The effect of religious crisis in north south relationship in Nigeria 1995 – 2016


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1.1 Background of the Study
Nigeria is usually characterized as a deeply divided state in which major political issues are vigorously and or violently contested along the lines of the complex ethnic, religious, and regional divisions in the country (Smyth and Robinson, 2001). By virtue of its complex web of politically salient identities and history of chronic and seemingly intractable conflicts and instability, Nigeria can be rightly described as one of the most deeply divided states in Africa (Osaghae and Suberu, 2005). From its inception as a colonial state, Nigeria has faced a perennial crisis of territorial or state legitimacy, which has often challenged its efforts at national cohesion, democratization, stability and economic transformation (Maier, 2000). The high point of the crisis seems to have been the civil war in the late 1960s, which ensued shortly after independence in 1960. Since Nigeria’s transition to civilian rule in 1999 there has been a rapid increase of conflicts in the country.
Following these development, members of different ethnic nationalities have become aware of their separate identities because of the sporadic occurrence of episodic social interpretation of intergroup relations (Sanda, 1999). The intense communal and religious conflict have led to the formation and operations of several militia groups prominent among them include, Bakassi Boys, Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Oodua People Congress (OPC), Egbesu Boys, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) and more recently Boko Haram. These Militia groups have become an enclave for the army of jobless youths (Alegbeleye, 2014).
Ethno-religious crisis is a common phenomenon in the world history and there is hardly any race that has not at a particular point of time experience it. The world religious holy books, the Quran and the Bible, recorded how our fore-fathers in the past went through either ethnic crisis, religions crisis or ethno-religious crises at various point in recent time. This is to tell us that ethno religious crisis is neither peculiar to Nigeria nor a phenomenon of recent origin (Omoregbe, 2002).
Ethnic and religion sensitivity, since the Nigeria independence, have continue to threaten the development, continue co-existence, peace and unity of Nigeria as members of one sovereign democratic state. In recent history, there are only few states in Nigeria that have not in one way or another witnessed one form of ethnic or religion crises. If a state is crisis free, then such state will experience a development. Ethnicity has to do with group differentiated from the main population of a community by racial origin or cultural background.
Gould and kilb, (1956) and Nnoli, (1978) refer to ethnicity as a social formation distinguished by communal traits of their boundaries. The relevant communal factors may be language, culture or both culture and language. This means that an ethnic group will have a specific territory within a policy, demarcating it from other groups. Using Nigeria as an example, one can point to the Yoruba in the western Nigeria, the Hausa in the northern Nigeria, Igbo in the eastern Nigeria and Ogoni in the southern Nigeria as the major ethnic group in the country.
The vilification of ethnicity as the scapegoat of all vices associated with the Nigerian body polity has made the subject a dominant theme in the study of Nigerian political economy. No work is deemed ‘scholarly’ that does not consider the salience or irrelevance of ethnicity in its analysis and conclusions.
Thus, analysts interested in such diverse issues as nationalism, decolonisation, national integration, political parties, military intervention, corruption, economic development, structural adjustment, democratisation and violent conflict have all considered the ‘ethnicity’ variable. This was the case even in the 1960s and 1970s when the major intellectual traditions felt ethnicity was of secondary importance as an explanatory variable; at best an epiphenomenon and at worst a mask for class privilege (Sklar, 1967).
The result of such interest in ethnicity, which is proportional to the high level of ‘ethnic consciousness’ in the Nigerian society (Lewis et al; 2002), is a legion of literature on ethnicity, making a critique a Herculean task. Jinadu, (1994) rightly puts it, ‘the study of ethnic relations in Nigeria has passed through a number of phases reflecting changes in the country’s political status as well as changes in fashions and trends in the social science research agenda’.
Taking a historical view of the concept of ethnicity, Joireman, (2003) holds that: ethnicity did not come into common usage until the latter part of the twentieth century it is a term that is strongly contested in academic literature. Relating the term to nationalism, Joireman insists that: ethnicity is a beginning manifestation of identity.
A religion is the belief in the existence of a god or gods, and the activities that are connected with the worship of them. It is also one of the systems of faith that are based on the belief in the existence of a particular god or gods: the Jewish religion, the Christian religion, the Islamic religion and a host of other world religions. Almost every human being believes in a Supreme Being (with different local names), who controls the universe – the seen and the unseen worlds. He sets a moral standard to be attained by man and capable of punishing man here and hereafter et cetera. The endeavour of man to please the Supreme Being, especially to secure a favourable place for himself hereafter is known as religion. It emanates from innate tendency and hence personal because one is free to believe or to disbelieve (Olayiwola, 2011).
Religion can also be said as consisting of institutional system of beliefs, value and symbolic practices which provided group of main solution to these questions of ultimate meaning of death, difficulties, suffering et cetera. This determination sees religion as social institution. From my own point of view, religion is a belief in the existence of a supernatural being known as God who made heaven, earth and the entire inhabitant there in (Samari, 2016).
Nigeria as a nation is religiously pluralistic where everyone is free to embrace which ever religion that appealed to him/her, be it Islam, Christianity or African traditional religion. From time immemorial, man has always felt an inner urge to worship and it is this that led to the production of mosaic of beliefs, attitude and practices. Throughout history, religion has been seen as a universal institution which entails a set of basic beliefs and practices.
Religion in all society is said to provide a healthy terrain for functional and vibrant society. Religion is often regarded as a living thing by scholars and any living thing is very much interested in what is happening in the environment. More so, every religion in any environment preached peace, with oneself, peace with other and peace with God. Unfortunately, there is hardly any peace in our society today (Okwueze, 2003). The history of religion cannot be separated from the attendant conflict that follows it from time. All these observation made by Nnoli are very rampant of situation preventing in Nigeria society. This generates divisive and socio-economic competitions which have anti-social effects.
Religion on the other hand is such prominent feature in human society that it cannot be simply ignored. World history would be incomplete without reference to it. Religion is as old as mankind and will in all probability remain for as long as man exist, (Omoregbe, 2002). To be able to give a definition of religion that is universally acceptable is difficult if not impossible task. The reason for this could be traced to the vastness of the discipline whereby it permeates all aspects of lives and allows for individual opinion, (Osibodu, 2000).
Etymologically, religion is derived from three Latin words namely ligare meaning to bind, relegere meaning to unite and religio meaning relationship. Therefore, religion can be said something that unites man with transcendent being a deity, believed to exist and worshipped by man; man and God, (Omoregbe, 2002).
Conflict (crisis) can be described as a situation or condition of disharmony in an interactional process. Crisis is when two or more values, perspectives and opinions are contradictory in nature and have not been aligned or agreed upon yet (Bagaji, 2012).In order to understand the concept of socio-economic development, it is imperative we define development. Generally, development is defined as a state where something moves from an unpalatable situation to palatable situation. Development also could mean the improvement in people’s lifestyle through improved education, incomes, skills development and employment (Adeniyi, 1993). It is the process of economic and social transformation based on cultural and environmental factors. Socio-economic development therefore is the process of social and economic development in a society. It is measured with indicators, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), life expectancy, literacy and levels of employment (Okonjo-Iweala and Osafo-Kwaako, 2007).The need for a religious tolerance among the different religious adherents is and remains relevant in the sustenance of the socio-economic development of the country. Without peace there could be no any meaningful development that is why government at all levels should make concerted effort to abate the level of crises in the country to its barest. The fact remains that good governance and accountability are sacrosanct as it engender the country socio-economic development.
Nigeria as a nation has a long history of ethno-religious crisis. (Oji and Anugwom, 2004) observed that, ethnic and religious conflicts and divisions arising from them are intertwined phenomenal in contemporary Nigeria. It has been observed that it is very hard in Nigeria to have an ethnic crisis which will not end up as religious crisis. The fact that Nigeria is a plural polity has long been acknowledged. Studies have shown that it has a composition of not less than three hundred and seventy five ethnic nationalities with diverse socio-cultural and political backgrounds, all of which were wielded together to form modern Nigeria by the British colonialist.
The introduction of sharia legal system has introduced another dimension into the whole farce. While the Muslims justifies its introduction as part of the dividends of democracy, the Christians see its introduction as contrary to the spirit of secularism as provided for in section 10 of the 1979 and 1999 constitutions, which states that ‘the government of the federation or of a state shall not adopt any religion as a state religion. The February and May 2000 crisis cannot be divorced from the spate of crises between the Muslim Hausa-Fulani and the Christian ethnic minorities in the state. Often religious differences have been evoked to explain these bloody clashes. However, the problem involves perceived political domination by groups considered as external, illegitimate or ‘alien’.
The immediate cause of the crisis is generally associated with the Shariah controversy and the consequent demonstration and counter demonstration by both Muslims and Christians in Kaduna. Shariah question has since the inauguration of the new civilian government in 1999 sharply divided Nigerians across religious lines.
The Muslim pro-Shariah activists expressed concern and fears over what they consider to be domination of Christian culture in Nigeria established by the colonial government. For these Muslims secularism is unacceptable in Islam, the separation of the sacred and mundane is unacceptable and the legal framework that governs their lives should be Islamic.
The Christians on the other hand are worried about what they regard as the threat of Islamization of the state and the imposition of shariah on non-Muslims. They argued that the introduction of sharia will amount to Islamization of the state against the interest of Christians and that state resources will be used to promote the cause of one religion. With shariah, they believe Christian will be considered as second-class citizens. The focus of this study is to find out if ethno-religious crisis in Bali local Government Area has any adverse effect on their socio-economic activities.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The occurrence of ethno-religious crisis in Nigeria, especially in the northern part of the country has called for great concerned among intellectuals across the nation. These crises often trigger the sense of hostile behaviour between Muslims and Christians and thereafter inculcate a deep consciousness of religion sentiment which often creates adverse effects on their socio-economic development. This research is aimed at investigating the impact of ethno-religious crisis on socio-economic development of rural area’s in other to recommend on the way forward to those that are victim of the topic under investigation and the world at large.
1.3Research Questions
The research has answered the following questions: –
i. What are the demographic data of the respondents?
ii. Who are the victims of ethno-religious crisis?
iii. What is the relationship between economic development and ethnic cleavages?
iv. What are the roles of religious leaders in curtailing the menace?
v. What are the government policies of controlling the ethno-religious crisis?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The following are the specific objectives of this study;
i. To assess the demographic data of the respondents.
ii. To assess the victims of ethno-religious crisis.
iii. To know the relationship between economic development and ethnic cleavages.
iv. To investigate the role of religious leaders in curtailing the menace.
v. To investigate government policies of controlling the ethno-religious crisis.
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study will contribute to the various writings for instance, journals and textbook that have been highlighting on the dangers of ethno-religious crisis and how to handle it. It will help policy makers in the country and the world over to know the root causes of ethno-religious crisis, so as to explore strategies by which the negative effects of the crisis could be mitigated in the future. Thus making lasting policies that will obliterate ethno-religious chauvinism and its consequent effect on national stability and development.
1.6 Scope of the Study
The scope of this examining the effect of religious crisis in north south relationship in Nigeria from 1995 to 2016
1.7 Research Methodology
There are various sources which will be used to obtain these types of data which are either published or unpublished. In this regard, the researcher will collect and analyze secondary data from books, statutes, case law, journals, newspapers, official government reports and other published and unpublished materials as well as information available in the internet that is relevant or suitable in the context of the problem under study. These data will enable the researcher to provide a firm theoretical background to the study. The researcher will use school library and online library for search of materials.
1.8 Literature of the Study
A large number of religious belief systems and practices thrive in Nigeria. They include ancient eastern religions such as Buddhism and newer philosophical beliefs such as the Grail Movement. Most religious space is however, covered by numerous Islamic and Christian sects and movements. The fact that the two main religions have sacred texts that are accepted by virtually all sects and groups has not prevented the growth of serious conflicts caused by different theological interpretations. Nonetheless, factional and sectarian differences and struggles linked to ideological, political and leadership variables seem to play a more important role than theological differences.
Gofwen (2000) observed that religious intolerance has been identified as the major source of religious conflict in all societies existing as long as the history of mankind, and permeating all forms of human civilizations with attendance destructive tendencies. He further stressed that no system could be found to be impervious to it wherever it existed, because deeper cleavages are created in society by it more than any other factors. Meanwhile, Balogun (1998) defines religious intolerance as “hostility towards other religious as well as the inability of religious adherents, to harmonize between the theories and the practical aspect of religion”.
From this definition, one can understand that religious conflict is not only common between different religions but as well between and among the same religious. It is in this regard that Yau (1998) classified religious conflict into three categories. These are “intra-religious conflicts, inter-religious and state versus religious groups conflicts”. One thing to note here is that, a particular conflict could degenerate to another conflict or from one type to another. An example is, a state versus religious groups conflict can degenerate into an inter-religious conflict or vice versa.
Inter-religious conflicts: The inter-religious conflict began as socio-ethnic conflicts, but articulated and fought out under the idiom of inter-religious conflicts. Examples are the Bauchi riots of 1991 and the Zangon Kataf riots of May 1992 (Metuh, 1994). While offering explanation of this spate of religious conflict in Nigeria, Usman (1987) established that religious and ethnic conflicts are part of the inevitable competition for scarce resources by modernizing ethnic elites. He further stated that the real basis of the manipulation of religion in Nigeria today is the need to observe from the people of Nigeria a fundamental aspect of our reality. that is the domination of our political economy by a class of intermediaries who are being increasingly exposed. And this is to enable this class to cover themselves with religious and ethnic disguise in order to further entrench division among people, slow down their awakening, (Usman, 1987).
Also commenting on the influence of the political economy on religious conflicts in Nigeria, Yau (1998:18) opined that;
With the collapse of the living conditions of the majority of the citizens due to worsening economic crises engendered by the Structural Adjustment Programmed (SAP), living became a precarious endeavour for the majority… this created communal tension across neighbouring communities, which exploded in religious conflicts where the communities were divided both ethnically and religiously. This was the case with the Kafanchan, Zangon-Kataf and Tafawa-Balewa conflicts which although were sparked-off by religious misunderstanding, they centered on the questions of land ownership, means of the economic sustenance and local traditional institution. In these cases, the “indigenous” Christian people believed that the Hausa/Fulani Muslims “Settlers” have usurped their land in addition, to a deep-seated resentment against the Hausa/Fulani traditional rule in their domains.
The state-versus religious group conflicts is when security forces and law enforcement agencies are pitted against religious groups, which seem to either reject the authority of the state or contest it legitimacy. For example, the Kaduna 1996 conflict was because of the demonstration staged by the Shites demanding the release of their leaders inspite of the banned on demonstrations as imposed by the State Governor. This resulted in confrontation, which spread to Zaria town where the Shites beat a retreat.
Other issues that prompt religious conflict were perceived hidden agenda between the adherents of both Islam and Christianity. For instance, Muslim activists continuously express concern and fears over what they consider to be the dominance of Christians in Nigeria such as having Saturday and Sunday as work-free days while the Islamic holy day, Friday is a normal working day, the use of the Gregorian Christian calendar for official business, Christian melody in the national anthem, the curriculum in most of Nigeria‟s educational institutions which they claim reflect and/or draw inspiration from Christian belief and the Christian cross as the symbol for health institution. On the other hand, Christian activists are concerned mainly with what they regard as the threat of the Islamization of the country and the imposition of the Sharia on Non-Muslims. The use of state resources to subsidize Islamic activities, in particular the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and the government take-over of missionary schools. Linked to these concerns is the tradition of Muslim political hegemony in the country and in the army. Christians worry that most regimes in the country‟s post-independence history have been dominated and led by northern Muslim politicians or military officers, (International IDEA, 2000). Also Elaigwu (1999) have outlined the series of violent religious incidents in the country. (see appendix ii)
The aforementioned chain of violent religious events in the country have much hampered social integration, economic and political development and above all nation building. Moreover, the local governments which is basically the grassroot level and where most of these violent crises do emanate and then transcend to the urban centers are mostly affected devastatingly as all ingredients needed for socio-economic and political development are dampened and vandalized, while confidence and mutual trust among people is eroded.
The fact that an average Nigerian is very religious was observed by some sources (Oluduro 2010:209; Ekundayo 2013:29). Religion plays a critical role in Nigerian society and has expressed itself as a potent force in the geopolitical development of the country. This force which has been used to unite Nigerians is the same force that has led to numerous conflicts in the country. Nigeria has been engulfed in numerous religious crises and/or conflicts between 1980 and 19941 (Warner 2012:38).
Due to their tendency to spread into other areas after an early stage in one area, ethno-religious conflicts have gained notoriety as the most violent crises in Nigeria. Most of these conflicts occur in the middle-belt and along the culturally borderline states of the predominantly Muslim North, and also take place between Hausa-Fulani groups and non-Muslim ethnic groups in the South (Osaghae and Suberu 2005:19). In conflicts of this nature occurring along the convergence of ethnic and religious lines, it is often very difficult to tell the differences between religious and ethnic crises because the dividing line between them is slimmer than thin. Examples of such ethno-religious conflicts are the Kafanchan-Kaduna crisis that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s, the Kaduna Sharia riots of 2000 and the Jos riots of 20012 (Osaghae and Suberu 2005:19). Several hundred lives were lost during the Kaduna crisis of 2000 and the Jos insurrection of 2001. The crises caused violent ripple effects that spread beyond Kaduna and Jos (Enukora 2005:633).
Other recent ethno-religious conflicts include the July 1999 conflict among the Oro cultists in Sagamu in Ogun state who claimed that the Hausa women had come outside when the cultists were outside with their gnome. The result were arguments that finally turned into a full-scale crisis. Many Yoruba and Hausa people were killed before a dusk to dawn curfew was imposed on the Sagamu town. Even as the infamy was being put under check in Sagamu, reprisal attacks continued in Kano, in Hausa city, leading to deaths and destruction of property worth billions of Naira (Kura 2010:33-34).
Another ethno-religious conflict that had far reaching impacts on the people of Nigeria was the October 2000 Lagos-Kano (Idi-Araba/Oko-Oba) conflict which was caused by a misperception between the Hausa inhabitants and the Yoruba living in Lagos over the use of a convenience by a man from Hausa. The mayhem resulted in the death of many Yoruba. As a consequence, the O’dua People Congress (a Yoruba militia) was formed and worsened the situation as the violence later spread southwards to Kano (Enukora 2005:633; Kura 2010:34).
Worse still, in September 2001, ethnic friction between the Tivs and the Iunkuns in the Plateau state reached fever pitch following what came to be referred to as ‘mistaken identity’. ‘What this means is that some Tivs took some nineteen soldiers to be Iunkuns in fake army uniform. The Tiv youths captured them and slaughtered them one by one’ (Kura 2010:34-35). And then the Nigerian army embarked on devastating reprisal attacks in Saki-Biam. According to some controversial numbers at least a hundred people died in the army attacks (Human Rights Watch 2001). Violence spread to Jos plateau especially after a Christian was appointed as a Local Council Chairman. By the time the menace was brought to a standstill, over 160 lives had been lost (Kura 2010:35).
1.9: Definition of Terms
Religious: Religion is a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.
Crisis: A crisis is any event that is going to lead to an unstable and dangerous situation affecting an individual, group, community, or whole society.
Ethnoreligious group: An ethnoreligious group is an ethnic group whose members are also unified by a common religious background.
Conflict: Conflict it implies clash of interest. The basis of conflict may vary but, it is always a part of society. Basis of conflict- personal, racial, class, caste, political and international. Conflict in groups often follows a specific course.

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