“Praise the Lord!”: Bible Study at the University of Ibadan

Nothing seems to disturb the quietness of the University of Ibadan’s campus in the late afternoon. It is the end of classes and students are slowly making their way to the main gate or hang around the halls of residence. While some are playing football and tennis, others are chatting in small groups, checking on their phones, cooking food in their rooms. Yet, in a few hours’ time, a sound activity will break the usual calm of the campus. In different places, one will hear students singing, others screaming, high-pitched voices from saturated loudspeakers, drums rolling.

The city of Ibadan. Nigeria. 08.02.2020. Photo: Vincent Favier

With its green, walkable park-like appearance and its many facilities, the Ibadan campus has little to envy the British and American models from which it always seems to draw inspiration. In fact, the University of Ibadan (UI) was established by British settlers in 1948 on a hill in the outskirts of the city. But it may soon become encircled by this sprawling, roaring city in the southwestern part of Nigeria, in the Yoruba region, as Nigeria’s population is growing steadily. Reflecting a booming trend all over Nigeria, Pentecostal student fellowships have increasingly pervaded universities in the past decades. These student organizations are local, university-based branches that belong to national, so-called “mother Churches”. Deeper Life, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Christian Apostolic Church, Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries, Winners’ Chapel are some of the most famous and popular Churches that dominate the Nigerian Pentecostal-Charismatic landscape today. All of them – and many more – have branches on the UI’s campus, so that every evening, when it gets dark, their activities start. Bible Study sessions, prayer services, or just freely organised worships pop up a bit everywhere in the student halls or in informal spaces like makeshift constructions next to the halls.

A makeshift church next to a student hall where the Redeemed Christian Fellowship organises events. UI, Ibadan, Nigeria. 26.02.2020. Photo: Vincent Favier

This evening, members of the Christ Apostolic Church Youth Fellowship (CACYOF) prepare one of their weekly worships in the Mellanby Hall, a centrally located student residence on campus. A few female and male students put the plastic chairs in rows, arrange the ventilators in one of the hall’s Common Room in which I take a seat. Non-academic staff rents these so-called “common rooms” to the student fellowships for their religious activities. Musicians install a keyboard and a drum set on each side of the lectern, from which the preachers, usually students too, but sometimes external guests, will give their “lecture”. During the soundcheck, undergraduate students fill up the room, which can contain approximately 40 persons. Latecomers have to stand before the door. Low-energy bulbs create a dim light while fans struggle to cool the room as the worshippers start warming up. The Bible Study always begins with music and singing, mixing up sometimes with melodies coming from another room in which a fellowship is gathering.

The Mellanby Hall in which CACYOF’s Bible Study takes place. UI, Ibadan, Nigeria. 27.02.2020. Photo: Vincent Favier

The sound level slowly increases until the preacher takes the lead and announces the topic of today’s study: “the potencies of the Word of God.” Referring to the Old Testament and the psalm 119, he asserts: “The spirit of wisdom goes with the spirit of knowledge.” Then he asks for 11 volunteers for reading other verses. During the sermon, the keyboard player softly presses and holds a few keys, enveloping the words of the preacher with a musical texture that reminds a bit of the dramatic and though the very kitsch atmosphere of old-fashioned Western soap-operas. “You being saved is different than your soul being saved,” says the pastor. “Soul has to be saved daily, it goes beyond the body. The Word of God saves the soul and it starts from the purity of the spirit.” When the pastor hushes, a long keyboard note catches the silent audience and fills up the room with solemnity. Walking back and forth in the central aisle, the Pastor would sometimes softly lay his hand on someone’s shoulder, in a reassuring gesture that doesn’t seem to distract the worshipper. “The things of the flesh, put them away! You don’t need them!” he goes on, as he raises his voice. He repeats: “The Word of God saves the soul.” And he starts a new stanza: “The Word of God heals. And it delivers.” The student pastor subtly sets the pace of the ceremony like a conductor. His rhetoric, his tone, the repetition of identical words and phrase structure support the dramatic dimension of the event that the musicians contribute to heighten too. The success of this kind of performance depends on the charisma of the leader and on his ability to conduct the different actors and movements of the Bible study.

A student sitting with the Bible on his laps at CACYOF’s Bible Study. UI, Ibadan, Nigeria. 13.02.2020. Photo: Vincent Favier

After roughly an hour of preaching, reading the Bible, and commenting on verses, the fourth preacher drives the audience towards the “tongue-speaking communion” with this sentence: “If the Word of God has not entered your spirit, it becomes meaningless.” The use of the words “God”, “spirit”, “entered” in a conditional form resonates as signals for the upcoming practice of tongue-speaking. The audience suddenly knows and feels that the time has come, as several members start shaking one leg slightly and close their eyes. The preacher looks gravely over the assembly. As he raises his voice, his intonations and gestures become more vigorous, and the sermon reaches another intensity. In a call & response style, some of the sentences he pronounces are rhythmed by a short silence, during which the audience would accordingly answer an intonated “a-MEEEEN!” The preacher shouts: “PRAISE THE LORD!” And the crowd: “HALLELU-JAAAH!” The preacher still holds the authorization of starting the collective tongue-speaking, creating a tension that seems unbearable to many, ready to explode. Some faces in the audience become even more contracted, the eyes closed, heads are bent down or held up high. Hands in the back or psalms facing up, most students start moving their lips or whispering some indistinguishable sounds and shaking their legs rhythmically, frenetically. Finally, the preacher gives the go-ahead when he starts speaking meaningless syllables in the microphone: “Sha-ka-ra-pe-te-raka-tapo! Re-ke-ta-pa-ka-tala-mata!…” Immediately, flows of vowels and consonants collide with each other in the four corners of the room. Bringing this din to an end is usually achieved when the preacher pronounces the magic sentence: “In Jesus’ name we have praid!” “a-MEEEEEENNN!” the crowd responds in unison. The calm is suddenly back and the sermon continues. The “Baptism through the Holy Spirit” is one of the main features of Pentecostal theology and something that worshippers actively seek after. In short, speaking in tongues is seen as a bodily manifestation of a spiritual gift that proves the presence of the Holy Spirit in individuals.

Advertisement for a worshipping event at the University of Ibadan. Ibadan, Nigeria. 17.01.2020. Photo: Vincent Favier

From an outsider perspective, this kind of transcendental spiritual practice is rather intriguing at first sight. At the same time, one can only notice how this collective effervescence, to take on a Durkheimian terminology, is socially organised, well-structured, guided, and controlled. During almost thirty minutes, the preacher alternates his sermon with this so-called “Tongue-speaking” or “Tongue-praying”, which students do to varying degrees. As another round of “tongue-speaking” starts again, some students just keep on moving the lips almost silently and barely shake their body, while others begin to release themselves to such an extent that they fall into a sort of epileptic trance, either standing or lying down on the floor. A few girls, wearing a headscarf, hit the wall repeatedly with the hand while they speak in tongue. Others, down on their knees, would hit the floor. Eyes shut, arms raised in the air, baffling sounds, imploring face expressions, heavily shaking and sweating bodies translate a feeling of both releasing and refilling the soul, a tension that the drummer helps recreate with frequent drum rolls. Power cuts may occur several times during the study, but don’t really affect it. Students fellowships are strategic: having a drummer always ensures the musical continuity of the Bible Study because it doesn’t need amplification. This time, the session ends up in the dark, with loud and joyful collective singing, while students keep on dancing and jumping.

The Christ Apostolic Church, generally used for Sunday services on the campus. UI, Ibadan, Nigeria. 08.03.2020. Photo: Vincent Favier

At the end of the Bible Study, most of the students would stay inside or outside before the room, tidying the place, chatting, and laughing. Others would go back to their respective halls and have dinner at their cafeteria, as most of them live on the campus. The relaxed atmosphere following this session of Bible Study somehow contrasted with the intensity of the worship. I had the feeling that these practices helped students release some tensions, particularly the ones who went apparently “far” in what looked pretty much like a trance or a possession. Yet, others were discreet, or even shy, and seemed sometimes out of place when they were barely shaking a foot while standing next to a frenetically moving, sweating, and shouting body. While some are rather seeking biblical knowledge and guidance for reading and understanding the Bible, others would engage with this worshipping opportunity on a different level. This practice is anything but unusual, or hidden, on the campus. Even though the students found themselves in the intimacy of this common room, other gatherings often take place outside on the campus, where students may worship and perform such practices openly, publicly, in groups or individually.

“Let the children come to me”: Pentecostalism and proselytization of children through gospel outreaches in Ibadan, Nigeria

By Adebayo Adedeji

“Children are friends of God.” This statement, which finds expression through the teachings of Jesus Christ is premised on some of the attributes of a child. A child is humble, easily forgiving and does not bear malice. More so, the little ones are less likely to have cultivated strong perceptions. Even when they do, these perceptions are usually not fully formed like that of an adult. As such, they are more likely to be open to new ideas, principles and doctrines which they can easily accommodate and nurture. In the biblical book of Mark 10 vs 15, Jesus said “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (New International Version). Field missionaries and Pentecostal preachers alike therefore derive inspiration from this verse to launch an all-embracing proselytizing drive which do not leave out the young ones even during school periods since they believe that spreading the gospel is a core Christianity duty.

Today, Nigeria is home to many megachurches and a large congregation of Christians. This may be conveniently assumed to be the fruits of the seeds sown by international missionary organisations and gospel outreaches. One of such is the activities of Christ for all Nations (CfaN) which is the focus of this post. CfaN is an evangelistic organization which was established by a German missionary Reinhard Bonnke in 1974. Even after the demise of its founder and first general evangelist and the passing of the baton to the new one, Daniel Kolenda, the enterprising activities of this outreach do not seem to have fallen. Year in, year out, it organises crusades in different cities across Africa and beyond, preaching the good news of the gospel of Christ. Preceding these crusades is usually an all-out mobilization of people with the help and collaboration of local church organizations. Through the use of the traditional and digital media as well as visits to public buildings, marketplaces and schools, people are invited and encouraged to be part of these crusades experience with the promises of healings, breakthroughs and deliverances from the power of the devil.

A large banner displayed at the gate of the University of Ibadan Chapel
A smaller banner placed on a tree at a residence

Interestingly, children in post-primary/secondary schools are also deliberately targeted in this proselytization effort. For example, at the Ibadan Great Gospel Crusade which was held between 11 and 14 of November 2021, well over 20 secondary schools (many of which included the public schools) were visited in the city. One of such is Valencia Schools, Ibadan, presumably due to its status as a leading private primary and post-primary educational institution and the large size of its population. Before meeting the students, a prior visit was made by the crusade support team to intimate the school management of their intention to reach out. On the day of the visit to one of its campuses, with an impressive student population, the team addressed the students during the morning assembly, talking to them about the love of Christ and the need to surrender their lives to Him. Thereafter, they were encouraged to persuade their parents to bring them to the crusade ground or come alone if this option was possible. The team’s address which culminated in a singing presentation marked a peculiar start of a school day, as the students were encouraged to sing along. With this spectacle, some of these students became eager to be part of the crusade experience which would be led by the Evangelist Daniel Kolenda.

Two books were available for distribution at the event, one titled Now that you are saved, and the other, a follow-up booklet titled What’s next?, which has been specifically designed to help children understand their new life in Christ and grow their faith in God.

Why the children?

Targeting the children for proselytization is a deliberate strategy by CfaN. Apart from the nature of these young ones which is more receptive to new beliefs and trainings, the organization acknowledges Africa’s demographic distribution which reveals the continent to comprise a league of nations of young people majority of whom still fall within the range of primary and post-primary school age. To CfaN, the intentionality of the drive for the salvation of Africa is largely dependent on the conversion of its young population who are the future of the continent. Therefore, for Africa to be fully Christianized, there must be a calculated effort to reach its children and win their heart for Christ.

The effectiveness of this strategy can be gleaned from the reception of the CfaN support team, especially in a school such as Valencia College where tracts were also distributed to its staff members. Although not a Christian missionary school, the school is strongly affiliated to Christian values in its modes of operation. For example, while there are students of the Islamic faith registered in the school, Islamic Studies is not part of the subjects included in its curriculum, and morning assemblies are conducted with Christian prayers and songs. Also, a Christian service is organised for students and members of the teaching staff every Thursday and Friday of school week respectively. However, this is usually not the case with most of the government (public) owned educational institutions where religious expressions are handled with greater caution in order to ensure balance and distance where necessary.

Allegation of indoctrination

While the management of some of these schools and their students may have received the message of the CfaN team with enthusiasm, there are those who believe that going to school to preach a Christian gospel amounts to indoctrination of students, some or many (as the case may be) of whom may be of the Islamic faith. More distressing for them is the fact that virtually all these children are minors who are not legally accountable for their actions, and as such would need parental approval for such intervention. To these group of people, the dynamics of this proselytization strategy implicate child rights abuse and contravene the provision of the country’s constitution, and some internationally agreed child rights acts such as the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) of 1989. Therefore, they insisted that the government addressed the issue by giving it the critical attention that it deserves in order not to fuel religious intolerance in the state.

Some of the religious interest groups and non-governmental organisations which expressed their displeasure through press conferences and letters include Muslim Community of Oyo State (MUCOYOS) and Rights and Freedom Advocates (RIFA), describing this proselytization strategy as an invasion of the state’s public schools. In a statement signed by the Chairman and Secretary-general of MUCOYOS, they alleged that in one of the schools visited, “Muslim students were deliberately disallowed from observing Jum’at prayers” so that they could attend a special Christian evangelization assembly.

Eventually, while not denouncing this approach, a letter dated 10th November 2021 was written by the organisers of the crusades, apologising for visiting a public school which they claimed was in error. Apart from this letter, nothing else was heard either from the organisers or the government.

Nigeria and the illusion of secularism

While Nigeria claims to be a secular state, its religious sentiment has continued to flourish and has created a bipolar Muslim-Christian identity that transcends the country’s socio-political climate. Nigerians continue to amplify their religiousness through everyday lived experiences and there are also government institutions dedicated to promoting religious activities such as the Pilgrims Welfare Board. Additionally, it would be difficult to find a Nigerian who does not identify with either of the two organized religions (Christianity or Islam).

Although these expressions are in no way presumed to be problematic, because people find support, solace and welfare in the religious groups they belong to, especially in the face of government’s continued failure in meeting their very basic needs, they tend to overstretch these affiliations which sometimes lead to having a sense of ‘us’ and ‘they’ even in a situation where religious pluralism is assured, at least constitutionally. Moreover, religion has fully established itself as an extremely important factor to consider in furthering people’s political agenda and benefits. As a readily available tool of instrumentalization, it often expresses itself in a centrifugal manner as in the case of Kolenda’s Ibadan CfaN’s crusade children’s proselytization and the reactions it generated from some people.

Jesus gave very specific important value to the children by asking them to come to Him “unhindered.” Also, in many contexts, parents are required to provide religious guidance to their children at least until they attain the age of majority. In the middle of these positions is the school and the role it must play in the religious life of school children. However, if children are to fully benefit from education, the school must be run in an orderly manner. While not necessarily attacking specific school policies, the CRC places a high value on education that respects the right of a child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Apart from being seen as a ground for the recruitment of followers, religious organisations see in educational institutions an opportunity to imbibe in the children the right type of attitude which could help them avoid the negative consequences of sin, counter balance worldly influences and also possibly bring their parents in contact with the gospel of Christ.

Adebayo Adedeji is a PhD candidate in the Department of Peace, Security and Humanitarian Studies, Faculty of Multidisciplinary Studies, University of Ibadan. He is a Postgraduate Teaching and Research Assistant at the University of Ibadan Research Foundation (UI-RF). Adedeji is also a Research Fellow with the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA-Nigeria).

If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? Religiosity and the concept of Holistic Education in Higher Educational Institutions in Nigeria

By Adéjoké Rafiat Adétòrò


From 1 – 3 of July 2019, I attended the 9th Toyin Falola Annual International Conference on Africa and the Africa Diaspora (TOFAC) held at the Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, Nigeria. The theme of the conference was ‘Religion, the State and Global Politics’. Coincidentally, there was a particular panel session at this conference that I found fascinating. The panel was titled Faith-based institutions and Holistic Education: Babcock experience. I found this interesting because of my ongoing PhD research on religiosity on university campuses. I was looking forward to hearing – the why and how – faith-based universities incorporate religious principles with secular education. I also was keen on knowing the goal and strategy adopted by Babcock University. 

From the beginning, religion featured as part of the conference’s programme. Every morning before the panel sessions started, conference participants converged in the auditorium for what they called – devotional. This devotional comprised a session of songs and praise and a sermon. I certainly did not expect this. It is an unfamiliar experience because it was not my first time attending an academic conference at a faith-based university.

Religiosity and Higher Educational Institutions in Nigeria

Owolabi suggests that education, by its nature, is an instrument of promoting public morality and has a powerful affinity and is linked to ethics (Owolabi, 2000: 289-301). There are about 174 universities in Nigeria at present, categorised as federal, state and private institutions. Seventy-nine (79) of these institutions are private institutions, and an impressive number of them are faith-based establishments. The introduction of western education in 1842 is one of the highlights of Nigeria’s Christian Missionary activities. By 1948, following the report and recommendations of the Elliot Commission set up by the British colonial government, they agreed to found two universities in Gold Coast (now Ghana) and Nigeria. Hence, the founding of University College Ibadan (UCI), now the University of Ibadan, since 1962.

At the commencement of university education in Nigeria, its advocates considered it a national development tool. However, by the 1970s, a charismatic explosion happened at the University of Ibadan, leading to increased campus-based evangelical outreaches by university students across the country. Consequently, the universities increasingly became enabling environments for the development of students’ spiritual attitudes and affiliations.

According to Christiano, religiosity is a general term used in the scientific study of religion to refer to individuals’ beliefs and behaviours that address ultimate or transcendent concerns (Christiano, 2001). Several universities established by faith-based institutions in Nigeria adopt holistic education as the prop of their service. Holistic education concerns developing a person’s intellectual, emotional, social, physical and spiritual potentials.

Faith-based institution and Holistic Education: The Babcock experience

On April 20, 1999, the Federal Government of Nigeria announced three institutions as the first set of private universities. One of them is Babcock University, established by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. It grew from a college established in 1959 for training church workers from the West African sub-region.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA), established by Elder D. C. Babcock, a Sierra Leonean missionary to Nigeria in 1914, is a Christian denomination known for keeping Saturday work and event-free but as a worship day. They have also incorporated this act into the university’s calendar by regulating that by 1.00 p.m. on Fridays, all offices and work activities at Babcock University end. The goal is to enable all employees to prepare for the Sabbath hour, which ends on Saturday evening. Seventh-day Adventist’s education philosophy is Christ-centred, adopting a holistic education that involves spiritual, physical, and intellectual dimensions. They believe that a necessity for qualitative education is to incorporate religious principles into secular education.

The university’s Department of Religious Studies organised this special panel I attended that comprised faculty members from humanities, law, social sciences and agricultural sciences. Some of these panellists are, in fact, clerics of the SDA. My first observation of this panel was that it appeared to be more of an advertisement for the institution than an academic presentation. Other than the five panellists, there were only four people in the audience. Of the four attendees were two people, including myself, whose research interests resonated with the panel’s title. Also in attendance was a lecturer who wanted to know the peculiarity of Babcock’s experience compared to the faith-based institution where they taught. The fourth person was an alumnus of Babcock, who gave testimony of the efficacy of the institution’s method of knowledge production and dissemination.

The strategy adopted by Babcock University towards holistic education is said to be enshrined in the institution’s philosophy of establishment. Religion being the fundamental principle for founding the institution, is regarded as a tool for redemption and reformation. This informed their adoption of holistic education, which integrates the denomination’s spiritual, social and physical values with the university’s academic curriculum. As far as the curriculum is concerned, the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) oversees curriculum building for higher educational institutions in Nigeria. However, the Seventh Day Adventist’s International Board of Education and Adventist Accreditation Association’s philosophy guides Babcock University’s curriculum. The panellists claimed that at all levels, their academic curriculum contains compulsory biblical courses like biblical principles of personal and professional life and character formation and spiritual growth. They have equally developed biblical references for other secular academic studies to teach courses like the biblical foundation of Biochemistry and Agricultural science.

One then wonders how the university manages to integrate religious curricula into the academic fabric. There is the Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE) which is the coordinating node for this integration. The office trains students on integrating learning and faith through conferences, workshops and opportunities for individual meetings. At the same time, they teach staff how to incorporate teaching and faith. The panellists argued that the institution emphasises ‘education for eternity’ and ‘education and redemption’, which informs why attendance at chapel seminars, a prayer forum for students and faculty members is compulsory. According to Adebola Olayinka, one of the university’s researchers, students are encouraged to take religion as a ‘developmental focus’, because of their believe that the university is ‘God’s chosen’ to re-engineer Nigeria they are expected not just to attend church programmes but to manifest the teachings in their everyday activities.

Their take on spirituality is that for Babcock University, religion is more than a struggle against immorality, unlike other faith-based institutions. The university is also committed to the global mission of human salvation, emphasising redemption and education. Recently, when the university expelled a student for engaging in an ‘immoral act’, the institution stated that they could take her back if she were repentant.

One takeaway from the panellists’ claims and description is that the education provided by faith-based universities in Nigeria seeks to integrate religious principles with social and academic curricula. The university campus is assumed to be an appropriate site to achieve this goal. Punitive measures are also in place to ensure that students adhere and reflect the knowledge they are receiving. By carefully curating academics and students’ activities, their social life and professional engagement should mirror the biblical teachings derived from the Seventh Day Adventist philosophy.


Holistics Education http://www.schoolaroundus.org/holisticeducation  

Babcock University https://www.babcock.edu.ng/about  

Seventh-Day Adventist Church In Nigeria- Facts and History  http://www.adventistnaija.com/2016/04/seventh-day-adventist-church-in-nigeria.htm

On the Tarmac, Waiting for Take-off

By Adéjọkẹ́ Rafiat Adétòrò & Vincent Favier

It is unclear why and when people started naming this unspectacular place at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, like this. The tarmac is a flat, large, tree-lined and well asphalted parking space, that officially belongs to the adjoining Chapel of the Resurrection, traditionally dominated by Anglican and Methodist denominations. One would find the campus’ main mosque next to it, and, on the other side of the road, the “Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Catholic Chapel”. Almost everyone on the campus knows about the tarmac, where it is, and what happens there. During the day, the parking space fulfils its formal task: hosting cars. But in the evening, cars have left and people, mostly students, invade the tarmac.

On the campus, the sun goes down behind a palms’ skyline, an exception in a city of an estimated – not officially – 6 million souls seeking shelter from the burning sun and heavy rains under an ocean of rusty roofs. Ibadan’s famous hills are like green islands emerging from an infinity of buildings, houses and roads that fade away in the horizon’s smog. 

And although deans of faculties and non-academic staff sometimes cut trees on the campus for aesthetic matters or for any other obscure reasons, the university campus is probably the only public accessible greenest space in town where one can admire a sunset listening birds singing in a rich natural environment. But this is not what students aim to do when they gather every evening of the week on the tarmac.

Take a seat at the edge of the place, on these white concrete benches on the Chapel’s side, and you’ll find students who, individually or in tiny groups, walk back and forth, whispering inaudible words. Other would sit right next to you, often listening to sermons through their earphones. In the middle of the tarmac, two girls walk in circle side by side, making convulsive gestures. They speak, but not to each other. Sometimes, one of them would go down on her knees and talk to the asphalt, or through the asphalt, even, as if to address her prayers and wishes to the underworld. Heads bowed towards the ground, or held up high, eyes shut, frowning, supplicating, psalms of the hands facing up, or arms raised towards the sky; Pentecostal students seem to perform their prayers to establish a connection between the earth and the universe. This performance is fostered by the many Pentecostal fellowships for undergraduate students present on campus. They gather regularly on the tarmac.

To sum up briefly, Pentecostals aimed to break with certain theological interpretations and religious practices of mainstream Churches, flatten old clerical hierarchies, and, eventually, free the Word of God. Its adherents emphasise the baptism through the Holy Spirit; its presence during worship manifests when practitioners start “speaking in tongues”, a divine gift. Speaking in tongues doesn’t happen just out of the blue, or systematically. One must “train” if one wants to achieve a certain level of proficiency. Individuals develop their ‘own’ style of tongue-speaking like their own language of sounds. This collective worship setting enables them to practice, get inspired by others, let it flow, and let it go.

The tarmac is a favourite playground, a field of predilection for this kind of practices. It is for free, open and outside, large enough, there is public light at night. It is conveniently, centrally located on campus, in the middle of the earliest three religious buildings: The Mosque, the Catholic Chapel, and the Protestant Chapel. The latter was the first space of worship built in 1954 on campus, shortly after founding the University of Ibadan in 1948. It sometimes hosts ceremonies like the recent celebration of the university’s 70th Foundation Day. The Chapel regularly organises worship and educational activities for pupils, students, and holds frequent services for people who mainly live on the campus. Therefore, it tolerates the presence and practices of Pentecostal youth on the parking space. The second wave of Pentecostal revival started in Nigeria in the 1970s, often on university campuses. Youth literally went out of the traditional religious buildings and started worshipping more freely, and this is how places like the Chapel’s car park have been appropriated. Now, it is socially widely accepted and has become part of the campus’ landscape.

Student Pentecostal fellowships usually gather in the evening, sometimes filling the space with hundreds of people, dispatched in smaller groups like passengers waiting at a crowded terminal’s boarding gates. Groups would naturally use the whole width and length of the area to avoid that others’ cacophony mutes their own sermons. Well organised fellowships usually succeed to perform a prayer service or a bible study on the tarmac through a carefully rhythmed, although acoustical, succession of actions. As members slowly arrive and wait for the session to begin, they would start “warming-up” by pronouncing dimly, individually, some prayers, words, or sounds. Then, joint prayers, singings, sermons, healing performances would follow, punctuated by short but louder and louder tongue-speaking interludes, until the group would reach the final take-off, a seemingly “out of control”, heated, collective frenzy. However, since March 2020, the tarmac atmosphere has been very different for some reasons. The first is the academic and non-academic staff strikes. The second is the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic that led to schools’ closure.

Image of an Èṣù effigy staged in a sacrificial style. Cross-posted picture retrieved from twitter Feb. 2020

The disruption caused by the strike and school closure also meant that religious programmes’ participation witnessed some changes. Likewise, spaces often appropriated for religious programmes became deserted. The tarmac remained and resonated empty during several months. Like some of their parent and affiliate churches, some students’ fellowships tried to close the gaps by moving some of their activities online. They conducted virtual programming via social media platforms like WhatsApp and online radio platform such as Mixlr. For instance, the Ibadan Varsity Christian Union fellowship members convened weekly on these platforms for prayer meetings, bible study, and prayer and fasting sessions.

A lot have now changed, in November most worship places on the university campus resumed physical services with churches and mosque opening to congregants again. People began to trickle into the tarmac; a space that has not been in much use because of COVID-19 restriction measures and students’ absence on campus. Although the university is still closed to students, some students staying off-campus who either returned from home and some who live in Ibadan have started to reconvene for physical fellowships. Some other individuals in groups of two or there that appear not to be students have also begun to troop on the tarmac for prayer sessions. Since mid-November, a few Redeemed Christian Postgraduate Fellowship’s (RCPGF) students began to meet on the tarmac on Wednesday evenings. Even though the RCPGF holds its programme in another part of the campus, they have been using the tarmac because of its open and accessible character since the university is still officially closed.

(Chapel of the Resurrection Carpark_Tarmac with front view of the Chapel Hall. Picture by Adéjọkẹ́ April 2020)

Socially Distant, Spiritually Connected: Religious activities on the University of Ibadan campus amid the coronavirus pandemic

By Adéjọkẹ́ Rafiat Adétòrò

The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused many changes in various spheres of human life and institutions, including religious and educational ones, that are central to human and social relations around the world.

Religious centres on many university campuses in Southwest Nigeria organize activities for the members of their immediate and host communities. These centres were closed to worshippers as part of the measures announced to contain the spread of the coronavirus. So, religious leaders sought alternative ways to keep up with the religious practices of their congregation especially devotional activities. The changes to these activities are remarkable. At the University of Ibadan, churches, mosques and other grounds appropriated for such purposes saw some interruptions and adjustments to their programmes.

©Adéjọkẹ́ Agbowó, market, opposite the University Of Ibadan. (May 2020)

COVID-19 in Nigeria: Actions and Reactions

In Ibadan, Nigeria, despite the relative adherence to abstaining from religious and school gatherings, the city is still bubbling. Operators of commercial transport, commuters and market traders in Agbowó, a mini-market opposite the main gate of the University of Ibadan (UI), conducted their business with no social distancing. Though a few are conscious of the problem, discernible in their use of face masks, wrapping of hands in plastic bags in place of hand-gloves and comments from some, whom to reassure others gesturing towards restraint from physical contact, claim they “don’t have Corona.” The latter habit is common among transport workers for whom grabbing and dragging commuters to board their vehicles have always been the usual practices.

This city hosts the country’s premier university, the University of Ibadan established in 1948. The University is a federal university bound by federal regulations on holidays, as with the lockdown recently instituted. On the evening of 19 March, Nigeria’s Minister of Education, through the ministry’s permanent secretary, ordered the closure of tertiary, secondary and primary schools in the country. Following this directive, the university management released a statement closing the University, ordering students to vacate their residence halls.

At the University of Ibadan, non- academic and academic unions of the university had earlier embarked on an industrial strike because of both internal and external default in remuneration. This action impaired operations and left the students in a precarious situation. Students took up the roles of security officers and porters in their halls of residence while writing their final examinations since the members of the non-academic staff charged with these responsibilities stopped working in mid-February. The order to vacate the university buildings applied to postgraduate students, though they have not started their examinations. As a result, they had to forgo a host of their activities and gatherings – social and religious, that would characterize the end of a session.

©Adéjọkẹ́ Mount Zion Ground, April 2020

COVID-19 and the Adjustments to Devotional activities at the University of Ibadan

The nerve centres of religious activities on the University of Ibadan campus are the Chapel of the Resurrection, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom catholic chapel, University Central mosque, Mount Zion Ground and Baptist Service Centre. Other places appropriated for this purpose include cafeterias in residence halls and sports centres. 

Towards the Northeast gate of the University is the Awo Hall, named after Obafemi Awolowo, a key nationalist figure who played a fundamental part in Nigeria’s struggle for independence. Beside this hall is the Mount Zion Ground, a crucial religious landscape of the campus. It is a space for postgraduate students (PG) fellowship hosting about 7 – 8 Christian denominations. Competing soundscape – buzzing instrumentals and varying human melodic tunes mark the presence and activities of the different Christian denominations worshipping on this site every Sunday and sometimes even during weekdays when school is in session. But on this first Sunny Sunday in April 2020, the sonic atmosphere was entirely different except the chirping birds. I felt here the disruption to religious activities caused by the lockdown measure the most.

©Adéjọkẹ́ A side-view of the entrance to the University of Ibadan Central Mosque on a Friday before the lockdown (March 2020)

Before the official closing of the university and religious centres across the country by the federal government, a letter signed by UI’s Chief Imam had been circulating on WhatsApp. It was the notice of suspension of the “weekly Jumu’ah prayers’ and any other mosque events that will create a gathering of up to fifty people in the general interest of the Muslim Ummah.” Of course, this is the first religious centre in Nigeria to take precaution against the spread of the virus by deciding to put a hold on religious gatherings in the physical congregation.

For a mosque that hosts not less than one thousand worshippers from within and outside the campus for its weekly Jumu’ah service, this is an important decision. Asides this, observing physical distancing which is one of the cautionary steps to curb the spread of the virus appears unrealistic. Particularly because the doctrinal position encourages standing in close contacts while observing congregational prayers. Also, no room because the mosque management just embarked on an expansion project for the increasing number of worshippers.

From Friday 22 May, the Chief Imam delivered the Khutbah (Friday sermons) on the mosque’s YouTube and Facebook channels. These channels also complemented the customary broadcast of sermons delivered on Eid-al-Fitr and Eid-al-Adha; Islamic festivals, by the university radio station.

©Adéjọkẹ́ The Chapel of the Resurrection, UI (April 2020)

A mellow, melodic sound assumed to be from a piano lured me to the chapel area on Easter Sunday from behind the mosque. I watched the priests in their white cassocks go into the chapel in a procession with cameras and audio equipment surrounding them to aid their current means of conducting church services. In contrast to the mosque’s action, the Chapel did not stop their physical services until a few weeks after the closure of the university. The adjustments to their activity did not start until 29 March when moves their Sunday services and other programmes online and on-air broadcasting via the church’s online radio station, YouTube channel, and sometimes on a private radio station in Ibadan. Despite these provisions, a few worshippers still make it into the chapel to worship and some others in the car park (tarmac).

From the sounds and sights in some staff quarters in different parts of the University, I could tell that some Christian families on campus have turned to house fellowships held in their living rooms or outside in their compounds since they cannot go to their worship centres.

Without a doubt, there have been some modifications to religious activities in the University. An example is the suspension of devotional activities, held physically in groups. The social detachment arising from this informed the need to find alternative ways to stay spiritually connected. Thus, the broadcasting of sermons via YouTube, Facebook, online radio platforms and traditional radio stations became alternative ways of keeping up with religious practices and the community. 

But, in a country with an often poor internet connection and unequal/less access to such facility, I expect the transition to virtual programming will not provide the intended effect for some people. On different occasions, even I had problems enjoying some programmes disseminated via the chapel’s online radio because of the incessant pause while streaming. However, the traditional radio stations like the university-owned Diamond FM specifically prove to be a suitable option, particularly for this year’s Easter Sunday, Eid-al-Fitr and Eid-al-Adha celebrations. Although, it is customary for the radio station to broadcast sermons delivered on the campus during Christian and Muslim festivals.

There is a group of people that stand to benefit from these alternative forms of conducting devotional activities on university campuses. These are former university students, who often share posts on their social media pages about their favourite religious preachers or leaders when they were on campus. For instance, after my undergraduate programme at the University of Ilorin, I would often mull over how much I missed the Imam’s delivery of the weekly Khutbah at the central mosque. Perhaps, the online broadcast of services and hymns by the chapel and Khutbah by the mosque is a blessing for some people, as they can now enjoy what they have so far missed even it if it is in the interim.

Adéjọkẹ́ Rafiat Adétòrò

Religious practices and spatial appropriation at the University of Ibadan

On February 25, 2020, the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA-Nigeria) hosted a doctoral seminar within the frame of the REMOBOKO research project. Vincent Favier and Adéjoké Rafiat Adétòrò, got the opportunity to present on “religious practices and spatial appropriation at the University of Ibadan”.

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