Factors Responsible for Muslim-Christian Unrest in Nigeria: A Socio-Political Analysis


Lately, Nigeria was in the local and international news again for another unpopular reason. While we were just recovery from the shame that was brought to the entire nation by a 23 year old Yemen based Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who attempted to bomb a United States bound Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on December 24, 2009 on religious grounds; another religious crisis struck in Jos claiming several lives and property. Until recently, it is not an overstatement to say that Jos was one of the most peaceful cities in Nigeria. What could have happened that the peaceful city of Jos lost it glory? The situation of Jos is fast becoming typical of most cities in Nigeria. What can we do to prevent these ugly situations that keep         soiling the good name of Nigeria in the international community? Above all, what can we do to stop this incessant blood shed in our nation in the name of religion?  Theses are some of the questions we shall be attempting to answer in this post, from a Christian and an evangelical perspective.  But first, it would be proper for us to start by looking at some of the socio-political factors that may be responsible for this problem.


Generally speaking, apart from corruption, one of the major problems facing Nigeria is Christian–Muslim religious unrest. It is not uncommon to hear about violence involving Christians and Muslims anytime in any part of the country. Initially, the problem was prevalent in the northern part of the country but over time, the crisis could now been seen in almost every part of the country. It is however ironical to say that both Christianity and Islam claim to be religions of peace. The reverse has always been the case in Nigeria. In the last four decades, hardly can a year go without religious unrest in Nigeria. These riots have claimed several lives and property. Several factors are however responsible for these incessant crisis. Some of these factors include political instability, instable economic fortune, poverty, bad governance, military dictatorship, violation of fundamental human rights, lack of love and value for human life, to mention just a few.

On daily basis millions of Christians and Muslims rub elbows with each other during a variety of encounters. Closeness and distance at the same time characterize the inner relationship between the Christian and Islamic faiths[1] in Nigeria. The door to healthy dialogue on spiritual matter is always open, but seldom entered.[2] Yet an average Muslim in Nigeria lives in suspicion with his Christian brother. The story is however the same is for Christians to Muslims. Several factors are responsible for this suspicion. One is what Matthew Kukah calls “historical differences and misinterpretations aided by colonial histories.”[3] In the words of Kukah:

Christian-Muslim relations, even at the best of times, have always been disturbingly marred by suspicions, accusations and counteraccusations over interpretations of history and experiences. This is a historical reality that has been further confounded by the very complex nature of colonial histories on the continent of Africa, where the destruction of the existing civilizations, empires and emperors provided the foundation stones for the establishment of the colonial states that later emerged. The passage of many years after the end of colonial rule has not changed the prejudices.[4]

While Kukah’s submission may be generally true in Sub-Sahara Africa; I do specifically concur that the experience is true of Nigeria. Religious issues have been completely politicized in Nigeria. Since Nigeria attained independence, regional, ethnic and religious tensions have marred its progress. Although the adherents of Islam and Christianity form the dominant majority of the Nigeria society, neither religion has been able to overcome the obstacles laid by the political class, which continues to manipulate religious sentiments set one group against the other.[5] This is one of the reasons why bad governance, corruption, ethno-political and religious riots is rampart in Nigeria. The real religious teachings of love, peace and respect for human life have been neglected. According to Kukah, “the higher religious values that emphasize the dignity of human person as created by God, irrespective of his or her beliefs and station in life have been deemphasized”[6]. Little wonder while the government of Nigeria has not been able to do anything tangible about the incessant Christian-Muslim unrests in Nigeria. The political leaders are using manipulating religious sentiments for their personal interests. So, the tensed religious atmosphere of Nigeria is readily visible in that the contest for power within political arena has entered the Cathedrals and Mosques.[7]

With the kind of atmosphere described above, Christian-Muslim violence is naturally almost inevitable. Besides the aforementioned factors is the big issue of poverty.  It is like a vicious circle. Corruption and poverty are almost inseparable. While many political and religious leaders in Nigeria are enriching themselves with the public funds; it is the poor majority that suffers the consequences.  That is why people can do anything to get money including been involved in religious violence. In away, it will not be an over statement to state that most Muslim-Christian crisis in Nigeria has little or nothing to do with the religions; rather it is the consequences of corruption and poverty. Samuel Kunhiyop is right to argue that, “the erosion of moral values, increased social values, lack of transparency, disregard for the rule of law, lust of public trust, adoption of a utilitarian ethic, limited productivity and incompetence, ineffective development and administration, limited foreign and domestic investment and general underdevelopment that we experience in Africa are the consequences of corruptions”[8]. All these are true of Nigeria and they serve as background for Muslim-Christian unrest in the Nigerian society.

Finally, another factor which must be added quickly is that which is caused as a result of ignorance. Many of the issues that led to Muslim-Christian violence in Nigeria can be traced to this factor.[9] Most adherents of the two religions know little or nothing about each other’s faith. The defensive culture of Christianity and Islam must have been responsible for this. Chawkat Moucarry argues that, “although Christian and Muslims have been living together for hundreds of years, they always had a ghetto mentality, especially with regard to their faiths. Mutual ignorance, some would argue, was the price of trouble-free coexistence, and for Christians, perhaps the price of survival.”[10] The ghetto mentality explains why it is easy for a Muslim to have a wrong attitude toward a Christian or Christian toward a Muslim (as the case may be) without a justified cause. What happens about Imago Dei? What happens to love and respect for human life? Where is the Holy Spirit in this issue? We shall now proceed to see what the Bible has to say about this topic.


We shall attempt to respond to the above questions in the next post. Your comments, questions, critiques are most welcomed.


Photo culled from mypenmypaper:http://mypenmypaper.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/

[1] Paul Varo Martinson, Islam An introduction for Christians (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1994), 210.

[2] James P Dretke, A Christian Approach to Muslims: Reflections from West Africa (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1979), p. xv.

[3]Matthew Hassan Kukah, “Christian-Muslim Relations in Sub-Sahara Africa: Problems and prospects”

Routledge Taylor and Group, Vol.18, No.2, 155-164, April 2007.

[4] Kukah, 155-164.

[5] Matthew Hassan Kukah, “Christian-Muslim Relations in Sub-Sahara Africa: Problems and prospects”, 155-164.

[6] Kukah, 155-164.

[7] Razaq Abdul Kilani, “Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations in Niger Delta (Nigeria)”, Journal of

Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 20, No.1, 2000.

[8] Samuel Waje Kunhiyop, African Christian Ethics (Nairobi: WorldAlive Publishers, 2008), 166-168.

[9] Paul Varo Martinson, Islam An introduction for Christians, 17.

[10] Chawkat Moucarry, Faith to Faith: Christianity and Islam in Dialogue (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2001), 15.

The Fall of an Iroko Tree: A Tribute in Honor of Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo (1944-2010)

It is with heavy heart but with gratitude to God Almighty that we received the home-going news of one of the giants in the history of the  Church and Christianity in Africa. Our own Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo has gone to be with the Lord today March 18, 2010. Adeyemo was an African Christian statesman of high repute. He was a detribalized Christian and a true son of Africa. Adeyemo was a very brilliant, level-headed and one of the true African-Christian leaders with exemplary virtues. The Church in Africa needs more men like Adeyemo but unfortunately real men like him are becoming scarce by the day in Africa. I guess it is high time for the church in Africa to raise its voice in prayer for the Lord be gracious to us and grant us again sincere, faithful, humble, sacrificial, loving, purposeful, scholarly, hard-working, and forward-looking men and women like Tokunboh Adeyemo.

Tokunboh Adeyemo was born into a royal Muslim family in Western Nigeria. The second in a family of eight children, he was the oldest son. Destined to be the chief of his tribe, he was educated in the best institutions in the country and became involved in politics as a young man. When people looked at him, they saw a faithful Muslim and a young man with a promising future, but Tokunboh felt an ache inside, an emptiness he could not fill. A teacher at the school where Tokunboh was headmaster invited him to church. When he witnessed how people with few material possessions could worship God with such joy and fervor, he was impressed. He decided to find out the reason for their joy. On 13 September, 1966 he went to hear an evangelist at a tent meeting. The message from John 10:10 explained that Christ came to introduce not another religion, but a relationship. “As the man concluded, I decided to follow Yeshua, the giver of life”. Today all eight members of Tokunboh’s family are followers of Jesus Christ (Interview with John Brand, AIM International).

The salvation he experienced in the Lord Jesus Christ was the turning point of his life. The Lord was going to use his zeal and knowledge not only for his immediate family, community, or nation but the entire continent of Africa. He was a man with high regard for education. He was aware of the fact that one of the crises facing African Christianity today is in the area of leadership and that the church in Africa is not exempted from this challenge.  No wonder he gave himself to adequate training so as to be able to contribute to the growth of the church in Africa.

In order for him to be recruited in the mission of God for the church in Africa, the Lord granted him the privilege of training in some leading evangelical schools and public universities of all times. He had his Bachelor of Theology degree at ECWA Theological Seminary, Igbaja, Nigeria; Masters of Divinity and Theology at Talbot School of Theology of Biola University, California, USA; Doctor of Theology degree at Dallas Theological Seminary, Texas, USA; and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland (Africa Bible Commentary, xiii).

It is obvious that Adeyemo’s passion for ministry was leadership in Africa. He believes that the problem of Africa is not lack of human or material resources. According to him, “Africa’s problem can be summarized in one word: ‘leadership’ – inept leadership, corrupt leadership, selfish leadership. We need leaders who do not focus on greed, but see themselves as servants of the people. If we could use properly the wealth with which God has endowed this continent, Africa would be a super-power!” Adeyemo did his best to educate the church of this great need while he served for 22years as the General Secretary for Association for Evangelicals in Africa (AEA, the umbrella body for Evangelical denominations in Africa) with its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

He has written and co-authored several books and articles published in leading international journals. His contributions to scholarship and Christianity in Africa are unquantifiable. Some of these works include: The Doctrine of God in African Tradition, Following Jesus in a Rich-poor Society, The Making of the Servant of God, A Christian Mind in a Changing Africa, Salvation in African Tradition, Deliver Us from Evil: An Uneasy Frontier in Christian Mission, Africa’s Enigma and Leadership Solutions, and Is Africa Cursed?: a Vision for Radical Transformation, and many other works that space will not permit us to list. Adeyemo is the General Editor for Africa Bible Commentary, a monumental Bible commentary written by seventy African Scholars. No wonder, Dennis White (former Senior Pastor of Nairobi Pentecostal Church and Adeyemo’s pastor of many years) describes Adeyemo as “a gifted African scholar, theologian, elder of the church and one of the sharpest minds that he has ever met in his thirty-eight years of Christian ministry.” He further describes him as “a thinker, a realist, a spiritual brother and advisor.”  His outstanding leadership skills have won him a lot of admirations within and outside the Church in Africa. One of the several awards that he received was the honorary doctorate awarded him by Potchefstroom University, South Africa for his outstanding Christian scholarship and leadership.

Besides all these numerous achievements, Adeyemo was a man who delicately balanced academics and spirituality, a virtue which is very rare in our time. Our experience in Africa has shown that men in the caliber of Adeyemo usually have the tendency of becoming proud and conceited. But Adeyemo would not allow anything to stand between him and his maker. He was until his demise an elder at the Nairobi Pentecostal Church, Valley Road, Nairobi, Kenya.

Until his death, Tokunboh Adeyemo was the Executive Director of the Centre for Biblical Transformation based in Nairobi, Kenya, and the Chancellor of the famous Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (a constituent school of  Africa International University, Kenya). Although Adeyemo has joined our great ancestors like Byang Kato, and even recently, Kwame Bediako, Ogbu Kalu and many others; his family and the church in Africa should be comforted with the fact that he served his generation. He left us the younger generation with many virtues to emulate.

It is true that the Iroko (wood of the ‘Chlorophora excelsa’, is native to the west coast of Africa. It is sometimes called African, or Nigerian, teak, but the iroko is unrelated to the teak family. The wood is tough, dense, and very durable. It is often used in cabinet making and paneling as a substitute for teak, which it resembles both in color[Encyclopedia Britannica])tree has fallen but we shall meet again at the home beyond.

Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo is survived by his wife, Mrs. Ireti Adeyemo and their two sons. We thank God for his life and please let us keep his family in our prayers.


  • Tokunboh Adeyemo, ed. Africa Bible Commentary (Nairobi: WorldAlive, 2007)
  • Tokunboh Adeyemo, Is Africa Cursed? (Nairobi: WordAlive, 2009 [1997])
  • Iroko Tree (Encyclopedia Britannica)
  • Gottfried Osei-Mensah, Wanted Servant Leaders (Accra: Africa Christian Press, 1990).
  • John Brand, The Blessing and Enigma (Interview on AIM International about “the impact of the gospel in Africa, Aids, poverty and the role of the African Church in the world during this century.”)

Related links


Recommedations to Nigerian Christians on Prosperity Gospel-2

You are welcome again to this blog! Let me seize this opportunity to thank you for visiting this blog on regular basis. Although none of you left a comment on the last post, I am aware from the information given to me by WordPress that over seventy of you visited this blog last week alone. I want to encourage you to feel free to drop your comments or views on any of issues we have discussed on this blog so far. Here are the last sets of the recommendations:

Recommendation Continues

Recommendation 4: It is necessary to set up avenues for religious dialogue between scholars of conventional Christian theology and the teachers of prosperity gospel. Such dialogue will succeed only in an atmosphere of mutual respect, it is necessary for all participants in the dialogue to know that no one side has all the truth. Christian Association of Nigeria, Pentecostal fellowship of Nigeria and other umbrella Christian bodies in Nigeria should see this as a clarion call.

Recommendation 5: Also, there is need for a re-formulation of prosperity gospel. In its present form, it is not only unrealistic but also misleading. The reform should start with the preachers themselves developing a more balanced approached to biblical interpretation. They need to go for better theological training from standard theological colleges, seminaries and universities where balanced biblical hermeneutics is highly valued. What many neo – Pentecostal churches are doing now is establishing their own theological colleges. While we would not discourage this development, it is important for them to make their programmes inclusive. They should study the academic programmes of standard seminaries and universities to be informed of well – researched, balanced values of doctrines, to which they can then add their own innovations. That should be the aim of contextualization and liberation theology.

Recommendation 6: Finally, Christians (especially clergymen and counselors from all churches) should to an extent, be ministers of prosperity. They should delicately balance their message of faith with words of hope and prayer for divine intervention in times of crisis. This must however be done from a proper understanding and interpretation of the word of God.


Thanks again for reading. I look forward to sharing another interesting topic with you in the next couple of day.


Recommedations to Nigerian Christians on Prosperity Gospel-1



Here are some practical recommendations to Christians in Nigeria and world over on what our attitude should be towards that ‘popular gospel’, the prosperity gospel. The recommendations are based on my personal findings from studying ‘the gospel’ in Nigeria  in the last couple of years. In the meantime, I shall only give three of these recommendations today and hope to give the rest in my next post.


Recommendation 1:  Believers in Jesus Christ should live according to the biblical standard. Believers’ lives are supposed to be exemplary and patterned according to the model of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We should bear in mind that the most important thing in life is not material acquisition, but a life  that brings glory to God. That is why Christ call us the “salt and (the) light” of the world, so, we must always shine in darkness and radiate joy and hope in the hopelessness of the world (mat. 5:13-16). Any other purpose for life other than this is definitely not God glorying. 

Recommendation 2: The virtue of contentment should always be preached and encourage by church leaders rather than making Christians see wealth acquisition as the most important thing in life – Leaders of the church should lead by example. Leaders are supposed to be pace – setters. That is, they lead while others follow their example. It is  disappointing that some the people called into spiritual leadership in Nigeria are not worthy of emulation by their followers.

Recommendation 3: The Prosperity Gospel Preachers need to be reminded of the biblical teachings on the reality of Christian suffering and that should also incorporated into there theology. They must also respect the sovereignty of God. While they should continue to encourage Christians to seek divine intervention to their problems, they should avoid manipulating them.


I shall be looking forward to having your comments on my posts on Health and Wealth Gospel in Nigeria so far. Your comments are very valuable to me and it is the only to know if you have been educated and blessed by the posts. In the meantime, I will want you to be on the look out for  the next and last set of recommendations.