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The Church in Nigeria is older than the political independence of Nigeria. While the Nigeria’s political independence dates only to 1960, the existence of the Church in Nigeria dates far back to 1472 and 1885 in Eastern Nigeria. Before these events, the people of Nigeria had existed with their own cultures and norms, and also had practiced politics peculiar to their own. With Nigeria as a nation in 1960, it had been a struggle to choose the best form of Government system to suit the Nigerian polity. Hitherto, in present day Nigeria, the different forms of political systems had been in practice. Since 1960 that democracy was introduced, it has been the general belief that it will protect the Nigerian citizens from “the despotic use of political power, whether it be by a monarch, the aristocracy or other groups” (Omeje 1995:11) It is intended that by democracy as state political system there will be equality in the distribution of the national resources, and equal representation in the centre.

However, in practice, democracy in Nigeria has left so much to be desired. Critics have said that democracy in Nigeria has lost its vitality and stability. The failure of democracy in Nigeria to bring about “lessening the unequal distribution of power,” empowerment of subordinate classes through the vote, representation, dismantling of obnoxious social and economic barriers, increased participation in the collective political and economic concerns of society, has been a thing of major concern for any serious stakeholder in Nigeria. The church is a major stakeholder in the spiritual, social, cultural, religious and even political life goals of man just as the state is committed and dedicated to the social and political life of man. The fathers of the Second Vatican Council

succinctly specified the common roles of the state and the church to the well being of man when they wrote:

It is man himself that must be saved. It is mankind that must be reviewed. It is man therefore who is the key to this discussion, man considered whole and entire,

with body and soul, heart and conscience, mind and will.(G\S N053)

To salvage the democratic image in a nation’s political system, the church has a commitment and must be involved. The background to this study is an investigative approach to assess the extent of involvement of the church in the realization of the democratic goals in Nigeria. Also the particular roles of Rev.Fr. Adasu, and the area of disagreement between the church and Fr. Adasu in their common pursuit will be examined. In the words of Rev. Fr. Moses Adasu,

(Politics and Religion) are interwoven. They are integrated. Once you leave religion out there and go into politics, it can never work. That is why Nigeria is bad. That is why we are where we are….They cheat because

they have no fear of God. Bring the light of Christ, the fear of God to bear on politics that you are doing, be guided by the light of Christ, then you can do a good politics.


The role of the church in the realization of democracy in Nigeria has been very pivotal, especially in recent times. The relationship between the church and the Government (State) has been a very long one, dating from the early years of the church’s existence. Without any fear of contradiction one can

say that Nigeria is religious even when viewed traditionally. Before the advent of Islam and Christianity, there was an already existing traditional monotheistic structure of religion in practice. The plurality of the ethnic groups notwithstanding, there was a common belief in one Supreme Being, with belief in subsidiary deities and spirits as messengers of the Supreme Being. The Islamic and Christian religions succeeded in making in-roads to Nigerian belief systems because they pursued the course of the same monotheism. The Christian as well as Islamic religions introduced a kind of transition, a change in religious method of worship for many Nigerians and not the object of belief itself. The Church preaches belief in one God, the dignity of human person and the invaluable gift of the church and state to man in his endeavour to achieve heaven after enjoying the goods of the earth .The Islamic religion in the same vain believes that man has to enjoy the goods of the earth as a fore taste of the peace that Ala will give to those who are faithful. The traditional Religion on its own part enjoins her followers to approach the Supreme Being through the tributary gods out of respect not that the religion is oblivious of the God-head of the Supreme Being.

The pre-colonial Nigeria was both political and religious. Their political institutions were well organized, as each ethnic group had a way of administering themselves, as well as organizing their religious worship. The Yoruba Benin/Bornu kingdoms practiced Monarchical system of government. The Fulani/Hausa Empires adopted Feudal system (that appeared monarchical in structure). The Igbo – Nigeria followed a quasi form of democracy but non-centralized system of government. It was democracy in the sense that major decisions were reached at by majority vote. The Tiv, the Nupe kingdoms practiced kingship system of government.

The colonial administrators not only recognized these systems but respected them, and used them effectively through indirect rule systems of government. With the amalgamation of the

Northern and Southern protectorates, however, the various ethnic groups with their religious and political systems were integrated into one political unit. There was an initial crisis as to which one of the systems had to be adopted because each system that was adopted was foreign to the other ethnic groups. Nevertheless, when no other forms of political systems were envisaged to satisfy the political, social as well as economic needs of the young country, Democracy as a system of government was introduced to ensure equal representation at the centre. Since the introduction of democracy, it had been a struggle to catch up with the watch- words of democracy, that is, genuine participation in the political process by the majority of the citizens. The intermittent military interventions in the Nigerian political systems were as a result of the failure of democracy at one time or the other. The military experiences made the matter worse, since it introduced dictatorship in place of democracy. According to Ebo, (2005:64) to talk of military democracy or dictatorial democracy is a contradiction in terms.

Rev. Fr Moses Adasu of Benue State Nigeria threw his weight into the political system in Nigeria with a view to sanitize democracy. In his efforts to do that, many misunderstood him and many plauded him. In this thesis we want to study the roles of Rev. Fr. M. Adasu in the realization of practical democracy in Benue State of Nigeria. Why his efforts were not recognized by the church as part of her contributions to the development of democracy in Nigeria, is a puzzle that will be addressed by this study.


It is the aim of this thesis to expose the roles of the Catholic Church in the democratic governance in Nigeria. We shall delve into specific roles of the church through her different organs in promoting or marring democracy in Nigeria. Of particular interest to the researcher are the roles

of Rev.Fr. Moses Adasu of Benue State of Nigeria in the realization of democracy in the State. Also of particular interest to the researcher is why his contributions are not seen as the contributions of the church. Hence, a critical delineation will be made of Rev. Fr. Adasu’s ideas of democracy and the church’s ideas of democracy. These will help to enforce the true practice of democracy in Nigeria.


This study is intended to explain systematically and coherently the roles of the church, not only in playing the custodianship of democracy, but also in enforcing its realization in the nation’s political program.

The study is therefore an effort to investigate the authentic contributions of Rev. Fr. Adasu in the realization of democracy for his people. The point of disagreement between the church and Adsu that occasioned the church’s denial of his contributions to democracy. The efforts of this research are geared towards identifying his positive achievements and eaknesses as legacies left in the annals of history. Hence this study is significant and will remain topical as long as the church and government share a common boundary of providing for the spiritual and material needs of man.

1.4               THE SCOPE OF THE STUDY

This study covers the story of Nigerian politics from 1960-1992, and her efforts to practice democracy in the midst of divergent ethnic groups and interests with their local political leanings and their religious influences and differences. The study will examine the political involvement of the Catholic Church especially in Benue State of Nigeria and the particular contributions of Rev.Fr. Adasu. It will be a broader work to delve into the treatment of the involvement of all churches in the politics of Nigeria. So whenever the church is mentioned in this work without qualification I mean

the Catholic Church in relation to realization of democracy in Nigeria. There will be a general lay out of the church’s approach to politics vis- aviz the political developments of Fr. Adasu

1.5               METHODOLOGY OF THE STUDY

Our method will be the use of library, where books will be consulted to see other authors’ views about Nigerian politics, the church and democracy. There will be an application of field work research method which includes: oral interviews and questionnaires to be distributed across Benue State of Nigeria. This will enable the researcher come to grips with the peoples’ views concerning the role of the reverend gentleman in the course of leading his people to the dividends of democracy.



According to Bouyer “Church” derives from the Anglo-Saxon word “Kirche” a root word common to all Germanic languages from the Greek word “Kyriake ekklesia” meaning “the lord’s assembly”.

The ekklesia was the regularly convoked assembly of the people found in the Septuagint as a translation of the Hebrew word “Qahal” which referred to the Assembly of God’s people. On the basis of this fundamental concept of the people of God, we can date the origin of the use of the term “church” to the Old Testament as the prototype of the church of the New Testament. In the words of Bouyer (1965:64), “it is evident from the first words of the Old Testament that the people of God were constituted in

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