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A Dangerous Awakening

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Iheanyi M. Enwerem

Chapter Six

The Political Activism of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN): Reactions and assessment

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We have met with foes
That strike beside us.
(Macbeth, Act V, Scene vii)

1The ascendance of the Christian Association of Nigeria in the country's contemporary political terrain was bound to generate a reaction within the society. A number of critics have articulated various forms of this reaction. This chapter examines CAN from the purview of these critics and assesses the quality of its activities. Attention will be paid to secularism and tolerance — two broad areas — into which reactions to CAN can be set. The objectives here are premised on the understanding that, whatever may have been its limitations, CAN'S involvement in national politics had a remarkable impact on the country's future.

Reactions. Muslim reactions

2The source of Muslim reactions to CAN is largely from CAN'S insistence that governments and the Nigerian populace should abide by the country's constitutional secularity. Obviously, this highlights the necessity for an understanding of the meaning which CAN and Muslims give to the term ‘secular’ or ‘secularism’.

  • 1 . E.B. Gbonigi, Religion in a secular state, In: The History of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, J.O (...)
  • 2 . ibid.
  • 3 . ibid.

3Rt. Rev. E.B. Gbonigi has defined secularism in a way that can be said to represent CAN's position. According to him, the term means that the state should have ‘nothing to do with religious or spiritual matters’.1 As a matter of policy in society, strictly speaking, it means ‘a society in which there is separation between religion (e.g., the church) and the state’.2 It is his belief that ‘morality should be based on the well-being of [human beings] without any consideration of religious systems and forms of worship’.3 Gbonigi acknowledges the impossibility of having such a society, especially in Nigeria where there is a plurality of religions; this leads Gbonigi to clarify in what sense Nigeria should be a secular state. Here, he noted:

  • 4 . ibid., pp. 24-25.

Certainly, when we refer to our country as a secular state, we do not mean [it] in the sense that morality is based on the well-being of our citizens without any consideration of religious systems and forms of worship. We realise that the [atheists] of our country prefer to see us in that sense. The greater majority of us understand our secularity in the sense of a form of separation between religion and state which allows for voluntary relationships and cooperation, wherever and whenever necessary and possible.4

  • 5 . See Constitution does not order secularism, New Nigerian, April 18, 1987, p. 1.

4In contrast, most Muslim leaders articulate a typical Islamic view which represents the ideas of the majority of Muslims in Nigeria. Alhaji Akilu M. Idris, publicity Secretary of the Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Kaduna State branch, defines the word ‘secular’ to mean: ‘worldly or material, not religious or spiritual’.5 Arguing along the same line, and tracing the roots of secularism to the Greco-Christian heritage, Alhaji Yahaya Bawa added:

  • 6 . Alhaji Yahaya Bawa, Secularism, atheism synonymous, New Nigerian, January 23, 1987, p. 12.

Secularism ... is in the final analysis a … problem of the malfunction of the religious vision … Islam, as the doctrine of absolute faith in God, negates everything secularism stands for. From its own metaphysical stance, … which takes the reality of the Absolute for granted, secularism appears to be a disease of the mind … The same holds for the seemingly innocuous political interpretations of secularism, such as [the] Nigerian form of secularism which [has] equally corrosive effects on the mind. No matter how secularism defines itself… it is inextricable from the misperception of the absolute reality and therefore a path leading to untruth and misery.6

  • 7 . Onaiyekan interview, April 22, 1991.

5A number of similarities are discernible from the foregoing representations of the Muslim and Christian understanding of the term ‘secular’ or ‘secularism’ which informs their perception of a ‘secular society’. For instance, both groups have negative attitudes towards the term, secular; hence, they both agree that society must not be organized outside of religious sensitivities or considerations. In fact, in recent times, we are told that ‘on the Christian side, just as it has traditionally been with Muslims, there is more and more a recognition of the fact that religion must have an impact on public life’.7

  • 8 . ibid.

6Given these similarities, one wonders on what basis Bawa rests the ‘Nigerian form of secularism’ he noted above. It seems it is based more on what Christians actually do in practice than what they say they believe with regard to the relationship between the State and religion. For, in practice, Christians traditionally have a trend towards a separation of church (religion) and state and thus they look at politics as something different from religion’.8 Even now that Christians have recognized the importance of relating religion to politics, as noted above, the relationship is essentially seen in relative terms. This is because, for the Christian, although the term, secular may conjure up a poor image, it does not mean that to be secular is necessarily bad. Therefore, it is shunned or tolerated, depending on the circumstances. Hence, Christianity or, to be more precise, CAN, may grant room for some degree of separation between the state and religion. Archbishop Okogie has so well articulated this attitude when he states:

  • 9 . Monthly Time, Vol. 4, No. 12, December 1987, p. 9.

When you are in a position of trust, forget about your religion because it is a private affair between you and your God. If you want to bring religion in, let it be after office hours. I, as an individual, don't care a hoot about anybody's religion. I see everybody as a creature of God. That is the attitude I expect from Government.9

  • 10 . Abdulkadir Orire, Is religion a personal affair?, Haske, November 1968, p. 10.

7But such attitudes by Christians are too undifferentiated according to Muslims. As the Grand Khadi of Kwara State, Abdulkadir Orire, points out: ‘Such expressions are strange to Islam and should be strange to Muslims too.’ He argues that the faith of Islam is based on the unity of the temporal and spiritual in one system in the mind of the individual or in the collective of society, and that therefore Islam can not tolerate any isolation of human idealism from practical worldly life.10 In this connection, the close inter-relationship between the state and religion has always been generally seen by Muslims in absolute, compulsory, and unconditional terms. Believing that the state belongs to Allah, Muslims argue that it must be governed in accord with the demands of Allah as enshrined in the Qur'an. So much is the close inter-relationship between the state and religion taken for granted by Muslims that, for them, the imam (the head of state) embodies this relationship as attested in the following statement:

  • 11 . Abraham Sulaiman, The Islamic State and the Challenge of History: Ideals, policies and operation (...)

… the imam, who is also variously called the caliph or amir, … the commander of the faithful, [has] an overall leadership embracing all religious and temporal affairs ... His function is, therefore, integrative, encompassing all spheres of life, in line with the all-embracing nature of Islam itself, which seeks to regulate the totality of human life. Consequently, he is the symbol of the Muslim [community], the head of state, the overall commander who leads the jihad, the guardian of Islamic values and the realm, all in one.11

8What emerges from the Muslim position is that the terms, secular or secularism, are seen as intrinsically negative and therefore they ought to be avoided at all costs in the understanding and governance of society.

9Given its unequivocal stand against any breach of the constitutional provision of Nigeria's secularity, CAN and its leadership have been the targets of angry reactions and verbal attacks from many Nigerian Muslims. Overall, the reactions focus on projecting CAN and its leadership in a negative way. This strategy, in practice, has taken different forms of expression. A number of these — excluding the well-known and more visible Muslim-led religious riots — are worth highlighting.

  • 12 . See The Reporter, June 15, 1990, p.14: and New Nigerian, March 17, 1986, pp. 18-19.
  • 13 . See The Triumph, May 29, 1990, p. 13.

10First, the Muslim leaders resorted to a persistent portrayal of CAN as irreligious — an image apparently aimed at arousing among Muslims the same kind of attitude Islam has towards infidels.12 A number of individual Muslims like Musa A. Tijani have sustained the negative portrayal of CAN and its leadership. For instance, while writing in the pro-Islamic Kano-based newspaper, The Triumph, he described the CAN President, Archbishop Okogie, as a possible ‘demon in disguise’, ‘the parrot and disintegrator (predator?)’, ‘this exorcist of a man’, and a man of ‘sadistic ego’.13 It would appear that this portrayal is justified by the Muslim leaders because of what they believe to be CAN'S flirtation with the traditional Euro-Christian principle of secularism — that is, secularism understood in a relative rather than in an intrinsically negative sense.

  • 14 . The Reporter, June 15, 1990, p. 14.

11Another Muslim reaction was to castigate CAN as a political association. In a paid advertisement in The Reporter, signed by Alhaji Muh. Kolo Biu for the Secretary-General, JNI questioned whether the incumbent National President of CAN is really a man of God; JNI went on then to accuse CAN of not being a religious organization but a political organization with the sole objective of opposing Muslims and Islam by manipulating religious differences for selfish ends.14 From the origin of CAN as noted in chapter four, this accusation is not correct. This is beside the point. JNI's aim here was probably to project CAN as openly breaching the ban on the formation of any political organization outside the two government-sponsored and recognized political parties. As such, CAN is portrayed as working against the interests of the country's peace and stability, besides taunting the military government. No one, perhaps, articulated this better than Dr. Ibrahim Tahir, a seasoned politician from the north, and the Talba of Bauchi. In a veiled reference to Archbishop Okogie's utterances before and after the abortive coup of April 1990, Tahir clearly stated:

  • 15 . African Concord, June 11, 1990, p. 32.

When a religious person or body takes issue on such matters as civil service appointments, ministerial selection, armed forces deployments, and pardon for assassins, and when, moreover, use is made of a platform or a reference group not validated but in fact outlawed by the constitution of the country, then we are in the zone of incitement, sedition, attempts to cause disorder, and disturbance of the peace; if not out-and-out subversion.15

  • 16 . The Triumph, May 29, 1990, p. 13.

12Musa A. Tijani gives an international touch to this statement by portraying CAN as ‘the Jewish-propaganda-laden Christian organization’ whose leader has a ‘recent South African connection’ and is now being used by this ‘enemy country ... to destroy [Nigeria]’.16

13Next, CAN'S leadership was projected as unreliable' and untrustworthy, even for Christian interests. Speaking in connection with the role of CAN's leadership on the OIC issue, the JNI observed:

  • 17 . Following the national outcry against the country's full membership in OIC, the government set up (...)
  • 18 . The Reporter, June 15, 1990, p. 14.

It is really puzzling to find Dr. Okogie [the CAN President] continuing to talk all sorts of rubbish about Nigeria's full membership [in] the OIC, while he has been a signatory to a report of which the summary and recommendations have been [with the Government].17 It is high time Dr. Okogie stopped this hypocrisy and stopped questioning Nigeria's full membership [in] the OIC.18

  • 19 . See Newhreed, January 21, 1991, p. 6.

14There also is a subtle attempt here by the JNI to point out to Nigerian Christians that their leaders are incompetent, if the leaders are unaware of the implications of signing a document or cannot be bold enough to publicly stand by their decisions. For when Okogie was confronted with his contribution to the report referred to by the JNI, he disassociated himself from the report. His defence was that he, like the others in the committee, ‘signed a plain (piece of paper) since time was against us, [but] we did not see the final document that they sent out’.19 That the CAN President could sign a document whose contents he did not see obviously casts a serious doubt about his sense of judgment, more so in view of the sensitive nature of the issue at stake. But this lapse on the part of Okogie is not a matter to be pursued any further here except to point out that it more or less passed unnoticed by the Christians in Nigeria, the majority of whom still hold Okogie's leadership of CAN in great esteem. Thus whatever intention the JNI had in questioning Okogie's reliability and trustworthiness failed to materialize, especially as far as Nigerian Christians were concerned.

  • 20 . Hotline and its counterpart, Citizen (also based In Kaduna), are the two leading publications who (...)

15One final example of the form of Muslim reaction to CAN is JNI's attempt to keep from the Nigerian public Nigerian Christians' claim to victimization by government policies. In the process, JNI has been relentless in projecting to the Nigerian public the image that the Muslims are really the ones being victimized — an image which the Kaduna-based Hotline news magazine has been articulating consistently since its inception in January 1987.20 It may be recalled that Christians in Nigeria have been perceiving themselves as the victims of unjust, discriminatory, and suppressive policies by Federal and state governments — a perception which CAN had successfully brought to national awareness. Even a government-sponsored study at the highly respected Nigerian Institute in Jos, as far back as 1984, came up with a verdict supporting this perception by Christians in Nigeria. Thus the study noted:

  • 21 . See The Research Department, Nigeria and religious question (Kuru, Jos: NIPSS, 1984), pp. 30 & 33

The dominant religion in the southern areas, Christianity, has over the years not been lording it over the other religions … [and so] far, the Christians have been at the receiving end of the rising tension between Muslims and Christians. The Christians have so far peaceably absorbed and tolerated attacks on their freedom of religion.21

16In an apparent attempt to counteract this image or, to be more precise, to make the victim the victimizer, the JNI advised:

  • 22 . The Reporter, June 15, 1990, p. 14.

CAN must accept that the Muslims in [Nigeria] have as much right [to] the National Cake as the Christians have. CAN must, in the interest of peace, forget the status quo as left behind by the colonialists.22

17The reaction from the members of the Nigerian Council of Ulama was even more forceful. In a paid advertisement published in the New Nigerian as a rejoinder to CAN'S demand for the country's withdrawal from the OIC, the clerics stated:

  • 23 . See New Nigerian, March 17, 1986, p. 18.

From the assessment of the [Nigerian] situation, the Muslims believe that the blame must squarely rest on the shoulders of the church leaders who couldn't believe that the days of the British Colonialists who collaborated with church missionaries in running the affairs of Nigeria and giving it a favourable Christian character and culture were gone with Nigeria attaining independence in I960 … The Council of Ulama therefore would like to make it clear to the Federal Government that if the church leaders … insist on the withdrawal of Nigeria's membership [in] the OIC … then the Muslims would have no alternative but to call for the withdrawal of all church aspects of life which have been pursued by [the] Government and which have been affecting the lives of all Nigerians whether church followers or Muslims.23

18Overall, if left to the Muslims, CAN would be banned and its leadership brought to book. The abortive coup of April 1990 provided a great opportunity for them to finally nail CAN, so to speak, especially in view of the coup plotter's identification with some of CAN'S utterances and activities in the few months before the coup. This wish of the Muslims is what Tijani obliquely aimed at when he advised the government in the following words:

  • 24 . See The Triumph, May 29, 1990, p. 13.

The ball is now rolling on a thorny court. And the government of President Ibrahim Babangida is the team facing the dangerous opponent. Dangerous not because it cannot subdue, or does not have the wherewithal to quash, the opponent but because it has grown too magnanimous in dealing with ‘provocative demonstration’ such as Okogie's and which is now known to be brewing for an ultimate onslaught on a maligned and scorned Hausa-Fulani for the simple reason that they are Muslims.24

  • 25 . The African Guardian, September 5, 1988, p. 22.

19However, one must not leave with the impression that the Muslim reaction to CAN and its leadership is monolithic, that is, that all Muslims react only in a negative light. In fact there are some Muslims, even from the North, who have an understanding attitude of CAN's emergence into Nigeria's political arena. For them, the government must be held responsible for causing CAN'S political activities. Here, we call to mind Muslims like Sheik Nasiru Kabara, the leader of the Islamic Quadiriya sect in Africa. Citing the peace and tranquillity that existed in the country during its governance by Christian leaders — Gowon and Obasanjo, to be precise — he ‘wonders why there is so much tension now that a Muslim [Babangida] is leader.’ Hence he called on the Government to ‘examine its conscience to find out what is responsible for religious distrust’.25 Almost a month later, Hotline magazine, in an apparent oversight — given its pro-North and pro-Islamic posture — clearly supported Sheik Kabara's observation above, especially concerning Gowon, to be precise. In its ‘publisher's corner‘, Hotline had a letter to Gowon in which, among other things, he was acknowledged as:

  • 26 . See Hotline, October 3-16, 1988, p. 5.

... a Christian, but [one who] at no time [made] politics out of [his] own religion to the detriment of other religions. [His] appointments reflected no regional or ethnic bias, [but] rather were a testimony to [his] commitment to [the] federal character [of the country] in fact rather than [just] in sentiment.26

20On this note, we are now led to consider the reaction to CAN from members of the Nigerian polity as well as the government.

Reactions by the general public

  • 27 . See Newbreed, June 18, 1989, p. 15.
  • 28 . Newbreed, January 21, 1991, p. 7.

21Underlying the reactions to CAN by members of the general public, especially the non-activist Muslim members of the Nigerian public, is the fear that religious politics — in a Christian or Islamic mould — may bring about the disintegration of the country. This is because, in the words of a Catholic priest-sociologist, Emmanuel Babatunde, the current form of religious politics in the country ‘is exclusivist, allows for dogmatism, and can easily be used to mislead people’.27 Such is the fear that some were said to have gone as far as submitting a memorandum to the President. In it, they advised that religious bodies like JNI and CAN be banned lest the, dangerous situation of intolerance between them and the priority which their religious considerations have over their loyalty to the state lead the country to another civil war.28

  • 29 . See New Nigerian, July 13, 1990, p. 12.
  • 30 . ibid., p. 11.

22The response to CAN of many Nigerians, including even Christians, is anchored in the extent to which it has promoted tolerance or intolerance in the light of the prevalent fear of the nation's disintegration. Here we consider a group of Christians who call themselves ‘Christian Youth Study Group, ECWA Church’. The group castigates CAN for its utterances' and activities. Claiming to be ‘a voice of peace’ and speaking ‘for millions of other Christians who’, like themselves, ‘are equally worried about the direction in which … Christians in Nigeria are being led’.29 The members of the group expressed their concern, not about the faith of the CAN leadership, but about its ‘strategy’, which, for the group, ‘evokes very intense hostility.’30 Hence the group argued:

  • 31 . ibid., p. 12.

As Christians, we cannot ask whether there are limits to the ends or causes to which our faith cannot extend, but we can, and do, ask whether our leaders have thought critically about some of their utterances and actions, and their likely impact on the future of Christians in particular and our country in general.31

  • 32 . Here the bishop cited, as examples of the fruits of the politics of quiet diplomacy, the Federal (...)
  • 33 . See M.A. Adewole et al. (eds.), Twenty-five Years of Stewardship (Jos: Fab Education Books, 1990) (...)
  • 34 . ibid., p. 154.

23It is worth noting that this position is similar to that held by some church leaders, like the Catholic Bishop of Jos, Rt. Rev. G.G. Ganaka, who is opposed to CAN's recent militancy and would prefer what he considers the more fruitful politics of diplomacy.32 He opposed the mass demonstration of January 11, 1990, by Christians in the North because of the unnecessary risk to which it would expose Christians.33 The Bishop-and the Youth Group wanted CAN to ‘believe God’, and allow him to change ‘unjust structures when their cup is full’.34 The prelate and the Youth Group, by implication, wanted to see CAN with a strategy in which friendly terms are maintained with the government, helping to control social unrest in the country — all with an aim of winning the government's full respect and trust. Sharing a somewhat similar concern as the Christian Youth Group, is another group whose reaction to CAN deserves separate treatment, given its background.

Reactions by NARETO35

  • 35 . See C.S. Momoh et al. (eds.), Nigerian Studies in Religious Tolerance. Vols. I-IV (Ibadan: CBAAC (...)
  • 36 . ibid., Vol. I., p. vii.
  • 37 . ibid., p. xi.
  • 38 . ibid.

24NARETO is the acronym for the National Association for Religious Tolerance. Formally founded on October 19-23, 1987, at the end of a seminar on religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence held at the National Arts Theatre in Lagos, this association has its goals, aims, and purposes defined as ‘exclusively devoted to the promotion and propagation of religious tolerance’.36 Although ‘the post of Grand Patron of NARETO is reserved for the President of Nigeria, it is not automatic’.37 Thus, according to its founder, Dr. Campbell Shirtu Momoh of Lagos University, the choice of NARETOS first and current Grand Patron, the President I.B. Babangida, was made ‘on account of his mature, tolerant, and statesmanlike approach to religious matters in [the] country’.38

  • 39 . See The African Guardian, June 18, 1990, p. 25.
  • 40 . ibid., p. 27.

25Overall, the NARETO school of thought believes that CAN is intolerant. In general, therefore, the members of the school react to it accordingly. The reactions can be grouped into two, based on the reasons its representatives offer as underlying CAN's politics. First, there are those in the school who argue that CAN is an avenue for some individuals to pursue an ego trip for political gains. Sophie Oluwole and C.S. Momoh, both of the Philosophy Department of the University of Lagos, represent this group in its two variants. For Oluwole, individual leaders of CAN like Archbishop Okogie are examples of the 'pitiful victims of the greed that rules Nigeria' to the point that people now fight to get into public positions so as to ‘serve only themselves and their friends’.39 Momoh's variant asserts that CAN's political engagements are primarily between the Catholic Church and the government. In this connection, CAN is a tool which the Catholic Church is using to vent its anger at the government's seizure of mission schools. He premised his argument on the fact that the Catholic Church was ‘the worst hit [group] and therefore angrier’ than other Christian groups at the loss of ‘a vital source of recruitment’.40

  • 41 . ibid.

26The implication that emerges from the preceding is that CAN's complaints are to be taken for what they really are; according to Momoh, they are all political since they are largely either unfounded or, at best, transitory.41 Herein we locate the second reason given for the perceived intolerance of CAN. That is, to view CAN as a manipulatory tool in the game of politics. As we hope to illustrate later in the work, a number of Nigerians of who are classified as progressives or socialists, like Bala Usman, would be representative of this explanation.

Government's reaction

  • 42 . See Weekend Concord, July 14, 1990, pp. 16-17.

27Ever since the emergence of CAN, especially since it took to a more politicized stance, the government's reaction to it, the third with which we deal, has alternated between silence and occasional covert submission to CAN's demands. For instance, no government has fallen into the trap of exchanging words or debating openly with CAN, not even when the Association made potentially damaging revelations of secret dealing by government. A good example is when CAN claimed to have proof of a N21 billion donation the Babangida government had made to OIC, or when the Association published its statistical data showing how, in its view, Christians had been side-lined over the years with regard to political power in the country. One would have expected government to refute those allegations; instead it remained silent, leaving the National Council of Muslim Youth Organizations (NACOMYO) to respond.42

  • 43 . Bassey Ita (ed.), Collected Speeches of the President Major General I.B. Babangida (Lagos: Federa (...)

28The government, in reaction to CAN, has given in to some of its demands to pacify the Association as a group, or its particular member-bodies, for policies whose implementation may not have appeared equitable. These include Shagari's establishment of a Christian Pilgrims Board or, in recent times, the current government's attempt to restore diplomatic relations with Israel, or the eventual disbanding of the two national Pilgrims Boards (for both Muslims and Christians) and the government's disengagement from all pilgrimage exercises. When the government takes such actions, it uses the opportunity, not only to reiterate its commitment to the constitutional provision for the country's secular character, but also to reply to some of CAN's allegations. For instance, after granting the Catholic Bishops' request for the recognition of the Catholic Institute of West Africa, and the prospect of affiliating the institute to one of the Nigerian universities, President Babangida took the chance to make it clear to the Bishops that ‘the issue of religion in [the Nigerian] polity goes beyond'the educational system’.43 In an obvious but veiled response to CAN's stand against the country's membership in the OIC, the President stated:

  • 44 . ibid.

[The educational system] should be given the opportunity to assist in our development efforts in all spheres. Accordingly, we shall not neglect any opportunity to serve our national interest in any reasonable international forum. The same policy of propagating our national interest has been pursued by many nations inside and outside the African continent with very positive results to their national well-being and international standing. To this end, the Nigerian flag will be raised in every international forum to which we have sufficient reason to belong or to attend. Our attitude to the world must not be based on fear but on a spirit of engagement, discovery, and co-operation.44

  • 45 . See West Africa, July 13, 1987, p. 1341.

29We recall the suggestion that religious bodies like CAN and the JNI be banned. No government has dared to ban them, apparently in the realization of the grave constitutional and cultural consequences such a move would generate. The nearest attempt to follow the suggestion was, on the Muslim side, the July 1987 ‘series of arrests’ which were ‘specifically focused on fiery Islamic, preachers, or officials of Islamic bodies such as the National Council of Ulama'a, and well-known university Islamic teachers who have become the core of the few surviving critics of government activities in the country’.45 On the Christian side, and for reasons already discussed in chapter five, there was the arrest of some CAN leaders following the abortive coup of April 1990. The then incumbent President, whose government is largely believed to have exacerbated the religious tension in the country, observed:

  • 46 . General Ibrahim B. Babangida, Speech, at the 10th Graduation Ceremony of the NIPSS, Kuru, p. 12 ( (...)

Religion determines the basic attitude of our people to life on earth. We, therefore, have no intention of de-emphasizing a healthy approach to religion in our life as a nation. Nothing that has happened recently suggests the contrary — namely, relegation or benign neglect of religion. The latter shall prove revolting to our people … and those agitators who now seek to castigate religion, for whatever reason, should reconsider their stand.46

  • 47 . African Concord, June 11, 1990, p. 35.
  • 48 . See Babangida's Speech at NIPSS' 10th Anniversary, op. cit.
  • 49 . ibid., p. 13.

30The President, like his predecessors, was quick to note that the role of religious bodies regarding the issue of religious tolerance left much to be desired. Since he made this remark long after inviting Christian leaders ‘to partake wholeheartedly and without reserve’ in promoting religious tolerance, it could be argued that the CAN leadership must have been in the President's mind. For, in an apparent reference to Archbishop Okogie's use of the examples of the religious strife in Lebanon and the Sudan to predict what would happen in Nigeria,47 the President dismissed religious leaders he described as ‘religious zealots’ who ‘quote examples of tragic but irrelevant experiences in other countries in building up the terror of the macabre drama’ of ‘a-war-without-a-front’.48 Thus, the government's reaction to CAN is informed by its perception of members of the Association's leadership as intolerant. The government also blames 'some religious leaders who openly seek to use religion for political purposes’.49

Religious tolerance redefined

  • 50 . J. Onaiyekan, Tolerance is not enough, as cited In Contemporary Islam and Nigeria, (Jos: Institut (...)
  • 51 . ibid., p. 55.

31The government is not alone in this perception, as is discernible from the reactions by other groups we have examined. What these critics of CAN, including the government, have not addressed is what tolerance means, and its implications. Here, Bishop Onaiyekan's reflection on the topic is quite insightful. In his address to the Islamic Missionaries' Association of Nigeria (IMAN), he refuted the assumption, on the part of the advocates of tolerance, that religious tolerance is the basis for a united and peaceful Nigeria.50 After showing the ambiguous character of the term ‘religious tolerance’ by way of citing the different meanings of tolerance and arguing that our choice of a particular meaning depends ‘on how we assess what we “tolerate” and why we tolerate it’,51 he went on to assert:

  • 52 . ibid., p. 56.

Tolerance is not enough because it is basically a negative concept which cannot guarantee nor promote freedom of conscience. There are times when tolerance is impossible: we are not free to bear with moral evil or to compromise error … even if such situations claim to be based on religious conviction.52

  • 53 . ibid.

32In place of religious tolerance, the prelate advanced the ‘need to go beyond tolerance’ and seek to discover the ‘common divine and human values in the religion of others’, that is, ‘values like honesty, kindness, love, honour to God, respect for others, and so on’.53 This is not to suggest that CAN epitomized these values more than any other religious group — a point we shall return to later in this work, especially with regard to the quality of the prevalent religiosity in the country. Meanwhile, let us examine CAN'S achievements and failures in order to judge its potential for bringing about the kind of religiosity necessary for national development.

Assessment. The achievements of CAN

  • 54 . See Dominic Cardinal Ekandem, Presidential Address to the Second Plenary Assembly of the Christia (...)
  • 55 . For details on these areas of collaboration, see BP. Tanko, The Christian Association of Nigeria (...)
  • 56 . ibid., p. 4.

33Since the inception of CAN in 1976, it has had a number of significant achievements. For instance, ‘the very inauguration of [CAN] and its continuing existence for over ten years’, as CAN's first President, His Eminence, Dominic Cardinal Ekandem has argued, ‘is a magnificent and laudable achievement’.54 As an ecumenical group, CAN promoted cooperation among its members.55 In this connection Ekandem mentioned ecumenical projects such as the Christian Health Association of Nigeria Pharmacy Project (CHAN-PHARM Project) by means of which the churches are able to participate meaningfully and more inexpensively in health-delivery services to the poorer classes in the country.56 Additional platforms of cooperation include: the week of the ‘Church Unity Octave’ (January 18-25) during which time the Protestants and Catholics meet at one another's churches on a rotational basis to pray for Christian unity and hear talks directed towards breaking down traditional barriers of division among the Christian churches; the establishment of two standing committees geared towards a joint translation of the Bible into different Nigerian languages; and the production of a Christian syllabus for primary and post-primary schools in the country.

34CAN's greatest achievement has been in politics. It has acquired political respectability in the country and imparted political consciousness to Christians. To appreciate the significance of these achievements, one has to recall the level of political consciousness among Christians before the 1980s when CAN won national attention. During this period, the churches saw little relationship between religion and politics. Based on its understanding of the biblical statement — give to God what is God's and to Caesar what is Caesar's — the churches, at best, saw religion and politics as two necessary but separate interests in human affairs. By analogy, it was the kind of relationship that exists when water and oil come together — they touch but do not mix.

  • 57 . Salifu interview, November 27, 1990.

35The result of this was a politically weak Christianity. When the need arose for the churches to send delegations to the state or federal governments to discuss issues touching on Christian interests, the churches largely remained politically dormant; on the periphery of national politics. As Salifu bluntly put it, while assessing the level of the churches' involvement in politics before 1980, ‘the Churches at that time did not actually know what was happening; they were sleeping’.57

36This dormancy ended in the 1980s — thanks to CAN. In 1983 and 1987, CAN frustrated the government's attempts to compromise the country's constitutional secularity. CAN's achievement in politics was, perhaps, best seen in 1986, when its ultimatum forced the military government to reconsider its attempt to take Nigeria into the OIC. There is no better example of CAN's political assertlveness and ascendency into the national limelight in recent times than that, when CAN speaks, even a military government pays attention. Yet, despite its achievements, CAN has a number of problems.

Weaknesses and failures of CAN

37Our attempt to ensure a more fruitful and objective assessment of CAN is premised on the understanding that its problems stem from the context in which it is operating. Hence, our assessment will be based on how much autonomy and coherence CAN has in arriving at its policies and actions.

  • 58 . Nowhere is this perhaps better demonstrated in recent times than in the aftermath of the April 19 (...)

38Take, for example, the socio-economic and political context. CAN is operating within a Nigerian polity in which individuals are still required to identify themselves, and are identified, on the basis of their ethnic rather than their national character; a polity in which socio-economic provisions such as a national health insurance policy, an old-age pension, and a child support scheme are simply non-existent; a polity whose governance has been largely military governments which have a record not only of crushing opposition with brutality but also of visiting their anger on even the innocent relatives and dependents of those who are believed to have masterminded opposition.58 Consequently, members of the polity have been largely cowed into apathy regarding the dehumanizing situations around them and are rarely prepared to engage in any confrontation with government. This is because they realize that in the event of death or disability as a result of the confrontation, there are no social services on which relatives and dependents can depend, even if government did not punish them. In the light of these reflections, we can now highlight specific areas of weakness in CAN. These are grouped under four broad headings: ethnicity, denominationalism, gender, and political clarity.

The problem of ethnicity

  • 59 . B.P. Tanko, op. cit., pp. 133.

39Earlier in chapter five, the occasional feeling of yan arewa (sons of the North) among the Christians in the North, was mentioned especially with regard to the ethnic identity of the CAN leadership — an obvious problem in CAN, so much so that B.P. Tanko remarked that, ‘when push comes to shove, the feeling of [Northern identity] becomes obvious’.59 To drive the point home, someone who went to school with one of the incumbent church leaders from the North recalls how this particular leader used to champion the Sardauna's ‘Northernization policy’. My informant claims to be baffled by the leader's current stand on ‘the old North’ but is not surprised, however, at his support of a son-of-the-soil mentality within the Catholic Church in the North. So strong is this feeling that it is reliably believed that it was partly because of this that the Vatican refused to go along with the northern bishops' support for the creation of Bauchi, Kano, and Kafanchan dioceses on the grounds that these places do not have their own sons-of-the-soil to be appointed bishops. For, as the argument goes, there is nothing that makes an indigenous priest from, say, Southern Zaria any more indigenous to Kano than a priest from the South who may have been born and raised in Kano and speaks the Hausa language, just as there is nothing that makes someone from the Jos area any more indigenous to Maiduguri than someone from the South.

  • 60 . See E.P.T. Crampton, Christianity in Northern Nigeria, (Zaria: Gaskiya Corporation, 1975) pp. 132 (...)

40The problem of ethnicity in CAN is not evident in the Catholic Church alone; it also exists in the non-Catholic church groups. For instance, most of the Protestant Churches in the north have their church congregations identified with one ethnic group or another. Even the more northern-based evangelical church groups like ECWA and TEKAN have a similar identity among the different ethnic groups in the North.60 In the South, Christians identify themselves more with their ethnic origins than their religious affiliation, as is exemplified in the on-going dichotomy between the Yoruba and Igbo speaking peoples.

41It is also exemplified in the existence of NORTH-CAN — an existence which could be likened to the existence of a sovereign state inside an equally sovereign state. For instance, as the name clearly suggests, NORTH-CAN appears to revive Nigeria's old and decadent inward-looking idea of regional identity rather than to favour the more outward-looking national identity. In addition, the existence of NORTH-CAN diminishes the loyalty Christians from the North should have for the national CAN.

  • 61 . Bishop Onaiyekan claimed to have argued against the existence of NORTH-CAN although the majority (...)
  • 62 . See Salifu interview, March 17, 1991.
  • 63 . ibid.

42Some leaders, including Bishop Onaiyekan, have opposed the retention of NORTH-CAN,61 even though its supporters base their argument on the fact that Christians face a different challenge in the North than in the South. They are in the real battle zone where, it is alleged, ‘the Muslim atrocities against Christians are more or less on a daily basis;62 and given that the National Body does not meet regularly, the Christians in the North cannot just continue waiting for the National Body of CAN before giving a prompt, effective, and coordinated response to the Muslim threat’.63 Moreover, the national leadership of CAN appears to be generally satisfied with NORTH-CAN. There is no sign, so far, that its leadership has not been cooperating with the authority of the national CAN.

  • 64 . See the letter by Peter [?] to ‘His Grace, Archbishop (Dr.) Peter Jatau, Bishop's House, Rimi, Ka (...)

43These arguments, however, do not dismiss the potential danger NORTH-CAN poses within the national CAN. To buttress our argument, recall our earlier observation about some occasional feelings of yan arewa among the Christians from the North. Nowhere is this better articulated than in a letter to the Catholic Archbishop of Kaduna by someone who signed himself simply as Peter.64 Obviously, the writer must be a CAN leader, given the tone of the letter and the fact that he used the letter-head of the Kaduna State Branch of CAN. He claimed to:

  • 65 . ibid.

... have received complaints from many people who felt disappointed … [with the fact that only two people were selected from the North out of the twelve Christian representatives] at the Advisory Council on Religious Affairs in Lagos on Monday, June 29, 1987. [The writer claims also to be] faced with an embarrassing question that if leadership of the country is given to the Southlerners] they will discriminate against Northerners, including Christians. This is a weapon Muslims are using to divide the Christians. [Muslims] are pointing to the way they shared their own seats on equal terms between the North and the South.65

44Our contention, therefore, is that NORTH-CAN will eventually pose a problem for CAN.

The problem of denominationalism

  • 66 . See Williams' letter to I. Unarm, March 2, 1992.
  • 67 . ibid.

45The problem of ethnicity in CAN may not be as pronounced in the Igbo speaking areas as in the North. The East, being almost entirely Christian, the ethnic identification, as far as CAN is concerned, gives way to denominational rivalry. It is not surprising to note that, of all the states in the Federation, sixteen years after the birth of the Association, it is only in the 'old' Imo State — an area almost entirely Christian — that the state's branch of CAN is yet to be inaugurated.66 The reason for this is ‘the leadership tussle' which, as recently as March 1992, was still going on among the member-bodies of CAN in the State, so much so that 'the President and the General Secretary of CAN have been urged to move in and resolve it’.67

  • 68 . Interview with Rev. Fr. K. Akagha, Owerri, March 25, 1991.
  • 69 . Tanaka interview, November 25, 1990.

46Rev. Akagha was therefore right when he observed that a major weakness of CAN is the uneasiness of members when they come together. This, according to him, is because of their different theological backgrounds and unsettled thorny issues bordering on political interest. Catholics and Protestants, he continued, would like their candidate to be voted into political office. Therefore, in this atmosphere, there is little trust among CAN membership as each constituted group reads sectarian motives into the statements or actions of the other.68 To buttress Akagha's point regarding the difference in theological background, Bishop Ganaka, while commenting on the weakness of CAN, especially in the North, talked about what he perceived as ‘the educational imbalance between the Catholics and the Protestants’; as a result of such an imbalance, he continued, CAN is saddled with ‘some emotional and inexperienced leaders who, often, are looking for cheap media attention’.69 Since the Bishop did not identify who these leaders were, it would be conjectural for us to make any attempt in that direction; the same applies to identifying in favour of which church group ‘the educational imbalance’ is tilted. But, given the prevalent biases and rivalry within the Association — especially in contrasting the Catholics with the other members of CAN — it is easy to imagine who and what the bishop may have had in mind.

  • 70 . Burke interview, February 25, 1990.
  • 71 . ibid.

47Part of the problem of denominationalism in CAN is fundamentalism. As Rev. L. Burke observed: ‘CAN is at the mercy of the new Christian churches like the. Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship’,70 which typifies for him the newly formed pentecostal churches. These, as we noted in the preceding chapter, are largely characterized by fundamentalism. But fundamentalism in CAN is not limited to the pentecostal church groups; it can be found also even among members of the other mainstream Christian groups. The problem fundamentalism poses for CAN is that, according to Rev. Burke, ‘it is hard to reason with Christian fundamentalists, and often they play on the emotions of the people — their fears, sorrows, aspirations, etc.’71 So the possibility exists that fundamentalist members of CAN — even the moderates among them — could hinder CAN's unity. Fundamentalism apart, the element of conservatism, especially as regards the attitude towards change, is, perhaps, the biggest problem in CAN today. The veracity of this assertion will become clear as we examine CAN'S response to the gender and the political issues.

Ambivalent place and role for women in CAN

  • 72 . The African Guardian, September 5, 1988.
  • 73 . Williams interview, April 26, 1991.
  • 74 . ibid.

48As we observed in chapter five, there is a women's wing of CAN at the national level, albeit in affiliate-membership status. Yet, the role and place of women in CAN remains nebulous, if not an on-going bone of contention: some church leaders consider the whole idea of women's leadership as almost sacrilegious. For instance, the leader of the Eternal Sacred Order of Cherubim and Seraphim, Godfrey Otubu, himself a member of CAN's National Executive Committee, insists that there are biblical inhibitions such that women ‘cannot head the church or any of its branches or conduct prayers when male officers are available’.72 CO. Williams, CAN's National Secretary-General, appears to be against the formation of a women's wing, blaming the ‘feminist trend throughout the world’ for women agitating for a special position in CAN rather than accepting the all-male leadership of CAN, which is ‘perhaps what God intends it to be’.73 Williams contends that women are already part of CAN through their individual church groups, and if their churches so desire, they can be representatives at CAN meetings.74 While stating the Catholic Bishops' position, which appears to go along the same line as Williams', Rt. Rev. Onaiyekan explained:

  • 75 . Onaiyekan interview, April 22, 1991.

We said: what do we need a women's wing for, because the already existing CAN is not a men's Association, and there is nothing in the constitution that precludes women's participation. Therefore, we felt that the best solution is that the various churches, when they send delegates to the CAN meetings, should make sure that they are representative of both sexes so that they can work together.75

49CAN leaders like Salifu and Ambassador Jolly Tanko Yusuf from the North supported the women's wing. They argued that the women have a special role in society and in many areas of life women are given a particular role, more so now when the government considers creating a Women's Commission. For CAN and, indeed, for Christian women in the churches to work well, a special wing must be provided for them within CAN, especially given the fact that the law of some churches, such as the Cherubim and Seraphim, does not allow women to sit in a meeting with men. Therefore, whenever there is a CAN meeting, they will never send women to represent them.

50The argument against the formation of a women's wing as articulated by the Catholic Bishops can hardly be faulted on the grounds of logic. The church leaders, however, missed the point. It is not so much whether women should participate in CAN as whether their participation should be equal to that of the men, including the chance to hold positions of leadership. The Bishops were silent on this, which exposes the gender problem in CAN: the dichotomy between theory and practice. The CAN leaders value the women and their contributions but deny them the chance to live out their potential to the fullest. This dichotomy is also evident even in the North where support for a women's role in CAN is greatest and where Christian women have a history of great achievement in the churches. There, the women are recognized as a force to be reckoned with, but their participation in CAN remains subsidiary to that of the men. Nowhere does one see a woman holding the kind of top position their male counterparts enjoy within the Association.

  • 76 . See, for instance, Molara Ogundipe-Leslie, The female writer and her commitment, In: Women in Afr (...)

51An explanation, which centers on society's perception of women, can be advanced for the existence of the problem. In the debate we noted about women's participation in CAN, the all-male leaders of CAN think they know women and their role in the Association. Women, however, insist that understanding their nature is a complex exercise.76 On the surface there is nothing special about this cautionary note since understanding men's nature is equally complex. But the cautionary note as regards women must be given the seriousness it deserves, because we are in a world which has been and is still under the hegemonic control of men, including even the way realities like womanhood have been interpreted.

  • 77 . ibid., p. 4.

52In a largely patriarchal and male-dominated society like Nigeria, women, as is the case all over the world, are still publicly perceived in largely negative images. In addition to other stereotypes,77 they are often perceived as objects for the satisfaction of men's sexual urges or, at best, as seducers of men. One can hardly miss this in the works of many African novelists and playwrights. Cyprian Ekwensi's Jagua Nana is a good example; he depicts women as temptresses and seducers. As he so graphically puts it:

  • 78 . Cyprian Ekwensi, Jagua Nana (London: Heinemann, 1975), p. 13

All women wore dresses which were definitely undersize, so that buttocks and breasts jutted grotesquely above the general contours of the bodies. At the same time the midriffs shrunk to suffocation. A dress succeeded if it made men's eyes ogle hungrily in this modem super-sex-market.78

  • 79 . It must be noted that Soyinka, with time, has been purging himself of this image of women in his (...)
  • 80 . Wole Soyinka, Opera Wonyosi (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981).

53In a similar vein, Wole Soyinka depicts women as amorous and rapacious79 — a characterization aptiy portrayed by ‘De Madam’ and her daughter ‘Polly’ in his famous Opera Wonyosi.80

  • 81 . P.E. Lovejoy, Concubinage in the Sokoto Caliphate (1804-1904), Slavery and Abolition: A Journal o (...)
  • 82 . Interview with Prof. Joy Ogwu, Lagos, May 6, 1991.
  • 83 . See, for instance, The African Guardian, September 5, 1988, pp. 18-19.
  • 84 . Flora Nwapa, One is Enough (Enugu, Nigeria: Tana Press, 1981).
  • 85 . Buchi Emecheta, Double Yoke (N.Y.: George Braziller, Inc., 1983); Buchi Emecheta, Destination Bia (...)
  • 86 . Zaynab Alkali, The Stillborn (Lagos: Longman, 1984).
  • 87 . It is worth noting that Alkali's work, ironically, portrays women in a way akin to men's stereoty (...)

54Other writers have portrayed women in a qualitatively different light from a biased biological characterization. They see them from a situational point of view, that is, within a male-dominated and patriarchal world. In this situation women suffer from what P.E. Lovejoy, in his recent work on ‘concubinage in the pre-colonial Sokoto Caliphate’, has aptly described as men's ‘sexual subordination and exploitation.’81 Lest one is tempted to dismiss Lovejoy's account as too ancient to be true today, it could be validly argued that the picture has not changed that much. Perhaps what has changed is the degree and the style, but his basic assertion remains true, as is being demonstrated by women's own accounts of their situation. Joy Ogwu, a Nigerian female political science professor with the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), describes Nigerian men's prevalent perception of women's role in society as generally that of ‘service, meaning service for the men; women are there simply to serve the interests of the men or to carry out whatever assignment men have for them, not the other way round’.82 Often this state of affairs is justified on biblical or religious grounds.83 One has only to read recent works like Flora Nwapa's One is Enough,84 Buchi Emecheta's Double Yoke and Destination Biafra,85 and Zaynab Alkali's The Stillborn86 — to name a few works by Nigerian women themselves — wherein the societal limitations on women and their attempt to break away from them have been articulated.87

55Surely, some women have emerged historically and still do emerge as exemplary figures in the public arena. But the participation of these women in public affairs is welcomed by men only as long as the women are prepared to submit to a subsidiary role in comparison with their male counterparts. Thus, the question of gender remains a thorny issue within the Nigerian context; and this is the context in which the leaders of CAN are operating. As Bishop Onaiyekan reminds us, the issue of women's position in CAN is still unsettled, even though the women's wing has national recognition in CAN's Constitution. It is unsettled because, apparently, the leaders of CAN have chosen not to take cognizance of advances made in recent times regarding the proper understanding of women, as we have noted. That CAN's national leadership is either unable or unprepared to mobilize the female members of its constituency, and continues to treat them with disdain, is a major weakness in CAN.

The lack of political clarity and identity

56One major problem confronting CAN hinges on the irony that while CAN is engaged in political activities, it is unable to extricate itself from the apolitical mindset in which Nigeria's kind of Christianity has been enveloped since its introduction into the country by European missionaries. This attitude is widespread among the various member bodies of CAN. For instance, every one of the church leaders interviewed insisted that CAN is not a political organization: that is, that it is not a political party or even politically partisan. Yet most of these church leaders also insist on CAN's right to struggle for the welfare of Christians, as if ‘struggle’ is not a political act or is not partisan. This is a dilemma for CAN — how to be political without being in politics — one cannot eat one's cake and have it! This dilemma reveals a number of political weaknesses in CAN.

57To begin with, there is a weakness arising from CAN's equivocation regarding its political identity and intent. Here we call to mind that CAN is pulled by two forces, namely, one that wants it to remain purely the ecumenical (religious) association it was supposed to be initially, and another that wants it to engage more in politics. It is in this dilemma that one locates the underlying reason for the obvious lack of agreed strategy in CAN. This was alluded to earlier in the chapter, when we noted the reactions to CAN of the Christian Youth Study Group and Rt. Rev. G.G. Ganaka.

58The Association appears to have generally opted to be neutral: that is, to be a combination of non-violent militancy and openness to dialogue. This may be CAN's best option, given the context in which it is operating. What is worrisome, however, is that, in adopting this option, CAN has not been and perhaps may not want to be intellectually, ideologically, and publicly honest, since it premises its option on the fact that neutrality supports a side, in this case, a particular social class in society. The same CAN that speaks against the limitations placed on people's religious, civil, and human rights, turns around to deny, or at best to support the limitation of such rights for new religious sects and for women's full and unconditional participation in every facet of church affairs.

  • 88 . Interview with Dr. Bala Usman, Zaria, January 30, 1991.
  • 89 . See Musa interview, January 29, 1991. That the more radical and militant northern zone of CAN, in (...)

59This explains CAN's coldness towards the formation of strategic linkages with other human forces — albeit non-religious or non-Christian — in Nigeria which are fighting against the same abuses that CAN leadership speaks about. Radical political activists such as Bala Usman acknowledge the Catholic Church's tradition of rigorous intellectual pursuits, especially in the formation of its clergy, and the intellectual depth which it has brought into the country's political discourse in comparison with its counterparts in CAN; yet Usman laments the Church's refusal to translate its intellectual weight into establishing linkages with other progressive forces in the country.88 Speaking along the same line and with specific reference to CAN in the North, Balarabe Musa recalls the rebuff the progressive forces in the North have experienced in their attempts to form strategic linkages with CAN.89 To give a concrete example, the same CAN that has been fighting for the return of mission schools to the churches ends up having its members' schools — in those few places where they operate — mostly out of the reach of the common people on whose behalf the CAN leadership claims to speak.

  • 90 . See CAN, Northern Zone, op. cit., pp. 23-24.
  • 91 . ibid.
  • 92 . ibid.

60Next, CAN's political dilemma reveals the political naivety of its leadership with regard to its interpretation of events in the country. A number of examples are worth mentioning here. Take the case of the rosy picture the leadership painted of the government of Major-Generals Buhari and Idiagbon, despite the fascist and thoroughly dictatorial character of that government — a fact commonly known to the majority of the Nigerian populace, including the CAN leadership.90 CAN's reason for endorsing that government was that, according to CAN's leaders, during its tenure ‘hope was returning ... to the despaiding] Nigerian’.91 It could be argued that this reason is merely a smoke-screen, implying that the real reason, perhaps, is that, in the words of CAN leadership, Buhari ‘was the first to give due recognition to the fact that the North was not predominantly Islam, as many had assumed’.92 What is of interest to us here are not the criteria by which CAN leadership made its judgement, but CAN's naivety in excusing or rationalizing Buhari's dictatorial government, simply because he did what CAN leadership said he should do. It is as if one must necessarily be dictatorial or fascist to make Nigeria work. In other words, by implication, CAN is supporting the principle of the end justifying the means — a principle which is not only Machiavellian but is, in fact, opposed to Christian ethical values.

  • 93 . ibid., p. 9
  • 94 . Onaiyekan interview, March 4, 1991.

61Another example of CAN's political naivety is revealed in its assessment of the Yakubu Gowon led government which had a majority of Christian governors. For CAN, ‘when a majority of the Governors were Christians, some Christian principles of godliness, justice, righteousness and peace were brought to bear’.93 According to this superiority complex, the implication is that good government is possible only if it is led by Christians and by Christian principles as opposed to government led by Muslims and on Islamic principles. Rt. Rev. J. Onaiyekan was quite right when he countered this Christian attitude by clearly stating that Islam has a model for good leadership too.94

62But, more specifically, the CAN leaders' statement above betrays their monolithic assessment of Christian as well as Muslim leaders. It is as if a person with a Christian or Muslim name is indeed a true adherent, or that because of a presumed or stated affiliation such a leader must be necessarily anti-Muslim or anti-Christian. There is no room, therefore, for the possibility that some who claim to be Muslims or Christians are so only nominally or that some believers prize justice rather than partisanship. It is this tunnel vision that led the CAN leadership to question Babangida's December 1989 Cabinet reshuffle. CAN's challenge was wrong-headed. This is because its anger was based largely on the perception that the Cabinet reshuffle favoured Muslims over Christians; the anger, for instance, had little to do with the issue of the competence of the men appointed, and definitely nothing to do with the lack of women's representation in the entire Cabinet. Furthermore, the CAN leadership hardly questioned whether those individual Christians affected by the Cabinet reshuffle had been really committed to their Christian faith or perhaps were just nominal Christians in the first place — a concern one would expect should be a top priority for any authentic Christian group.

63The view that Christian leaders bring about better leadership is proved inaccurate when one recalls the likes of Alhaji Lateef Jakande and Balarabe Musa — Muslims, and first civilian governors of Lagos and Kaduna States respectively. It was not for nothing that the former used to be called ‘the action Governor’ and was highly regarded across the country for his dynamic leadership. The latter, a well-known Marxist and a practising Muslim, was elected to power by an overwhelming majority of his people. Incidentally, these two governors happen to be the only ones who were found not to have enriched themselves during their stay in office, while most of the Christian governors were found wanting in this regard.

64One may counter this by pointing out that it was all part and parcel of the Muslim strategy to discredit Christians. Even if this is granted, the point still remains that most government policies that Christians complain about — the take-over of mission schools, the initial entry into OIC, the introduction of ‘Federal character’ for the civil service, or the Pilgrim's Board — were made and executed during Gowon's era when, going by CAN's own words, the majority of the governors were Christians. In fact, the takeover of schools was started by Ukpabi Asika, a Christian and the governor of the East Central State, the part of the country that still remains the most predominantly Christian. Asika's move exposed the weakness of the brand of Christianity that was introduced in Nigeria by the missionaries. It was a Christianity characterized largely by denominational disunity and a dichotomy between religious witness and political praxis. Hence, as Kukah has rightly observed:

  • 95 . M.H. Kukah, Religion and politics in northern Nigeria since independence, Ph.D. thesis, Universit (...)

… while the Muslims are able to use political power for the enhancement of their faith, not out of a firm (belief in] or love for the religion per se, but out of a realization that their political mobility is tied to their ability to maintain a veneer of religiosity, Christians on the other hand use the same power, when acquired, either to enhance the interests of their ethnic associates, or themselves, with allegiance to their faith (having] no major priority since their source of political power is not based on faith.95

65With the erosion of ethnic calculations in the quest for political power in the country — thanks to the on-going creation of states — the Christians find themselves taking to the religious factor. But here, they are political upstarts or, mere novices in the game of relating politics to religion, and vice versa — an arena where Muslims have acquired a mastery over long years of practice and inspiration which has been drawn from the very character of Islam in which religion and politics are mutually inclusive.

  • 96 . Onaiyekan interview, March 4, 1991.

66In summary, CAN has been successful in its attempt to counter Islamic politics in the country. In the process, it has brought into sharper focus the dangers inherent in the disregard for tolerance in a religiously pluralistic polity. Whether CAN offers us a meaningful avenue for resolving the country's quest for national development is another matter. Here our verdict on CAN is negative, not on the grounds of the issues it has raised but on the basis of its internal contradictions vis-a-vis the need to go beyond the status quo. Its incapacity to resolve these contradictions adequately disqualifies CAN as an avenue for real social change in the country. As Bishop John Onaiyekan stated: ‘CAN must define what it is politically, its means of operation, and its vision’.96 Until then, its militancy notwithstanding, CAN remains at best a protest group bound by the limits of Nigeria's peculiar historical context. In fact, it could be argued that, given the lack of autonomy and coherence in CAN, its very existence appears to be clearly dependent on the persistence of a supposed Islamic threat. As for CAN's avowed claim to speak for the masses — even if for the Christian masses — this remains mere political rhetoric. Hence, as the saying goes, the healers must first heal themselves!

Notes

1 . E.B. Gbonigi, Religion in a secular state, In: The History of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, J.O. Makozi and G.J.A. Ojo (eds.), (Lagos: Macmillan, 1982) p. 24.

2 . ibid.

3 . ibid.

4 . ibid., pp. 24-25.

5 . See Constitution does not order secularism, New Nigerian, April 18, 1987, p. 1.

6 . Alhaji Yahaya Bawa, Secularism, atheism synonymous, New Nigerian, January 23, 1987, p. 12.

7 . Onaiyekan interview, April 22, 1991.

8 . ibid.

9 . Monthly Time, Vol. 4, No. 12, December 1987, p. 9.

10 . Abdulkadir Orire, Is religion a personal affair?, Haske, November 1968, p. 10.

11 . Abraham Sulaiman, The Islamic State and the Challenge of History: Ideals, policies and operation of the Sokoto Caliphate (London: Mansell Publishing Ltd., 1987), p. 34.

12 . See The Reporter, June 15, 1990, p.14: and New Nigerian, March 17, 1986, pp. 18-19.

13 . See The Triumph, May 29, 1990, p. 13.

14 . The Reporter, June 15, 1990, p. 14.

15 . African Concord, June 11, 1990, p. 32.

16 . The Triumph, May 29, 1990, p. 13.

17 . Following the national outcry against the country's full membership in OIC, the government set up a committee, whose membership included the CAN President, so as to ascertain whether full membership in OIC has changed the multi-religious character of Nigeria.

18 . The Reporter, June 15, 1990, p. 14.

19 . See Newhreed, January 21, 1991, p. 6.

20 . Hotline and its counterpart, Citizen (also based In Kaduna), are the two leading publications whose defence of the ‘old’ North In all its ramifications has been as incisive as it is unequivocal. The more militant of the two, Hotline, had headlines like ‘North!: Killing the Immortal’ (see its October 3-16, 1988, issue). It also carried a series, ‘Federal Character’, which had a chart of the states of origin of the top echelon in the various Federal Government parastatals (See the May 30 - September 30,1987, issues of Hotline). The magazine's stated objective for this exercise was to counter the prevalent view in the country, especially in the South, of Northern domination.

21 . See The Research Department, Nigeria and religious question (Kuru, Jos: NIPSS, 1984), pp. 30 & 33.

22 . The Reporter, June 15, 1990, p. 14.

23 . See New Nigerian, March 17, 1986, p. 18.

24 . See The Triumph, May 29, 1990, p. 13.

25 . The African Guardian, September 5, 1988, p. 22.

26 . See Hotline, October 3-16, 1988, p. 5.

27 . See Newbreed, June 18, 1989, p. 15.

28 . Newbreed, January 21, 1991, p. 7.

29 . See New Nigerian, July 13, 1990, p. 12.

30 . ibid., p. 11.

31 . ibid., p. 12.

32 . Here the bishop cited, as examples of the fruits of the politics of quiet diplomacy, the Federal Government's recognition of the Catholic Institute for West Africa (CIWA), and the lifting of the ban on the Holy Ghost missionaries from entering the country because of their support for Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War. See the Ganaka interview, November 25, 1990.

33 . See M.A. Adewole et al. (eds.), Twenty-five Years of Stewardship (Jos: Fab Education Books, 1990) p. 153.

34 . ibid., p. 154.

35 . See C.S. Momoh et al. (eds.), Nigerian Studies in Religious Tolerance. Vols. I-IV (Ibadan: CBAAC & NARETO, 1989).

36 . ibid., Vol. I., p. vii.

37 . ibid., p. xi.

38 . ibid.

39 . See The African Guardian, June 18, 1990, p. 25.

40 . ibid., p. 27.

41 . ibid.

42 . See Weekend Concord, July 14, 1990, pp. 16-17.

43 . Bassey Ita (ed.), Collected Speeches of the President Major General I.B. Babangida (Lagos: Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, 1986), p. 252.

44 . ibid.

45 . See West Africa, July 13, 1987, p. 1341.

46 . General Ibrahim B. Babangida, Speech, at the 10th Graduation Ceremony of the NIPSS, Kuru, p. 12 (hereafter cited as ‘Babangida's Speech at NIPSS’ 10th'.

47 . African Concord, June 11, 1990, p. 35.

48 . See Babangida's Speech at NIPSS' 10th Anniversary, op. cit.

49 . ibid., p. 13.

50 . J. Onaiyekan, Tolerance is not enough, as cited In Contemporary Islam and Nigeria, (Jos: Institute of Pastoral Affairs, 1990) p. 54.

51 . ibid., p. 55.

52 . ibid., p. 56.

53 . ibid.

54 . See Dominic Cardinal Ekandem, Presidential Address to the Second Plenary Assembly of the Christian Association of Nigeria held in Kaduna on November 16-17, 1988, p. 3.

55 . For details on these areas of collaboration, see BP. Tanko, The Christian Association of Nigeria and the Challenge of the Ecumenical Imperative, (Rome: Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, 1991) pp. 128-131.

56 . ibid., p. 4.

57 . Salifu interview, November 27, 1990.

58 . Nowhere is this perhaps better demonstrated in recent times than in the aftermath of the April 1990 coup which saw the arrest of the relatives and dependants of those suspected of instigating the coup. See African Concord, September 24, 1990, p. 27.

59 . B.P. Tanko, op. cit., pp. 133.

60 . See E.P.T. Crampton, Christianity in Northern Nigeria, (Zaria: Gaskiya Corporation, 1975) pp. 132-149.

61 . Bishop Onaiyekan claimed to have argued against the existence of NORTH-CAN although the majority view won. He hopes it will soon go. See Onaiyekan interview, Ilorin, April 24, 1991.

62 . See Salifu interview, March 17, 1991.

63 . ibid.

64 . See the letter by Peter [?] to ‘His Grace, Archbishop (Dr.) Peter Jatau, Bishop's House, Rimi, Kaduna’, dated ‘20th [?]87’.

65 . ibid.

66 . See Williams' letter to I. Unarm, March 2, 1992.

67 . ibid.

68 . Interview with Rev. Fr. K. Akagha, Owerri, March 25, 1991.

69 . Tanaka interview, November 25, 1990.

70 . Burke interview, February 25, 1990.

71 . ibid.

72 . The African Guardian, September 5, 1988.

73 . Williams interview, April 26, 1991.

74 . ibid.

75 . Onaiyekan interview, April 22, 1991.

76 . See, for instance, Molara Ogundipe-Leslie, The female writer and her commitment, In: Women in African Literature Today, Eldred Durosimi Jones et al. (eds.), (Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1987), pp. 3-13.

77 . ibid., p. 4.

78 . Cyprian Ekwensi, Jagua Nana (London: Heinemann, 1975), p. 13

79 . It must be noted that Soyinka, with time, has been purging himself of this image of women in his literary work.

80 . Wole Soyinka, Opera Wonyosi (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981).

81 . P.E. Lovejoy, Concubinage in the Sokoto Caliphate (1804-1904), Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Comparative Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2, September 1990, pp. 159-189.

82 . Interview with Prof. Joy Ogwu, Lagos, May 6, 1991.

83 . See, for instance, The African Guardian, September 5, 1988, pp. 18-19.

84 . Flora Nwapa, One is Enough (Enugu, Nigeria: Tana Press, 1981).

85 . Buchi Emecheta, Double Yoke (N.Y.: George Braziller, Inc., 1983); Buchi Emecheta, Destination Biafra (London: Fontana, 1983).

86 . Zaynab Alkali, The Stillborn (Lagos: Longman, 1984).

87 . It is worth noting that Alkali's work, ironically, portrays women in a way akin to men's stereotype of women — not to mention her failure to go beyond a perpetuation of the country's North-South divide and its concomitant negative biases. We mention the book here mainly it is one of the first works which is a woman's account of women in Northern Nigeria.

88 . Interview with Dr. Bala Usman, Zaria, January 30, 1991.

89 . See Musa interview, January 29, 1991. That the more radical and militant northern zone of CAN, in comparison with its national parent body, could act as alleged here by Musa, betrays the Association's option to identify with the rich and the powerful in Nigeria, albeit the Christian faction of that class. Nowhere is this option more clearly demonstrated than in the class of people CAN invited, for instance, to its 1987 fund-raising activity in Kaduna (See Sunday Tribune, October 4, 1987, p. 14).

90 . See CAN, Northern Zone, op. cit., pp. 23-24.

91 . ibid.

92 . ibid.

93 . ibid., p. 9

94 . Onaiyekan interview, March 4, 1991.

95 . M.H. Kukah, Religion and politics in northern Nigeria since independence, Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1989, p. 192.

96 . Onaiyekan interview, March 4, 1991.

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