Non secular intolerance – in one of the vital non secular international locations in Africa if not the world – is among the points dominating debate forward of subsequent yr’s elections.
It’s uncommon to discover a Nigerian who is just not religious in a nation that’s roughly divided right into a primarily Muslim north and a largely Christian south.
The structure ensures non secular freedom – the nation has no official faith and none of its 36 states is allowed to undertake one. It additionally prohibits non secular discrimination.
But many who reside in areas the place they’re in a non secular minority do really feel discriminated in opposition to, and reside in worry – and with good motive given the historical past of religious-based violence.
“We do not have freedom to worship. For those who costume like a Muslim, you might be in bother. We’re simply hiding our faith in worry of not being attacked,” Ibrahim Bello, a Muslim dwelling in south-eastern Nigeria, informed the BBC.
Obinna Nnadi, a Christian who as soon as lived in northern Kaduna state felt equally fearful: “I felt it was not secure to practise my faith there. I needed to pack my household and depart.”
Neither has a lot confidence within the authorities to clamp down on intolerance – and Mr Bello says assaults don’t at all times make the information, besides these involving the Islamist insurgency within the north-east by which each Muslims and Christians are attacked by militants.
This lack of religion within the political class to take care of such discrimination has develop into extra heated because the governing All Progressive Congress (APC) has upset a cross-party custom – in observe because the return to democracy in 1999 – of getting each a Christian and a Muslim on the presidential ticket.
The incumbent president is Muhammadu Buhari, a northern Muslim, whereas his deputy is Yemi Osinbajo, a southern Christian.
However the APC ticket for 2023 has Bola Tinubu, a southern Muslim, with Kashim Shettima, a northern Muslim, as his working mate.
Some really feel this might inflame tensions. The Armed Battle Location and Occasion Information Venture (Acled) has recorded that the common variety of month-to-month incidents of violence focusing on Christians has risen by greater than 25% within the final yr.
Whereas Acled has not individually captured religion-linked assaults on Muslims – apart from assaults by militant teams like Boko Haram – some informed the BBC of their experiences, particularly within the south-east, an space largely inhabited by members of the Igbo ethnic group.
Aisha Obi is an Igbo Muslim – a rising group. Some are converts, though the bulk have been born into the religion within the predominantly Christian area.
She mentioned girls have been the prime targets due to their Islamic costume and have been topic to a hostility born of the civil warfare that began in 1967 when Igbo leaders declared independence.
The secessionist revolt resulted in defeat however some wounds are but to heal with resentment felt in direction of the Muslim Hausa-Fulani group from the north, which then dominated the federal government.
“They see you as a saboteur,” Ms Obi informed the BBC.
“Even inside a car or on a motorbike, they name you: ‘Hausa individual, who is aware of what they’re carrying. It may very well be a bomb.’ They really feel Igbos aren’t speculated to be Muslims,” she mentioned.
There are frequent assaults on people and mosques within the area which the authorities don’t take critically, she says.
“They do not imagine us. After we inform them, they accuse us of us desirous to trigger non secular warfare.”
Rev Caleb Ahima, vice-president of the Christian Affiliation of Nigeria (CAN), acknowledges that non secular discrimination is a consequence of location.
“In some states like [north-eastern] Borno, Christian non secular data is just not allowed to be taught. Christians aren’t given plots of land to construct their church buildings,” he mentioned.
Rifkatu Aniya, from Kaduna state which has massive Christian and Muslim communities, mentioned she had by no means felt secure since her Christian husband, a pastor, was killed in non secular violence that erupted in 2000.
The state’s primary metropolis, additionally referred to as Kaduna, has since divided into Christian and Muslim areas, explains resident Emeka Okeiyi, which impacts on their non secular freedom.
“I can not say I’ve any restriction to practising my religion within the southern a part of the town,” he mentioned – however he is aware of of Christians within the Muslim northern suburbs who wouldn’t dare arrange a church.
There are followers of African conventional religions who additionally say they face intolerance – particularly from those that observe the dominant faiths.
Odinani, or Odinala, was the faith of the overwhelming majority of individuals in japanese Nigeria earlier than the introduction of Christianity – and is making a comeback with youthful individuals.
Odinani follower Cletus Chukwuemeka Ogbodo says the concept of non secular concord as enshrined in Nigeria’s structure is in stark distinction to how persons are handled.
“Pastors burn down shrines. Pastors burn individuals’s ancestral heritages down throughout ‘crusades’,” he says about Christian assaults on conventional locations of worship.
If the federal government adhered to the constitutional provisions, it might come to assistance from individuals and prosecute the perpetrators, he mentioned.
There was a protracted authorized battle in Nigeria’s greatest metropolis, Lagos, which has seen fierce argument over non secular freedom vs secular rights.
It ended this yr when Nigeria’s Supreme Court docket upheld a ruling that feminine Muslim college students had the correct to put on a head scarf to high school.
For Ishaq Akintola, director of Muslim Rights Concern (Muric), it was a victory for Muslims within the south who frequently really feel they don’t seem to be handled pretty.
However for others like lawyer Malcolm Omirhobo, it went in opposition to the secular spirit of the structure.
To make some extent he attended court docket in a standard outfit – together with a beaded gourd necklace and had a white circle drawn in chalk round his proper eye like a priest of African religions.
“My battle is for secularity to be the norm,” he informed the BBC.
When the authorities do intervene tangibly in non secular affairs it could additionally result in resentment.
To cease non secular incitement in Kaduna state, a ban was imposed on preaching final yr – limiting it to those that are licensed by a council made up of members of each faiths.
This infuriated some Christian non secular leaders, who recommended it was an instance of presidency overreach – specifically Pastor Johnson Suleman of the Omega Hearth Ministry, who accused the governor when it was first proposed of desirous to “Islamise Kaduna” in a sermon that went viral.
However the inter-faith council could also be a method to foster native understanding – and may very well be a blueprint for different states.
Some Muslim and conventional leaders in Kaduna are actually becoming a member of evangelical worshippers on Sundays – as a part of efforts to ease tensions earlier than the polls.