Pentecostal Republic: Religion and the Struggle for State Power in Nigeria

In This Review

Pentecostal Republic: Religion and the Struggle for State Power in Nigeria
By Ebenezer Obadare
Zed Books, 2018
252 pp.

Academics have long understood Nigerian politics as structured by the division between northern Muslims and southern Christians. This probing, well-informed account from one of the most astute observers of contemporary Nigeria argues that since democracy was restored in the country, in 1999, the Christian side of Nigerian politics has been marked by the rising power of Pentecostalism, a loose category that encompasses as many as a third of Nigerians and is the country’s fastest-growing religious group. Obadare shows how Pentecostal churches have turned their numerical ascendancy into political influence. Two of Nigeria’s four presidents since 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, were Pentecostals, and although the current president, Muhammadu Buhari, is Muslim, his administration contains several prominent Pentecostals. Obadare sees Pentecostals as a force for stability but not democracy, as pastors typically use their pulpits to legitimate a corrupt and ineffectual elite. One consequence, he worries, has been growing Christian-Muslim polarization, as the Pentecostal churches have proved less accommodating of Muslims than have the establishment Christian churches.

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