A religious history of the Isoko people of the Bendel State of Nigeria
This thesis presents a systematic account of the historical development of the two strands of religion (the indigenous religion and Christianity) in Isokoland and how this ongoing development has, at various levels, influenced the total life of the Isoko people who, culturally and linguistically constitute a remarkably distinct homogeneous socio-political entity in the Bendel State of Nigeria. It begins with a brief description of the land and the socioeconomic and political structure through which the Isoko have across the years organised their life. The first chapter includes an explanation of how the people, under their original tribal bureaucracy and socio-economic system, responded to Western influences (especially trade and government) and other external processes for change during the pre-Christian era. Chapters 2 and 3 investigate the people's traditional religious belief and practice with explanation of how religion sacralized certain Isoko norms and values; offered a transcendental and emotional relationship and provided ground for an identity for the people amid the flux, changes and uncertainties of the human condition. Chapter 4 and 5 deal with the romantic history of the advent and growth of Christianity in Isokoland. These chapters also examine the character of the nascent Isoko Church and the often unsung contributions of the various categories of indigenous people along with those of the European missionaries in the Christianization of Isokoland. The methods and policies adopted and the nagging problems encountered by the various agencies in this regard have been discussed. This leads to Chapter 6 which looks at the emergence of the different indigenous independent Christian movements and para-mission churches and their contribution to the planting and expansion of Isoko Christianity. Chapter 7 discusses the probable reasons or criteria of value that motivated the bulk of the Isoko to convert from their indigenous religion to Christianity. This chapter also gives a critique of the general Christian attitude to Isoko religion and customs; the consequences of this attitude and the impact of the overall missionary activities in the development of Isoko Christianity, the indigenous religion and culture. This discussion leads to the examination, in Chapter 8, of a principal outcome of the mission founded Church attitude to the Isoko world: the vexed issue of the dramatic historical emergence, general nature, dynamics and growth processes of the more recent independent Isoko 'Spiritual' Churches (the 'revival movements') and the implications of this phenomenon for contemporary Isoko Christianity and society. In a sense, this chapter highlights the changing trend and motivation of present-day Isoko responses to Christianity and their conception and interpretation of it. In the light of the materials presented in this thesis and from the writer's own missiological point of view, some concluding deductions have been made in Chapter 9, highlighting some possible developments in Isoko Christianity.