One stands to be corrected, but if what Ludwig Feuerbach and Emile Durkheim mean by cohesion is unity or togetherness, when they argued that religion has a social cohesive role, then I think Nigeria, a country of about 170 million citizens and uncountable number of Churches and mosques has proved them wrong. In Nigeria, almost every individual adheres to one or more religious organisation. In fact, it is, one of the countries where saying that you have no religious affiliation is almost a taboo.
On Fridays and Sundays, every corner is crowded by worshipers. It is spectacular to witness the end of religious gatherings in this part of the world, with boisterous flocks trouping out from different worshiping arenas. One also needs to see the number of Nigerians who go to pilgrimage centres. Indeed, from Jerusalem and Vatican through Mecca, Nigerians are always among the largest group of pilgrims. In many occasions, the pilgrimages are sponsored by the government, in recognition of ‘the pilgrims’ active support of their regime or government in power.
Yet the question is, how socially cohesive has all the outward religiosity of Nigerians been to the Nigerian society? Has religion really been a source of unity in Nigeria? One doubt that it has been.
Morally speaking, one comes to a conclusion that the more religious Nigeria appears, the more evil increases. It could be seen or even proven beyond doubt, that most of the traditional and cultural laws and values have died away with the emergence of new religious groups. Fanaticism have for instance grown, through the balkanisation of cultural values through such actions as jihadism. It has seen people openly set fire on whole village, kidnap both innocent young girls and old fellows, and commit all sorts of atrocity under the cover of religious ideology.
And instead of solving the problem of tribalism created during the colonial era, the hankering to ethnic affiliations and interests, has continued to worsen, with people (Nigerians) taking religious matters as ethnic or tribal issues. There are instance of the leaders of the different religious group identifying with politicians who either hail from their tribe, or who are of same religion with them (religious leaders), independent of what such politicians have as their political agenda. Instead of speaking in one voice in support of the citizens, the religious leaders divide among themselves – each caressing their favoured politicians in the name of proclamations. There have been instances of politicians moving from one pulpit to the other, from one cathedral to another, and from one mosque to the other to buy the different religious leaders to their camp. Some presidential and gubernatorial candidates have been known to storm churches with bags of money, stolen unarguably from the poor citizens, to buy over religious leaders and their pulpit.
Again, rather than mobilizing themselves for
a collective action, the religious leaders wait for the politicians to invite them for prayer sessions, where it is alleged that huge amount of money are distributed at the end of the gathering.
Now, one asks: where is the social cohesive role of religion in Nigeria? Who is to be blamed? The poor worshipers or their rich shepherd? It is time Nigerians shun hypocrisy, use more of their reason in religious matters, and wake up from our religious slumber or we may find ourselves in a religious war ignited by those they are entrusted to.