Christians wary following Nigeria’s back-to-back elections

By March 24, 2023
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Nigeria (MNN) — Nigeria’s gubernatorial elections took place last weekend, and the stakes are high for Africa’s largest nation. Following the national presidential election last month, voters went back to the polls in 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states to elect new governors. So far, 26 of those 28 governorship seats have been decided.

The presidential election results are still being contested by opposition parties, and emotions were high going into gubernatorial elections.

Most reports of violence and voter intimidation came from the southern parts of the country in areas with majority Christian voters.

Greg Kelley with World Mission says, “During the election itself, this ruling party deliberately disenfranchised communities and targeted primarily the Christian communities. Voters were terrorized to stay away. We have firsthand accounts across the country of reports of being terrorized.”

(Photo courtesy of World Mission)

Nigeria is deeply divided between the Christian-majority south and Muslim-majority north. Christians who find themselves in dominant Muslim territory are often attacked by Boko Haram extremists and Islamic Fulani herdsmen.

Kelley says, “The Islamic agenda is not just emphasized, but aggressively installed throughout the hierarchy of the governmental system, which really causes a lot of problems because if you’re Christian, you’re persecuted from a business standpoint, from a family standpoint. Of course, we know about the Boko Haram activities going on.”

The winner of Nigeria’s presidential election last month, Bola Tinubu, is a Muslim, as is one of the other top three presidential candidates. The third candidate, Peter Obi, is a Christian.

President-elect Tinubu has made statements recognizing the threat Boko Haram poses in the country. But Nigerian Christians are wary, given Nigeria’s lackluster political history.

“They’re really quite honestly not looking at it so much from Christianity versus Islam. They just want a godly, moral leader in place, and Nigeria has just been carnage because of all the attacks and atrocities that we’ve been hearing about in the north by the Boko Haram [and] Fulani herdsman. There has been zero accountability. If there were a Muslim in power who was holding them accountable, quite honestly, Christians would be fine with that. But the Islamic agenda is being so rammed down the throat of the people in that country, it’s just really leading to a terrible place.”

However, Kelley reminds there is not just physical conflict taking place. There is a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12) for the hearts of Nigerians and their leaders.

“I think we can get caught up in the politics of it, but if you were to ask a Nigerian Christian and say, ‘What is the answer to Nigeria?’ they would say prayer.”

These disciples of Christ are passionately sharing God’s Word in North Eastern Nigeria.
(Photo, caption courtesy of World Mission)

Kelley says, “We have to be praying for the change of hearts. We don’t like what these people are doing. We don’t like being oppressed. We don’t like being victimized. We don’t like being persecuted. But when it’s all said and done, Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, not whoever happens to have the temporary title of president of Nigeria.”

World Mission works with Nigerian believers to distribute solar-powered audio Bibles called Treasures. Ultimately, it’s the Gospel that will change hearts. Much of their ministry efforts are focused in northern Nigeria.

“The southern part of Nigeria does not need the Gospel. It doesn’t need our international mission investment. They are very strong, they’re stable,” says Kelley. “We need to get the Gospel and put our energies and resources and deploy them into the northern part of Nigeria. So for people who are involved in missions, we need to start thinking that way. We need to be praying that way.”

Pray for Nigeria’s new leaders to walk in wisdom. Ask the Lord to open Nigerians’ eyes to His love, justice, and truth. Pray for the people to know Jesus Christ as King.

You can donate to World Mission here.








Header photo courtesy of Emmanuel Ikwuegbu via Unsplash.

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