Religion and Development in Nigeria: A Philosophical Analysis

Filed in Articles by on November 21, 2022

Religion and Development in Nigeria: A Philosophical Analysis


Religion can serve as a strong tool in fostering development in any country, but when not properly managed it can also mar the same. In this case, the negative effect comes when a man fails to assert himself existentially but depends absolutely on religion to do everything for him.

More often than not, he resorts to seeking a spiritual solution to most of his existential problems in various prayer houses.

The consequences of such an approach to issues cannot be far-fetched as it leaves the individual’s rational faculty dormant, and such an individual cannot positively affect the desired change in himself and his environment. No wonder a country like Nigeria whose religiosity is high is still labeled a third-world country.

This work is a wake-up call to all Nigerians who still wallow in religiosity to wake up and take charge of their existence.

The work employs the philosophical methods of evaluation and appraisal. However, the work does not condemn the practice of religion in its totality, rather it decries the extreme notion in the minds of most Nigerians as it has a negative implication.


John Mbiti (1969) asserted that “religion is the strongest element in the traditional background, and exerts probably the greatest influence upon the thinking and living of the people concerned.”

Mbiti also made another observation that “religion is in the African man whole system of being, as such wherever he is, there also you must see an element of his religion. Having heard from Mbiti, one cannot but see Africans as highly religious people, but I have come to see that this approach of religiosity by Africans has a negative impact on her.

At a point Africa was infected with manna from heaven syndrome, as such he depends on God to do virtually everything for him.

To buttress this, I will illustrate with a story,  thus; A certain Nigerian man, sated with his snuff addition, sought to break-off from such. He decides to go for a crusade scheduled for three days, all through his prayer was, “God please take away this snuff-box from me”.

On the third day of the crusade, the host  pastor  overwhelmed by concern asked the man, “sir please where is this snuff box?” Surprising for me, the man answered, “it is in my pocket  pastor.”

It is really ridiculous for such a man to expect God to come from heaven to take away the snuff-box from him without him doing it himself and maybe later ask God for the grace to follow up his decision.

Similar cases abound in Nigeria and Africa at large where people fail to do what they could, and later blame God for their inability to answer prayers.  It is very important to note that God is not in the habit of doing for man what man can do for himself.

No wonder John Mbiti a Kenyan philosopher and Anglican priest in his seminal work “AFRICAN RELIGIONS AND PHILOSOPHY” said that “Africans, in general, are notoriously religious, as religion permeates every aspect of his life.”

This extreme notion of religion in the mind of atypical Africans is without an obvious effect, as it downplays man’s active role in shaping himself and reshaping his society for good.

He, therefore, folds his hands to situations that require his rationality and still expect a miracle to happen. With such passivity in existence, the individual’s and society’s stagnancy in the development is assured.

Therefore there is a need to change this mindset that religion can take care of all man’s problems even with little or no effort of his. This is a big challenge to development in Nigeria and it needs to be tackled effectively so that the individual will know his rightful role in matters of his existence. It is only then he can meaningfully impact his environment.


Mbiti J.S  African Religions and Philosophy Heinemann Education Books, 1969 p.1
Merriam W. (ed) Encyclopedia Of Religion New York pentice Hall, 1980.
Madu E.J Fundamental of Religious Studies Franedoh publishers (NIG) ltd. 1997 p.20
Metuh E.I Comparative Studies of African Traditional Religions Imico publisher, Onitsha. 1987 p.13
The America Heritage Rogers Thesaurus Houghton Publishing Company ,2005.
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Sarah C   What is Correlation Between Religion and Development In Africa?…/what-is-the-correlation-between -religion-2009.   Retrieved on 28/04/2015
Omoregbe J   Knowing Philosophy p.197

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