Language, Religion and Politics In Nigeria


Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues




October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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Olaewe Ewegbemi




March 26, 2005



“It is the responsibilities of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies”.  Noam Chomsky.                                                 


Wole Soyinka, our own Nobel laureate of Literature and a few others in the academia have played this role so prominently by speaking the truth and exposing the lies of our bureaucrats and politicians!


“Appraising Nigeria at 44 “, the Guardian Editorial Comment of October 1, 2004, said, “is however, a depressing exercise; a catalogue of woes, of lost opportunities, of wasted resources, of failed leadership, and the lamentations of a people desperately seeking relief from the suffocating tyranny of poverty, political oppression and underdevelopment”.


For some time now, I have observed the language used by our President, his ministers and our legislators and have wondered whether Nigeria is truly a democracy or not.


 I have come to the conclusion that Nigeria’s political dispensation as we have it at present is a hybrid.  It is a dictatorship, an autocracy, a theocracy, a feudal state, a monarchy etc. all rolled into one.  A mere look at the language an tactics employed by our politicians , particularly the president would inform anyone  in doubt that democracy is a smokescreen.


On the rule of law in Nigeria,  Olu Onagoruwa(SAN) had this to say:

:”The incursion of the military into government , naturally created an awareness in the members of the Bar and Bench that the Government of the Military is a Government of men not of laws…”( Rule of Law, The Bar and The Bench, Guardian , September 26, 2004).


One wonders what explanations the learned gentleman would offer for the flagrant violation of the rule of law under Shagari or the present civilian administration . Or where or when  the rule of law has ever existed in Nigerian politics. Crowded .the police stations, arbitrary arrests and detentions; vigilante groups and jungle justice at checking points and motor-parks are the rule , not the exception, even under the present so-called civilian democratic state !   Anyway, let us go back to language and politics


In a recent article by Wole Soyinka titled “DECONSTRUCTING A DIATRIBE” (his reactions to Olusegun Obasanjo’s inaugural address to the Abuja Confab) which appeared on, Soyinka writes:


   “ A crucial starting point is readily supplied by the word ‘democracy’ or ‘democratic’, employed a half dozen times, roughly, in the presidential address at the Reform Conference, but with one manipulative instance that constitutes a cynical abuse of the word. Events that take place within a democracy do not necessarily imply a democratic procedure, any more than a project under a dictatorship necessarily earns designation as despotic manipulation.”


And the Chairman of the Confab, to let everyone know that he is in charge and if anyone or group tries to go to any of the “No go Areas”, that is, what the “conference is not about”, was quoted as saying, “ I shall walk out, and you know that means the end of the conference”(page 4 of Soyinka’s article). Is that the language of a democrat or that of a dictator?  Reminds me of  Wayas , the  president of the Senate during the Shehu  Shagari era.


The Chairman of the conference merely followed the footstep of His
Excellency, the President, who in his address to the conference had this to say among other things:

“ This conference IS NOT (emphasis mine) established to pull down, but to build, it is a gathering to uplift, enhance and strengthen, nurture and cultivate the best, most enduring, most ideal and lasting values that are central to our national growth, development and progress. This conference IS NOT AN OPPORTUNITY TO INSIST ON ABSOLUTES, ONE WAY OR NOTHING (emphasis mine)”


If that does not sound paternalistic and dictatorial, then may be I am just too sensitive to language and meaning.

In case anyone was not sure about how Nigeria came into being, our philosopher king cum president had this to say:




Now, fellow Nigerians, what other evidence do we need to know that God created Nigeria as a “geographical territory” and as a theocratic state?


 “The task of every Nigerian is to sustain what God has created…. God is righteous, just, kind, loving, caring, compassionate, and merciful. We His children by common grace, must exhibit these attributes which are innate in us”,


These are words ,  not from  a preacher or spiritual leader but from  a  democratically elected  president to his  followers who were gathered in His (Obasanjo’s) name!


Does that sound like the Sermon on the Mount? What are we to make of the historical fact that Lord Lugard “amalgamated “ the so-called North and South of this geographical expression, which the British imperialists later named Nigeria? Well, perhaps revisionism can be explained away by creationism or evolution theology.


Emeka Enejere in his article,”Breaking Ethnic Barriers”(The Guardian, January 31, 2205 in his opening statement had this to say:

“The state called Nigeria was created by British colonialism.  It was built over a period of more than 50years(1861-1914)…The territories were regrouped under the system of indirect rule into native authorities, the divisions, provinces, regions and federation”

Well, our historians may have to relearn their Nigerian history from our own President Olusegun Obasanjo.


What happens to anyone who does not share in the president’s theological explanation of how Nigeria came to be? Or to anyone who does not share in his vision of what his “Project Nigeria” is or ought to be? Where is rationalism in the scheme of things when Nigeria’s creation can be so glibly and easily sold as a divine intervention? 


 When a state of reification is perceived as a reality, how can indoctrinated Sango, Ogun. Olofin etc worshippers-turned Christians/Muslims by colonial and neo-colonial subjugation rediscover their true selves and their worth?


A dialogue not to dismember Nigeria?  A conglomeration of nations long dismembered by centuries of slavery, colonialism and neocolonialism?    A country whose leaders have never treated the people with respect and dignity? Whose leaders make promises to their ears only to leave them “suffering and smiling”(to borrow from late Anikulapo Kuti)?





In his address to the nation on March 22, 2005, President Olusegun Obasanjo lamented his heartfelt sorrow over the bribery scandal in the Ministry of Education. It is not so much what he said but how he said it that brings out the imperial presidency.


And for those who have not been paying close attention, our

President is trying so hard to look and sound presidential, and glimpses of plagiarized  Bushism(a reference to US President Bush) can be found in any of his speeches. . All the grandstanding in style and vocabulary cannot wipe away the harsh  realities of what Nigeria is at 44 nor can pretenses transform a dictatorship into a  truly democratic and responsive state. The President said:


“ Sometime in the month of February, 2005, intelligence report came to me that contrary to MY FIRM INSTRUCTIONS TO MINISTERS AND DEPARTMENTS AND PARASTATALS UNDER THEM (capitals mine) that nobody should bribe or give inducement to any individual or group in the National Assembly for approval or enhancement pf the budget proposed by me, SOME MINISTERS HAVE DISREGARDED MY INSTRUCTIONS”(capitals mine).



The President, like a military Commander giving “firm instructions” to his men not  to give bribe. And when the Commander found out that his instructions have been “disregarded” by his troops, what did he do?

He decided to go to the people to let them know how “heavy “ his heart was to address them (as American presidents often do when they want to win popular support for their programs or policy which Congress might not be favorably disposed to.)


Note that the president used the words “intelligence reports” to describe how he found out that his instructions were disregarded. Does that sound like a democratic process to you or a Gestapo tactics?    Intelligence gatherers within a cabinet?  Intelligence gathering on foreign or domestic enemies might be normal , but intelligence or snooping on his  cabinet members?


Why does the President need to give instructions to his cabinet not to bribe in a government where the “issue of transparency, accountability and eradication of corruption assumed a central place in the policies and programmes of this administration from its inception”?  We are doing our part of wiping out corruption, the President said ,  but the Legislative and Executive Branches etc must do their own part in winning the war on corruption, he added. So here we go, don’t blame me, blame the knuckle- heads that “disregarded my instructions”!


The President nominated these cabinet ministers before submitting them for confirmation by the Senate.  Were they thoroughly screened?  If they need to be reminded not to bribe, then how can the President claim that anti-corruption crusade is at the center of his policies and programmes?



Where is the Ministry of Justice?  The Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecution?  Why is the President the one directing that investigations be carried out into all the criminal acts within his cabinet?

“The Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Peter Okebukola will be dealt with APPROPRIATELY (capitals mine) for providing a loan of N20 million to the Ministry of Education on instruction of the then minister, and.” 


The Executive Secretary “providing a loan” to a Minister ?  When did the office  become a Bank or Loan Agency?  Does this not tell us about the state of anarchy Nigerian bureaucracy and government is in? Where are the ethics and morality in a country that has been described as the most “religious country”?   A Government of Men, Not of Laws?    A Government where the President himself routinely fails to obey judicial decisions!


 Wow, the President has assumed the roles of the prosecutor, the Attorney General and the Ministry of Justice! 


And we still say that this is a democracy?  And there is separation of powers? Where is the Judiciary? Where are the indictments? The Executive Secretary will be dealt with “appropriately”? By who? And who determines what is appropriate?


The domination and oppression of the people continue while they patiently wait for God to deliver them!  Meanwhile, the President not only rules but also reigns.  

Babangida , don’t worry, it would soon be your turn to sit on the many-legged stool with your “toothy smile”!











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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.