Nigeria has a diverse religious and ethnic population, each with its own rich and distinct cultural historical events. Religion is important in many Nigerians' lives because it defines their worldview, beliefs, morals, and identity. The prominent religions in Nigeria, however, are Islam and Christianity, which were brought to the continent of Africa by foreign missionaries and colonialists. These religions have mostly overshadowed indigenous religious traditions of diverse ethnic groups, which have been decreasing for decades and have been replaced by Christianity or Islam, depending on the religion.
There has been a growing trend in recent years to incorporate ATR into the Nigerian curriculum. This movement's advocates argue that ATR is a vital part of Nigerian culture and legacy, and that kids should be able to learn about it. They also contend that ATR could impart to pupils vital moral and ethical principles, as well as a variety of skills.
The indigenous religious traditions, known collectively as African Traditional Religion (ATR), are not homogeneous or monolithic, but rather reflect the African people's richness and complexity. These traditions tend to resist the categories and concepts of Western religions, and is "Monopolythiestic" in nature, this means the worship of a universal creature through different channels, with a supreme deity or creator God, such as, Chineke, Osanobua, Ubangiji, Tamunu, Abasi, or Olodumare in different Nigerian dialects as the universal creator, and also a multitude of other deities,Ogwugwu, Amadioha, in Igbo language and Orisa, Olukun, in the Yoruba language etc as the channels. Ancestors, spirits, divination, magic medicine, rituals, festivals, morals, and ethics are also acknowledged by ATR.
ATR is not only a religion, but also a way of life that incorporates all areas of human existence, including social, political, economic, and environmental concerns. ATR promotes among its followers a sense of community, solidarity, harmony, fairness, and respect for nature and elders. ATR also gives many Africans who have experienced from colonialism, enslavement, racism, subjugation, and oppression a sense of identity, dignity, and pride.
Nonetheless, despite its importance and profundity, ATR has been neglected, relegated, and marginalized in the Nigerian educational system. Religious education in Nigeria dates back to the nineteenth century, when foreign missionaries established mission schools to promote Western education and Christian conversion. Many Nigerian leaders benefited from the missionaries' free education, which became the foundation of Nigerian nationalism and independence. However, indigenous religious traditions were suppressed and denigrated as pagan, primitive, or superstitious as a result of this. However, by the early 1940s, a nationalism movement led by Chief. Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Mbonu Ojike, Chief Anyawu Iwunna, Mazi B.A Orji, Mazi K.O Onyioha, and others had developed, and their efforts had brought ATR to national prominence.
Following the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970, the federal government took over schools founded by religious groups since education was viewed as a large government initiative rather than a private company. The administration also implemented a national curriculum aimed at encouraging national unity and integration among the country's many ethnic and religious groupings. However, this curriculum did not fully reflect Nigeria's religious plurality. As required subjects for primary and secondary schools, the curriculum solely contained Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK) and Islamic Religious Knowledge (IRK). ATR was not offered as a subject or even as a choice for pupils.
This kind of situation has persisted despite several requests and petitions from various groups for ATR to be included in the curriculum. The removal of ATR from the curriculum has a number of detrimental consequences for Nigeria's national growth and integration. For starters, it denies many Nigerian pupils the chance to learn about their indigenous religious traditions and culture. Many young Nigerians may feel alienated or ashamed of their roots as a result of this, leading to a loss of identity, self-esteem, and confidence. Second, it denies many Nigerian students the opportunity to appreciate and respect their country's religious variety and pluralism. This can lead to ignorance. This can foster ignorance, intolerance, prejudice, and conflict among different religious groups in Nigeria. Third, it neglects the potential contribution of ATR to Nigeria's social,
economic, political, and environmental development. ATR can offer valuable insights and solutions to most of the challenges facing Nigeria today,
such as poverty, corruption, violence, insecurity, and environmental degradation.
As a result, we propose that the Nigerian government include ATR in the curriculum as a subject or as a choice for pupils.
This will not only be fair and just to the millions of Nigerians who practice or identify with ATR, but it will also be advantageous to the nation-building and integration of Nigeria.
Students will be able to comprehend, accept, and respect their own and other people's religious traditions and cultures after learning about ATR.
They will also be able to apply some of ATR's concepts and values to their own and group development.
The Centre for African Spirituality call on other Traditional Religious groups,
such as Nzuko Odinala, Godian Religion, Nkuzi Odinala, Ezumezu Odinala Igbo Global Outreach, Yoruba Isese, Southwest traditionalist movement
and others, to put pressure on the government through the Federal ministry of education to give this proposal an accelerated attention.
We also call on all Nigerians who value their cultural heritage and diversity to support this proposal.
We believe that this is a step towards making Nigeria a truly secular state that respects and protects the rights and freedoms of all its citizens regardless of their religious affiliations.
We believe that this is a way of honoring our ancestors who have passed on their knowledge, wisdom and legacy to us.
We believe that this is a means of empowering our children who will inherit our future.
OBINNA NNAJIUBA AGBOGIDI https://centerforafricanspirituality.wordpress.com/