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Leadership Dynamics and the Politics of Representation in Africa

Panel Chair: Ezra Chitando | Tuesday, August 25, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

The historical and cultural significance of African religious traditions can be partly discerned in their dynamism, plurality and multivocality in Africa and the African diaspora. Religious vitality and revitalization are very pronounced, just as African religiosities negotiate resilience, transformation and change in a fast globalizing era. The internationalization of African religions and spiritualities therefore opens new challenges about their nature, scope and identity; issues of terminology, originality, and authenticity; but also renewed contestations of resilience, continuity and change between local/global contexts. This panel interrogates how the sustained mutual encounter, influence and interaction between indigenous and exogenous religions including Christianity, Islam, eastern and western-related spiritualities, that characterize Africa’s religious landscape, continue to (re)produce old and new religious constellations. The panel will also explore how and to what extent the global dimension of African religions and spiritualities, introduced to new geo-cultural contexts through migration and media technologies, is manifesting in varied forms

Michael Okyerefo

Scrambling for the Centre: Ghanaian Religious Groups Vying for Political Influence

The effort expended by religious groups in Ghana to access and influence political power is not a historical novelty. Most clearly manifest in organizational strategies and the pronouncements of religious leaders, sectional ambitions in respect of political access and influence have nevertheless recently gained ascendancy in response to the relatively rapid and large-scale growth of religious diversity across the nation and within its growing conurbations. This scramble for access and influence has also been fuelled by the overt participation of some political leaders in religious activities which are perceived to grant certain groups an enviable presence in the public sphere and favoured access to the corridors of state power. Focusing upon Pentecostal-Charismatic organisations as working examples, this chapter explores the strategies and motivations of religious groups striving to access and influence political society in an increasingly diverse socio-cultural context.

Corey Williams

Interreligious Encounter as Innovation: The Case of the Ogbomoso Society of Chrislam

Nigeria is among a handful of countries in which no single religious tradition commands a dominant majority. Its unique multireligious composition includes not only the largest Muslim and largest Christian population among African countries, but also an important substructure of African Indigenous Religions that while routinely obscured in quantitative surveys, continues to play a disproportionate role in Nigerian culture and society. Within this milieu, sustained interreligious encounters are inevitable and although not without tension, often reveal the heterogeneous quality and mutability of religious communities and traditions—at times even resulting in innovative forms and movements. This paper will consider this latter phenomenon with an exploration of a new group in Nigeria known as the Ogbomoso Society of Chrislam (OSC). Born out of a dynamic appropriation, conflation, and reinterpretation of Christian, Muslim, and indigenous Yorùbá traditions, OSC’s existence confronts the essentialising of religious traditions and the limitations of discrete religious typologies.

Ngozi Emeka-Nwobia

Religious Rhetoric in Nigerian Presidential Discourses: A Study of Two Presidential Inaugural Speeches

This work examines how Nigerian presidents Goodluck Jonathan (incumbent) and Shehu (Aliyu Usman) Shagari utilized religious rhetoric in their Presidential Inaugural Speeches. Working within the framework of Critical Stylistic and Critical Discourse Analysis the work seeks to address the following questions: In what way does language function in the performance / expression of religious rhetoric? To what extent does religious belief influence one’s acceptance in the society? In what ways did President Goodluck Jonathan (a Christian) and Shehu Shagari (a Muslim) utilize religious rhetoric to achieve their political goals? The data were purposively selected from selected newspapers and internet sources and were analyzed descriptively. The study situates language as a tool for expression and performance of religious acts, and also a veritable tool used by politicians as well as other religious fundamentalists to manipulate the mind of the adherents into taking a similar stand with them

Elijah Obinna

Negotiating Space: Traditional Leadership Institutions and Partisan Politics in Nigeria

Like many African countries, Nigeria is characterized by fragmentation of various aspects of its political economy, including its institutions of governance. Large segments of the Nigerian population (rural and urban); continue to adhere predominantly to traditional institutions. The post-colonial Nigeria, on the other hand, essentially emulates western institutions of governance, which are often at odds with traditional values and contemporary socio-economic realities. This paper draws on a research conducted among the Amasiri clan, Afikpo North L. G. A. of Ebonyi State, Southeastern Nigeria. It highlights the resiliency, legitimacy and relevance of traditional leadership institutions in the socio-cultural, economic and political lives of Nigerians. The Amasiri like many African societies is adept at integrating seemingly incompatible institutional structures - traditional institutions and partisan politics. In this paper, I argue that rather than finding themselves trapped between two irreconcilable spheres of political conflict, the Amasiri traditional institutions are seamlessly influencing and are influenced by contemporary partisan politics than many have anticipated.


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