Communiqué of Plateau Roundtable Forum on Religious Freedom in Nigeria, which took place in Jos, Plateau State, on October 24, 2013

Carefronting Nigeria

Communiqué of Plateau Roundtable Forum on Religious Freedom in Nigeria, which took place in Jos, Plateau State, on October 24, 2013


The Plateau Roundtable Forum on Religious Freedom in Nigeria convened by Carefronting Nigeria in Conjuction with Freedom House of Thursday, October 24, 2013 which held at the Nana Country Home Hotel in the Tudun Wada area of the Plateau State capital, Jos; had Professor Paul Pindar Izah who is the Director, Institute for Development Research of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria as the presenter; he delivered a paper on the topic, Politicization of Religion and Religionalisation of Politics in Nigeria.

The Roundtable attracted government officials, law makers, civil society, religious leaders, youth organisations, people from the academia as well as residents from flashpoints who participated in discussions that followed the lead paper presentation and engaged the resource person in question and answer sessions. The Plateau State Government was represented by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Peace Building, Bar Timothy Baba Parlong, who moderated the roundtable.

This communiqué is the product of both the paper presentation by the resource person and issues raised by other members of the roundtable at the discussion sessions


The roundtable made observations as follows:

  • It is not likely that it would be religion to break up Nigeria, if Nigeria were to break up at all
  • It is not unusual for religion to inform the choice of leaders.
  • If a government does well, however, nobody cares what religion he professes.
  • Insensitivity of people in government does not help the polity. Nigerian legislators have no business collecting higher pay than their American counterparts considering the economic status of both nations.
  • It is not true and does not help public mood to cast insecurity in northeast in Islamic religious gab as more Muslims lose their lives than Christians.
  • Introduction of common law by colonial powers mixed governance with religious heritage as the common law had its origin in Judea-Christian tradition
  • Sharia, the Muslim legal system which was the dominant system in the Caliphate and Borno in the 19th century faced reduced application until independence and rise in education among Muslims later prompted demand for increased Sharia application.
  • Muslims who see Islam as a way of life find it difficult to separate Sharia from political organisations or how governance is conducted.
  • Among peasants with limited class differentiation, religious and ethnic differences are exploited by political parties seeking patronage and public office seekers canvassing votes
  • Prolonged military rule banished political parties, projected religion as the main source of differentiation, and caused political differences to be seen through religious prism
  • After demands by Muslim for legal review, the 1978 Constituent Assembly made room for the establishment of Sharia courts up to appeal level in states with large Muslim populations
  • The Buhari regime, though headed by two Muslims, showed no preference for Islamic propagation, but the Babangida regime changed the order, sought restoration of diplomatic relations with Israel to woo western media dominated by Jews, and took Nigeria to Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC).
  • Further strengthening of Sharia was canvassed in the 1998 Constituent Assembly, but from then on, Christians, through CAN, began to mount stiff resistance.
  • Nonetheless, some northern governors, beginning from Ahmed Yerima of Zamfara State, introduced Sharia, a development that caused riots in Kaduna in 2000.
  • Influence of religion in politics was vividly demonstrated in 2011 when 12 predominantly Muslim states of the North voted a Muslim presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, and Christian-dominated South South and South East voted Goodluck Jonathan.
  • As a departure from 1993 when Nigeria voted irrespective of religion for two Muslim presidential and vice presidential candidates, today, it is difficult for anyone to even risk presenting two such leading candidates of same faith.
  • Religious intensity in the polity, real or superficial, has its root in bad governance as Nigerians essentially would not care what religion a leader professes if he leads justly
  • Inability of successive regimes to provide equity in governance causes reliance on religious institutions for consolation.




  • Nigerians must insist on good governance for all, as that is the real antidote to divisive religious sentiments
  • Nigerians must accept the teachings of the major religions focusing on respect for human life as no religion condones wanton killing of fellow human beings
  • The rest of Nigeria must move closer to the Yoruba notion of religion, in which some spouses practice different faiths and still carry on perfect marital relationships
  • While it remains a reality that Christian or Muslim groups support one of their own, Nigerians should not panic, as the same trend holds true elsewhere; and tolerance is the key
  • Religion should progressively be regarded as a personal choicecitizens whether the state is secular or not
  • Nigerians should help public mood by not oversimplifying the insecurity in the North East as an Islamic uprising as more Muslims have been victims than Christians
  • Many crises taking up a religious toga have individuals or groups making secret gains; it pays to realise this and refuse to be tools for realising such illicit gains
  • Relevant authorities must focus on education delivery and creation of jobs for graduating students to curb involvement of youths in meaningless hostilities
  • Governments must be seen as accountable and as institutions which dispense justice equitably
  • Governments must treat all religions equally, so that no religion would feel maligned


Maji Peterx                                                                                                                                                                             Convener