Nigeria (MNN) — Vote counting got under way in Nigeria on Monday in an election fraught with delays, glitches, and violence.
Voting spilled over from Saturday into Sunday due to faulty scanners, absent poll workers, and Boko Haram militant attacks. A winner must secure both a majority and 25% of the vote in two-thirds of Nigeria’s states.
Muhammadu Buhari–a retired general and former military dictator, a Muslim from the North–developed a commanding lead over President Goodluck Jonathan–the Christian incumbent from the South. Both candidates have pledged to respect the results, if they are deemed credible.
Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, says results were promised within 48 hours, which means early results are expected on Tuesday, local time. However, “In 2011 when there were national elections, after the results were announced, after the southern Christian candidate had won, there was mass violence in the North. Hundreds of people were killed.”
Right now, there’s an uneasy peace. Both candidates are encouraging their followers to wait patiently for the results. What happens after that looms dangerously. “If the people who lose an election trust that the process was fair and that they legitimately lost, it is another thing in a country that has been racked with corruption. If you think that the election was stolen from you, you obviously respond in a different way.”
Boko Haram violence forced the delay of the original election by six weeks. Aside from an attack in Bauchi, little else was heard, although security measures were ready for anything. Nettleton thinks it could be a calculated political move on the part of the Muslim extremists. “They obviously would like to see a Muslim president of Nigeria. Perhaps they recognize that if they were violent and disruptive in the North, which is where their power base is, it would cost Muslim votes for president.”
In the meantime, Christians throughout Nigeria are on their knees. “They are praying for peace, and I think we can join with them in that prayer,” says Nettleton. “This transition is a crucial one. The hours and days after the results are announced are crucial hours and days.”
Pray for a smooth transition. How the Church responds to the challenges presented by those who are most hostile to the hope of Christ speaks volumes. That’s especially true in light of the 2011 results, where anyone who was not Muslim became a target. To respond with peace when they face violence really is a supernatural God-given gift, adds Nettleton. “That can be a great way of planting seeds because there is really not a human explanation for that. There’s only the divine explanation that somehow God is empowering these people to response with love when they face hatred.”