National security is a sine qua non for political stability and socio-economic development of any nation. Religion is one of the recognized factors that can enhance or destabilize the security of any nation at any given period of history. Religious value systems play very significant role in collective self-awareness and identity, which draw together individuals, families and regions, and pull them towards greater self-consciousness needed to build and animate a nation from within. Religion can be manipulated as an instrument of destruction and disintegration, which threatens the peace, stability and security of a nation. It is in recognition of this double-edge function of religion that this paper sets out to study the place of religion in the socio-political structure of Nigeria and its role in national security. The analysis begins with an examination of the pretensions of the colonial administration, which enable it to demonize and destroy local shrines of peoples, south of the Niger-Benue, in the early years of the formation of Nigeria as a nation. The paper notes that the privileged position enjoyed by the Christian and Islamic religions, during the colonial era, did not necessarily lead to greater integration towards common self-consciousness as a nation of multi-religions. Hence the independent era has witnessed an unprecedented level of religious violence, which is threatening the peace, stability and economy of Nigeria. This paper posits that peace and security in the country will be enhanced if an end is put to the manipulation of religion for parochial reasons.
Key words: Security, nation building, Aro expedition.
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