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CONSTITUTIONAL MISCONCEPTION OF SECULARISM AND IMPLICATIONS FOR POLITICS AND RELIGION IN NIGERIA.
1.1 Background to the Study
In different ways, classical social thinkers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries all thought, religion would either disappear or become progressively attenuated with the expansion of modern institutions. The evidence before us in the 21st century is pervasive and clear, that religion still exists, but changed everywhere. Religion remains surprisingly vibrant and socially relevant. This is particularly true in Nigeria, and in much of the rest of the world as well, where religion continues to be a potent factor in the emerging global order and its conflicts.
Modernist theories of secularization that predicted the decline of religion in the affairs of the world because they were carriers of “tradition”, and would enter into decline faced with the inevitable and overwhelming forces of modernization have failed in their predictions. Even some critics of secularism have come to accept that, while religious faith may appear to be floundering in the west due to “contigent events and local circumstances” such as sex abuse scandals by the clergy and the issue of gay marriage, diverse patterns of religiosity still exist today all over the world. In case of Nigeria, despite the crimes associated with religions, more religious sects and denominations are springing out with huge patronage from the masses on daily basis. Even among affluent European nations, rather than observing any consistent and steady conversion towards atheism or agnosticism or any loss of faith in God, religion is still alive and active (Greeleys, 2003).
Huntington (1996) argues that the world would be shaped largely by the strainged interraction among seven or eight major civilizations, namely; Western, Latin American, Slavic-orthodox, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu and possibly African civilization. He further argues that the most important differentiating factor in the world is religion and that the post-cold war optimism of global harmony would be shattered by dangerous and deep-rooted religious conflicts. No wonder, Berger (2005), formerly a leading advocate of secularism recanted and declared that, “the assumption that we live in a secularized world is false. The world, with some exceptions . . . is as furiously religious as it ever was and in some places more so than ever” (p2).
It is highly debatable if secularism, as the political separation between “church and state” is dead or alife. As it is, almost all countries separate religion from politics and all democratic nations imbibe some or most of the democratic political values inherent in secularism. Throughout this work, secularism is appreciated broadly as a constitutional device that tries to construct a political identity for a country in the context of a non-combative religious faith. This, it does by recognizing and protecting the individual’s religious affiliation and guaranteeing her or his right to freedom of religion and conscience. It also distances the state from any overbearing political influence of religion (Bruce, 2002). A religiously sensitive secular polity, according to Nchi (2013), therefore, does not need to be opposed to the individuation of religion and cultural identities in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic state like Nigeria.
In recent decades, religion has become an important factor both in public debate and as a means of political mobilization. However, the rise of religion has not happened in and for itself.It is closely linked to wider material and ideological developments that have attacked global politics (Danjibo and Oladeji, 2012). As a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country, Nigeria is a pluralistic society with African Traditional Religion, Christianity and Islam as its three main religions (Onah, 2011). Nigerians are deeply religious and are acknowledged by British Broadcasting Cooperation (BBC, 2004) as the most religious nation in the world. It has been argued that Nigeria has become the number one country globally in terms of the population of religious worshippers and adherents, notably, of the two major religions; Christianity and Islam (Falana, (2010)
Nigeria is among the most religious countries in the world. According to the Pew Research Centre, Nigeria is at the top of the chart in terms of intense religiosity. Both Christianity and Islam have experienced very dramatic growth over the last 50 years. They have not just experienced quantitative growth, but they have experienced very important qualitative changes – changes in denominational affiliation, changes in theology, changes in attitude towards one another (Kukah, 2007).
According to Udobata (2012), it is still an irony that Nigeria claims to be one of the most religious nations in the world and yet she is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Her citizens are insulted all over the world. Even many nations that do not claim to be religious have warned their citizens against doing honest business with Nigerians. Transparency International still places Nigeria as one of the most corrupt nations of the world. The latest Transparency International (TI) report not only listed Nigeria as among the most corrupt countries of the world, but indicates that it has the highest global percentage of citizen’s perception that corruption has worsened in the last years. Yet, Nigeria has the largest number of Christians in the Black world and sends the largest contingent of Muslim pilgrims to Mecca every year (Udobata, 2012).
Nigeria’s broad religious demography reflects the historical exposure of its Northern communities to Islam through the Trans-Saharan Trade and the success of Christian Missionary Enterprise in many of its southern parts. However, while historical alliances and shared ethnicities are closely associated with the adoption of these two world religions, religion and ethno –regional identities are cross-cutting, often reinforcing each other. Beyond the engagement with local traditions, Christianity and Islam as major religions in Nigeria have expressed a high degree of political competitiveness with each other at the least since the 1970s (Danjibo and Oladeji, 2013).
Apart from Christianity and Islam, Nigerians also belong to a range of other religious groups. The largest of these comprises followers of Traditional Religious Practice, known as African Traditional Religion (ATR), with the provision that local belief systems and practices differ widely, and that their subsumption under one term mainly reflects the fact that these practices do not (yet) hold the status of world religions (Amherd and Nolte, 2005).
Religion and politics have caused many countries to either grow or separate. In Nigeria, every government is judged by the way power is distributed. Anything contrary to attaining a religious balance status triggers a wide cry of marginalization. The struggle for power in Nigeria predated independence, but it was based on ethnic, economic and social factors. It was in the event of the 1966 coup that religious meaning and antagonism began to be associated with political activities (Anjov, 2008, 35). Some scholars argued that the Igbo as a tribe were the major target and that not all Christians in the North were affected.
Within the two major religions in Nigeria (Islam and Christianity), there has been internal divisions and sub -divisions that sometimes produce sharp contentions. Islam and Christianity are rivals to each other. Apart from being rivals to each other, they (Islam and Christianity) are suppressing the traditional religion. Religion which is supposed to be the agent of peace, unity and harmony is a sharp contrast in Nigeria and elsewhere. Nigeria has recorded series of religious crises, claiming lives and property which are a hindrance to national development. The issue of religion in Nigeria is becoming more complex with apparent hostility, friction and crises. Indeed, religion is threatening the corporate existence of the nation as well as undermining the political integrity of the country. Religious crises in Nigeria are major obstacles to peace and development in the country.
Hank (2013) asserts that, just as football is singularly the sole and most unifying factor in Nigeria, nothing is as divisive as religion – especially when it is used as a tool of politics. Nigeria politicians have used religion to divide the country, just as they have used ethnicity to fan the embers of our national dichotomy. In Nigeria, religion has become a tool of politics and not as a belief system. We are, evidently, no longer able to maintain the fundamental principles of a secular state like religious freedom and governments patronizing particular religions. The sanction and enforcement of Sharia Laws in the criminal court by some state governments have also compounded the problem.
According to Anuforo (2013), recent developments and memories of past and continuous carnage in the North of Nigeria on the innocent and for reasons beyond comprehension, are beginning to sway the position of many, who previously frowned at the thought of alternative system of co-existing. In other words, while believing and hoping on a united, progressive and secular, God fearing country, staunch Nigerian Nationalists are now open to the possibility of a different form of mutually agreed arrangement example the breakup of Nigeria to accommodate the conflicting regional, religious and tribal aspirations of ethnic groups. The Governor- General of Nigeria between 1920-1931, Sir Hugh Clifford, described Nigeria as “a collection of independent native states, separated from one another by great distances, differences of history and traditions and by ethnological, racial, tribal, political, social and religious barriers” (Nigeria Council of Debate, Lagos, 1920). The above description in my opinion seems to vividly capture the problems of today’s Nigeria, where too many innocent lives have been sacrificed because of religion.
As a result of the activities of the Boko Haram sect in the country, there are worrying trends that are beginning to raise concerns over the authority of the President, his security agenda and the unity of the country. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan made a revelation at the 2012 Armed Forces Remembrance day ceremony that sent shocking waves across the country and the rest of the world. Speaking about the terror being unleashed by Boko Haram, the President said that, “sympathisers of the Islamist Boko Haram group are in his government and security agencies” (Anuforo, 2013, 12). He further lamented that:
The situation we have in our hands is even worse than the civil war that we fought. During the civil war, we knew and we could even predict where the enemy was coming from, but the challenge we have today is more complicated … some of them are in the executive arm of government, some of them are in the parliament/legislative arm of government, while some of them are even in judiciary … some are also in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies (BBC, 2013).
When the President and the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces raises such concern about security, every patriotic citizen should be alarmed too (Anuforo, 2013).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Religion has a place in the life of every nation including Nigeria. Irrespective of the faith or denomination, religion when truly practiced in its truest form and spirit, has been and remains sacred. It plays a vital role in purposeful leadership, community building, social justice, law and order, peace-making, reconciliation, forgiveness and the healing of wounds, be they political, family or personal. Religion ideally is not an arena of conflict. Unfortunately, Religion in Nigeria has given rise to conflicts between the adherents of the two main religions; Islam and Christianity.
Nigeria is not only a plural society with several ethnic and religious groups, but also one where ethnic and religious boundaries overlap. The ethno-regional cum religious overlaps add troubling twists and turns to the configuration. The need to curtail the threat this poses for nation-building informed the constitutional adoption of secularism in Nigeria. Nigerian constitutions, past and present proclaim loudly the secularity of the Nigerian state, the separation of church and state and the freedom to practice religion of one’s choice without fear of persecution and prosecution.
Section 10 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution categorically proclaims that “the government of the Federation or of a state shall not adopt any religion as state religion”. Section 38 of the 1999 constitution under fundamental rights stresses the freedom of worship in the following words:
Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
Deducing from the above quotation, the constitution bars a state religion from adoption, and any attempt by anyone to foist a religion on the nation by a political fiat or indeed, any form of deceit. However, the Nigerian Constitution recognizes the need and application of the Sharia law – but only to those whose religion is Islam. Section 260 of the Nigerian Constitution gives room for the establishment of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja: “There shall be a Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja”.Officially, Nigeria is a secular state with freedom of religion guaranteed in the 1999 constitution. Through secularism, Nigeria seeks not only to maintain some form of neutrality and independence on religious matters, but also allows Nigerians religious freedom. The essence was to draw a boundary between the two realms – state and religion and by so doing, reduce the negative influence of religion on nation building.
However, on the contrary, religion continues to cast an ominous shadow on the governance of the country. In Nigeria, religion has become a tool for politics. Nigeria is no longer able to maintain the fundamental principles of a secular state. Nigerian’s secular posture has been challenged on many occasions, thereby curtailing the religious freedom it sought to protect.
Constitutionally and in principle, Nigeria is a secular state that promotes freedom of worship but the situation on ground is contrary to the expectations of the constitution. From experience, it appears Nigeria is secular only in the constitution and not at all in practice or at best a quasi-secular republic. Nigeria is multi-cultural as it is multi-religious. Even though, in contemporary Nigeria, Christianity and Islam predominate, there are people of other faiths as well. The practice of secularism in Nigeria is usually centred on consideration of what values to be allowed depending on whether it is not a Christian-religious doctrine or Islamic. Yet, successive Nigerian governments have at different times fallen into traps of getting involved in religious affairs. Here is a list of some government activities which have strayed into one religious stream or the other;
- Permitting of preaching in public places by Christian and Muslims.
- Observance of religious holidays for Christianity and Islam.
- Prayers during official government functions are reserved for official representations of Islam and Christianity.
- The government has built a Central Mosque and an Ecumenical Centre for Islam and Christianity respectively.
- Construction of churches and mosques with government money in schools, barracks.
- Subventions on Jerusalem and Saudi Arabia.
- Public oath-taking on the Bible and the Quran.
- Nigeria’s membership of OIC
- State-sponsored inter-denominational services and carols.
- Islam as a State Religion in some of the Northern States.
- Imposition of Gregorian calendar and Arabic language on Nigerian currencies.
- The teaching of Khadis (Muslim judges) by the government
- States whether dominated by Christians or Muslims, leaning toward the faith practiced by majority of residents and government officials routinely give out public revenue to religious organizations during public fund raising.
- States media are used by the Muslims and Christians to publicize their faith
- Government owned media stations start and end their broadcasts with Islamic and Christian prayers.
- Saturday and Sunday are work free days for all public officers
- Friday is unofficially half- working day in Nigeria because of Friday prayers for the Muslims.
- The government is involved in the regulation and funding of mandatory religious instruction in public schools where Muslims are taught the Islamic religion and Christians are taught the Christian religion
- The state support the funding of schools owned by religious bodies and does not interfere in their curriculum
- Politicians use government resources at their disposal to support religious activities, and also use religion to access political power.
The inability of the Nigerian nation state to cope with the weak institutionalization of the forces of democratization and the economic softness of the state, have created room for the transformation of the ethno-religious identities, and secularism has not been able to find a solution to this. This study, therefore, attempts to x-ray secularism in plural and complex setting like Nigeria, drawing insights from State and societal practices. The presumed positive correlation between secularism and sustainable inter-religious and ethnic relations in Nigeria remain problematic.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The main objective of this research is to explore the constitutional adoption of secularism as a religious balancing device in Nigeria, and to examine the pervasive politicization of religion in modern Nigerian society.
The specific purpose of the study therefore is:
- To examine how Nigeria will attain a true secular state.
- To examine the consequent effect of the crises between Christianity and Islam in a secular State like Nigeria.
- To examine the past mistakes in the implementation of the constitutional provision on the Nigerian secular state.
- To find solution towards positive correlation between secularism and sustainable inter-religious and ethnic relations in Nigeria.
- To examine the fact that, as far as religion continues to cast an ominous shadow on the politics of the country, religion will represent an indictment on Nigeria’s secular posture.
- To critically analyze the adoption of secularism for managing religious pluralism in Nigeria.
- To examine the continuous manipulation and transformation of religious identities in Nigeria for political ends.
1.4. Significance of the Study
- The study serves as a policy option for Policy-Makers. It assists public administrative analysts and students of ReligiousStudies and Political Science who intend to embark on a similar research.
- The research seeks to contribute to a critical understanding of the dynamics of secularism vis-a-vis mutual co-existence of the various religions in a pluralistic and complex setting like Nigeria.
- With the ongoing constitutional amendment and the just concluded national conference, this work serves as a reference point to the legislative arm of government to revisit and strengthen the area of secularism in order to promote freedom of worship and peaceful co-existence among the major religions in Nigeria.
- The study is also meant for the general reader of Nigerian contemporary history, government and politics. It helps those without any previous knowledge of how religion has acquired a central position in Nigeria’s contemporary political terrain.
- The work is of much benefit to Nigerian religious leaders and their followers as it serves as a guide towards harmonious inter-religious relations while scholars and researchers will find this work as a valuable reference material for future research work.
- The study helps in reshaping the contours of our national political debate so that religious bigotry and fanaticism will no longer be an issue in Nigeria, and reduces government undue or over involvement in religious matters
1.5 Scope of the Study
The scope of this research is to access the problem of secularism as a constitutional mechanism in Nigeria. There is also analytical discusses on the politicization of religion in Nigeria. All the above denotes the depth to which this work intends to go in investigating the constitutional implications of secularism and the politics of religion in Nigeria. The research intends to cover the whole Nigeria since all Nigerians are under the same government and are bound by the provision of the same constitution.
Between 1885 and 1960, most of the land area of the African continent was under the legal and administrative jurisdiction of one or the other of the colonial powers. On January 1, 1901 Nigeria became a British protectorate. Politically and economically, Nigeria was amalgamated in January 1914. Nigeria was granted full independence on October 1, 1960 under a constitution that provided for a parliamentary government. Nigeria, officially named the Federal Republic of Nigerian in 1963 is a federal constitutional Republic comprising of thirty-six States and a Federal Capital Territory (Ngbea, 2008). In terms of the period to be covered by this study, the study will cover a period from 1963-2015. Within this period, Nigeria as a country has experimented democratization with military interventions under several constitutions.
1.6 Research Methodology
The study adopts ex-post-facto design. The study adopts documentary method of data collection. Data were collected from the Nigerian constitutions of the 1963, 1979 and 1999, the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette of 1975, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the National Conference of 2014, the Nigerian Pilgrim Commission (NPC), the Nigerian Pilgrim Welfare Boards (NPWB), Hand Book Documentary of Ministry of Information, the Human Right Watch, United States Census International (USCI), United Nations (UN), United Nations office in Nigeria, Encarta Documentary 2009, Minorities Commission Report 1958, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Watch Dogs on Democracy Monitoring, Human Development Reports, Democracy web 2010, Human Rights Monitor (HRM). Data were also gathered from some extant publications. The data were analyzed using descriptive method.
1.7 Theoretical Framework
The study will adapt functionalism theory as a theoretical framework. The theory sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability. Functionalism is one of the major theoretical perspectives in the study of the society like Nigeria that is complex in its composition as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious. As a pluralistic society, this theory will help this study to pave way in promoting peace and religious harmony in Nigeria.
The theory has it origin in the works of Emile Durkheim who was especially interested in how social order is possible in the society. It is a theory that focuses on the macro-level of social structure rather than the micro-level of everyday life. Notable theorists include Herbert Spencer, Talcott parsons and Robert K. Newton. Functionalism in this study will interpret the different religious components of the Nigerian society in terms of how they will contribute to the stability of the whole country.
1.8 Definition of Terms
The term Constitution comes through French from the Latin word constitutio, used for regulations and orders, such as the imperial enactments. It was later used in cannon law for an important determination, especially a decree issued by the Pope, now referred to as Apostolic Constitution (Mckean, 2005).
The new Oxford American Dictionary defines constitution as “a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed” (Mckean, 2005, p. 2051). Ndoh, (1997, p. 28) defines constitution as “the aggregate of laws and customs under which the life of the state goes … or the complex totality of laws embodying the principles and rules whereby the community is organized, governed and tied together. According to Toluhi, (2001, p. 4), a constitution is the whole body of fundamental rules, written and unwritten, legal and extra-legal according to which a particular government operates. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is.
The Supreme Court of Nigeria defineds constitution as “the organic law or grundnorm of the people”. That, while it seeks to provide the machinery of government, it also gives rights and imposes obligations on the people it is meant for”. Hon, (2004, p. 3) and in Miscellaneous Offences Tribunal, Karibi-Whyten cited in Hon (2004), 4) held that; “the constitution of the country is its fundamental law, the fons et origo of all laws, the exercise of all powers, and the source from which all laws, institutions and persons derive their authority”. According to Gordon (1999, 4) “a political organization is constitutional to the extent that it contains institutionalized mechanisms of power control for the protection of the interests and liberties of the citizenry, including those that may be in the minority”.
This study defines a constitution as the system of laws and principles, usually written down, according to which a country or an organization is governed. It is an embodiment of the agreed principles and rules under which a state is governed. As a document, constitution is also a set or body of principles and rules determining the structure, powers and limitations of the government of a country, as well as defining the rights and duties of the governed (Ngbea, 2011).
Most countries all over the world conduct their affairs with a document called “constitution” the constitution as a document is accepted universally as the political document binding all citizens of a nation and it takes supremacy over any other law. According to Kabir (2012), the Nigerian Government is not left out in this regard. Having adopted federal system of government with all its federalist attributes, part of the problem is that, many argued that for many decades the attributes of a federation have been absent in governance in Nigeria, a constitution was made, presented and accorded supremacy over and above any other law. This supremacy is first explained by Nigerians in the preamble of the 1999 constitution in the following words;
We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: having firmly and solemnly resolved to live in unity and harmony as one indissoluble sovereign Nation under God dedicated to the promotion of inter-Africans solidarity, world peace, international co-operation and understanding; and to provide for a constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people: Do hereby make, enact and give to ourselves the following constitution (p.15).
The above is the affirmation and declaration of the people of Nigeria at the time of enacting the 1999 constitution. The preamble expresses the wish of the people of Nigeria and the binding notion given to the constitution by the mandate of Nigerians. The Nigerian constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Secularism draws its intellectual roots from Greek and Roman philosophers. The origin of secularism is associated especially with the names of Holyoake and Bradlaugh. The term was used for the first time about 1846 by George Jacob Holyoake to denote “a form of opinion which concerns itself only with questions, the issue of which can be tested by the experience of this life” (Dubray, 1912, 1).
Etymologically, the word “secularism” comes from the Latin word saeculum, which refers to this world, as different from the other world. Therefore, from the point of view of etymology, secularism could be described as concern for the things of this world. In itself, it does not deny a concern for the other world; it simply emphasizes the present world. At times a semantic distinction is made between “secularism” which denies the spiritual dimension of life and “secularity” which merely affirms the autonomy of things of this world. The above definition is more from a spiritual/religious dimension. Politically, it also refers to the concept of the state ruled without reference to religious ideas, and rulers (Onaiyekan 2013, 40).
The word “Secular” is derived from Saeculum, a Latin word meaning “spirit of the “age” or “span of time or century”. Later it was to mean “of this world” as opposed to another heavenly world. This conceptual framework was later distinguished into the “temporal” and the “spiritual”.The former being the transient political authority of the state on the individual’s temporary life on earth in contrast to the later, which was the eternal authority of the church on the individual’s soul to nurture it to heaven. The state existed to deal with the mundane and temporal, while the church appropriated the spiritual and eternal world. Historically, the term in the European context, means the privatizing of church property (Nchi, 2013).
“Secularization” and secularism are all derived concepts from the word “secular”. Literally, conceptually and practically, the word “secular” is derived from the Latin word “saeculum” which denotes “this age” or “the present time” or “contemporary events” (Boer, 2005) Secularism is the principle of separation of Government institutions and the persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries. Secularism may assert the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, and the right to freedom from governmental imposition of religion upon the people within a state that is neutral on matters of belief. In another sense, it refers to the view that human activities and decisions especially political ones, should be unbiased by religious influence (Barry and Ariela, 2007).
Secularism draws its intellectual roots from Greek and Roman philosophers such as Marcus Aurelius and Epicurus, Medieval polymaths such as Ibn Rushd, Englightement thinkers such as Denis Diderot, Vollaire, Baruch, Spinoza, John Locke, James Viadison, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine and more recent free thinkers, agnostics and atheists such as Robert Ignersoll and Bertrand Russell (Birchall, 2007).
The term “Secularism” was first used by the British writer George Jacob Holyoake in 1851. Although the term was new, the general notion of free thought on which it was based had existed throughout history up till now. Early Secular ideas involving separation of philosophy and religion can be traced back to Ibn Rushd. Hoiyoake invented the term “Secularism” to describe his views of promoting a social order separate from religion, without actively dismissing or criticizing religious belief (Fauzi, 1996)
The origin of secularism is associated especially with the names of Holyoake and Bradlaugh. George Jacob Holyoake (born at Birmingham 13 April, 1817, died at Brighton, 22 Jnauary, 1906) Met Robert Owen in 1837, became his friend and began to lecture and write articles advocating socialism or co-operation Charles Bradlaugh (born at Hoxton, London 26 September, 1833, died 30 January, 1891) was a Zealous Sunday School Teacher in the Church of England (Dubray, 1912)
Although, the term secularism is old, its various doctrines have been taught by free thinkers of all ages. “The term secularism was only chosen to express the extension of free thought to ethics with regard to the question of the existence of God, Bradlaugh was an atheist, Holyoake an agnostic. The latter holds that secularism is based simply on the study of nature and has nothing to do with religion, while Brdlaugh claimed that Secularism should start with the disproof of religion. In a public debate held in 1870 between the two. Secularism, Bradlaugh said that although at present it may be perfectly true that all men who are Secularists are not Atheists, I put it that in my opinion the logical consequences of the acceptance of secularism must be that the man gets to Atheism if he has brains enough to comprehend (Dubray, 1912)
Barry (2011) of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture breaks modern Secularism into two types; hard and soft Secularisms. According to him, “The hard Secularism considers religious proposition to be epistemologically illegitimate, warranted by neither reason nor experience. However, in the view of soft secularism, the attainment of absolute truth was impossible and therefore skepticism and tolerance should be the principle an overriding value in the discussion of science and religion.Secularism is often associated with the age of Enlightenment in Europe and plays a major role in western society. Secular states also existed in the Islamic world during the middle ages.
Most major religions all over the world accept the primacy of the rule of Secular democratic society. Many Christians support secular state and may acknowledge that the conception has support in Biblical teachings, particularly the statement of Jesus in the book of Luke “give to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s, and to God what is God’s”. Some of the well known statesthat are often considered constitutionally secular are USA, France, India, Mexico, South Korea and Turkey.Although none of these nations have identical forms of Governance (Feldman, 2005)
According to Boer, (2005) secularization gained even more prominence during the European Enlightenment, from the 17th to the 19th centuries and with the concomitant rise of reason and empiricism and scientific and technological advances in the West. The stage it seems was set for confrontation between modernist thought and Christianity. According to him, being already influenced by secularism, the Christian west counseled alignment and participation in the process of secularization, which is seen by many as irresistibly spreading throughout the world like a raging fire.
Engineer and Mehta (1998) defined secularism as “the doctrine that morality should be based solely on regard to the well-being of mankind in the present life, to the exclusion of all considerations drawn from belief in God or in a future state” (p1). Shiner (1967, pp207-220) in attempting to define secularism distinguishes five features of secularism as; (i) decline of religion, (ii) conformity to the present world (iii) disengagement/differentiation of religion from society, including “separation of church (i.e. organized religion) and State” (iv) transposition of religious beliefs and institutions (shift from divine sources of power to human capacity and creation, and desacralisation of the world and subsequent sacralarization of nationality.
Secularism is a highly contested concept, which is why across different political system; it is “unquestionably the most misused word” (Kamath, 2007:1). Secularism as a concept can be used in several related, but different ways, thus making it difficult to know its exact meaning. The term secularism is commonly regarded as an ideology that holds that religious issues should not be the basis of politics, or in the extreme, that religion has no place in public life. Essentially, secularism seeks to preserve the religious neutrality of government and cultures. Secularism connotes “the freedom of the public sphere from religious dogma” (Birehall, 2007:1). Kasim and Ariela (2007:5) looks at secularism as the principles of separation of government institutions, and the process mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries. Secularism may assert the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, and the right to freedom from governmental imposition of religion upon the people within a state that is neutral on matters of belief.
In another sense, it refers to the view that human activities and decisions, especially political ones should be unbiased by religious influence. Owing from the above assertion, in political terms, secularism is a movement towards the separation of religion and government. This can refer to reducing ties between a government and a state religion, replacing laws based on scripture (such as the Torah, Ecclesiastical and Sharia Laws) with civil laws, and eliminating discrimination on the basis of religion. This is said to add to democracy by protecting the rights of religious minorities (Feldman, 2005:14).
According to Jayaraman (1997), secularism as a modern political and constitutional principle involves two basic propositions. The first is that, people belonging to different faith and section of society are equal before the law, the constitution and government policy. The second requirement is that, there can be no mixing up of religion and politics. It follows therefore that, there can be no discrimination against anyone on the basis of religion or faith nor is there room for the hegemony of one religion or majoritarian religious sentiments and aspirations. It is in this double sense – no discrimination against anyone on grounds of faith and separation of religion from politics.
Judging from the above opinions, it is clear that scholars appear to have substituted secularism with secularization, which emphasizes a kind of total separation of religion and state. Omotola (2013) maintained that it is perhaps, this secularization of secularism that breeds secular fundamentalism because; the more religious groups are alienated from state, the more such group become symbols of resistance. It does seem that one of the pretensions of neo-secularists is the idea of a complete neutral public sphere in religious matters. Such pretensions find resonance in political realities across nation states including Nigeria, making it difficult for the so-called “secular states” to live a truly secular life, and Nigeria is a good example.
Etymologically, the word politics comes from the Greek word politikos, meaning “of, for, or relating to citizens”, “affairs of the cities”, a dissertation on governing and governments, which was rendered in English in the mid-15th century as Latinized “Polettiques”. Thus, it became “politics” in English (Jennings, 1990). Politics, according to Losco (2010; 3), is the practice and theory of influencing other people on a civic or individual level. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance – organized control over human community, particularly a state. Also, Brainy (2013) defines politics as:
The science of government; that part of ethics which has to do with the regulation and government of a nation or state, the preservation of its safety, peace and prosperity, the defence of its existence and rights against foreign control or conquest, the augmentation of its strength and resources, and the protection of its citizens in their rights, with the preservation and improvement of their morals (p.1).
The word “Politics” came out of two Greek words Polis which means ‘city’ and teche which means an art, a skill or a method that is the art of governing a city (Curran, 1973). Politics is about the acquisition of power and the use of such power. The Oxford Dictionary (5th Edition) defines politics as “matters concerned with acquiring or exercising power, within a group or an organization”. Onyekpe (1998) defines the term politics as: “The struggle for power which itself is the authority to determine or formulate and execute decisions and politics, which must be accepted by the society … it is the struggle for power of governance; especially executive authority” (Onyekpe, 1986:16).
For the sake of this study, the researcher shall adapt the definition of Pennock and Smith (1964) which defined politics as that which:
has to do with the forces, institutions and organizational reforms in any society, that are recognized as having the most inclusive and final authority existing in that society for the establishment and maintenance of order, the effectuation of other conjoint purposes of its members and reconciliation of their differences (p.9).
Aristotle, the ancient Greek politician of the fifth century BC was of the opinion that among all of the practical sciences, politics is the most important of them all. He said this in the 5th Century because politics is the science of man’s affairs, of man’s happiness or good. He said that, politics is about the study of happiness, and about working out how this happiness should be secured for the good of a given society. The aim of politics is to discover first what mode of life man’s happiness consists. Then by what form of government and what social institutions that mode of life can be secured (Yamsat, 2001).
In Plato’s Republicas well as in Aristotle’s Nicomanchean Ethics and Politics, the term politics in its traditional Greek sense is employed to refer to that quest for what is good in the governance of the polis; namely the city state or the society (Akinwale, 2000). In its Aristotelian sense, the nexus between politics and ethics was really very thin. Ethics meant for the city-man the religious rationalization of the best way to live in the polis, that is, what constitutes the society as a whole; its governance, its culture, its economy. Politics and ethics are therefore conceived as inseparable from one another. What makes a society political is owing to the fact that, politics is a practical enterprise devoted to creating a contingent and ever-changing order by compromising and balancing diverse and competing against one another. In this light, it must be understood that a political society undoubtedly might have to be pluralistic like Nigeria (Ukachukwu, 2006).
The word politics is understood today as the science and art of canvassing for votes from the electorates into positions of power in a given nation. It is the science and art of how to capture the interest of the populace of a given state and how to govern them. It is the art of directing a people in the path of order, peace and justice in a way that will better their lot. In short, politics is statecraft or statesmanship, the ability, skill, vision, and wisdom of managing public or government affairs.
The term religion comes from a Latin word religio, the ultimate origins of which are obscure. One possibility is derivation from a reduplicated Religare – meaning being bound or meaning “gather together”, an interpretation traced to Cicero connecting Lego “read” (Bill, 1991). The major role of religion here, is to bind or bring together people in harmony irrespective of tribe or other differences. The term as used today is more from the word relegere (reads again) i.e. turning to something again and again or to consider it more carefully (Spiro, 1966). The task of defining religion is a very difficult one, as a result, theories upon theories have been propounded by scholars of different fields of specialization; this gave rise to variations of definitions. One factor responsible for this is the fact that, the word “Religion” is a generic term; it represents a group or class of many different religions.
Some of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries scholars whose definition of religion have influenced modern scholars include; Otto, (1958) who declared that, “Religion is that which grows out of, and gives expression to experience of the holy in its various aspects” (p7). Durkheim (1969), a sociologist had defined religion “as a system of beliefs and practices, which cluster around the sacred and unite the followers into a single community” (p18). Idowu (1973, p.9) defined religion as “the means by which God as spirit communicates with man’s essential self”. Dewey’s psychological definition quoted by Livingstone (2011, p7) is relevant to our study. For him, “The religion is any activity pursued on behalf of an ideal end against obstacles and inspite of threats of personal loss because of its general and enduring value”.
Definitions of religion tend to suffer from one or two problems; they are either too narrow and exclude many belief systems which most agree are religious, or they are too vague and ambiguous, suggesting that just about any and everything is religion (Cline, 2013).There are numerous definitions of religion but only a few will be considered in this study. Chambers Dictionary refers to religion as “belief in, or the worship of a god or gods”, or the “service and worship of God or the Supernatural”. Also, “Religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to the supernatural and to spirituality” (Shouler, 2010, 1).
Phenomenology, according to Livingstone (2001, p39) is one of the most recent and, in some respects, the most illuminating approaches to the study of religion points us up to religion as constitutive of “the data of experience that directly presents itself to human consciousness”. The phenomenological approach takes serious interest in the morphology of religion, that is in the structure of forms of religion as manifested in and across different cultures and temporal periods all over the world. Generally, the forms of religion differ from one culture/country to another.
Connelly (2013), attempts a definition that takes care of certain factors into account.According to Connelly,
Religion originates in an attempt to present and order beliefs, feelings, imaginings and actions that arise in response to direct experience of the sacred and the spiritual. As this attempt expands in its formulation and elaboration it becomes a process that creates meaning for itself on a sustaining basis, in terms of both its originating experiences and its own continuing responses.
Okwueze (2003:3) defined religion as “a regulated pattern of life of a people in which experience, beliefs and knowledge are reflected in man’s conception of himself in relation to others, his social world, the physical as well as the metaphysical world”. Ekwunife (1992:10) in his own definition stated that, “religion is man’s awareness and recognition of his dependent relationship on a transcendent being”. This study, therefore, defines religion in the words of Parinder (1972:16) as the varied symbolic expression and appropriate responses to that which people deliberately affirm as being of unrestricted value for them”.
The 1963 constitution was silent on the issue of religion, the constitution only pointed out the issue of religious freedom. 1975-1978 and 1979 constitutionial drafting committee suggest that Nigeria should be a secular state but the mslims raised objection saying a secular state is a godless state, and that informed the present section 10 of the 1979 and 1999 constitutions which prohibits adaption of any religion as state religion. Secularism is not explicity mentioned in any of the Nigerian constitutions. The interpretation of section 10 of the Nigerian constitutions of 1979/1999 by the Nigerian judiciary/lawyers and academics in reference to section 10 informed the choice of the topic for this study.