Posted by: Snake Oil Baron | March 27, 2009

Battlefront Meme

One of the major front-lines between Islam, Christianity and secularism is Nigeria. No census can be accomplished without extreme controversy but Nigeria’s population is claimed to be roughly 50% Islamic, 45% Christian and 20% traditional religions like animism. If you think you see a math problem there you actually see a problem of politics and of categorization.

Islam seems to have increased in its percentage of the population but not as much as Christianity over the last few decades. While traditionalists will not likely disappear completely, the point at which converts from their fraction can contribute to the growth of the other two is soon to be reached. At that point the only significant growth of either Christians or Muslims will be either through fertility rates (very high for the nation as a whole but not broken down by religion in any accessible form) or conversion.

Now Nigeria is one of the places where identified adherence is the weakest. What I mean is that people identifying as Muslim or Christian are likely to have beliefs and practices from both those religions and traditional animism as well. Nigeria is the home of “Chrislam”, a syncretic and improbable blend of Christianity and Islam (frankly, “Chrislam” sounds like something left over after processing a pig carcass). Its founder reads from both the Bible and Koran and his followers must be either illiterate enough or non-literal enough to believe that the two are somehow reconcilable. If you break Nigerian Christianity into three large groups of Catholic, Protestant and native African churches (having an African origin separate from European denominations) the African churches would actually be the largest group.

And secular humanism ticks away in the background. From what I can estimate, larger secular humanist organizations exist in Nigeria then in most places in Africa. While Islamists are often successful in having shariah law implemented at local levels in Islamic regions of Nigeria, there are a significant number of Muslims who oppose this and as familiarity with the realities of shariah increase their numbers will likely increase also.

All of this is important to keep in mind when considering the city of Lagos. As the city strains under the demand for land for development and the population is expected to rise from 15 million to 25 million in the next 6 years. They are reclaiming/creating land in a similar manner as Dubai has done and continues to do and Lagos is expected to become the financial hub of Africa. As a nation with significant English language skills, coastal access to Europe and the Americas, combined with oil and other wealth it is one of the important areas on the modern “Risk” board game.

Christians, Muslims, humanists, and cult leaders of every kind…

Gentlemen… Start your missionaries.

But then, the pieces are already in place, the Christian, Islamic and humanistic missionaries and who will win Nigeria are of Nigerian birth for the most part. The only question is how much blood will be spilled to decide the future of their nation – and whether there will be churches, mosques or museums on that “Eko Atlantic”.


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