By John Haire

Religions Practiced:

There are two main religions practiced in Nigeria. These are Muslim, which represents just over 50% of the population and Christianity which covers about 48% of the population.

Below is a chart showing the exact breakdown of religions based by sex:


Islamic Background in Nigeria

Islam made its appearance in Africa for the first time in about 600 ad. It not known exactly when the religion made its way to Nigeria, but it believed to have been introduced to the country in the 1600 or 1700s. During the 1800s, the Muslim religion caught on in the north, and became the major religion of most ruling parties. These rulers then forced the religion onto the people below them. This allowed for a rapid expansion of the religion for the next 100 years.

In the early 1900s, European colonization had started to expand into Africa, and parts of Nigeria were overtaken by the French and British. Most of the north was under British control, who made the existing rulers answer to British authorities. The stopped much of the growth of the Islamic religion during this time.

Christian Background in Nigeria

Christianity was introduced in the 1400s by Portuguese traders. The religion was practiced in scattered churches throughout Nigeria but never really caught on until the 1800s. The spread of Christianity would actually begin to become more mainstream after the British abolished the slave trade in 1807. The freed slaves traveled back to their homelands with an understanding of the religion and would spread it in the country. Most of these freed slaves returned to southern Nigeria. The north has already predominantly Muslim and was not very receptive to the Christian Religion.

The Religious Divide:

Northern Nigeria is dominated by the Muslim religion, while the south is mainly Christian. The northern Muslim Nigerians have pushed to have the Muslim rule of law enforced, while the mainly Christian south has followed a more western style legal structure.

Below is a map of Nigeria showing the states under Muslim Sharia Law:


Religious Tensions in Nigeria:

With two major religions that often have seemingly different viewpoints, there is bound to be some conflict in regards to religion. Nigeria has been a hotbed of religious conflict for quite some time. One of the main causes of conflict between members of both religions is what is described as a “superior-inferior attitude of interaction, manifest in the intent of each group to win more converts.” (Sodiq) Islamic leaders in the region claim that Muslim is the better religion and the only one acceptable before God. It is also required that Muslims go out and preach this message which adds fuel to the fire between the two religions. Christianity, “claims to be a universal religion, the only way through which humanity can attain salvation.” (Sodiq) Christianity is also heavily preached to other cultures through the use of missionaries. These missionaries often times have set out to convert the Muslim north to Christianity. This has not been well received and has also not helped tensions in the area.

Christian Music in Nigeria:

Christian music is very popular in the southern states of Nigeria. Gospel music is widely produced and listened to in these areas. Gospel music in Nigeria is an evolution of traditional hymns sang in church. The movement actually was started in the America’s and was brought over to Nigeria by Pentecostals who felt that traditional hymn music was too old and tired and needed to be replaced. Popular performers of Nigerian Gospel music include Carol Bridi who was a soloist that brought the western influences if disco into her music in the mid 1980s.

Carol Bridi’s Music:

Panam Percy Paul:

Muslim Music in Nigeria

Apala songs originated in the state of Yoruba during the early 1960s. This type of music was a traditionally Muslim music and sang about passages from the Quran and other Islamic Proverbs. One of the major composers of this type of Music was Harana Ishola who produced many works from the 1960s until the early 1980s. His music was the early anscestor of what would become known as Fuji music.

Fuji music is a form of Apala that uses "ornamented, free-rhythmic" vocals. Common instruments for this type of music are sakaras, tambourines and Hawaiian guitars. As this music began to evolve in Nigeria, it became very closely related to the Muslim religion.

Harana Ishola’s Apala Music:

Ayinla Omowura’s Fuji Music:


"BBC NEWS | Africa | Nigeria: Facts and Figures." BBC News - Home. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <>.

"Music of Nigeria." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <>.

"Nigerian Gospel Music Scene." Welcome to Nigerian Gospel Music. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <>.

Sodiq, Yushua. "Can Muslims and Christians Live Together Peacefully in Nigeria?" ATLA Religion Database. Ebscohost, 2009. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <>.

"Who Lit the Bomb in Nigeria?" Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <>.




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