On March 28th, 71-year-old Muhammadu Buhari beat incumbent Goodluck Jonathan in the Nigerian presidential elections. Christians in northern Nigeria are worried about the newly elected president’s probable Islamic agenda. Some believe that, although violence from an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria may stop after President-elect Buhari assumes office, his promotion of Islam and the application of full Sharia are likely to increase.
Many fear that Sharia could spread to other states, considering that President Buhari once endorsed its full implementation throughout the entire country. In a 2001 report, Point Blank News quoted Buhari as saying, “I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria. …God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of the Sharia in the country.” Key Muslim leaders are already discussing the renewal of Nigeria’s membership in the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), according to a Christian woman from a Muslim background in Zaria.
Buhari, a Muslim from northern Nigeria, beat Jonathan, a southern Christian, due to a massive turnout by Muslims for the elections. Even children under 18 were seen casting votes for Buhari. Northern Christians, on the other hand, were largely absent from the polls. Sunday, March 29th, a pastor in Yola city counted only 10 voters among his 500 church members. Northern Christians are not politically aware, and do not believe they can change their fate, explains Tukur Babangida, a Christian pharmacist from Mubi in Adamawa state. Many southern Christians who did vote cast their ballots for Buhari. Largely unfamiliar with Nigeria’s history, the younger generation does not understand older Christians’ concerns about OIC membership and the Muslim agenda to Islamize the country, Pastor Daniel Away of ECWA church Potiskum said.
Additionally, Haruna spoke about reports of armed Muslim adherents in Kano state showing up in force at the polls to intimidate Christians, effectively preventing them from voting. Pastor Daniel Awayi said that after registering to vote, about 40% of Christians in the core north did not receive their Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) and were unable to vote in the election. And yet he claimed that about 90% of Muslims received their PVCs in time. Many questions remain about the fairness of the election process.
Although the majority of the Christian vote went to Jonathan, northern Christians were disenchanted with him due to his failure to exercise his authority and power to stop government corruption and support for an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria. Moreover, as Christians were relentlessly killed and churches destroyed, Jonathan waged a campaign to win the hearts of Muslims. Northern Christians lost confidence in him when they realized they had become collateral damage in the political power game between south and north.
Some northern church leaders are concerned about Buhari’s victory. Although he is known to be a forthright man who fights corruption, is a strong leader, and advocates fierce discipline, church leaders also remember him as a devout Muslim who favors Islam and expressed the will to Islamize the country to the last corner. The leaders Buhari chooses to govern beside him as he assumes the presidential office will be an important factor in the direction in which he will lead Nigeria.
Church leader contacts in the north expect increased difficulty for the churches under Buhari. He may well stop the an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria violence in the northeast and bring hope for the Christians, but will he end the The Fulani are a large ethnic group in West Africa. A third of all Fulani people are pastoralists, making them the largest nomadic community in the world. herdsmen’s attacks on Christian communities in Middle Belt states? Will he address the even larger marginalization of Christians and churches in Sharia states and Muslim dominated areas in the north? How will Buhari reconcile his agenda to promote Islam with freedom of religion for non-Muslims?
Many Christian leaders believe the Islamic agenda and application of full Sharia will eventually destroy the church in Nigeria. Buhari’s victory is a wake-up call to the church in Nigeria, according to some church leaders. We need to pray, get rid of corruption in the church and become politically aware of what can be done. With the help of God, we can eventually change our future, they said.
Father, we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth. Heaven is our home, and You are our Father. While we live in this tension between the “now and the not yet,” we turn to Your Holy Spirit, our Guide and Counselor who comforts us in our sorrow, calms our fears, and strengthens us to fight the battles before us, battles that are ultimately against the spiritual powers of evil. Nigeria has elected a new president, but Christ rules over him and we stand in prayer with our brothers and sisters in Nigeria as they face an unknown future under President Buhari. In their fear, remind them that You have won the victory over earthly powers. Turn their hearts toward You for comfort and strength. We pray for Buhari himself; that You would overrule in his life, and that he might be Your instrument of peace. We pray for unity and purity in Your church; that she will be a testimony of Your presence in her. We call on You to grant wise insight to church leaders, so that they might find ways to be God-honoring agents of change in their government. In a nation of turmoil, we pray for the Name of Christ to be glorified. And it is in His Name, in His authority, and for His glory that we pray, Amen.