Tijaniyya, Wahabites, Qadriyya2, Taliban, Boko Haram and the Al-Qaida; in the Christian fold, they are the Pentecostals or the "born-agains" who preach against what they consider as the corrupt churches in Nigeria, whose spirituality have been destroyed by pagan practices, hierarchical structures and alleged restriction of adherents to the scriptures. Unfortunately most of these Pentecostals preach prosperity and miracles rather than repentance and forgiveness, justice and peace, reconciliation to God, and love for fellow man. The character and content of religion as practiced by these fundamentalists have serious implications for the development of democracy in Nigeria and elsewhere.
Religious fundamentalists believe that their faith gives the basis for all necessary social regulations, and all functions of government. The religious fundamentalists believe and claim to know what God wants and intends for mankind, so any disagreement, rebuttal and opposition are not just against the religious fundamentalists who rule, but against the will of God Himself. The fundamentalists not only base their leadership of the society on scriptures but also are telling other people what they must believe. To the fundamentalist, just as the scripture is infallible, the fundamentalists who say what it means and how its instructions and denunciations are to be applied are also infallible (Lewis, 1981).
ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA
Islamism has been described by true and honest Muslims as a religion of peace and love. But judging from the way some of the practitioners of the religion use it for political purposes, especially in territorial acquisition and empire building in Nigeria and elsewhere, one may see it as an Arabian/Fulani colonial policy of using the religion to acquire political territories just as the Europeans used Christianity to acquire colonies during the imperial era3. As Hunwick (1965) observed, Usman dan Fodio who led the jihads against the indigenous Hausas kingdoms in Nigeria claimed to have had a vision instructing him to "unsheathe the sword of truth" against the Hausa ruling elites or dominant elites because they were unbelievers and corrupt, so, he embarked on the jihad.
By the end of the 18th century, Islamism had been firmly entrenched in Northern Nigeria and its effects were tremendous - the Fulani contending elites emerged as the dominant elites having toppled the Hausa dominant elites in the jihads. Secondly, the emergent Fulani elites intermarried with the indigenous Hausas to consolidate their hold on power and to reduce resentment against the Fulanis (Ofoegbu, 1976); Thirdly, the emergent Fulani elites became the dominant elites and used certain interpretations of Islam to impose a centralized government and a rigid class hierarchy on the defeated Hausa kingdoms, and used it to inculcate habits and attitudes of political deference and subordination (Colemann, 1960). This has been at the center of all the ethnic crises that are given religious camouflage in Nigeria, especially in the northern and the middle belt regions of the country. Power has been at the root cause of the crises and the essence is to control the economic resources available in the regions; and to dominate and rule the indigenous local population besides forcefully converting them to the Islamic faith.
The indigenous population became so critical of the leadership of the new elite in the society after the Jihads that in 1954, the Emir of Kano proscribed political activities by children (Sklar, 1963) probably to curtail resentment against the societal leadership which has been described as "customary authoritarianism" and undemocratic as the welfare of the people became worse under Hausa/Fulani leadership than it was under the indigenous Hausa leaderships.
The dangers of mixing the Islamic religion with politics have been seen in all its manifestations in Nigeria, and manifested in the bloody conflicts of the 1980s that occurred in the northern states. The conflicts that took ethnic lines were religiously motivated. The KasuwaMangani communal crisis of 1980; the Zangon-Kataf and Gure-Kahugu crisis of 1984; the Kaganchan and Lere crisis of 1987; the florin and Jere crisis of 1989; the 1991 crisis in Tafawa Balewa; and the Zango Kataf crisis of 1992; Bauchi crises of 2004, 2006 and 2008; and Jos crises of 2008, 2010, and 2011 in which the migrant fulani settlers consistently persecuted the indigenous Tiv and non-indigenous, non-moslem groups in their midst. These are good pointers that Islamic religious fundamentalism is incompatible to peace, unity and development of democratic governance in Nigeria.
All religious/ethnic conflicts in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria have been products of power struggles. The most recent Jos crisis where the Jos North Local Government election turned into an ethno-religious crises because the Hausa/Fulani settler (moslem) population failed to win the local government elections in the area and in some other local governments as Bokos and Langtang where they had been in control before the elections point to the fact that struggles for political power have been the root causes of the conflicts. Though the other local government areas in the state remained peaceful but the Hausa/Fulani settlers in Jos North Local Government decide to riot against the election verdict and became violent. The Hausa/Fulani elites in the area believed that they were robbed of victory in the election because they are moslem minorities in the predominantly christain Tiv enclaves and reacted violently against the indigenous christian Tiv population. The Tivs did not take the attack lightly and retaliated. The violence that ensued left several people dead (The Nation, 29 Nov., 2008); and houses and property worth millions of Naira were burnt and destroyed.
The indigenous Tiv population has always resented the imposition of Hausa/Fulani settler elites on them by the Northern elites and felt the need for a change. They want to be represented by their own people and to have their own share of the national cake given to their natural indigenes, and they expressed their franchise. The Tivs cited the case of their being represented by Hausa/Fulani settlers in the region with the appointment of Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki Nakande (a Hausa/Fulani settler) as a Minister of State for Information under the platform of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) - a slot that would have gone to an indeginous Tiv; the representation of Jos in the then Northern House of Assembly by Alhaji Nakande's father; and the representation of Jos by Alhaji Inuwa Ali (Turakin Jos) in the House of Representatives in 1979-83; these men are all Hausa/Fulani settlers in Jos (Hameed, 2009). Democracy involves the representation of a group by a member of the group, and not by an alien to the group.
The representation of the indigenous majority Tiv population by the minority Hausa/Fulani settlers in the middle-belt region was made possible by the control of the then Northern Region by the Hausa/Fulani Islamic, feudal oligarchy that emerged after the jihads. This has always caused resentments among the indigenous Tiv population that has always sought for opportunities to reverse the anomaly. The opportunity for a change came in the local government elections in Plateau State and the indigenous Tiv population that dominated the Peoples Democratic Party in the State defeated the Hausa/Fulani settler population in the All Nigeria Peoples Party. The victory set the stage for a bloody crisis that claimed lives and property. Democracy involves respect for majority opinion and decision.
The crisis that ensued became too bloody that the Plateau State Government decided to embark on a massive deportation of some of the Hausa/Fulani settlers to the core Hausa/Fulani States. The Tivs justified the actions of their governor and political leaders saying that it is extremely impossible for a Tiv to contest an election in any predominantly Hausa/Fulani State in the country what more representing the Hausa/Fulani in the National Assembly or taking a Hausa/Fulani slot of national appointments (Hammed, 2009).
As the crisis got bloodier, the Plateau State Governor ordered the law enforcement agencies to shoot at sight anyone involved in the crisis (The Nation, Nov. 30, 2008). The death toll was high and majority of the casualties were Hausa/Fulani settler elements as shown by the report presented by the Human Rights Watch to the Justice Bola Ajibola Panel that investigated the crisis. The head of the Human Rights Watch admitted under interrogation before the Justice Bola Ajibola Panel that he received the names of the 128 Hausa/Fulani casualties in the crisis from the Chief Imam of the Jos Central Mosque (Pam, 2009). The involvement of the Chief Imam and other islamic leaders in the area in the compilation of the list shows the extent of the involvement of moslem leaders in the political crises in the region and goes to buttress the claims of the indigenous Tiv population that most of the crises in the region take religious undertone because that is the only way the Hausa/Fulani group gets the listening ears of the Federal Government and the support of other Hausa/Fulani elites within the corridors of power all over the country. And emerging facts show that the crises are the handiwork of well organized Islamic terrorist groups whom the governments have ignored (Emeruwa, 2004; Okumo, 2004; Ogunro, 2004).
As the crisis spread to new areas, the Plateau State Government intensified the deportation of the Hausa/ Fulani settlers to the core northern states because the Hausa/Fulani settlers in Plateau State could not trace their ancestral roots to any community indigenous to Plateau State or the middle-belt region (Igidi, 2009; Amimi, 2009). This triggered off an uproar by the Hausa/ Fulani elites all over the country, Retired General Jerry Useni - the Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), a Hausa/Fulani socio-cultural group spoke out in condemnation of the deportation (Agbase, 2009). The deportation according to Kawu (2009) introduces a new dimension to the politics of indigenes versus settlers and warned that if the deportation is not reversed, it would give a new definition to Nigerian citizenship. The most noticeable thing about the condemnation is that it comes only from the Hausa/Fulani elites whose political and religious interests are served by the settler elements in the middle belt region. The natural indigenes of the middlebelt region and the southern region want politics to be divorced from religion.
The Tivs and indeed all other ethnic groups in the southern parts of the country strongly condemn the colonization of one ethnic region by the other and see such acts as incompatible with democracy. This has also made many Nigerians to call for a discussion of the "national question" to put an end to the internal colonization and the exploitation of one ethnic region by the other that has been going on in the country for centuries. Nigerians in the Niger-Delta region for instance are predominantly Christians. They strongly believe that the exploitation of the natural/mineral resources in their region benefits only the predominantly Moslem north because the Moslem north has been in control of the nation's political processes since colonial era to the present and no corresponding development projects have been carried out in the region that provides more than 75 percent of the nation's resources. A discussion of the "national question" perhaps, will bring to an end, the Niger Delta crises and all other ethno-religious conflicts in the country today. If the NigerDelta region had been a predominantly Hausa/Fulani Islamic enclave, the crises in the region may not have been there, or could have taken a different shape altogether.
Democracy involves the rule of law and the due process. If any other rule is substituted for the rule of law, then there is the absence of democracy. The introduction of Sharia Law in the northern states by state governors with extreme religious orientations brought about an unprecedented abuse of the rule of law and the due process of law in those states where sharia have been introduced and enforced. The penal code that had hitherto guided law and order in the region was relegated to the background and non-conformists to the Sharia Law got maimed and abused by the Sharia Law Implementation Squads popularly known as "Hisba" in the northern states ofNigerria.
The Hisba destroys anyone or group(s) it considers to be "anti-Islamic" without recourse to the law, the rule of law and the due process. In late February 2001, the group burnt an army truck in Kano simply because it was carrying beer meant for military games (CLO: 2002) and on April 11, 2001 burnt down a guest house in Nasarawa District in Kano in its routine attacks on hotels and restaurants in the state. Also in Kano, a Wurno Lower Sharia Court ordered the amputation of the right hand of one Aminu Tukar Dandaye for allegedly stealing a ram worth N16,000 (CLO: 2002). This took place barely a week after a Sokoto Upper Sharia Court gave a similar judgement (CLO: 2002). These offences, if properly tried under the Panel Code or the Criminal Code, would have attracted a maximum of three years imprisonment or a fine or both.
Zamfara State became notorious in the implementation of the Sharia Law as many citizens got amputated for stealing. The amputation that attracted much publicity was that of one Lawal Isah who was amputated by the personal physician to the Zamfara State Governor at Gummi General Hospital for stealing 3 bicycles valued at N9,500. Another citizen that got publicity for losing a limb was Bello Jangodi who was amputated for stealing a cow worth N2,000. In Sokoto State, one Mallam Umani Alliyu was amputated for stealing a sheep; while in Birinin-Kebbi, in Kebbi State, one Attahim Umaru (35) was sentenced to death by stoning for the sexual abuse of a 7-year-old boy in the Kebbi State capital. As reported by CLO (2002), Umaru's trial lasted for 20 minutes. Umaru begged for leniency but the trial judge refused as his crime attracted capital punishment.
As CLO (2002) noted, the enforcement of the Sharia Law in most states involved got the approval of their Legislative Houses of Assembly that promulgated enabling laws, and their executives that supplied the enforcement groups with dangerous weapons and uniforms. Section 7 (1) of the Public Order Act prohibits the wearing of uniform by groups which in the opinion of the Commissioner of Police are offensive and likely to provoke a breach of the peace; while Section 7 (4) stipulates penalties for persons wearing uniforms and or flying flags prohibited by law. The Hisba groups violated almost all sections of the Public Order Act including Section 8(1) that condemns the carrying of dangerous weapons (CLO: 2002).
Despite the existence of the Penal Code in the northern states of Nigeria, (similar to the Criminal Code in operation in the southern states of the country), the northern states went ahead to introduce the Sharia Law. As the Christians saw this development as being against national unity, they embarked on peaceful protests over the Sharia law because Sharia law does not guarantee the fundamental human rights of muslims and non-muslims, and cannot guarantee the rule of law. The peaceful protest turned violent as the muslims mounted open confrontation against Christians in the north. This led to organized killings of Christians in northern cities and the burning down of churches and other places where Christians are found especially their homes and shops across the northern region (Asoya, 2004; Lawal, 2010). This however led to reprisal killings of Moslems in the eastern towns of Aba, Owerri, Port-Harcourt Onitsha and Asaba (Mohammed et ah, 2006). The reprisal killings made the Nigerian Government to step in to keep the peace in those areas where the killings had taken place. Without the reprisal killings, the government could have remained docile over the issue.
The problem with the mixture of religion and politics has been that it has always done by people who are intent on occupying positions of power and authority in the country without question, people who do not want anyone to challenge their authorities; and people whose spiritual and moral standards are far below the requirements of what is necessary to faithfully and truthfully implement divine legal injunctions on earth; otherwise a Danish Newspaper cartoon which Muslims around the world considered blasphemous of Prophet Mohammed has no business in causing an ethno-religious conflict in Nigeria. The cartoon led Muslims to attack Christians in Kastina, Kano, Bauchi and Maidugiri in which churches were burnt and many Christians were killed; and recently, another Islamic fundamentalist group the Yusufiya (Boko Haram), struck in Maidugiri, Portiskum, Bauchi and Kastina in protest over western education, western medicine and secular political administration in Nigeria (Ola, 2009; Sun, July 30) and has been bombing innocent Nigerians allover the northern states till date. Islamic fundamentalism therefore endangers democracy and cannot make for an enduring democratic order in a multiethnic country as Nigeria.
CHRISTIANITY, TRADITIONAL RELIGION AND DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA
Christian fundamentalists found in the Pentecostal Churches in Nigeria make their adherents to look for the solutions to national economic, political and social problems; and personal problems in the spiritual realm irrespective of the nature of the problem. To the Pentecostals, every human problem is a spiritual problem (Bamidele, 2004). At the beginning of each year they would prophesy the mind of God for the nation (Olafloye, 2007; Adekoye, 2006; Ekenna, 2002; Agbaegbu et al, 2002). No problem is environmental, political, social or economic, all are spiritual. In the face of dictatorship and tyranny in Nigeria under Generals Buhari, Babangida, Abacha, and Abdulsalami's regimes, many Pentecostal groups in the country saw the regimes as evil and had been purposely put in place by God to punish Nigerians for their sins. So, they fasted and prayed for the end of the regimes instead of challenging the authoritarian regimes to eliminate them.
The non-Pentecostals in Nigeria, especially the Catholics, adopted a liberation theology similar to those used by the Latin Americans to call the people to action - to stand up for their rights, to reject authoritarian regimes through peaceful protests, and civil disobedience; and for Christians to use their jobs and offices as callings to serve God and humanity and to make the country a better place. Thus, most of the Christian members of the prodemocracy groups that challenged the various military regimes in Nigeria were more of conventional Christians than the Pentecostals.
To most christains, the "stepping-aside" by General Babangida and the death of General Abacha were all miracles - God answered their prayers. Catholics also prayed for "Nigeria in Distress"5 and "Against Bribery and Corruption in Nigeria"6. But it is worth noting that in a nation under authoritarianism, the people need not rely solely on the spiritual realm for the solutions to temporal problems such as power play; for this cannot help the development of democracy in the polity. They need to confront the authoritarians because the authoritarians do not need votes to remain in power but blind compliance to their wishes. Though the non-Pentecostals and some of the Pentecostal christains united as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to openly condemn military dictatorships in Nigeria and called on Christians to resist all forms of intimidations by other religious organizations and authoritarian regimes; they also prayed for the despots.
The Christian fundamentalists or Pentecostals exercise undemocratic but charismatic authority in their religious organizations. Such authorities do not engender the growth of democracy and democratic practices. Those who establish Pentecostal groups exercise leadership on the basis of claims to have been "called" by God into His vineyard; to have received a special message from God. Thus the exercise of power in their organizations is highly personalized and autocratic, because direct messages from God supersedes earthly questions of democratic governance; and there is only one option open to the Pentecostals for dissent - quit if you want to exercise your own charismatic power. If you have your own special calling and cannot remain under the leader, quit and start your own. The exercise of authoritarian leadership in the Pentecostal sects gave rise to the power-play that characterizes the sects at the exit of their founder/ leaders (Akhigbe, 2004; Onyekwere & Onoja, 2005; Akpaekong, 2002). Due to the absence of a "routinization of Charisma" (Webber, 1956), crises and disintegration that characterize the Christian Pentecostal sects overflows into the political process because they agree to disagree.7
TRADITIONAL RELIGION AND DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA
Traditional religion practitioners in the north are regarded as moslems by the rest of the country; so also are traditional religion practitioners regarded as Christians in the south. They are neither Christians nor moslems but observe traditional religious practices. Christians avoid them because they are believed to be worshiping the devil who gives them instant responses to their requests and instant punishment to offenders and violators of its rules. Because leaders of the penticostal churches exercise charismatic authority which manifests in the "miracles" they perform, there are doubts in the minds of some Nigerians to the authenticity of such miracles. Some of the penticostal leaders are believed to have acquired their powers from traditional religionists as the miracles they perform are seen by some as "magic" (Johnson, 2004; Abdulrahman, 2004). Therefore, the traditional religionists are more or less seen as part of the Christian fold in the southern states of Nigeria.
There have been intense struggles for political power in Nigeria between Christians and traditional religion practitioners especially in Oyo, Ondo, Osun, Lagos, Ogun, Edo, Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Anambra, Abia, Imo, Enugu and Kogi States in Nigeria where Christians are in the majority. The conflicts in these states manifest clearly during the nomination of candidates for various electoral posts (Ajero, 2006; Ekong, 2002); during elections; and in the appointment of people into the executive arm of the government. Sometimes it would involve the governors and their deputies (Ajero, 2004); political associates (Agbaegbu, 2007); political god-fathers or political-financiers, and their political clients or god-sons (Ajero, 2006); party loyalists; and, ruing parties and the opposition. These conflicts eventually end up in electoral malpractices and political assassinations that are rampant in the southern states of the country (Agbaegbu, 2006; Ajero, 2006; Onyemaizu, 2006; Azike, 2006; Dibiana, 2006).
Some of the conflicts centre more or less on oathtaking in religious shrines and negation of oath promises by political clients or benefactors; the use of traditional religious power (charms) provided by traditional religious shrines and deities to exact compliance from political clients by political- financiers or godfathers; and the use of violence (provided by political thugs who have been founded and funded by the political-financiers to enforce conformity to oath promise in cases of deviance or noncompliance; and the use of thugs and corrupt military and law enforcement agents by political-financiers to ensure the victory of political-clients at the polls during elections.
The conflicts between the former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzo Kalu and his erstwhile (impeached) Deputy, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (1999-2002); and that between Governor Orji Uzo Kalu and his late Deputy, Dr. Chima Nwafor (2003-2006) are believed to have centered on the negation of oath promises made in shrines by the deputies. The oath issue arose again in Abia State when Onyema Ugochukwu, the Governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleged that the incumbent Governor of Abia State, Theodore Orji of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) is a member of a secret cult. But some PPA members referred the oath taking as a religious practice, though the priests of the Ogwugwu Shrine in Okija denied that the incumbent Governor of Abia State, Theodore Orji patronizes the shrine.
In Anambra State, some deities and shrines in Okija, Anambra State meant for traditional religious practices were used by political-financiers to keep their clients (god-sons) in check, and to control participation in the political process by the electorate and contestants in the state" (Newswatch, 2008)