Version classiqueVersion mobile
OpenEdition Books

A Dangerous Awakening

 | 
Iheanyi M. Enwerem

Chapter Seven

The Imperative for a Re-theorization of Religion in Nigeria

Texte intégral

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseas'd,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain,
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuff’d bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?
(Macbeth, Act V, Scene iii)

1In the Introduction, it was indicated, among other things, that this work is primarily a study of why and how the religious phenomenon in Nigeria changed from dormancy to become a major factor in the struggle for power within the country's modern political arena. A number of findings were made. These may be seen from two broad but closely related perspectives, namely: the more empirical and the more theoretical.

  • 1 . Here we take issue with the erroneous impression given by Chinua Achebe to the effect that all wa (...)
  • 2 . Here we take note of Dapo Asaju's observation of the few occasions of intolerance on the part of (...)

2From an empirical perspective — one which is informed by the historic encounter of Islam, Christianity, and indigenous traditional religion — Nigeria has not been the same since the arrival of Islam and Christianity.1 This is because each of these two major religions in the country is not only exclusive of other religious groups but also has abused, misused, and exploited the largely ecumenical character of the indigenous religion.2 The following account will elucidate the assertions just made.

3The traditional world of Nigeria was shattered first by Islam's imposition of its values on a conquered people. The people were deprived of their rights and thus the condition was set for the displacement of Islam by colonial intrusion, which had already been preceded by the Christian faith. Colonialism itself frustrated the Christian attempt to displace Islam, forcing Christians to rely on Western education to create the kind of human agency needed to overcome their deprivation.

4The foregoing is particularly true with reference to the case study for this book — the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). The birth of CAN was accidental and for a purely ecumenical objective in the first place. In other words, its earliest beginnings and activities were not prefaced by its politicization. It was only four years after CAN's birth that it began to assume a more political objective. This was a transformation which, at the objective level, resulted from economic, socio-political, and geographic factors of deprivation, and, at the subjective level, from the emergence of an articulate human agency, the availability of easily recognizable ‘enemies’ — the Islamic religion and a largely oppressive military government — and the chances for favourable international connections. We also found that CAN has gradually assumed a militant posture. This posture, however, does not necessarily mean that CAN offers Nigeria the key to meaningful or fruitful socio-political change, given the serious weaknesses and limitations within CAN which we noted in the preceding chapter. Yet CAN's emergence into the political limelight contains a number of lessons on the country's quest for national stability and development.

5One such lesson is how the reality of religion has always lurked behind socio-political activities in the country. It goes to show that religion has always been ideological. Like every ideology, it can be characterized either as a place or as a tool. In its first aspect, religion is a terrain of struggle for power, principally because whoever captures or controls this terrain can use it to advance interests. In its second aspect, religion becomes a means to an end. But for us, this end is only part of the larger picture in which the overall objective consists of not just an economic dimension but also a socio-philosophical foundation. We observed this to be the case with the British colonial mandate in Nigeria. Thus, as argued in chapter one, the real reason for the anti-Christian posture of the colonial State must be located within the struggle for or against the myth of the white man's racial superiority over all other races. Clear evidence of this same reason, as demonstrated in chapter two, was also behind the politics of the members of the Hausa-Fulani Islamic ruling class whose dominance over national politics is yet to be rivalled by any of the ethnic groups in the country. The maintenance of this dominance has been made possible largely through ‘ecumenical politics’ and the apparently natural ability of the Hausa-Fulani Islamic class to refine their strategies without sacrificing their overall interests.

6In addition, while we discussed the socio-philosophical foundation of the colonial mandate vis-a-vis Christian colonial education, we arrived at the issue of class and the interpretation of knowledge. By this we refer to the emergence of a group of people — agents of change — who took it upon themselves, not only to re-interpret but also to change the hierarchical order of things. That is, the dominant ideas, rules, and regulations that govern human relations.

7In essence, Christian education in Nigeria, as we discussed in chapter one, was emancipatory, whatever its defects may have been. It spawned the earliest nationalist sentiments against colonialism as well as most of the later nationalists who won independence for the country. Without this kind of human agency most of the past and present changes in Nigeria would not have been possible. However, as far as Christians are concerned, their apparent success in the area of education has not translated into political power for them, just as the success of Muslims in holding on to the political power bequeathed to them by the colonial masters has not translated into an Islamic State.

8In reviewing the findings from a theoretical perspective, we examine the political vision of CAN vis-a-vis the ways in which the politicization of the religious phenomenon in Nigeria has been reduced to theory. Basically, the theories of the politicization of religion in Nigeria are based on an explicit or implicit common underlying functionalist or Marxist intellectual bias, the former involving the secularization thesis. Hardly ever does this common projection address the reality of the divine, God, the bedrock of religion. It is in an effort to correct this shortcoming on the part of the functionalist and Marxian outlooks that K. Westhues' conceptualization of religion is worth noting. According to him:

  • 3 . K. Westhues, First Sociology (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982), p. 281.

… religion [is] any set of beliefs, rituals, roles, and procedures by which people respond to the fact of limitation. For this fact, the existence of the beyond is as empirically obvious as people themselves and their physical environment. We human beings cannot do everything we wish. An escape from death is beyond us … Death, uncertainty, and inequality are not just flaws in the present scenario of public order, nor are they residual distractions from the ‘real’ business of politics and work. They inhere in the human condition ... Through economic and political development we have indeed extended the limits of human prowess and put huge chunks of the beyond within the grip of human hands. With luck we in the contemporary world will whittle infinity down still more. But we will not eliminate it — ever. Limitation, the beyond, will always confront us.3

9It is in response to this ‘limitation, the beyond’, that the importance and place of religion in the cultural life of the Nigerian people is located. Thus, the people's belief in religion is their attempt not only to make sense of the visible and the invisible realities around them, but also to relate ‘the here’ to ‘the hereafter’. Socio-economic and political practices among Nigerians are best understood as one whole bloc, with religion informing them as their life-blood. This is true whether one is speaking about the dominant or even the smallest ethnic groups.

  • 4 . See H.H. Garth and C. Wright Mills, From Max Weber Essays in sociology, (New York, Oxford Univers (...)

10The point we are making here is close to, and in fact resonates with Max Weber's sociology of religion. Locating himself between the secularist and Marxist analysis of religion, Weber arrives at what he calls ‘elective affinity’ to explain the reason for the appeal religion has to people.4 For him, not only is there a close affinity between some religions and the kind of people who join them, there is also something in the condition of the people that makes them join a particular religion. This idea, nevertheless, confirms one thing in the country's context. That is: people are conditioned by their cultural milieu and, in the case of our theme for this study, it is the people's lived experience that led them to direct their religiosity towards political objectives — as a result of an assault on their shared value system or of a perceived threat to their formation of counter-hegemonic blocs, on the basis of religion, to redress the threat.

  • 5 . Y.B. Usman, The Manipulation of Religion in Nigeria, 1977-1987 (Kaduna: Vanguard Publishers Ltd., (...)

11The preceding remarks bring us to critics who, as noted in chapter six, see CAN leadership as motivated by selfish interests, or say that its direction of the Association is a clear proof of the veracity of the manipulation of religion thesis. Typical of this view are the arguments by Y.B. Usman in The Manipulation of Religion in Nigeria5 and by J.K. Olupona in his work on religion and politics in Nigeria's Second Republic. According to Olupona, for instance:

  • 6 . J.K. Olupona, in S. Gbadegesin (ed.), The Politicization of Society During Nigeria's Second Repub (...)

… religion was a useful tool for manipulation in the hands of several people for political ends. Secondly, while religion served as an opium offered to the Nigerian masses in the hope of ameliorating their suffering and their underprivileged status, it became also a rallying symbol with which the disenfranchised minimally manifested their opposition to the political order and the prevailing socio-economic decadence in the society.6

12When viewed in relationship to the politicization of CAN, at least one problem as well as three subtle insinuations are clearly discernible. The problem is located in Olupona's singling out of one determinant of CAN'S transformation from dormancy to its current politicization at the expense of others. Here his determinant for the transformation is the ‘manipulation’ of religion by religious and political leaders.

13Three insinuations may be discerned from Olupona's portrayal of CAN's activities. Premised on the understanding that opium allays pain, the first insinuation is a portrayal of CAN as a kind of psychological response to oppressive conditions. If this is the case, there will be no need for the rich to be religious adherents, or to be precise, to belong to CAN. For, from the point of view of economic and political strength, such a class of people are not suffering or underprivileged, hence do not qualify to be part of CAN, whose raison d'être — going by Olupona's criticism — is to ameliorate people's suffering and underprivileged status. Secondly, if CAN in particular and religion in general are opiates, the chances of CAN's membership becoming politicized, or conscious of the need to ignore religion or give up on it, would be remote. This is because, being religious, their consciousness would have been fragmented by religion in the first place, going by Olupona's argument. Thirdly, the combined liberal and Marxist attitudes to religion, especially as articulated by Olupona, betray a condescending and chauvinistic, if not myopic, attitude towards the Nigerian masses, who acknowledge the existential nature of religion in their lives. It is as if the Nigerian masses have no life of their own but are always susceptible to the whims and caprices of the agents of religion.

  • 7 . ibid.
  • 8 . As cited in J.C. Scott, The Weapons of the Weak (Yale: Yale University Press, 1985), p. 304.
  • 9 . ibid., pp. 304-350; the author strongly argues in defence of the everyday forms of ideological st (...)

14Thus, when the masses use the tool most meaningful to them — that is, their religion — to fight for their rights, Olupona dismisses such an effort as a 'minimally manifested … opposition to the political order.7 It is because of this kind of attitude towards the masses that George Eliot, while speaking about the causes of social change, reminds us that ‘ideas are a sort of parliament, but there's a commonwealth outside, and a good deal of the commonwealth is working at change without knowing what the parliament is doing.’8 In other words, the masses know what they want and are not so stupid that they could be easily or totally written off as incapable of exploiting avenues for the realization and defence of their interests.9

  • 10 . See Newswatch, June 6, 1988, pp. 13-18, which featured a listing of a number of Nigeria's rich an (...)

15Though we may accept the general facts in the reactions to CAN, especially with specific reference to the criticisms by Nigerian functionalists and Marxist analysts, one wonders whether indeed the interpretations given to these facts can be accepted by consensus. Recall for instance, the expulsion of the missionaries from the largely Catholic part of the country at the end of the Nigerian civil war, and the economic boom which the country witnessed in the 1970s. Going by Marxist analysis, the expulsion of the missionaries should have brought about the demise of the Church in that part of the country. But this most emphatically did not happen. The unprecedented wealth, and the infrastructural development which took place in the country in the seventies should have diminished the .social importance people attached to religion, going by the secularization theory. Instead, as was demonstrated in this study, there was a phenomenal growth of religiosity, especially Christianity, across the country. Many of the adherents to and enthusiasts for the religious phenomenon were not the kind of people who, by Nigerian standards, would fit into Karl Marx's Lumpenproletariat category.10

  • 11 . For some examples of such kinds of theorization, see This Week, February 1988, pp. 15 & 23.

16Thus, it is a misleading or, at best, a partial theorization to limit the root cause of the politicization of religion in Nigeria to economic and social reasons.11 It would be ridiculous, of course, to suggest that interest in the religious phenomenon has no economic and social causes or that it has not been manipulated in Nigeria; it would be equally ridiculous to deny that some of the accusations brought against the phenomenon are largely reductionist or conjectural. It is as if religion is manipulated any time people use it, in their view, as the most ready-to-hand weapon to fight for their rights. Even if it is granted that religion has been manipulated, say in Nigeria, one still wonders whether there is any human desire and or activity that is absolutely altruistic and devoid of some element of manipulation for its realization? As we have demonstrated, much of the politicization of CAN was the result of the experiences of its members.

17Similarly, it may be true that religion, or CAN for that matter, manipulates the masses. But the opening of the hearts and minds of the Christian masses on such a scale to CAN's guidance is largely due to the perception that the political status of Christians, within the entire colonial and post-colonial history of the country, had been second-place and that this status had been deliberately tolerated in order for their religion to survive in the face of very difficult situations. Thus, to dismiss the religious phenomenon or, for instance, to view the activities of CAN simply on the basis of the manipulatory thesis without balancing the thesis with the lived-experience of the forces involved in the phenomenon, is, in our opinion, evidence of the poverty of the theorization.

  • 12 . See The African Guardian, June 18, 1990.
  • 13 . See J. Onaiyekan, in the Catholic Diocese of Jos, op. cit., p. 56.

18Besides the understandable reactions of Muslims, most of those who react negatively to CAN generally do so on the basis of its alleged intolerance or at least because it has drawn the country into what a major news magazine, in a pun, headlined ‘A CAN of Worries.12 The issue underlying these reactions, and the reason that prompted them, hinge on what to do in a society with a multiplicity of religious affiliations. For, regardless of what one may hold against CAN — in partial or absolute condemnation — the Association has brought to the forefront the need to reflect on what religious tolerance means, and its implications. Bishop Onaiyekan, as noted in the preceding chapter, gave some useful clarification on this matter. To conclude his contribution, he prayed God to bless Nigeria, among other things, with justice — a value that goes hand in hand with tolerance.13

  • 14 . See Akagha interview, March 25, 1991.
  • 15 . Interview with Sheik A.M. Gumi, Kaduna, March 15, 1991.

19Rev. Akagha, in a definition that is representative of a Christian view, elucidates what justice means. Justice ‘simply means to treat others as one would like oneself to be treated by them.’14 But the Muslim cleric, the late Sheik A.M. Gumi, retorted by noting that accepting the Christian understanding would be like ‘making others stay under the heat of the sun just because one would like to receive similar treatment from them.’15 Gumi obviously missed the point. Treating others as one would like to be treated is, and must be, premised on the understanding that the others would like to be so treated. Thus, the fact that I like to stay under the sun, using Gumi's example, does not necessarily mean I must enforce others to do so even if they do not want to be so treated in the first place. In this case justice demands that I respect and tolerate their view so long as it does not cause me any deprivation.

20What is unique about Nigeria and complicates a direct comparison with other countries where religion has been used for emancipatory purposes is the fact that Nigeria has three major religions — Islam, Christianity, and African Traditional Religion — none of which has such an oveiwhelming numerical majority as to secure an exclusive or hegemonic dominance in the entire country. Besides, with regard to the imperatives for a more egalitarian Nigeria, there is little evidence to show that those who profess to be religious practitioners are any better than those who are not. Corruption, nepotism, and double standards are as clearly evident within the ranks of the religious adherents as they are among those who are not religious.

  • 16 . This is in the sense that African Traditional Religion, as noted in chapter one, is more inclined (...)

21What is more regrettable, especially in view of the need for a revolutionary religiosity for social change, is the complete lack of an ecumenically organized liberative religiosity from the ranks of the Islamic and the Christian religions. By this we mean a religiosity whose practitioners are drawn from all the progressive human forces within the ranks of the major religions and, under the banner of an ecumenical spirit, are committed to the establishment of an egalitarian society. Three plausible reasons may help to explain the absence of this type of religiosity. First, there is the hatred and suspicion which historically exist between Islam and Christianity and which the two religions brought with them to Nigeria. Second, there are the different socio-cultural contexts that existed at the time the two religions met and out of which they operated. Here we recall the high degree of exploitation at the hands of a centralized feudalistic government under the emirs in the North, unlike the largely small governments and republican character of governance in the South. Thirdly, and perhaps the key to this lack of an ecumenically organized liberative religiosity in Nigeria, could be the different attitudes which the three main religions have regarding revolutionary tendencies. Islam is a more revolution inclined religion, Nigerian traditional religion is far less inclined to revolutionary action.16 In between is Christianity, whose ambivalence towards a revolutionary tendency was discussed in chapter five.

22The preceding assertion brings us to one of the basic contradictions about Nigeria: the existence of a more revolutionary inclination in the feudal North than in the so-called more Western-educated South. In the south, acquisition of Western education catapulted one into the elite class. Thus, in spite of unemployment, and the dominating power of the comprador bourgeoisie, southerners still desperately seek education because they see it as the main avenue to liberate themselves from economic deprivation and to achieve prominence.

23But this is not the case in the North. Social and class mobility come through the acquisition of traditional titles. For instance, irrespective of one's education, the emirs and those born into their class decide who becomes a member of the elite. The obvious implication is that winning the confidence of the traditional rulers (the emirs) who confer these traditional titles, and not Western education or even financial wealth, becomes crucial. Thus, the opposing sides of the struggle, as in feudalism, are easily identifiable and real — the commoners are the oppressed while the emirs and those in their class are well known as the oppressors. What is more, the commoner in the North observes that even the members of the very powerful bourgeoisie — in the Army, in business or in educational circles — seek the more traditional titles rather than Western education.

24Given that class structure is the beginning of class consciousness, the commoners in the North needed no external factor (Western education) to tutor them about their enemies or the imperative to carry out revolutionary activities against such perceived enemies — thanks to the revolutionary character of their Islamic religion. The Jibad of 1804 sharpened this revolutionary character, while its legitimacy was established by the economic and socio-political deprivation that were evident even after the reformative achievements of the jihad.

  • 17 . See Erik Olin Wright, Varieties of Marxist conceptions of class structure, Politics and Society, (...)

25Therefore, it is within the dynamics of class structure and struggle that we gain a richer insight into Nigerian politics or, to be more specific, the politicization of religion in modern Nigeria. But a note of caution is necessary here, more so as the concept ‘class’ has aroused, in recent times, heated debate among social scientists, thus showing that there is no universally accepted understanding of the concept.17 For us, class is not understood as a crude grouping of people a priori, for us it is a fluid category and characterized as a relationship which is determined not in economic terms but in people's experience, over the years, within their cultural milieu, and with regard to the need for power and its varied uses in society. As E.P. Thompson has rightly observed:

  • 18 . E.P. Thompson, Poverty of Theory (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1978), p. 164.

… [people experience] their determinate productive situations and relationships, as needs and interests and as antagonisms, and [they handle] this experience within their consciousness and their culture … in the most complex (yes, ‘relatively autonomous) ways, and then [they act] upon their determinate situation in their turn.18

  • 19 . It is not because Gramsci saw religion in a positive light or as being outside the very problem w (...)

26The above citation is useful in that it brings further clarity regarding the reason for the failure of the Left — the Nigerian Marxists, to be precise — to see the relationship between religion and politics in Nigeria. Antonio Gramsci made similar observations about the Italian Left.19 Gramsci chided the socialists of his time for ignoring or dismissing the strength and success of religion among the masses of the population, the deficiencies of religion notwithstanding. In other words, he criticized the Marxist intellectuals of his time for failing to bring ‘politics’ into their scientific theory so as to transform the existing cultural direction in their society and give it a qualitatively different tone. According to Gramsci:

  • 20 . Q. Hoare and G.N. Smith, eds., Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (New York: (...)

Neglecting, or worse still despising, so-called ‘spontaneous’ [movements], i.e., failing to give them a conscious leadership or to raise [them] to a higher plane by inserting them into politics, may often have extremely serious consequences. It is almost always the case that a ‘spontaneous’ movement of the subaltern classes is accompanied by a reactionary movement of the right-wing of the dominant class, for concomitant reasons.20

  • 21 . This is akin to the same attitude which Maxime Rodinson noted as existing in many Marxists' views (...)
  • 22 . See Ebenezer Babatope, Nigeria: The socialist alternative (Benin City: Jodah Publications, 1986).
  • 23 . ibid., p. xv.
  • 24 . This is clearly demonstrated in the editorial ‘comment’ and the number of features articles that (...)
  • 25 . We are mindful of the fact that in Iran, religion was captured by the religious Right who, theref (...)

27From what we noted already about the members of the Nigerian Left, they saw religion in crude economic terms, as something essentially pejorative.21 Thus, in their efforts to mobilize people for social change, they limited themselves largely to the economic sector — trade unionism in the higher institutions of learning, the government civil service, and a number of industrial sectors — and to politics (the ballot-box).22 The Nigerian Left hardly extended or linked their efforts to the religious arena where the masses have their most existential experience. This arena, the Left more or less abandoned to those on the Right who, of course, used the phenomenon to advance their class interests.23 In very recent times, the members of the Nigerian Left have realized their mistake, having acknowledged the revolutionary potential of religion,24 as was evidenced in its contribution to revolutionary changes in places like Poland, Iran, Libya, and the Latin American countries.25 Consequently, the Nigerian Left have started to seek strategic alliances with the militant elements within the religious phenomenon, such as CAN. But the damage had been done already, so to speak. For, most of the members of the Nigerian Left have so established themselves as anti-religious that the recent gravitation towards religion by some of its members is now met with suspicion and distrust. This explains the rebuff with which CAN in the North is reported to have greeted the progressives.

28CAN's ascendancy from political dormancy to political strength demonstrated the emancipatory potentials of religion that went beyond its Islamic counterpart, the JNI. However, CAN's sparks of liberal demands were not enough to mask its opposition to real fundamental changes, as evidenced in its attitude towards women, its close identity with the rich, and its ambivalence towards a revolutionary identity. By so doing, CAN renders women and the laity powerless, making them a mere ‘audience’ for religious innovation from above. Moreover, CAN's politics obscures or displaces any recognition of class struggle in so far as it agrees on certain doctrinal proclamations but disagrees on the implications of faith for action — the imperative for a more ecumenically-based revolutionary religiosity.

29Furthermore, the emergence of CAN vis-a-vis its own internal contradictions as we discussed in chapter six highlighted two levels of the ‘warfare’ obliquely going on within the Nigerian polity. First, there is the warfare — class struggle, in Marxist parlance — between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'. From the point of view of politics, it is a struggle between those who have and those who do not have socio-political power — be it, for example, the struggle of women within CAN or in the entire Nigerian society at large, or the struggle between Christianity and Islam. The second and perhaps the more challenging warfare is the one arising out of the conflicting demands of maintaining the status quo and changing it; that is, the conflict between tradition and modernity.

  • 26 . Buchi Emecheta, Double Yoke, (New York: George Braziller, 1983).
  • 27 . ibid, esp. pp. 63 & 126.
  • 28 . ibid., pp. 140-142.

30Buchi Emecheta's novel, Double Yoke,26 captured the two inter-related conflicts. Nko, the principal female character in the novel, pursues education in spite of the obstacles put in her way by those who, like her boy friend, Ete Kamba, believe a woman's place and identity in society are realized in traditional marriage.27 Her determination to overcome the obstacles is further compounded by another problem; she must also deal with members of the faculty like the Rev. Professor Ikot who have no qualms about sexually exploiting her presence in a male-dominated situation.28

31This ‘double yoke’ is seen in the struggle which CAN's politicization has exposed. There is a growing involvement of CAN in politics despite the resistance of those who feel CAN's place and role in society must be exercised within the spiritual realm or, if at all necessary, through non-militant politics. Yet in CAN's determination for political involvement in the country, it must further contend with those who, inspired by its example of militancy, would demand the kind of change which CAN, incidentally, is not prepared to give or support. The same applies to the Muslim JNI. Its leadership is determined to secure for its members the enjoyment of the benefits that come through Western education, in spite of the resistance of those who feel the Muslim's identity is assumed in a clear-cut separation from Western values. In pursuit of this determination the JNI must contend with those who, given the constitutionally enshrined religious character of the country, have no qualms about taking advantage of Islam's example of religious politics to make demands for a more secularized environment.

32In a sense, CAN's politics have highlighted the yet-to-be-resolved struggle between values in Nigeria. That is, the struggle between Christianity and Islam; the South and the North; and Western European, Arabic, feminist, and traditional Nigerian values. This struggle has remained unabated, as members of the Nigerian polity who espouse these values try to unchain themselves not only from the consequences of the colonial intrusion into Nigerian space, but also from a perceived sense of deprivation from the scheme of things in contemporary Nigeria.

  • 29 . Writing on the strategy for counter-hegemonic politics, Gramsci advanced the need for what he des (...)

33The implication of the foregoing struggle is obvious: without its amicable resolution, Nigeria's quest for stability and development will remain a mirage. Hence, if our initial aim was to understand the relationship between politics and religion in modern Nigeria, our overriding intention has been to bring into clearer focus the emancipatory potential of religion, and its acknowledged relevance as far as the masses are concerned. To ignore or underrate these facts, we dare to say, is to miss a much more central and fruitful element in understanding the nature of Nigeria's contemporary politics. It is incumbent on progressives in the country to find a more fruitful avenue to address and, if possible, resolve the struggle. We suggest that such an avenue be linked unequivocally to the religious phenomenon because it is the most meaningful experience to Nigerians. But in doing so, it is imperative to ground the practice and articulation of the religious phenomenon on an ecumenically-based emancipatory religiosity. This is because, given the Nigerian specificity, none of the religions can carry out successfully the necessary emancipatory project in Nigeria exclusively on its own without attracting the suspicion of, and sabotage by, the other religious groups. Besides, each of the major religions in the country has some emancipatory ideas beyond what CAN, not to mention its more conservative Islamic counterpart, the JNI, currently offer. These are especially in terms of social, political, and economic justice vis-a-vis the imperative of authentic religiosity. If a strategic alliance of the progressive forces within and outside the respective religions could be forged to galvanize and articulate clearly these emancipatory ideas to their co-religionists in particular and the entire population in general — an alliance akin to Gramsci's ‘organic intellectuals’29 — a more meaningful and fruitful foundation for the country's development would have been established.

34How to go about forging this kind of alliance, together with a corresponding emancipatory religiosity, calls for an assessment of the mutual relationship between religion and politics in Nigeria. While we acknowledge the need for tolerance, it must be emphasized that it is not the end, nor enough for an emancipatory religiosity. It must be grounded, articulated, and lived out in the mould of:

  • 30 . G. Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation: History, politics and salvation, (New York: Orbis Press) (...)

[an understanding of religion] which does not stop with reflecting on the world, but rather tries to be part of the process through which the world is transformed ... in the protest against trampled human dignity, in the struggle against the plunder of the vast majority of people, in liberating love, and in the building of a new, just, and (egalitarian] society.30

35In spite of the obvious difficulties inherent in forging this kind of religiosity, in Nigeria's peculiar context, this task must be confronted in the years ahead.

Notes

1 . Here we take issue with the erroneous impression given by Chinua Achebe to the effect that all was well in Nigeria until the arrival of Christianity in Nigerian space, Christian missionaries to be precise. See C. Achebe, Things Fall Apart, London: Heinemann, 1958. Perhaps the impression was unintended, but since he has yet to characterize clearly the arrival of Islam in Nigeria in a similar light, he leaves his reader with the impression that the arrival of Islam in Nigeria did not cause ‘things to fall apart’, taking Nigeria as a whole. But, as demonstrated in this work, the contrary is the case.

2 . Here we take note of Dapo Asaju's observation of the few occasions of intolerance on the part of Traditional Religion, or Achebe's Okonkwo who, in his earlier cited work, represented an aspect of intolerance on the part of Igbo culture. These instances notwithstanding, there is a general agreement that Traditional Nigerian Culture Religion is largely ecumenical. See Dapo Asaju,.The politicization of religion in Nigeria, In: Readings in Selected Nigerian Problems, Segun Johnson (ed.), (Lagos: Okanlawon Publishers, 1990), p. 174.

3 . K. Westhues, First Sociology (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982), p. 281.

4 . See H.H. Garth and C. Wright Mills, From Max Weber Essays in sociology, (New York, Oxford University Press, 1958) pp. 284-285.

5 . Y.B. Usman, The Manipulation of Religion in Nigeria, 1977-1987 (Kaduna: Vanguard Publishers Ltd., 1987).

6 . J.K. Olupona, in S. Gbadegesin (ed.), The Politicization of Society During Nigeria's Second Republic, 1979-1983, (Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1991) p. 150.

7 . ibid.

8 . As cited in J.C. Scott, The Weapons of the Weak (Yale: Yale University Press, 1985), p. 304.

9 . ibid., pp. 304-350; the author strongly argues in defence of the everyday forms of ideological struggle on the part of the poor, using the peasants of ‘Sedaka’, a Malaysian village, as his case study to dismiss the negative portrayal of the poor by many scholars, especially within the Marxist intellectual tradition.

10 . See Newswatch, June 6, 1988, pp. 13-18, which featured a listing of a number of Nigeria's rich and famous who have either been in religion or have recently turned over a new leaf as regards the phenomenon.

11 . For some examples of such kinds of theorization, see This Week, February 1988, pp. 15 & 23.

12 . See The African Guardian, June 18, 1990.

13 . See J. Onaiyekan, in the Catholic Diocese of Jos, op. cit., p. 56.

14 . See Akagha interview, March 25, 1991.

15 . Interview with Sheik A.M. Gumi, Kaduna, March 15, 1991.

16 . This is in the sense that African Traditional Religion, as noted in chapter one, is more inclined to an ecumenical spirit and a tolerant attitude towards other religions. It is hardly known to have used violent means to advance its cause, as is the case with the Islamic jihads and the Christian crusades.

17 . See Erik Olin Wright, Varieties of Marxist conceptions of class structure, Politics and Society, 9 (1980): pp. 323-370; E. Laclau and C. Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Towards a radical democratic politics (London: 1985); Peter Meiksins and E.M. Wood, Beyond class?, Studies in Political Economy, 17 (Summer, 1985), pp. 141-65; Ellen M. Wood, The Retreat from Class: A New 'True! Socialism (London: Verso, 1986).

18 . E.P. Thompson, Poverty of Theory (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1978), p. 164.

19 . It is not because Gramsci saw religion in a positive light or as being outside the very problem which, according to him, needed to be superseded — a point I argued elsewhere in my earlier work on Gramsci. See Theanyi Enwerem, Antonio Gramsci and the phenomenon of religion (Ph.D. Major Research Paper submitted to the Graduate Programme in Social and Political Thought, (York University, February 1989), pp. 79-93.

20 . Q. Hoare and G.N. Smith, eds., Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (New York: International Publishers, 1971), p. 199.

21 . This is akin to the same attitude which Maxime Rodinson noted as existing in many Marxists' views of Islam. According to Rodinson: ‘Crude economist and rudimentary mechanicalism to which Marxism is reduced ... meant that, since religion was but a reflection of the economic situation (or the political and social situation for the more broad-minded), it was out of the question to attribute to it any dynamic of its own, and futile to take it into consideration.’ See M. Rodinson, Marxism and the Muslim World (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1981), p. 11.

22 . See Ebenezer Babatope, Nigeria: The socialist alternative (Benin City: Jodah Publications, 1986).

23 . ibid., p. xv.

24 . This is clearly demonstrated in the editorial ‘comment’ and the number of features articles that appeared in the pro-socialist monthly magazine, The Analyst, that, for some time, brought together a number of the members of the Nigerian Left including people like Bala Usman, Mahmud Tukur, Monday Mangvwat and Balarabe Musa — to name a few of the Nigerians in the ideological camp. See The Analyst, Vol. III, No. 5, September-October, 1988. The group soon fell apart on account of some ideological and administrative reasons which are too complex and outside our scope to discuss in this work.

25 . We are mindful of the fact that in Iran, religion was captured by the religious Right who, therefore, gave it the conservative fundamentalist revolutionary tone that it took. In Latin America, especially in Nicaragua, the same religion was captured by the Left who gave it a Marxist revolutionary tone and used it accordingly. The point being that religion is a free floating phenomenon; any group — on the Right or on the Left — can use it to mobilize people for the task of socio-economic and/or political transformation. It is this point that was lost to the Nigerian Left, having been for many years, prisoners of Marxist orthodoxy and economism!

26 . Buchi Emecheta, Double Yoke, (New York: George Braziller, 1983).

27 . ibid, esp. pp. 63 & 126.

28 . ibid., pp. 140-142.

29 . Writing on the strategy for counter-hegemonic politics, Gramsci advanced the need for what he described as a theorem of ‘fixed proportion’. That is, the kind of relationship that should exist between the leadership, the intermediate (the ‘organic intellectuals’) and the base categories in society. In his view, the relationship between the leaders and the followers, including the organic intellectuals, should be a dialogical one — that is, a relationship whereby the ideas of the various levels of leadership and the followers are mutually inclusive and therefore interconnected. For Gramsci, the organic intellectuals (the intermediate category) are assigned the key role of ensuring this interconnected relationship, the upward and downward flow of ideas, between the leaders and the followers (the base).

30 . G. Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation: History, politics and salvation, (New York: Orbis Press) p. 15.

© IFRA-Nigeria, 1995

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

Acheter

Volume papier

amazon.fr