Nigeria the Most Populous Country Term Paper

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Traditional social hierarchy, which was practiced in pre-colonial times, survived in the form of ethical norms. Nigerians are very respectful to the holders of traditional titles such as chief, emir, Oba or Eze; as in ancient times chiefs' role was semi-divine as they were considered to be appointed by supreme powers. Holders of these titles take high positions in modern community hierarchy, especially in rural areas. Inner tribe relations based on traditional hierarchy play a very important role in country's government activities and politics in general. It's very important to note that the title of chief for Nigerians is often of a higher merit than doctoral degree.

Because Nigeria is a patriarchal society, most of household work is done by women, which are helped either by relatives or by servants, depending upon their social status. Nigerian husbands in majority do not have household chores, which is influenced both by African and Muslim traditions. Life style of poor and rich in Nigeria are greatly different, besides difference exists in life of urban and rural households. Even in multimillion cities such as Lagos majority of inhabitants do not have basic facilities such as running water, drain system or even electricity.

Common Beliefs and Values

Nearly al rudimentary religious beliefs of Nigerian ethnic groups are based on roots in the area of settling. These primary beliefs also connected family spirits and ghosts with supreme powers of the homeland. It was common for all ancient tribes of Nigeria to be connected to a certain place or settlement in the terms of genealogical relationship. These beliefs regulated every side of social and economical activity of a settlement, all kinds of social relations had to be approved and legalized only in the accordance to these mythological beliefs.

The mythology of Nigerians was predominantly built on the cult of ancestors, which later turned into seniority subordination. Such system of beliefs postulated mutual dependence and bail between family members and representatives of one family, community or tribe. On the secondary level in the religious system of ancient Nigerians were supernatural powers and spirits (old trees, animals, snakes, rivers, thunder, etc. were personalized and contributed to the system of mythological beliefs).

Nearly all of extraordinary events in tribal or community's life were interpreted from mythological point-of-view: catastrophes, hunting failures, bad weather conditions, epidemic or even individual illnesses. A special place in interaction with supreme powers was devoted to witchcraft and shamanism; no serious event in community's life was deprived of such practices. As all events were only explained in the terms of religious beliefs, resultant was a serious impact on system of traditional values and morality.

Traditional morality of Nigerians is strictly supervised. It turned into popular practice for adult men to organize secret societies to imitate activity of spirits and supervise social order in communities. By the end of 1990's these secret organizations were widely used for enforcement of indigenous traditions countrywide. The future members of such organizations had to receive certain training in order to be accepted in its membership in future, but changing social climate of developing society of Nigeria and proximity of widely afforded facilities of Western civilization led to new tendencies and a number of these secret sects died out. But nevertheless today, ritual dances on the hand with other traditional religious ceremonies are widely spread in rural communities to keep "unity" with "holly spirits and ghosts." The influence of shamans and religious chiefs even in urban areas is preserved as they take a direct participation in solving and interpreting different disputes, which refer to norms of morality, ethics and social behavior.

Today a number of witchcraft elements survived in the form of folk medicine and religious prejudices. Folk medicine of Nigerians is full of recipes from influence of "bad people," it has recommendations and rituals to avoid misfortunes, stresses and illnesses.

Like in all ancient cultures politics in life of Nigerian ethnicities correlated with religious beliefs, as power and social hierarchy were considered to be "holly." In their beliefs king (or chief) and spirits of his ancestors were responsible for prosperity and welfare of the whole state (or community):

In Oyo, for example, there were a number of national cults, each with its own priests who performed rituals under the authority of the king (alafin) in the public interest. Shango, god of thunder, symbolized the power of the king and of central government; Ogboni represented the fertility of the land and the monarch's role in ensuring the well-being of the kingdom." (from (

Religion and spirituality

Nigeria is known for its ethnic and religious diversity as absolutely all religions according to the statistics of 1990 were practiced nearly in all big cities of the country. Islam dominates in northern and western regions, Christianity with its different confessions is spread among Yoruba and Igbo. According to the statistics of 1963, 47% of Nigerians were Muslim, 35% Christian and approximately 18% represented native traditional congregations. Modern religious tendencies show that the number of Christians is growing with a constant rate, decline had been observed among followers of Nigerian traditional religions and slow increase was marked among Muslims. Such tendencies witness the dynamical rate of urbanization, of cross ethnic marriages and shift towards modernization.

Christian missions in the southern part of the country play an important role in promotion of religious knowledge and in education. After Nigeria gained independence in 1960's there was observed a considerable growth of Aladura Church, which is an Africanized Christian sect and growth of different evangelical churches, especially in the regions populated by Yoruba. Aladura is often called "praying" church as its members reject traditional and folk medicine and base curing only on praying and other religious practices.

Islam is also getting spread now in non-northern regions, as it became one of the important attributes for acceptance to the circles of local political and business elite.

Even those who confess Islam or Christianity are much influenced by folk traditional religious beliefs, which represent a complex mythical system. Traditional religious beliefs of Nigerians are represented by polytheism, with supreme being who rules the Universe and whom different spirits assists, ghosts of ancestors and deities. These creatures execute the role of mediators between supreme being and living creatures including man. All religious offerings are made through mediators (mainly spirits) and are often included in practices of folk medicine and folk magic.

Religious rituals play an important role in the life of each individual nearly in all Nigerian communities. Rituals and rites are integral part of changing social status and age. Usually the whole community takes part in ritual and religious ceremonies, which may vary depending on social status, gender and age of an individual.

Muslims in Nigeria are expected to follow Five Pilars of Islam: " The Testimony that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger; establishing of the five daily Prayers (Salah);the giving of Zakaah (charity), which is generally 2.5% of the yearly savings for a rich man working in trade or industry, and 10% or 20% of the produce for agriculturists. This money or produce is distributed among the poor and 25% of found treasure such as non-gambling lottery and every precious items found by someone; refraining from eating, drinking and having sex from dawn to dusk in the month of Ramadan (Sawm); pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca during the month of Zul Hijjah, which is compulsory once in a lifetime for one who has the ability to do it." (from Pilars of islam)

An important role in indigenous beliefs of Nigerians is devoted to kola nut, which is a part of religious ceremonies and is broken by youngest person (Ibos) or by the eldest person (Yoruba or Edo). Kola nut is often called a "nut of life":

The kola nut is offered to all guests much like we offer coffee. The kola nut's meaning, however, is more similar to a Eucharist than it is to coffee. It is the mark of a real man to break a kola nut every morning. A prayer to the gods accompanies the tradition, and the sprout of the nut is thrown to the gods. A man who breaks a nut in the morning has already said his prayer for the day, thus if he goes visiting and his hosts happen to run out of kola nut, he has still said his prayer...The ancestors asked for that bitter fruit to be their own. The gods asked for the people to throw the sprout out to thank them for every kola nut they split. And thus began the tradition of the kola nut." (from Nigeria, article ( -- mbarinotes.html)

Besides Kola nut ceremony, masquerades are integral in traditional Nigerian practices. Masks often represent spirits or ancestors and are made of wood. Even though that sometimes women start masquerades, they are really allowed to take part in them. In some ethnic groups only adult women can participate in masquerades.

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