Within the last twenty years, Nigeria is experiencing an upsurge in religious revivals among Christian churches. These revivals which usually attract thousands of people from across the country, offer non-Christians an opportunity for conversion, or to be born again as the popular expression goes. There are also an opportunity for Christians to recommit their lives to Christ and come to a fuller understanding of Him as their personal Lord and Savior. These revivals have become so popular in the country that there is never a weekend that goes by without numerous revivals taking place. Apart from the laudable experience of conversion and re-commitment mentioned above, these revivals have also come to be characterized by sermons of prosperity, hereafter referred in this paper as prosperity gospel.
Religious revivals in this paper shall mean any Christian event opened to the public in which the purpose is to reawaken Christian faith, and generally characterized by praise-worship songs, testimonies, and passionate sermons; and emphasis placed on miracles, financial prosperity, and anointing. These events are usually promoted with the modern means of communication available and people are promised ahead of time of miracles they will receive. As Pastor Adeboye, a former mathematics professor, now turned pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God some years ago said about a revival he was organizing called "Holy Ghost festival." He said, "The entire purpose is to win souls for Christ. I expect heaven to come down to earth and also to let people know that Jesus Christ is still the miracle worker."
In this paper, we shall first make an analysis of the social problems in Nigeria. Because of the vastness of these problems, only the problems of poverty, corruption, and disease would be treated. This would form the background for the Marxist critique of the Nigerian religiosity characterized by revivals. When this is done, we shall take a general look at these revivals and centering principally on their messages of prosperity. We will also focus on the ministry of Reinhard Bonnke, the most popular revivalist in Nigeria. Thereafter, we shall discuss Karl Marx theory of religion and attempt to use it to interpret the Nigerian situation.
Nigeria's Social-Political Problems
To understand the social problems in Nigeria, one has to have some general understanding of the history of Nigeria. In 1914, Lord Lugard, the British Governor of Nigeria amalgamated the Northern and Southern protectorates and called them the colony of Nigeria, Nigeria being the name suggested by his mistress. The consequences of this was that two regions that had nothing in common, both culturally and religiously were merged together and this is the foundation of the religious and ethnic clashes and violence that Nigerians will experience after independence. Six years after Nigeria's independence in 1960, a civil war broke out between the Igbo South and the rest of the country. The reason for the War is ethnic, geographic and cultural differences. Major Abubakar writes, "This situation had its genesis in the geography, history, culture and demography of Nigeria. The immediate cause of the civil war itself may be identified as the coup and counter coup of 1966 which altered the political equation and destroyed the trust existing among the major ethnic groups." Following the civil war were military dictatorships and failed democracies. Throughout the years of military dictatorships and failed democracies, the country became so corrupt that the leaders never paid attention to the social needs of the people. The people had their own fate in their hands, while they looked into the future without hope.