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Religion and Politics in Nigeria

By Emma Okocha
The British under Lugard perceived the north as the location of the superior race. Islamic religion of the so called finer race was a better regarded form of paganism  than the fetish practices of the savage south.

It was also clear that lugard decided to withdraw to Kaduna so as to “escape the political stress center of Lagos, that was clearly too turbulent for him in “1914”.

The Indirect Rule administrative policy adopted in the north was to maintain, strengthen and educate the Fulani and Kanembu ruling race, so that the regeneration of Nigeria may be through its own governing clan and its own indigenous institutions.

Christianity and Islam in the Period of Amalgamation

Ideally, the Amalgamation would not have taken place nut for its financial implication.  Lugard’s own appreciation of the situation was summarized thus; the ‘necessity for amalgamation under the two headings of finance and railways.

Not only had the northern protectorate been running at a substantial operating loss – in itself a direct contradictions of one of the traditional British colonial maxims that every territory must be self – supporting – but its treasury had been sub vented by heavy grants In aid from both Great Britain and the southern protectorate.

At this time, the prosperity of the south was increasing rapidly thanks to the high duties imposed on liquor imports.  Such source of revenue was unknown to the Moslem north. As Crowther observed, “the Noorthen line from Baro to Minna was built with funds diverted from the revenue of the southern protectorate.”

The Hausa/Fulani Factor: Muslim Agenda

Enwerem in his book, ‘A Dangerous Awakening,’ ‘while the southern politicians saw independence as an opportunity to have a Nigeria ruled by Nigerians, the members of Hausa/ Fulani ruling class saw  it in the same way but with but by those belonging to, or approved by the Hausa/Fulani Islamic ruling class.’

Religion is an ideology, and like every ideology, it can be characterized eihter as a place or tool.  The Hausa/Fulani ruling class not only used Islam as an ideology, but they also mastered the game of politics, because when it was time to settle for politics in the First, Second or Third Republics and various military administrations, they played the game better than other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.

Hassan Kukah in his book, ‘Religion Politics and power in Northern Nigeria,’ maintained that he Hausa/ Fulani game of politics is however characterized by intrigues, manipulations and ad hoc alliances.  A game in which the northern ruling class could neither be challenged, shaken or threaten.

According to Enwerem, ‘the maintenance of this dominace has been made possible largely through ecumenical politics and the apparently natural ability of the Hausa/ Fulani Islamic class to refine without sacrificing their overall interest.

It must be remembered that after the coup of Major Nzeogwu and its apparent ‘success’ in January 1966 followed with the installation of Aguiyi-Ironsi as Head Of State, it was the Hausa/ Fulani ruling class that went round to instigate the northern soldiers who were mainly Christians of the Middle Belt to stage the counter coup of July 1966, that saw Yakubu Gowon as Head of State.

The Hausa/Fulani ruling class effectively used Gowon to continue the progation of Islam, when Nigeria joined the Organization of Islamic Countries i.e. (OIC), on an observer status, to take over mission schools and hospitals by government in order to slow down the growth of Christianity and introduce quota system.

The effect of these policies was that the Hausa/ Fulani Muslims benefited more than any other group in the country.  Some Christian schools were even given Muslim names.


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