Nigeria (MNN) — Nigeria’s new president Bola Tinubu took office earlier this week, and he has his work cut out for him. Tinubu only won 37% of the vote — the lowest of any Nigerian president since the military relinquished power in 1999. Yet, Tinubu says he is committed to uniting a deeply divided population.
Africa’s largest populated nation is, indeed, deeply divided. With a Muslim-majority in the north and Christian-majority to the south, more and more Christians are fleeing the north as attacks continue from extremist Muslim groups like Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen.
Nigerian Christians, in particular, are cautious to see how Tinubu will tackle the issues of Islamic extremism and attacks on Christians.
Greg Kelley with World Mission says, “The Muslims, although primarily concentrated in the northern part, really control that country. They are in the most influential places, politically speaking, and so obviously, it’s scary. Christians are concerned because they feel like they’ve been living in a country that has essentially had zero accountability.”
Twelve of Nigeria’s 36 states have Sharia law and blasphemy cases are used as a cudgel on minority Christians in those areas.
“The reality is much of the things are taken care of outside of the limelight,” says Kelley. “The people who are being accused don’t have the resources maybe even to have an attorney or any kind of representation. So that’s happening in the courts.
“But I think the worst matter is the ruling by public opinion and what I refer to as ‘mob rule.’ The mobs are emboldened by the government looking the other way.”
The Blasphemy Mob in Action
Perhaps one of the most disturbing examples of recent blasphemy accusations comes from one year ago. Deborah Emmanuel, a female student at Shehu Shagari College of Education, asked her fellow students not to post religious content on their academic WhatsApp group.
After the innocuous request, Kelley says that Emmanuel “was accused…by her classmates of blasphemy and she was set on fire.”
Emmanuel died in the attack by Islamic students over her apparent blasphemy. The one-year anniversary of her death was May 12. Her killers still have not been brought to justice.
Kelley says, “It’s just mobs being activated. That, to me, is the scarier aspect of where [the blasphemy law] is going.”
Time Will Tell
Blasphemy accusations and resulting violence have garnered attention with newly-elected President Tinubu taking office. How will he handle Muslim extremism moving forward?
“The Christian community is literally just on their knees. They’re pleading and begging the world to take notice, to come to their defense, to come to their aid,” says Kelley.
No matter how justice and political policies are directed in Nigeria, God is still moving through the global Body of Christ.
You can be a tangible encouragement to Nigerians by giving to World Mission. Through World Mission, Nigerian believers are empowered to share the Gospel with unreached Muslims through solar-powered audio Bibles called Treasures.
Finally, please pray for Nigerian Christians and their witness of the Gospel in the midst of horrific persecution. Ask the Lord to protect Nigerians from evildoers, and to raise up godly leaders who value justice. Pray for wisdom for Tinubu as he begins his tenure as the nation’s president.
Pray for all of Nigeria’s 223 million people to know the life-saving message of salvation in Jesus Christ!
Header photo of Nigeria President Bola Tinubu (Photo courtesy of Chatham House – Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26223891)