The Politicization Of Religion In Northern Nigeria And Its Effects On The Nigeria Federalism

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This project is basically on the politicization of religion in Northern Nigeria and its effects on the Nigerian federalism.

The essence of this study is to look at how religion is politicized in Nigeria and suggests possible ways of resolving its attendants problems on Nigerian federalism.

The study is carried out using both the primary and secondary data methods, where questionnaire is used to sample the views of the people in the society, particularly those in Northern parts of the country on issues of religion politicization.

It was however gathered that quest for money, position, and influence are the root cause of religion politicization.

Also, its effect on Nigerian federalism is severe as it generates no small amount of riots and communal clashes in the country.

It is however deduced from this study that religion politicization though very common in the north, but can still be curved through proper orientation of the public, particularly the clergy persons in the region.

More importantly, it is also gathered that with time, as a result of globalization, rely on politicization would be a tuning of the past in the country.


Title Page

Table of Contents




1.1    Statement of the Problem

1.2    Objectives of the Study

1.3    Research Hypotheses

1.4    Significance of the Study

1.5    Scope and Limitation of the Study

1.6    Organization of Study


Literature Review and Theoretical Framework

2.1    Theoretical Framework

2.2    Analysis of Elites in Nigerian Politics

2.3    Historical Foundation of Religion in Nigeria Politic

2.4    Politicization of Religion in Nigeria: The Genesis

2.5    The Strategy of the North


3.1    Research Design

3.2    Research Methodology

3.3    Questionnaire Design

3.4    Sample Size and Sampling Techniques

3.5    Data Collection and Data Collection Instrument

3.6    Method of Data Analysis

3.7    Test Instrument (The Hypothesis)

3.8    Population of the Study


Data Analysis and Interpretation


Summary, Recommendation and Conclusion

5.1    Summary

5.2    Recommendation

5.3    Conclusion





Before Nigeria became independent on October 1, I960, the nation went through a long period of colonial administration.

This, what is today known as Nigeria was actually a large vast of land consisting of various indigenous political systems. In the northern part of the country, there were the Hausa – Fulam Caliphate, the Kanem-Bornu Empire, the Nupe Empire system and a host of others. In the south were the Benin Kingdom, the Yoruba and / or Oyo Empire, the Ibo acephalous society among others.

Before the series of amalgamation that followed the advent of colonialism, there was already in the northern part a hitherto strong political organization of the whole north sequel to the 1804 Islamic Jihad of Uthman Dan Fodio. It was thus well-organized northern Nigeria that the colonialist imposed their indirect rule system.

The casual relationship between the colonial mind-set and Darwinism is skewed to Plato’s philosophy of education and statecraft. For instance, just as Plato calls for a class based education for a class structured society where individuals must aspire to remain in the proscribed class, the educational policy of the colonial state was similarly structured and intended.

Rather, it was against any form of education, Muslim and Christian alike, not seared towards the realization of the colonial state’s agenda. Hence, the colonial state neither destroyed nor developed the Islamic education system, though it appropriated the cultural and socio-political ethos of the Islamic faith it met in Nigeria to serve its interest. Similarly, the colonial state neither destroyed the Christian missions in Nigeria nor spread them from constrictions even though the state, to sustain itself, relied heavily on the services of the products of the Christian educational system. In place of both the Islamic and the Christian educational systems, the colonial state initiated a secularized system of education. It was secularized mainly because religion was made an appendage – something merely recognized ‘some what tardily’ – rather than the nub of colonial state’s educational policy2.

By the time Lord Lugard left Nigeria in 1918, the secularized educational policy of the colonial state and its antecedents,  the  Indirect  Rule  policy  and  the   1914 amalgamation of Nigeria, were already firmly established. So too was the administrative division of the country into three unequal groups of provinces. This was to the advantage of the favoured.

Islamic North in comparison with its Western and Eastern counterparts in the Christian South.

By the mid-1930s and the 1940s the colonial system become firmly consolidated. Given the largest minimum in contact between the different parts of the country, especially between the North and the South. It was not surprising that the colonial system spawned in the religious and socio-political life of the country animosity, suspicion and all sorts of divisive practices. For instance in the North, the Northern indigenous Christian were perceived as posing political threat to the Fulani- Islamic hegemony.

From the point of view of national politics, the colon nil administration in the North, unlike that in the South, had congealed into what came to be known as the ‘Northern Systems,, that is the Anglo- Hausa-Fulani Islamic Hegemony.

The Governor, Sir Donald Cameron (1931-1935), in the trace of shift opposition from the Northern Residents, was so unimpressed by the system that he described the Region as:

….The sacred North, a land apart, suspended in place and time… (which)… held up development in the Region and kept it in an exotic back water, attractive to its

British    protectors but administratively ineffective corrupt, and insensitive to the needs of its own peoples especially the non-Muslim and non-Northerners3.

With the successful implantation and consolidation of the Northern system, Christian missions had to find away to survive in a hostile environment part of their survival mechanism was to undertake ecumenical meeting either to counter the restriction imposed on the missions by Indirect Rule Policy or to see revenues of compromise with the colonial administration. This led to the establishment of the Northern Christian movement. With perceived feelings of strength the mission decided to make to way into the political terrain like their Muslim counterparts.

Suffice it to say that many years after independence, religion has determined political victories and decisions in the Northern part of the country. The heat this has generated and attendant effect on the nation’s federalism stimulates intellectual investigation such as this.


Political pundits have always opined that political developments in Nigeria have historical and colonial under pinning’. This statement is an incontrovertible fact. The issue of the politicization in Northern Nigeria in particular and the nation in general is one of them. From the colonial days although the formation of the Jamia Islamiya Mautaneen Arewa (JIMA) which was formed and led by Dr. R. A.B. Dikko a Christian) which later became Northern People’s Congress and was hijacked by the Northern oligarchy, religion has been politicized by politicians in Northern Nigeria to score political goals. This is because religion appeals to the emotion and psychology of the people and spurs various reactions usually violent reactions as seen in the various riots like the Sharia riot that had to do with religion in Northern part of the country.

Religious riots have often threatened the foundation of Nigerian unity such occasions have been followed by calls for the victims of such riots to come back to their home, where they can’t be assured of their protection and safety. This has implications national integration. There are clear indications that religion will in the near future play a dominant role in the election of appointment of political leaders from that part of the country.

What is the effect of politicized religion on the nation’s federalism in general and Northern Nigeria in particular? This is what this project tends to unravel.


1.           To identify the immediate and remote causes of the politicization of religion in Northern Nigeria.

2.           To identify the implications of this development oil the Nigerians federalism.

3.           To examine to what extent this phenomenon has undermined national integration and unity in Nigeria.

4.           To proffer possible solution and make recommendation to government.


To guide this study, the following hypotheses have been formulated for testing:

1.           That politicization of religion is likely to lead to disunity.

2.           The politicization of religion will undermine the principle of federalism.

3.           Politicization of religion will result in violent re-action in the Northern area of Nigeria.


The significance of the study cannot be over-emphasized, especially now that there is a nascent democracy and government is looking for ways to promoting things that unite the country and discontinue those that tend to divide it.

The significance of this study is as follow:

Firstly, it would provide an insight into the role that religious is playing in Nigeria politics.

Secondly, it is hoped that the study would provide the Nigerian leaders with enough information that will guide them in formulation that will guide them in formulating policies in the areas of religion and the state.

Thirdly, the study will go a long way in changing the orientation of the people with respect to the negative perception of religion in politics. Such understanding it is expected would help to engender the spirit of tolerance and accommodation among the people of diverse religion.

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