Journal of
Stellar Peacemaking

©2009 Journal of Stellar Peacemaking
Vol.4 No. 1, 2009




Lecturer, Department of Behavioral Studies
Redeemer’s University

Abstract block------The ‘amalgamation’ between different cultures, that combined diverse ethnic and religious groups in the northern and southern protectorates of Nigeria, mandated in 1914 by Lord Lugard is the bedrock of several conflicts that have been subsequently rocking the country. One outcome of the political ‘amalgamation’ has been continual inter-religious conflicts. The resultant lost in human and material resources from these crises has had multiplier effects on all facets of Nigeria’s development. This study describes the inter-religious conflicts, especially between followers of Islam and Christianity, and it identifies its political and economic antecedents. It then identifies initiatives for peaceful transformation of conflicts in the multi-faith and multi-ethnic regions that were the focus of the research.


The history of the people of Nigeria has been affected by a number of significant events and changes from outside the country and beyond the control of the people themselves. One of such events was the arrival of two western religions, Islam and Christianity. According to Gibbs (1966:324), Islam was introduced into Nigeria at about the 13th Century, which was initially confined to the cities. After the Fulani invasion of what were then referred to as Hausa states, Islam moved outside the cities and spread to many other places under the caliphate of Umar Alkhalihab (634- 644), who was said to be the second successor of Prophet Mohammed as the spiritual and political head of the Muslim community (Abdullah, 1995). Following the Jihad and the infiltration of the Fulani, Islam spread from the southwest region of Nigeria. Today, Islam affects the socio-political, economic, and educational activities of many people in Nigeria. The broad influence of Islam religion in Nigeria can not be quantified. In a similar way, the influence of Christianity in Nigeria dates back to the era of the slave trade. The church supported the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in several ways and the Spaniards justified their involvement in slavery by claiming that it was an opportunity to convert the “heathens” (Ajayi, 1965:156). After the imposition of colonization, it became possible for Christianity to consolidate this doctrine.

According to Akintayo (1971), impacts of Christianity have been directly reflected in current Nigerian cultural, economic, social, and political aspirations. Regardless of their freedom from political control by groups that imposed external religions, the people of Nigeria still embrace Islam and Christianity. While the northern section follows Islam with very few Christian exceptions, the southern region mainly practices Christianity, with some Muslims residents. For example, in the southwestern part of Nigeria, family ties and marriages allow people to maintain different faiths within a family or lineage. However, the co-existence of these two religions has not been without conflicts and challenges, especially in the northern part of the country where the majority of the population are Muslims.

While conflict is part of every human community, its nature and management determines its effects on the society as well as its resolution (Okunola, 1998). The continual ubiquitous inter- and intra-religious crises in Nigeria therefore call for further examination. For that purpose, this study of selected states in the north-central zone of Nigeria and its region of Lagos, which are the formal capital and the business hubs of the nation, re-assessed this ongoing social problem and possibilities for solutions to it. Analysis of the collected data collected reflected Lund’s curve of conflict, a vital tool that illustrates how conflicts tend to evolve over time, for conceptualizing how different phases of conflict relate to one another as well as associated kinds of third party intervention (United States Institute for Peace, 2000). This reveals the relationship between the Muslims and Christians in the selected region is divided into various phases of peace or conflict. Before the amalgamation, there was a durable peace; each region/protectorate practiced their spirituality, politics and cultures with their ethical norms. According to Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar; The Sultan of Sokoto (2007), ”in pointing out that conflict between Muslims and Christians was, until recently, a rare occurrence it is worth in Nigeria; further families especially in the southwest and the north central zones, harbour members of different religious affiliations who had co-existed and continue to co-exist in peace and harmony”. Peel (2000:89), aligned with the above statement by his contributions; “…the terrain of religious encounter of the protectorates, Nigeria was with a minor rift”. Within few years of amalgamation, there was a stable period when the colonial ‘masters’ dictated the pace of everything. The incursion of the military and politics of bitterness after the first republic, the drifting from a secular state to a partial Islamic state as well as the nation joining the Organizations of Islamic States have been antecedents of unstable peace in the country since 1983.

The Nigerian government has failed to address the real issues of inter-religious conflicts through traditional African norms or through interaction of contesting parties with civil society in mutually accommodating behaviors, such as debates and negotiations. Rather, the various military and military-in-civilian-clad government personnel of Nigeria, since the second republic to date, have had coercive behaviors such as ordering of ultimatums, sanctions and physical force by its various agents (Fwa, 2003; Kazah, 1995). According to the work of Muhammad and James, (1999:23); contrary to the stereotypes of it, the tenets of Islam advocate numerous nonviolent and peace building values, and consistently call Muslims to live by them. The Quran and Hadith stipulate vital values to every true Muslim which include: all humans are Gods creation, have sacred lives and thus are all equal (7:11), moreover; all Muslims are to respect and preserve human life (5:32). Islam equally calls for the quest for peace, which is a state of physical, mental, spiritual, and social harmony (5:64) Smock (2006:38). In addition, to Smock (opt.cit), Islam and Christianity share cultural roots, including a common commitment to peace. Husain Syed Sajjad (1979:133) in his own contributions quoted the Quran (2:285), “we do not distinguish between one prophet and another’. Peace-oriented teachings of Islam and Christianity include the Law of Moses in the Bible; Exodus 20:13;’ thou shall not kill’, and the focal point of Jesus preaching;’ love’ (Mt.5:44):’love your enemies’, and as recorded and buttressed by Paul, the Apostle in (1 Cor.13:13): ’love is supreme’. Despite these ideals set out for Muslims and Christians, various societal forces have rendered obstacles to their implementation. Among these is the cooptation of religious leaders by governments, which renders a lack of trust and credibility in religious leadership. Other challenges include corruption, patriarchal social structures, rigid social hierarchies, especially among the Muslims, economic dependence on the rich nations that dictate policies for their Third World allies, and other impediments to structural peace. With cognizance of the above and the findings through research reported here, the strengthening of the civil society’s ‘human side of peace and conflict’ is a must, needed and viable panacea.



Nigeria, a heterogeneous state comprised of several pluralities: principally ethnic and religious. Although the country is a federation, it is yet to find an enduring formula for peaceful coexistence of her more than 280 ethnic groups and different religious communities. According to Imobighe (2003), the root cause of the present phase of the ethno-religious conflict was the military government of Nigeria, which during January 1986 digressed from a secular state and took the controversial decision for Nigeria to join the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). This gave rise to the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to start vicious and emotional campaigns for and against the country’s membership in OIC.

While CAN (the representative of all Nigerian Christians) called on Christians to rise and resist what was tagged ‘the Nigeria march towards Islamisation’, powerful Muslim leaders sponsored demonstrations in favour of joining the organization. Big challenges loomed as those two religious groups sought support in their initiatives. The Muslims embarked on a propaganda campaign against the domination and marginalization by the ‘Christian minority’ of the ‘Muslim majority’, especially in Plateau State (Shendam and Yelwa Local government areas), (Muhammad and James, opt.cit:130). However, the United States Institute for Peace (Certificate course in Interfaith Conflict Resolution, 2009) and David Smock (2006:3) justified this claim with the teachings of Islam. According to the Quran, Islam does not permit the use of force. It forbids violence, except through a jihad, which is a struggle in the path of God. The exceptions to use of force are (1) when Muslims are not allowed to practice their faith, that is, when their freedom of religion is threatened and (2) when people are oppressed, subjugated and (3) when people’s land is forcibly taken from them. In these instances, Islam allows a range of responses. Quran (2:191) thence states that; “…and slay them wherever you find them and drive them out of ………; for persecution is worse than killing’, and in the other side (8:38); “tell those who disbelieve that if they cease persecution of believers that which is past will be forgiving them”.

Forthwith, both sides called on their faithful to rise in defense of their religious perversion ; the outcome was inter-religious conflict, especially in the northern region of the country. The notorious Maitatsine revolt of 1983 aligned with several other religious skirmishes around the nation. The various regimes in Nigeria since the incursion of the military to governance, under the pretence of a secular state, headed by Muslims or Christians, failed to resolved the matter amicably but severally have to suppressed many a conflict by force through its agents and no true and genuine mediation, negotiation and peaceful resolution thereby they watched religious hostility and hatred deepen in their society. The issue of Sharia law equally additionally aggravated intra- and inter-religion conflicts. According to Okonkwo (2008:3), “in case of Sharia law, I do not think it is very appropriate to practice a different law apart from the law in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. Nigeria as I know it is a secular state and as such no law of a particular region should super-impose that of the law of the land”.

The latest in the series of recent incidents of religious violence in Nigeria is that of Shira Yana in Bauchi State where about 1000 people were displaced, several critically wounded and reportedly, every church was destroyed (Christian Solidarity Worldwide, 2008) The violence was said to have erupted after a young Christian woman was accused of blaspheming against the prophet Mohammed.

Diversity of Nigeria

The Federal Republic of Nigeria is an embodiment of the Islamic tenet of ‘unity in diversity’. Its land areas span over six ecological zones ranging from the swampy coastal rain forest of the south to the semi-arid but fertile fringes of the north. Similarly, religion and more than 250 languages and dialects separate its over 100 million people yet: united by history, necessities, national aspirations, and developmental goals (Okunola, 1998 & Prescott, 1965). The following table shows how people of Nigeria are distributed around their faith.


Table 1.  Language and Religious Characteristics of Geo-Political Zones

Name of Zones Geo-Political Main Language Religious
Muslim Christian
1 South-West Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti Yoruba with several dialects Minority Majority
2 South-East Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra Igbo with several dialects Minority Majority
3 South-South
Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Bayelsa, Rivers
Edo, Izon, Igbo with several dialects Minority Majority
4 North-Central Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nassarawa, Niger, Plateau Hausa, Yoruba with several dialects Almost Equally Almost Equally
5 North-East Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, Yobe Hausa, Fulfulde with several dialects Majority Minority
6 North-West
Kaduna, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kano, Jigawa, Kebbi, Katisna
Hausa Majority Minority

Source: Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey, 2001(Okunola, 2007).


Different definitions of culture reflect different theoretical basis and criteria for evaluating human ability. For the purpose of this discussion, culture denotes the whole product of an individual, group or society of intelligent beings and includes technology, art, belief (religion), science as well as moral systems, the characteristic behavior and habits of the selected intelligence entities (Cornwell, 1989; Eck, 2002 & Stanley, 1996). The cultural diversity in Nigeria, which reflects the ways different ethnic groups encompass their religious beliefs and their inter-relationships with others serves as a pivot of ethnic and religious conflict in the country.


According to Robert, (2006:322), there are five main religions in the world. Amongst these; the Nigeria people embrace Islam and Christianity. Christianity originated about 35 C.E in what is now known as Israel (Ajayi, 1965; Asiwaju, 1976 & Otenaike, 2006). Jesus Christ, a Jew whose teachings are in Christianity, criticized Judaism in his life time for its conformity to tradition and rituals at the expense of developing a true relationship with God. After rejection of his ideas by Jews and others, he was persecuted and crucified.

In 312 C.E., according to Anwar (1981) and Bruce (1993), the Roman emperor converted to Christianity and subsequently turned Christianity into a state religion. Afterward, the church became the dominant institution in Europe. The first intra-conflict started when Martin Luther, a German priest, challenged the Christian establishment and this lead to the split of the church into Catholicism and Protestantism, that later split into Western and Eastern sects. Today there are hundreds of different protestant churches and other Christian denominations. Hence, the lingering intra-conflicts. Islam, according to Malinowski (1954) and Anwar (1981), originated about 600 C.E in what is now Saudi Arabia. Mohammed, who claimed he had visions from God, came in to pacify the political and economic crisis created by powerful merchants of Mecca and the fear that the Persian and Roman Empires might fall. Followers of Islam have five duties, including the recitation of the Muslim creed aloud and correctly during one’s lifetime, with full understanding and heartfelt belief. Mohammed’s teaching was written down in the Quran. An internal conflict occurred between the Sunni and the Shia Muslims over how the followers of Mohammed could identify his successor. Today, most Muslims are Sunni.


The struggle and crisis within and between the faiths started at the inception and on the application of the tenets of both religions. Traditionally, these two dominant religions supported gender inequality as well as class inequality, which became routines. Christianity promoted the view that the almighty ordained class inequality, promising rewards to the lowly in the after life; ‘the meek shall inherit the earth’ while women should keep quite in the church; let women learn in silence. (1 Tim. 2 verse 11) The Holy book of Islam, the Quran, says that ‘social inequality is due to the will of Allah’ (Iqbal 1971:156); hence ‘righteous women are devoutly obedient’. Modernization and globalization has, in many ways, shifted the hand of time, according to a renown artist, Dizzy – K in 1995, he said ‘religion na politics’, different social, economic and political programmes of government and awareness as a result of education has encouraged women to fight for women emancipation in and out of their faith, the result is intra and inter conflicts as against the norms of the various religions where women were required to be silence. Peel,(opt cit.311) posits that; the Yoruba, with the rest of southern Nigeria - now mainly Christian, with higher levels of education and wealth were especially alienated from a national power structure dominated by a military that was largely northerner and Muslim, hence women in all the faith want equal right, the result is conflict..


The objective of the study was to examine socio-political conflicts in Nigeria, specifically the history and consequences of the ubiquitous religious tensions in the nation. Included in the data was information about the Kaduna mayhem, the Sharia law in Zamfara State, its spread and the acute insecurity of the populations. It examined how Muslims and Christians perceived the formal approaches to conflict management and the role of civil society in peace building. In brief, the study documented positions, perceptions, and interests along with their influence in the conflicts.


The basic hypothesis of the study was that conflict and peace building in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic state is more highly correlated to state politics and its socio-economy policies than religion.

Theoretical Framework

There are several theories which this topic could build-upon for its springboard, but four relevant theories were touched. However, crosscutting cleavage is more admissible on inter religion and political conflict. On this note, the theoretical framework of the study anchored on cross cutting cleavage, which suggests that when individuals are cross-pressured by the simultaneous pull of competing and more or less equal salient loyalties, the resulting conflict is less intense and less politically destabilizing. Coinciding cleavages, by contrast, tend to polarize and inflame conflicts, (Diamond, 1980). Similarly; religion from a humanistic perspective is made for humanity as a way of modifying and putting a rein on its behavior. Man as a dynamic element in a dynamic society could not be described under a theoretical point of view. The functionalist theory of religion anchored on Emile Durkheim offered useful insights into the role of religion in society. Conflict and feminist theories provided criticism against it; the over emphasis of religion’s role in maintaining social cohesion, whereas it is a source of social conflict. Where religion does increases cohesion, it reinforces social inequality.


This study illuminated the nature of inter-religious conflict in a multi-religion and multi-ethnic state of Nigeria. Hence, the justification for an ethnographic and a descriptive survey design complemented with simple quantitative analysis.

Sample Size

With reference to Otenaike (opt.cit.113), churches and mosques are perhaps the only major association convening the entire life span of age strata, which are representative of the community and the larger society. Thus, churches and mosques provide a broader test of age-indexed effect than other educational, industrial, or political organizations. One thousand respondents made up of 500 Christians and 500 Muslims were randomly selected in a stratified location. The 500 Christians were randomly selected at the Holy Ghost monthly congress of the Redeemed Christian Church of God at the Redemption City where more than 3 million non-denominational Christian worshipers from all over the country congregated (Peel, opt.cit.314). The 500 Muslims were randomly selected at the Annual Muslim Awareness International (MAI) congress at Dawah Centre, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Lagos to mark the 2008 Aqsa Day on the 26th March 2008. More than 1.8 million Muslims from all over the Nation congregated at that event (Researcher’s personal experiences and observations coupled with the announcements of the various program organizers, January through June 2008).


About forty undergraduate students (made up of 20 students from the Redeemers University and 20 students from Lagos State University) were recruited during their mid-semester holiday to collect required data in the identified locations. Ten simple and concise parallel questionnaires were drawn; complemented with structured interviews conducted by the researcher and colleagues. Biodata, socio-economic and political information of the respondents were not required.

The Likert scale with four ratings columns were used and results drawn in simple percentages and graphs. The questionnaire instrument was designed to cover the incipient of the conflict, the assessment of the organization of civil society, determine the involvement of the populace in the conflict, and understanding the living/socio-economic conditions of the citizens as societal participation in a peace process can include many different activities and degrees of engagement. More simply, the instrument included four conflict constructs of (a) causes, (b) effects, (c) resolutions, and (d) suggestions.

Procedure and Analysis

According to Ukiwo Ukoha (2007), anti-social behaviors are usually hidden. To get authentic information and reliable data on inter-religious conflict, one need to ask participants questions, watch them or join them. The study design was multifaceted. Selection of respondents to the questionnaire was random and there was no sex, age, socio-economic or political consideration. The 500 Muslims respondents were drawn in a Muslim environment (Congress 2008: The Aqsa Day). The 500 Christians were in a Christian environment and congress: the monthly Holy Ghost Congress of the Redeemers Christian Organization. However, the interviews was structured and directed to religious leaders. That included congress officials, titleholders, youth, and woman leaders who were deeply involved and current on the happenings in their various religions.

In analyzing the data from the questionnaire, counting and percentages were employed which were in some cases cumulated for grouping and rank order. The rank order formed a rank coefficient and a strategy analogous to the Likert method was used. For simplicity, respondents were asked to rank an issue as very important, important, not important, etc with a weight of 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. These were cumulated after cross-multiplication and a mean derived. The means become the rank coefficient (R). Defined mathematically as R ={r! n!}/N. This statistical method may seem rudimentary. However, they were adequate of the data under consideration as non-probability design.

Data Analyses

Table 2: Marital Status of Respondents

Marital Status
The Christian
Muslim respondents


No response

Table: 3. Sexual Characteristics of the Respondents

Hausa         Fulani

Table 4: Religious Affiliation of Respondent on Ethnic Basis

Religious Affiliation Yoruba Ethnic Group Igbo Ethnic Group Hausa/Fulani Ethnic Group
Freq % Freq % Freq %
Christianity 306 60.0 201 52.9 01 0.9
Muslim 200 39.2 172 45.3 106 96.4
African Traditional Practitioners 01 0.2 02 0.5 0 0
Others 02 0.4 02 0.5 0 0
No response 01 0.2 03 0.8 03 2.7
Total 510 100 380 100 110 100

Grand Total = 1000

The questionnaire was designed to cover four specific areas considering, the situation of the respondents in a congress environment. This area includes causes and history of religious conflicts, effects of the conflict, resolution efforts, and suggestion for better management/alternatives to conflicts.

Table 5: Christian Respondent to the Central Questions

S/N Responses Frequency %
1. Causes and History
(a)Organization of the Islam conference (OIC) issues of 1986.

(b)Sharia issue of 2000







2. Effects of the Conflict
(a)Destruction of many properties, churches and mosque inclusive.

(b)Lost of lives.

(c)People dislocation






3. Resolution of Conflict by
(a)Government (either Federal, State or Local)

(b)Non-Governmental Agencies

(c)Civil Society/others465






4. Suggestion for better management of Religions Conflict
(a)Civil Society


(c)Emirs, Chiefs and Opinion leaders485








Table 6: Muslim Respondents to the Core Questions

S/N Responses Frequency %
1. Causes and History:
(a)Organization of the Islam Conference (OIC) Issues of 1986.

(b)Sharia Law of 2000







2. Effects of the Conflict:
(a)Destruction of many properties, Mosque and Churches inclusive.

(b)Lost of lives

(c)People dislocation






3. Resolution of Conflict by
(a)Government (either Federal, State, Local)

(b)Non-Governmental Agencies

(c)Civil Society/others






4. Suggestion for better management of Religious Conflict:
(a)Civil Society


(c)Emirs, Chiefs and Opinion Leaders









The result of the survey as analyzed in Tables 2 to 6 indicated that great percentage of Muslims and Christian had similar views and opinions about the ubiquitous religious conflict in the country. The main contentious issues in the conflict were the use of Sharia law and intolerance. Although a great percentage of Christians insisted that the military’s controversial decision for Nigeria to join the organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) was a major cause of the current conflict.

The next most important issue was the effect of the conflict. There were no claims and counter claims by each group as they both agreed that the effects of the crises/conflicts were very devastating to lives and properties. They all were victims with lives lost, churches and mosque destroyed, and some law enforcement agents even lost their lives. “It is an ill wind”. The socio-economic wellbeing of the people was equally affected since both producer and consumers were involved. Another-prominent question was the methods of conflict resolution. Respondents of both religions agreed on the part played by the government and its agents, as in the case of the OIC and the use of Sharia law.

The Government of Zamfara State was the first to introduce the Sharia law to the legal system of the Zamfara before being adopted by other Northern State government. The influence of the government in either to make or resolved conflict cannot be taken for granted, it is crucial for all parties to decry the molestation received from security agencies, such as Police, Mobile Police and Soldiers sent to quell the crisis. Women and children were worse off since children were vulnerable; displacement was a serious problem to families in both faiths (Abdu, 2000).

On this backdrop, the issue of management and resolutions became so paramount among the two dominant religions, the government, and civil society. The recurrence of this crisis since a long time showed that the efforts of government have failed to achieve a long-lasting solution (Makerfi, 2000). Not withstanding, the two groups still admit the influence of government in minimizing or aggravating conflict. Who will peacefully and successfully resolve any other religious conflict becomes an issue with the two groups, as people daily lose confidence in the ability of the government , whether civilian or military and their agents.

The presence of law enforcement agents, police and the like portends another season of harassment and molestation of people. However, the responses of the respondent for suggestions for better management and resolution of conflict are partially the same. While about 97 percent of the Christian respondents suggested civil society, 99.25 of the Muslim respondents as well corroborated this view; that which indicated the failure on the part of government to resolve several ethno-religious crisis in several areas of the country or even proffered a lasting solutions as such ;crisis keep re-occurring in the country It was generally agreed that government only suppresses conflict by drafting police, mobile police and even soldiers when such a situation arises, but actual resolutions are abandoned and forgotten. The implication is that resolutions through suppression that are not followed up by actual and intense negotiation and conciliation by the parties, Christians and Moslems in one hand and the mediator in another, are bound to fail. However, despite all odds against the government in resolving the series of conflict in Nigeria permanently, the opinion of the respondents marked, Emirs, Chiefs and Opinion leaders as alternation or next to civil society in having a fair and appreciated solution to religion-based conflict in Nigeria.

Responding to Conflict: African Traditions

The place of traditional institutions in Africa, especially in Nigeria, in resolving conflict, crisis, and other social problems from the family to the whole community should not be over looked.

The institution of Obas in the southwest, Emirs in the northern region, Obis in the southeast and Obongs in calabar; and other prominent Chiefs as ordained by several ethics, values, norms and mores of different ethnic groups in Nigeria was such that; the institution had power over life and death over the entire citizen in their various domains. These traditional rulers and their chiefs handled large and difficult problems in their various jurisdictions. They managed several rifts, schisms and any other types of conflicts. If any person or group disagreed or riot with the verdicts of the Obas or Obas-in-Council; such group or individual could be banished from the kingdom, chiefdom, or territory sometimes exiled, which motivated cooperation within their sphere of influence.

The involvement of the colonial administration ushered in a new dimension. The institutions of Obaship were relegated and suppressed; their power and their ability to influence politics and civil society were seriously reduced. The colonials operated as local power brokers until the various countries of African achieved independence from that imposed rule. The introduction of democratic governance in new countries of Africa shifted power to elected executives. Subsequently, the judiciary has taken over power from the former institutions. Since the judiciary in Nigeria is anchored to politics, they are severally biased. The African people have realized the importance of the traditional institutions and the part of the civil society in supporting justice and resolving schisms.


According to Okonkwo, J.C. (2008:6), ignorance/illiteracy was and still is at the centre core of many conflicts in Nigeria, he lamented, “it is a pity that Nigerians cannot co-exist just because of religion; sometimes I tend to think that it is because of illiteracy and lack of exposure, otherwise nothing can come between two brothers to an extent of killing each other”. In The Nation, Muhammad (opt.cit: 36) revealed the causes and consequences of various ethno-religious conflicts in the Northern grid of the country from the 1980s onward. In his own opinion, a serious Muslim-Christian conflict with pan-regional implications came to the fore only in the late 1980s and early 1990s, that was evident in the Kafanchan and Zangon-kataf religious crisis and others. Considering the Okonkwo and Abubakar observations, it is clear that there were growing religious activities and consciousness in Nigeria. The proliferation of mosques and churches, along with the intensification of mass religious activities, facilitated by ease of mobility and by mobilization that brought religious identity into the forefront, were pivotal to religious diverges and their consequences.

The challenges to peace-building in a multi religious state should, unlike the previous campaigns, emphasize form and procedure. The focus should be shifted on personal and community value, which should foster mutual co-existence, tolerance, and understanding among the various religious groups in Nigeria.

There is the urgent need for building a type of study-bridge of understanding and tolerance between Islam and Christianity in one hand, along with Muslim and Christian Communities in Nigeria on the other hand. Inter-religious dialogue and negotiation is paramount and should be sustained. Such activities can be handled by civil society involving the apex religious organization, their significant strata, chiefs, imams and opinion leaders as identified in this study.

Another problem to solve is the influence of the Nigerian politicians because of the high level of illiteracy, especially among the northerners. With the unemployment and poverty level among Nigerians, and where equity and fairness are out of focus, the politicians usually fan the embers of religious and ethnic hatred to score a chance for an elective post, not minding the post consequences. Viable are severe sanctions for such exploitation.

The issue and fight against poverty and want, especially in the northern states as well as throughout Nigeria, is gradually becoming a global issue. According to the Central Bank of Nigeria reports (The Nation, November 16, 2007), Jigawa (95%) was the worst hit while the national poverty level stood at 54%, the North East Zone recorded 72.2%, the North West Zone 71.1% and the Central 67%. This phenomenon coupled with youth unemployment resulted with a ready avenue for the politician recruitment of thugs and breeding grounds for hoodlums. The government has much responsibility with this problem.

The impact of the civil society (those organizations formal and informal), i.e. such organizations emerged in response to the exigencies of survival under predatory authoritarian regimes, cannot be underrated. The influence of the Northern Traditional Rulers Council (NTRC) at the regional level, the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) at the institutional level, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have in various ways contributed to the realization of the laudable goals of peace building and national development.


Traces of solidarity were reflected in the comments of the Sultan of Sokoto (Muhammad 2007, opt.cit). For example, he has stated “When I became the Sultan of Sokoto last year (2006), one of the first groups to travel to Sokoto to congratulate me was the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria. I was highly gratified by this kind gesture.” (The Nation, Nov.16, 2007:36). Giwa Tinu (2005:163) reported in his work that tenets of all religions posited a peaceful co-existence as the most importantly that Jesus (AS) also occupies a special place in Islamic Doctrine and Eschatology and one cannot be a true Muslim without believing in the Prophet-hood of Isa (AS). Moreover, permission granted to Muslims to marry from the Ahl al-kitab (people of the book) and partake of their food, are further proofs of Islam’s goal in establishing harmonious Muslim-Christian relations based on tolerance and mutual respect. To Iqbal (1971:115); the Hadith, the Prophet saying that; every child is born a Muslim, it is his or her parents who turn him or her into a Christian or a Jew or an atheist.

In any human endeavors, there is usually an in-built defense mechanism. The main inter-religious conflicts in Nigeria were not at any time caused by what the people perceived as the ‘faithful’. This study revealed that; the issue of OIC, the adoption of Sharia law in some states of the federation leading to division or unity depending on the groups or issues involved, the poverty level, youth unemployment and exploitations by the politicians of people in poverty were the sources of several faith-associated crises.

On this backdrop, a peace, non-violence, and conflict-management project involving the government and the civil society would be a panacea while the development of specialized conflict management and peace building should be encouraged. Urgent action should be taken by the government to strengthen the civil society (emirs, chiefs and opinion leaders), educate the people, support mediation efforts, create job opportunities for the unemployed, improve the poverty alleviation programs and encourage local participation in governance with equity and fairness. On this note, both inter and intra-religious conflicts would be transformed as peace developments.

Suggestions and Recommendations

Recommended as an outcome of research is dialogue and consultation on a continuous and inclusive basis with all stakeholders at all levels of society about the ways through which the issues of inter-faith can be constructively transformed and resolved to bring about durable peace.

Looking at the work of Muhammad Ashafa and Wuye James (opt.cit:13); The Pastor and the Imam and as reflected in the United States Institute for Peace (2009), they have developed a very effective technique of meeting separately with Christian and Muslim participants before bringing them together. One would have to suggest the place of interfaith dialogue in settling very many inter-religion conflicts. Interfaith dialogue is seen as more than conversation because it generates deep-held emotions. In that process it affects the very depths of peoples’ hearts. Secondly, we could still use the Abrahamic traditions of monotheism with faith in a divine being that allows members of these religions to dialogue about their common histories, theologies and sacred texts. Thirdly, the involvement of civil society and its prominent members in solving issues is very important. For example, the first premier of northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, who addressed the first Nigerian President, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe said: “Let us forget our differences. No, let us understand our differences. I am a Muslim and a Northerner. You are a Christian and a Southerner. By understanding our differences, we can build unity in our country; Nigeria.” (Muhammad and Wuye, opt.cit :13). The statement speaks for itself. Dialogue, involving the civil society and opinion leaders is viable for transformation of inter-religious conflict around the world and interfaith solidarity.



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Dr John Lola Okunola is a lecturer and peace advocate in Nigeria. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology (with a cognate of Social Change and Development) as well as Certificates in Conflict Resolution from United States Institute for Peace and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (Programme of Correspondence Instruction). He is a Council member of International Peace Research Association. In addition, he is an Executive member of African Peace Research and Education Association.




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