Religion in Nigeria just like many multi cultural countries, has a number of religious movements and practices. But Nigeria’s (or naija if you like) religious movements and practices are mainly Christian, Islamic and traditional or indigenous groupings.
Islam in Nigeria
By population and demography, Islam is the most widespread and practiced religion in Nigeria with approximately 70-80 million people who profess it as their religion.
Most of the Muslims in Nigeria reside in the Northern part of the country consisting of 19 states which are predominantly Islamic (80% or more of the total population) in almost all the 19 states except for plateau, Taraba, Kaduna, Benue, Kogi, Kwara and The federal capital territory were there is a slightly even balance of Christian, Muslim and traditional religious practitioners population spread.
In the south there exist a sizeable number of Islamic practitioners but they are limited to mostly the Yoruba speaking parts of South west Nigeria typically in Kwara, Ondo, Osun, Ogun and Oyo states.
Although there are Muslims in Ekiti state but compared to the other Yoruba speaking states Ekiti has relatively fewer Muslims than the other Yoruba speaking states. Islam came to Nigeria long before Christianity could get a foot hold and this was largely by conquest.
In Nigeria the head of the Islamic religion is the sultan of the Sokoto caliphate who along with a number of emirs, preside over the affairs of the religion in the North.
In southern Nigeria there is no recognized supreme religious Authority although majority of Muslims bare allegiance to the sultan, they however also operate independently without necessarily being subjects to him.
A number of Islamic movements that propagate the Islamic religion in Nigeria especially in the southern part exist examples include; NASFAT, HIZBULAHI movement, ANSAR-UDEEN society among others.
In the north some sects also exist with the tendency that they become extremist movements one of such was the infamous Boko Haram (Nigerian Al-qaeda) whose members numbering over 700 were killed by security forces in June 2009 following a violent attempt to impose Islamic rule (Sharia) on the Nigerian state.
Christianity in Nigeria
In the southern part of Nigeria consisting of the Yoruba, Igbo and other minorities from the Niger delta region and parts of the middle belt region that falls into the south of Nigeria, Christianity is the predominant religion.
Up until the late 1980’s most of the Christian religious movements were the orthodox churches such as the Anglican, catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodists among other church movements that date back to the pre- 20th century era.
These religion in Nigeria movements were introduced to Africa by missionaries from Europe particularly Ireland, England, Portugal, Italy and America. However these days the Pentecostal churches are growing in popularity gradually phasing out the ‘old fashioned churches’ and bringing along with them American inspired doctrines which are questionable based on their tenets.
These days most Pentecostal churches teach prosperity, earthly success and maximize the use of flamboyant, colourful methods to drive home their points.
The ‘old fashioned preaching of salvation and striving for eternal glory’ through moral uprightness is often portrayed as too rigid or misguided by the new generation of Christian religion in nigeria movements.
In this league of ‘churches’ are the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Nigeria’s largest Pentecostal Church, Christ Embassy, Winners Chapel, The lord’s chosen charismatic revival ministry, among others.
Although some Pentecostal churches are more ‘spiritual’ than others such as Deeper Life bible Church and Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries they all have a common factor which is the believe that Christianity must be holy ghost inspired.
There are also the gospel churches like the four square gospel church that have their origin dating back centuries. They are less pronounced than the Pentecostal churches but differ in their practices.
Overall, the Catholic Church in Nigeria is the largest Christian movement with an overwhelming population in the south eastern part and smaller size in other parts of the country (possibly between 20 and 30 million) followed by RCCG with an estimated 10 million members. Overall Christians in Nigeria number 55 to 60 million.
Traditional/indigenous religions in Nigeria
In Nigeria especially in the formal sector people with any religion other than the a forementioned are not reckoned with. Although officially anyone can practice any religion of his or her choice, it is not acceptable culturally to profess indigenous faith particularly if you are educated. However some indigenous religions exist with most of their adherents being illiterate and unexposed to western civilization(not neccesarily wrong).
The Ogun, Osun and Sango worshippers of south west Nigeria are examples of indigenous religious practitioners. An Austrian born Osun Priestess, Susan Wenger was a well known Osun worshipper until her death in 2008.
There is no known number of indigenous faiths or practitioners however they are not as numerous as the other movements in the big two religions of Nigeria.
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