The Bishop of the Anglican Communion, Ibadan Diocese, Most Rev. Dr Joseph Akinfenwa, has identified religion as a major factor fuelling political tension in Nigeria, stating that the place of religion in the contemporary socio-political situation of the country needs to be re-examined.              

Rev. Akinfenwa made this assertion last Wednesday (February 7, 2018) at the opening ceremony of the maiden Biennial Conference organised by the Department of Religions, Faculty of Arts, University of Ilorin, with the theme “Religion and Contemporary Issues in Nigeria”.

The clergyman, who was the Chairman of the Conference, which took place at the University Auditorium, said, “Politically, Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gunpowder. While all religions preach peace and thus it would be expected that religion could be used to diffuse political tension, the opposite is the case in Nigeria. In fact, religion is perhaps one of the main factors fuelling political tension in our nation.”

While noting that Nigeria is a nation of extremely religious people, Rev. Akinfenwa pointed out that the country is at the same time deeply immersed in corruption.“Today in Nigeria, religion influences something as basic as population census; and we have continued to suffer because we simply do not know for sure how many we are, and who exactly are the citizens of Nigeria. So, the place of religion and our contemporary political situation needs to be well examined”, he said.

The clergyman further identified class prejudices as another factor fueling underdevelopment in the country. According to him, “the son of a nobody has to struggle against the odds in his quest to become somebody… and kept down by an elite class that is determined to forever suppress and undermine the underprivileged, the frustration of the masses which used to find vent in religious and ethnic tension is gradually coming to roost.”

In his remarks at the event, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Sulyman AbdulKareem, represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Management Services), Prof. Adedayo Yusuf Abdulkareem, described the theme of the Conference as very apt. According to him, Nigeria is a nation committed to religion “in the sense that, a number of mosques spring up all over the place, churches abound all over the place and in recent times, we are seeing shrines all over the place and yet what religion is expected to do in man's life we are still lagging behind in Nigeria”. 

While noting that Nigeria is presently witnessing a lot of crisis in form of insurgency, kidnapping, fraud as well as malpractices in the educational sector, the Vice-Chancellor expressed the hope that the outcome of the Conference will contribute significant solutions to problems confronting the Nigerian society. He further commended the Department for honouring Prof. Quadri, describing him as highly disciplined, humane and religious personality who has contributed immensely to the University system.

The keynote speaker at the event, Prof. Ja'afar Kaura of the Department of Islamic Studies, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, explained that contemporary issues bedeviling the country are products of the long history of decay occasioned by bad policies and entrenchment of corruption by past administrations. 

Earlier in his remarks, the Head of the Department of Religions, Prof. Rotimi Williams Omotoye, said, “Research on religion as an institution and discipline is important in the religious, political and socio-economic life of Nigeria.” He explained that the idea of writing the book in honour of Prof. Quadri was mooted some years ago during the tenure of the former Head of the Department (now current Dean), Prof. Oyeronke Olademo.