Atheist Society of Nigeria

We seek a Nigeria where public policies are based on rational reasoning and critical thinking and not influenced by religious beliefs

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Sunday, 19 May 2019

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Within the context of Nigerian society, as this remains one of the most dynamic and exciting African states in the region, the importance for the secular comes in the form of the capability to speak their minds within specific restriction to speak their mind, to write the contents of their minds into electronics or onto paper with ink, or in some other manner, the Nigerian Constitution enshrines the right in Article 39.
In examination of Article 39(1), we can see the entitlement to freedom of expression within the most important document for the operation of Nigerian society. It states, “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
In this, the summation of the right to freedom of expression replicates the freedom express oneself seen in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Indeed, if we look at the next three most populace nation-states in Africa – where Nigeria is the most populated, then the constitutions of Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Africa reflect these sentiments too.
In Ethiopia, Article 29 of the Constitution stipulates, “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression without any interference. This right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any media of his choice.”
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, its Constitution in Article 23 states, “All persons have the right to freedom of expression. This right implies the freedom to express their opinions and convictions, in particular by speech, in print and through pictures, subject to respect for the law, public order and morality.”
In South Africa, the Constitution in Article 16 states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes— (a) freedom of the press and other media; (b) freedom to receive or impart information or ideas; (c) freedom of artistic creativity; and (d) academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.” There are some restrictions stated, too.
However, if we look into the general context of the right to freedom of expression, on even a preliminary analysis of the rights to freely express one’s views or oneself, the four most populace countries states the right to freedom of expression in line with the December 10, 1948 fundamental human rights document, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This wrangles back into the formal context of the law and the sociopolitical for Nigeria. It is a nation founded on the principle of an individual citizen or group of citizens with the right to speak their minds freely and as they deem fit.
As secular people, and as a super-minority of the population, your rights become extremely important for the maintenance of community, because of the continuous attempts to limit speech through a variety of formal and informal, or institutional and interpersonal, mechanism.
Article 39 in the Constitution of Nigeria continues in much the same rhetorical flourish of an affirmation of the right of freedom of expression with subsection (2):
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions:
Provided that no person, other than the Government of the Federation or of a State or any other person or body authorised by the President on the fulfilment of conditions laid down by an Act of the National Assembly, shall own, establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting station for, any purpose whatsoever.
No prejudice about the general content of the prior section. Every Nigerian citizen has the right to create a means by which to express their views. Presumably, this can include the work from the social media posting of an ordinary person to the frontpages of The Vanguard. These become the foundational rights to be oneself in public, which, as many secular Nigerians may have experienced, does not necessarily translat into practice in everyday or daily life.
Life can be difficult, fraught with individual prejudice felt, and even self-censorship, which shows a deep inculcation of the values of self-repression and, thus, repression seen in the restriction of one’s own right to free expression through one’s own self-limited will. The Nigerian Constitution is a nuanced documents. In many respects, it provides a highly progressive and expansive and vision of the possibilities for individual Nigerians to express themselves in a free manner in public and to one another, directly or indirectly.
If we look at the final subsection, it provides some insight into the ways in which different rights and responsibilities in societies match one another, including considerations about the foundational importance of the proper and healthy functioning of a democratic society, where this becomes stipulated as nothing “in this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.”
In full, the final subsections state:
(3) Nothing in this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society -
(a) for the purpose of preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephony, wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematograph films; or
(b) imposing restrictions upon persons holding office under the Government of the Federation or of a State, members of the armed forces of the Federation or members of the Nigeria Police Force or other Government security services or agencies established by law.
In sum, the functioning of the democratic state of Nigeria should be balanced with the right to freedom of expression, as seems reasonable for the healthy functioning of the state. It does not necessarily stipulate, in any way, a pro-religion or an anti-religion stance in regards to freedom of expression, but only the limits about the reasonably justifiable balance with the health fot he democracy.

If a secular Nigerian, then know your rights; they’re important not only as an individual such as yourselves but also for the appropriate limits and functioning of a healthy democracy, which is the largest in Africa; both a point of achievement as a nation-state but also a huge responsibility.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:
Photo by Namnso Ukpanah on Unsplash

Monday, 11 March 2019

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Within the West African Humanist Network, we come to the lovely announcement of the appointment of the intelligent, talented, and ethical Roslyn Mould, who brings a long track record of activism on behalf of the humanist and secular community, internationally, and nationally, in Ghana, and throughout the continent of Africa, too.

This is a well-earned appointment, where Mould is the former President of the Humanist Association of Ghana and the former Chair of the African Young Humanists Working Group.

Mould's role as the Coordinator of the West African Humanist Network will be in line with the leadership and administrative roles taken by Mould in previous stations on behalf of the humanist and the secular community. Her work is intended to construct more of the humanist base in West Africa than before. Bearing in mind, she has had an impact and continues to advance the principles of humanism in multiple domains of the region.

In 2012, there was a discussion around the issue of a humanist network within Africa. However, little got done in the interim in order to build this foundation for the network. The network, as an idea, remains important akin to Humanists International and Young Humanists International with the emphasis on coordination at the international level - let's call it Tier 1 - for the regions of the world, say Tier 2, and the nation-states - let's call them Tier 3 - with organizations within them who represent officially, or claim to represent in principle, the humanist message.

Of course, Tier 4 would imply provinces, territories, and states. Tier 5 would imply locales and municipalities. A clean set of representation for various levels of the humanist community. The Network would help at the level of Tier 2 with coordination between Tier 1 and Tier 3.

Mould will work to build strategize and coordinate humanist efforts with humanist organizations and human rights organizations. The purpose is to further common objectives and common goals.

Mould opined, "I am excited to be taking on a new role as the coordinator of the West African Humanist Network. We all need to work together to achieve positive and progressive change in Africa. I look forward to collaborating with other humanist individuals and organizations to promote the values of humanism, human rights, and critical thinking."
Dr. Leo Igwe, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, stated, "We are most delighted that Ms. Mould will be devoting her experiences and talents to developing the sub-regional network and to fostering the growth and flourishing of humanism and secular values in West Africa. With only a handful of active humanist organizations in the ECOWAS member states, Ms. Mould surely has her job cut out for her. We look forward to working with her and supporting her to succeed in her new role."
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:
Image Credit: Roslyn Mould.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Dr. Leo Igwe wrote on the experiences of those who have renounced religion within Nigeria. Dr. Igwe, known to manty of us, founded the humanist movement within Nigerian society and has been a vocal opponent of fundamentalist religion and its manifestations in political and social life of Nigeria.
He remarks at the outset of some of the reportage about an event to take place in a small café in Kaduna. It was only supposed to be about a handful of people who would attend the event. But, in fact, there were violent clashes within Kaduna, which led to the reconsideration by the group for the event taking place in the first place. Eventually, the event never occurred.
Igwe stated, “There were concerns that some of the participants would stay away. Local activists advised that the event should be postponed until after the elections or be moved to Abuja where there would be limited concerns regarding security. The event was eventually moved to Abuja.”
With the transition or shift in location of the event, this impacted the budget and scale too. Here, we see violent outbreaks impacting the ways in which, even small events, for the non-religious community – and, in particular, the humanist community – can be derailed or increased in costs due to social life and safety concerns.
The last major event for humanists in Abuja was 2011. As the capital of Nigeria, the risks for apostates, as explained by Igwe, are simply different than the risks for other subpopulations within Nigerian society.
The topic for the event was “Leaving Religion: Risks, Challenges, and Opportunities.” It was intended for atheists, freethinkers, and humanists. Given the religious demographics of Nigerian society, we can see the ways in which Christians and Muslim simply dominate the numbers of the faithful, and also the total composition of the society.
40% are Christian. 40% are Muslim. Fewer than 5% are non-religious. Thus, Nigerians, as a default of the society, will reflect this too. Most professor a belief in a religion or a God. Some may do so – according to Igwe – out of fear of being rejected, punished, or persecuted by family members.
It is a form of familial and social, and probably communal, sanction from questioning the common core beliefs or faith propositions of the society.
Igwe stated, “In fact, if a proper census, that is devoid of fear, intimidation, threats of violent and nonviolent sanctions, is conducted, there may be more Nigerians who are non-religious or religiously indifferent, atheistic, agnostic than religious and theistic.
The January 12, 2019, date of the humanist program was, in fact, inconvenient for many of them. The expected attendees at the Abuja event would be about 30 to 40 people, not a staggering number. This is no way detracts from the importance of having a group of secular minded people come together and meet in public to share experiences, concerns, ideas, and plan for the growth of the community and advancement of the humanist values in society.
When the event did take place, more than 55 people came to it. It exceeded the expectations of the organizers. The event had three panels. One was chaired by Zachai  Bayei; a second by Mubarak Bala; and a third by Steve.
There were recounts of the experiences leaving Christianity and Islam. Then there was reflection on the reactions of the family members to them leaving the religion.
“The presentations generated many interventions from the audience. Participants narrated how they managed family relationships, marriages, and partnerships with religious parents, spouses, and in-laws,” Igwe stated, “including the different strategies that they used to come out to their parents and friends, children and other relatives. And other ways that they used to resist and contain religious hostilities.’
With the interjections from the audience, some things were abundantly clear to the attendees. Those who left religion or renounced their home faith in public went through significantly more persecution when they depended on their literal survival via the family: economically, socially, reputationally, and otherwise.
“Participants were strongly advised to try and maintain a low profile as dependants on religious relatives to avoid being victimized. Attendees were encouraged to try and be financially independent before going open and public as an apostate. With a good income and a job, apostates would be in stronger positions to resist hostile treatments and persecutions,” Igwe explained.
There was further discussion with the community of attendees on the ways that freethinkers have been empowered, including through the efforts of the Atheist Society of Nigeria. Igwe opined on that, in spite of the great difficulties for freethinkers and apostates in particular, the freethinkers and apostates were rather optimistic about the future of freethinking and apostates.
Igwe wrote, “Many ex Muslims said that they drew inspiration from the case of Mubarak Bala whose family consigned to a mental hospital after he renounced Islam. The convention ended with an election of an interim executive that Mubarak chairs. There was a social activity, the Bingo games, which Steve organized.”

What is particularly heartwarming about this, despite the persistent repression of the non-religious, the gathering included a variety of social and communal events for the participants. Moore information can be garnered through the full article by Igwe in the ink at the top.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

According to Leadership, one of the major sources of troubles within Nigeria society, increasing in the current period, is the religious intolerance pervasive throughout it.

As noted by the reportage, there is a high rate of killings, of murders, due to the level of religious intolerance within the nation, which is seen as “worrisome.” Some might see this not only as worrisome but also as life-threatening intolerance.

The insurgency of Boko Haram has been and continues to be a significant source of discontent and religiously motivated violence in Nigeria.

“More than ever before, contemporary Nigerian society is beset with religious conflicts that continues to threaten the fabric of the country’s unity,” Leadership reported, “To a large extent one can say that Nigeria of the past could boast of religious flexibility and tolerance for many years but all that is lost, after gruesome stories relating to religion continue to rear their ugly heads, resulting in the loss of lives.”

With this rise in violence and fall in tolerance, the conclusion about religious conflicts is multiple, of which the solutions need to be numerous as well. We simply have too many issues surrounding fundamentalist ideologies leading to violence.

But they have multiple sources; it is not a situation of a single cause. However, a significant cause comes from the religious, texts, disagreements between communities, and the penchant for violence in the history of the faiths. These cannot be ignored as factors.

Leadership stated, “One can say that a curious feature of today’s Nigerian society is religious intolerance, most especially in the north and the middle belt regions of the country. In these places, religious fanaticism has been hidebound and its spread is unbridled.”

This “fanaticism” is bound to interpretations of faith informing the practice of the religion. Now, several innocent Nigerian civilians or citizens have been caught in the midst of the violence as it is “unleashed.” Bauchi, Benue and Gombe, Damaturu, and Maiduguri are embroiled in this for the last 4 years, which is a non-trivial amount of time for the violence to be occurring.

It is the activities of extremist and terrorist interpretations that produce the terrifying activities and actions of extremists and terrorists like Boko Haram. People are becoming less and less patient with the religions of their neighbors.

In that, the extremist versions of religions not only have the direct terrible effects with the murders of innocents, or the torture and so on of them, but also the influence on the ordinary religious Nigerian citizenry to become less and less tolerant of one another.
This is the basis for the second wave of intolerance falling out from the centralized activity of the true extremists and terrorists found in fundamentalist religious groups.  

“In the face of this, the national president, Two-faith Interreligious Organisation, Mr. Hillary Iheanacho, believes that the future of the country which is in the hands of the youths, has to be redirected to healthier ways of looking at issues to ensure the survival of the country,” Leadership explained.

Mr. Iheanacho is working with the campaign in the secondary schools in order to make the young more sensitive to the real concerns of the society in addition to the need for more peace within it.

Leadership argued for freedom of religion and freedom of belief as important values to uphold in this work to prevent extremism, stating:

...whether one is religious or not, every human being should be interested in the protection of religious freedom since religious intolerance poses a great threat to human rights. Human rights apply to all irrespective of colour, gender, sex, religion, health status, dress, socio-economic status, etc. This threat is not simply because of the specific acts of fundamentalist groups which may be recognised as concrete violations of human rights standards; the real threat comes from the political aims or the political project that is at the heart of fundamentalisms, which is essentially to transform the way identities are ascribed and negotiated.

The respect for the religion of one’s neighbor, and the freedom from religion for other neighbors is a crucial and, indeed, fundamental human right and freedom, and, as noted, among the most important as this has been such a central aspect of so many people’s lives for centuries.

For Nigerians, as with all nationalities, it becomes no less important to uphold these values as universal human values, regardless of one’s background. With the fundamentalists, the humanity of someone is limited to full humanity for those within the fundamentalist group and then declining human status for the other interpretations of the religion as not pure enough or of the other religions as simply misguided and wrong, so much so as to need to be punished by the pure: them.

“Professor Abdelfattah Amor, special rapporteur on religious intolerance, of the UN Commission on Human Rights, considers that ‘no religion is safe from violation.’ It is quite likely, then, that intolerance and prejudice are commonly faced by some religions where you live,” Leadership reported, “Confirming these fears, the director of the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex, United Kingdom, observed: ‘All evidence points to the conclusion that religious intolerance is increasing rather than decreasing in the modern world.’”

The perceived superiority of one’s religion over others, or non-religion or others for that matter, becomes the basis for the fanaticism and intolerance that leads to the horrific acts seen in the history of and in the current period of Nigeria society, where the increase in communication, respect, tolerance, and unified identity as human beings become the basis for combatting it.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:

Friday, 8 February 2019

According to Leadership, a set of delegates from the Humanist Association of Nigeria have come together to help with inclusivity within Nigerian media.

In particular, they have worked for the inclusion of the voices of the non-religious within Nigerian society. Dr. Leo Igwe visited the National Headquarters of Leadership newspaper in Abuja on January 14, 2019.

Igwe said, “The Abuja Humanists convention just ended. This historic event focused on the risks and challenges that people who renounce religion face in the country. The Convention provided an important platform for ex-religionists to tell their stories and share their experiences”

As others may have noted, and as Igwe did, the purpose of the coming together of the humanist and the atheist groups within Nigerian communities is to create community and raise the concerns of the community in one place.

Igwe continued to describe how the issues facing the non-religious tend to be missing from the issues considered important within the nation. 

In fact, that the non-religious, though small in the total religious demographics of Nigeria, represent an important and growing presence within the country. A set of voices with unique concerns that should be taken seriously by the leadership of communities and the nation. 

"In reporting issues that are related to religion, the voices of the non-religion are missing," Igwe stated, "They are conspicuously omitted making the media publications look like church and mosque bulletins. Hence, this wrong impression that over 90 percent of Nigerians are religious or that there are no atheists, freethinkers in the country.” 

Igwe, in a manner of speaking, was simply indicating a discrepancy, an honest one from a sincere and intelligent person, and then requesting, in a way, that the media just do their job properly: no more, no less. This would, by implication, include the fair time and treatment of the non-religious. Not as betters compared to the religious, the same time and the same treatment as one gives to the religious: fair critiques and equal presentation alongside them.

This is a fair and democratic proposal, of which I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Igwe. Igwe explained, "While various media organizations allocate spaces and airtime especially on Fridays and Sundays to the dominant religious faiths for sermons and prayers, incidentally there are no such allocations for the non-religious/humanist constituencies."

Igwe described how the ways in which Nigeria is seen as overwhelmingly religious and without the sub-population of non-religious and humanist citizens is a direct consequence of the media exposure for the religious and the lack of exposure, in a fair light, of the non-religious/humanist populations. This should change. This can change.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:
Photo by Zachary Keimig on Unsplash

Sunday, 23 December 2018

According to The Guardian, Professor Yemi Osinbajo argues religion and tribal affiliations should be removed as factors within the political life of the nation.
In particular, he spoke at the “Ahamadiya Muslim Jama’at, Nigeria 66th Jalsa Salana, in Ilaro, Yewa South Local Government Area of Ogun State,” where there was a commendation, by Osinbajo, for the Jama’at’s promotion of peace and unity.
In line with the comments of Osinbajo, the promotion, by anyone or any organization – religious or secular, can assist in the promotion of the moves towards greater tolerance and, in turn, moderation in the belief systems weave of the fabric of the nation.
Any social, economic, and political development will, as with the advancement and empowerment of women and girls, link to the creation and maintenance of the tolerance between religions and with the non-religious.
Osinbaajo stated, “Our country is one, people want to create division between Muslims, Christians and tribes. God does not see us as tribes, he sees us all as one. I thank Ahmadiyya Muslim group in particular because you preach the message of peace, Nigeria will be great with people like you.”
Ahmadiyya Muslum Jamaat Nigeria President Dr. Mas’ud Adenrele Fashola praised the leadership of President Buhari in addition to his system of government, recalling, of course, the statements from the previous post.
Although, atheists and theists, and traditional spiritualists, may disagree on the fundamental nature of the cosmos and the relationship of the universe to humanity; the point of tolerance as a foundational cornerstone in international and national relations as an important pre-requisite for sustainable development cannot be denied.
Some of the statements of the religious leaders may link to simply supernaturalist ideas and rather fear-based and built-based ideas about the role of individual Nigerian citizens. Regardless, the principle of tolerance can be, at a minimum, a stepping stone for equality of atheists with the theists and traditional spiritualists within the Nigerian polity.
The Christian Association of Nigeria Yewa South, Moses Padoun, also gave approbation and endorsement to the statements about peaceful coexistence or tolerance.
This is one basis in some minor news for positive projections within some subsectors of Nigerian society, as ASN and others work towards the improved equality of the non-religious throughout the nation.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:
Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

Sunday, 16 December 2018

President Buhari is making an appeal for the non-politicization of religion in Nigeria. 
In an article, he described the ways in which the Muslims and Christians can live together in greater harmony than emnity. But, of course, this will or may require some work.
The article, on a historical note, states, "In 1844, the Revd Samuel Ajayi Crowther returned home to Yoruba land (now part of modern-day Nigeria). Twenty years earlier, he had been kidnapped and sold to European slave traders who were bound for the Americas."
Crowther was given freedom by an abolitionist naval patrol. The Church Missionary Society received him. This became the basis for the story of the first Anglican Christian mission work in Yoruba land. 
This coincided with translations of the Bible into Yoruba and Hausa languages. This then formed the further basis of communication between faiths.  
Crowther was the first African Anglican bishop in Africa, apparently. Now, Nigeria has the largest conglomeration of Christians of any nation in Africa. 
Thus, this becomes part of the beliefs of much of the population, of millions of people. The argument put forward is one in which the assertions of  Christians and Muslims can be a basis for compassion and flourishing together.
Intriguingly, and predictably, in fact, this ignores the growing atheist community within Nigeria in addition to the violence, hatred, and bigotry exhibited in many inter-religious contexts.
Ideally, the amount of co-existence would be greater in these contexts; however, this is not always the case. Therefore, in spite of the call for co-existence, it is, historically and right into the present, instructive to note the centuries of horrors committed by the religious against the religious, and the religious against the non-religious. 
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:
Photo by Christiann Koepke on Unsplash