There has been this argument as to whether Nigeria is a secular or non-secular state, religious or non- religious Nation. A secular state is a state which purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion A secular state also claims to treat all its citizens equally regardless of religion and claims to avoid preferential treatment for a citizen from a particular religion/non religion over other religions/ non religion. Secular states do not have a state religion.
Some states become secular upon creation of the state, for example the USA or upon secularization of the state (e.g. France & Nepal). Historically, the process of secularizing states, typically involves granting religious freedoms, disestablishing state religion, stopping public funds being used for religion, freeing the legal system from religious control, freeing up educational system, tolerating citizens who change religion or abstain from religion and allowing political leadership to come to power, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Ordinarily secular means worldly, non religious or not spiritual while non-secular will then refer to be spiritual or religious. But it does not always work out that way in real practice. Some non-secular states actually do not subscribe to any spirituality. Indeed some of the greatest atheist Nations are regarded as non- secular, such states as China, Japan, Czech Republic, France, Australia and Iceland. But many non-secular states truly have state religions- that is they recognize a special religion in their constitution. Some Christian Nations include Costa Rica, Malta, Monaco, Vatican City (Catholicism); England, Jersey & Tuvalu (Anglicanism ); Denmark, Norway, Greenland, Finland (Lutheranism). Zambia is one of the few Christian States in Africa. Many of the predominantly Muslim-dominated states have Islam as the official state religion, countries such as Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh,Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Pakistan and Morocco. Some other States have Buddhism or Hinduism as their state religion. Some Countries have transformed political ideology into some kind of religion. China in the days of Mao Zedong and North Korea even as at today adopt their political ideology as religion and very much resist any true religious influence.
So what is Nigeria - secular on non-secular? My answer is both. Secular because, Nigerian constitution does not recognize any official religion yet, some states in Nigeria have adopted the Sharia legal system. It is also non-secular, because Nigeria as a Country invests in religious activities and is essentially a religious Nation. Every year the tax payers money is spent to pay for or subsidize religious trips to Israel and Mecca called pilgrimage. The government of Nigeria funds the offices that organize the pilgrimages and governments - at all levels, donate money directly to religious bodies and for religious purposes. Is Nigeria religious or non-religious. The answer as shown above is affirmative. The Country is not only religious, it is essentially multi-religious. It officially allows freedom of religion or worship and often starts many official functions with prayers. The second verse of the National anthem is actually a prayer. But certain sects have developed in Nigeria overtime that have tended to abridge the freedom or rights of other religious adherents. The current Boko Haram insurgents first fought against the Christian Churches, claiming that western education was bad, which of course has the Christian imprint, before turning full circle to fight those who they believed did not practice their model of Islam.
That Nigeria is a deeply religious Country is well established and well expressed. Truly I believe that Nigeria is among the most religious Nations in the whole world. It is believed that Nigeria has the highest number of church denominations and highest number of Churches in the World. I may not speak authoritatively for Islam but I can see mosques everywhere more that I see in many of the Nations that I have visited. I have not visited Saudi Arabia but I am prepared to place a bet that there are more mosques in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia. Even in the Traditional religious practices, every hamlet in Nigeria has shrines and coves where Traditional worship takes place. At some point, especially in my part of the Country, there was a time it looked like Christian Religion was displacing Traditional religion but there has a recent resurgence in Traditional worship centers and even some so called Christians who are “tired” of waiting for God to act now take their matters to deities and shrines. 
Now my question is, has religion helped the growth and development of Nigeria? Indeed has it helped the growth and development of other Countries? One way to begin to address this question is to see if there is any difference in the rate of growth of religious Nations- where religion is practiced and those Nations that prohibit or limit freedom of worship. America, Israel, Germany, Norway, Denmark and the UK are good examples of where liberal Christian religion is fundamental to their way of life, though many now have growing populations of Muslims and Asian religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Shintoism. These countries represent the gold standard in economic growth and development. There is ample evidence that their religious practices have been positive to their economic growth and orderly development of their societies. You can say similar things about Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Dubai, Turkey, Egypt and a few of such countries that have adopted Islam as state religion, even within the context of belonging largely to developing Nations categorization. Countries with restricted religious freedom like Russia, Japan and China have shown mixed results. Japan had delayed economic  growth but shot up in the 20th century with massive technological breakthroughs. Russia has been mixed. It has not shone forth like other countries of its age. Communism which was a political ideology that more or less replaced religion for a longtime in my opinion may have undermined economic growth and development. The low pace of economic development in North Korea as different from the exceptionally rapid growth in South Korea (with one of the largest Churches in the World) may derive in some part from their opposing religious orientations. One area of clear distinction in my view is that those countries that allowed religious freedoms have a higher moral tone and overall better quality of life. Though China has become a recent economic miracle, its economic liberalization which mimicked the western course of development, happened because of toning down of communism and some better religious tolerance. The violence predominant in the Middle East and the terror that have been exported from that axis-  Osama Bin Ladan’s  Al-Qaeda,  and its metamorphosis -ISIS May be difficult to explain along religious lines. But there is no gain saying that there is some impact of religion, perhaps misguided extremist religious ideologies that say that God would reward any one who kills in His defence, such as has been exported to Somalia’s Al-Shabab and West Africa’s Boko haram.
In Nigeria, there is certainly no gain saying that the multi-religious practices in Nigeria have played more positive roles in its growth and development than the negative consequences of some of the religious practices. 
That is to say that in my view religion has helped the growth and development of Nigeria. Early education in Nigeria was influenced by both Christian and Islamic religions. Many of the Mission Schools and healthcare centers in Nigeria established by the missionaries especially the Christian genre provided much of the educational and healthcare needs of Nigerians in the years after independence. And even today, they still represent the gold standards as Nigerian governments with few exceptions over the years haven shown a chronic inability to provide or manage efficiently public educational and health institutions. 
The major paradox  in Nigeria is that it looks like the more religious institutions we build in Nigeria, the more denominations and sects we create, the worse we become morally. 
Corruption in Nigeria, for example, which is preached against by most (if not all) religious groups, seems to be growing in tandem with our religious expansion. And endemic corruption has severely compromised Nigeria’s growth and development. Violence and all forms of criminality have been growing as our churches and mosques grow. Poor work-ethic and consequent low productivity continue to doug our economic land space. Poor governance and poverty have increased along the same scale as the growth in worship centers in Nigeria. In fact in Nigeria, people are now stealing and killing in the name of their “gods”. This development has led many to begin to query the impact of religion on our moral tone and economic well being. They seem to be pointing to atheistic Nations as Japan, China and Australia as having better moral tone and registering better growth and development than Nigeria where most people practice one form of Religion or another.
As I was discussing this bewildering situation over this week end with a friend of mine, he raised two reasons why he thinks  religion is not making as much positive impact as it made in the colonial or immediate post colonial eras in Nigeria. First is, that many false religions or false variants of true religions have proliferated in Nigeria in the guise of freedom of worship. The prayers and activities of these false religions are cancelling out or neutralizing the effect of the true religious groups . The second is that chronic poor governance in Nigeria has driven many Nigerians into poverty and the only religion that interests many now is the religion of  stomach infrastructure” and many Nigerians are now compelled to worship any ‘ god’ that will guarantee regular meals. So how do we deal with these two problems? For the first one, he suggested vigilance and some form of censorship by the major religious groups. Which is to say that CAN for example should find ways to expose the false prophets and the lions in sheep’s clothing within the Christian religious groups while the JNI should do same for Muslim religious groups. What of the Traditional religious groups? He could proffer no solution. Should we set up a religious control body in the nature of NAFDAC to rout out fake prophets or fake or false churches and mosques? He said that would create more problems than it can solve! On the second issue, he said that the answer was that Nigerians should vote in responsible leadership in the forthcoming elections. If poverty decreased many will not fall prey to magicians and necromancers who parade as religious people. Or are they? In response, I told him that the way out was to stop religious proliferation - People searching for God and in the process clutching at anything that pretends to be “God” and to begin a culture of people responding to the call of God. God is calling man to repentance and a new relationship. That to me is the true religion which will help change things for Nigeria.

Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR, FPSN


  1. You just hit the nail on the head sir. If we can decrease poverty, I believe every other thing will fall into place


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This has led many Nigerians to allow the local and State governments get away with With 'blue murder' while holding only the federal government to account,even if feebly. While it is justifiable to blame government for poor infrastructure, poor education, poor healthcare, high unemployment, high insecurity, and even for hunger, corruption and traffic hold ups, it is beginning to look to me that this is an orchestrated ploy by some Nigerians to take a permanent flight from being held responsible for our individual and group conducts. In the first place, the governments we blame so frequently for failing us are run by Nigerians. Indeed the irony is that some of those who blame government for everything are in government themselves! Sometimes, it looks like that there is a mystery man called 'government'. But no, government is no mystery man, but a collection of persons who are first citizens and who run the government on behalf of and for the good of all the citizens. 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Some how, you get the impression that the President or the State Governor alone is the government and everybody else is either the governed, observer, bystander, supporter,complainant or critic. Perhaps this may explain why there is a woeful failure of the"government " to satisfy the expectations of Nigerians. It is practically impossible for only the President to satisfy the 170 million Nigerians or the Governor to satisfy all the over 12 million people in Lagos for example. Everywhere you go,you meet people who work in the government institutions who act as if they care very little about the success or citizen perception of the government they serve in. When you complain about the poor service you are getting,the same people who are part or agents of the government turn around to blame the 'government', absolving themselves of any blame and often the complaining citizen seems to either agree or empathize with the government employee that the problem is with the mystery ' Mr Government ' Early this year, I wanted to make a trip to the United Kingdom and applied for the UK Visa. Few days after submitting my visa application, I received a call from the British Embassy that there was no space left in my passport to affix the visa. I quickly collected my passport and ran to the passport office in Ikoyi Lagos to get a new one. It took me six visits to the passport office over a period of six weeks to collect a new passport.Reasons ranged from missing file to long queues, mismatch of finger prints, the absence of the engineer and late approval from Abuja. It was an ordeal. Mean while I missed the trip to the Uk and was almost missing a trip to the USA because my subsisting US visa was in my old passport which had been 'quarantined' in the passport office. At the end of this rigmarole I was still expected to show 'gratitude' In August last year, I went to renew my driving license and I was told to fill out forms and make payments. Thereafter I was asked to come back one year after in July this year at the FRSC camp in Ojodu, Lagos for what they called 'capture'. I wondered why it would take a year to come for the 'capture'. I was told that many people were on the queue and their 'capture' equipments were few. I was told that a photocopy of my form on which the July date had been written would serve as my temporary driving license until that date. I shook my head and left. On the assigned date and at the stipulated time of 7am, I arrived. First, it took a lot of pleading to let me drive in through the gate. With one year scheduling, I had expected few people but was shocked by the large crowd milling around the place. I moved from place to place and after several hours when I arrived in front of the 'capture' machine, I was told that my name had not dropped. 'From where ?' I asked. I made three other visits over a period of five weeks, because either, my name was still traveling from wherever to the 'capture' machine, or because there was no 'network' to capture me. I finally got another temporary driving license. And so I will have to return to Ojodu in 60 days when it expires or wait to be called to come and collect the permanent driving license when it is ready and who knows how many more trips that will take, because I saw People who had been called to come and collect, and they came, only to be told that the license was not yet ready. I do not know of any other country in the World where citizens are subjected to this kind of torture just to obtain a driving license. When my son-in-law heard my story, he sympathized with me because he went through an 'agent' and got his with ease! I suffered the same fate in trying to renew my plate numbers as demanded by FRSC. I have completed my registration for the National Identity card at a special unit set up by the National Identity Commission at an interaction in Lagos. I was given a temporary National Identity card. I do not know when I will get the permanent one. Now I have been asked by the Central bank to go to my bank and obtain another Universal identity card. I do not know how many trips I will have to make to obtain a temporary card before I struggle to get the permanent one. I will still go for my voters card and do biometrics and for my Pension, another set of biometrics and identity card. How many Identity cards is a normal law-abiding Nigerian expected to carry?.Why the National identity card can not suffice for all these is what I am asking. I am searching for Mr Government to ask him, because that is what I am asked to do. Can't these government agencies and officers who are asking for these many identity cards share information ? Or is it the fault of Mr government ? Why do we relish in making life difficult for fellow Nigerian citizens and then blame government. Any where Nigerians are to receive service from a government agency, the story of misery and denigration of human dignity is repeated. Who is government? What can be the problem? Is it a matter of lack of a compelling vision, or lack of motivation, or lack of empowerment or plain lack of commitment. What ever it is, I believe that something must be done urgently and in a holistic manner to remedy this anomaly which is creating a lot of problem for the citizens in Nigeria. The unnecessary suffering to which Nigerians are subjected to at every point can not continue this way. What is worse is that the pains intensify when people are doing their best to obey the laws and be responsible citizens. This backlash may seem to promote deviant behavior or corner cutting. Some are 'compelled' to 'settle' police on the highway than go through the torture of trying to get a driving license. All those who are part of government at all levels will need to undergo a fresh orientation to make them understand that point, that a chain is as strong as its weakest link. That Government is not about a single person but a chain of persons who deliver service to the Citizens and that the best President or best Governor will achieve little if all other parties are not playing their roles with the same efficiency and consistency. The leaders of our Governments must therefore take appropriate initiatives on building this consciousness in all persons in government. For empowerment and motivation, the leaders must ensure proper skilling up and motivation of all those involved in the governance process. The right persons must be put in the right positions to ensure the integrity of the chain.For commitment,the leaders must demand evidence of performance down the line. This must be measured and rewarded so that the unskilled for the assignment, the unprepared and the indolent are weeded from the system, so that the impact of good governance can be felt by citizens leading to improved quality of life and the reduction of the misery index. It seems this is perhaps the most critical responsibility of the leaders of the different tiers and arms of government and may actually be the differentiating characteristic of the effective government leaders. Sitting at the capital and hoping that all the 'beautiful' policies, projects and programmes are yielding the desired result will not do. If those who are part of government are blaming the government,one can then understand why some other Nigerians make a past time of blaming government for every problem. If the gutter overflows, it is the government that must be blamed and nothing to do with the citizens who throw pure water satchets and sundry rubbish into the gutter. When the road is blocked, it is the government and nothing to do with the indiscipline of citizen drivers who refuse to give way to each other. In those Countries that we admire and aspire to be like, most Citizens regulate themselves and accept responsibilities for the good order of the society, thus allowing the regulatory enforcement agencies to effectively contain the few deviants. If everybody is a deviant, no government can effectively manage public order. That is my point and it does not in any way absolve the government in power from its statutory responsibilities. There is a role for the government and there is a role for the citizen. Any dereliction on either side will create problems for the society, just as we are having,Period. Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR