Nigerian Sociologist Ebenezer Obadare is asking us to take a closer look at the underlying forces of Nigeria’s political life. In a new book titled Pentecostal Republic, the Kansas University professor tackles one of the country’s sore points—the persistent interference of religion in politics.
Ever since colonialism, religion has always been a key component in the calculations of political power both at the level of the Nigerian state and in the cultural life of the nation. But Pentecostal Republics explores this problem as it relates to the astronomic rise of pentecostalism in the last couple of decades. By focusing on pentecostalism, the book “charts the turbulent course of democracy in the Nigerian Fourth Republic, exploring the key role religion has played in ordering society.” It traces the history of religious division in the country and how tensions around this division have intensified in the years following the reinstatement of democracy in 1999.
Obadare’s central claim is that “the rise of Pentecostalism is a force focused on appropriating state power, transforming the dynamics of the country and acting to demobilize civil society, further providing a trigger for Muslim revivalism.” In other words, figuring out the specific role of Pentecostalism in Nigerian politics gets us closer to unraveling the mystery of the persistent instability that plagues Nigeria’s democracy. This is, in part, because, as Obadare claims in Pentecostal Republics, the conflicts that arise from the interplay between religion and politics are “integral to Nigeria’s democratic process, and are fundamental to understanding its future.”
Obadare is Professor of Sociology at Kansas University where he teaches and researches on religion and politics, civic engagement, and civic service and citizenship in Africa. Obadare has, thus far, published seven books and numerous articles on various aspects of African culture and politics, so it is not much of a surprise that critics are impressed with this new book. Harvard Divinity School Professor Jacob Olupona says the book is not only one of “the best work on religion in Nigeria” but also that it “will have a profound impact on African studies, religion and sociology.” Allan H. Anderson of University of Birmingham praises the book for brilliantly uncovering the role of pentecostalism in Nigeria’s politics, emphasizing its gripping narrative and compelling insights.
Pentecostal Republic is no doubt, an important book. It is published by ZED books and will be out in a few days, on Oct 15! Follow the links below to begin reading.