Date: February 1, 2023
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 678
by Elizabeth Kendal
As promised in RLPB 676 (20 Dec 2022), ‘The RLPB will start 2023 with a major focus on Nigeria’s presidential election, slated for 25 February.’ At this stage (i.e. unless I am led otherwise) these RLPBs will cover: (1) the candidates, (2) Nigeria’s gross insecurity and (3) Buhari’s Legacy. On 22 February, the monthly Update will be published as usual.
If there is too much information here for your needs or liking, don’t worry – just leave the detail to those who do want and need it and skip to the summary and prayer points at the end. Prayer – not an understanding of all the details and dynamics – is what is most needed. Please pray!
INTRODUCTION: WHY THIS ELECTION IS SO IMPORTANT
In its 9, 2022 issue of Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, the International Strategic Studies Association warned: ‘Nigeria is at a pivotal point in its history… A change in the Federal Government is inevitable [as President Buhari has served two terms and cannot recontest]. In its 1, 2023 issue, D&FA reiterates: ‘Nigeria is at a tipping point, beyond which it will either coalesce as a “modern nation-state” and move toward an India-style economic take-off, or decline into long-term crisis which could stimulate an increase in the drive for secession by some ethnically- or linguistically/culturally-cohesive regions.’ Release International’s partner in Nigeria agrees (28 Dec): ‘Every indication suggests Nigeria is at a pivotal point in its history. The election in 2023 will determine whether the nation grows as an entity or disintegrates.’ Disintegration would trigger a Christian Crisis of monumental, even genocidal proportions for millions of Nigerian Christians, multitudes of whom are already suffering extreme levels of poverty, insecurity, criminality, religious persecution and Islamic jihad.
Nigeria has a population of 220 million, around half of whom identify as Christian. The Nigerian Church is one of the world’s leading missionary-sending Churches. The Nigerian Evangelical Missions Association (NEMA) is a national network with 150 member agencies and 15,000 missionaries serving in 197 countries. The goal of NEMA’s ‘Vision 5015’ is to train and send 50,000 Nigerians within 15 years, as gospel bearers to the Core North of Nigeria, the Sahel, North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and back to Jerusalem. This is a spiritual battle! (Ephesians 6:12)
NIGERIAN ELECTIONS (1): THE CANDIDATES
Nigerian politics has long been a two-horse race between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP, right of centre) and the opposition (left of centre, currently the All Progressives Congress (APC)). ‘To be elected in the first round, a [presidential] candidate must receive a majority of the vote and more than 25 percent of the vote in at least 24 of the 36 states. Failing that, a second round would be held between the leader and the next candidate, with the winner needing a plurality of votes in the highest number of states’ [Defense and Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy (D&FA) 1, 2023]. This ensures that the winning candidate has a degree of national consensus, something small regional parties normally cannot secure. Along with this, there has always been an unwritten rule that, in fairness, power should alternate around the regions, and particularly between North and South. Another unwritten rule has been that political parties should alternate between Muslim and Christian presidential candidates on their tickets. This year however, the two major parties rejected the unwritten rules for political gain, in a move that has backfired and changed the dynamic of the elections entirely. This year, four candidates are in with a chance. Critically, they come from the four corners of Nigeria – North West, North East, South East and South West; and from the three leading tribes – Fulani (North), Yoruba (SW) and Igbo (SE). Three are Muslim; one is Christian.
left to right: Tinubu (APC), Atiku (PDP), Obi (Labour) and Kwankwaso (NNPP)
While the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) party of incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari (a northern Muslim) did chose a southerner as its candidate, it controversially chose a Southern Muslim – the Yoruba, former Governor of Lagos, Bola Tinubu (known as ‘the Godfather of Lagos’). Even more controversially, Tinubu then chose a Northern Muslim as his running mate – Kashim Shettima, the former Governor of Borno State – leaving the APC with a Muslim-Muslim ticket. This was a political decision as the predominantly Muslim North generally has a higher voter turnout than the predominantly Christian South and the APC is eager to secure President Buhari’s northern vote bank. While Buhari’s vote bank will doubtless be split among the three Muslim candidates, some fundamentalists – specifically Muslim clerics in Kano (the state that consistently has the highest voter turnout) – have endorsed Tinubu on the basis of the APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket, calling it ‘a call to jihad’ that had ‘defined the supremacy of Islam’. The move has left Christians feeling totally betrayed.
Like the APC, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is also chasing Buhari’s northern vote bank. Consequently, the PDP similarly ignored convention and retained a Muslim as its presidential candidate: Atiku Abubakar, a Fulani Muslim and former Governor of Adamawa State in Nigeria’s North East. Atiku was the PDP candidate in 2019 when he lost to Muhammadu Buhari in what was doubtless a fraudulent election. Peter Obi – an Igbo Christian, former Governor of Anambra State in Nigeria’s South East – had been Atiku’s running mate at the time and expected the PDP would promote him as its presidential candidate for 2023. When that did not occur, Obi resigned in protest and will run instead as the presidential candidate for the Labour Party (a minor party which currently holds 2 of 360 seats in the House of Representatives; 1 of 109 seats in the Senate; and no state governorships or seats in State Houses of Assembly). Not only did the PDP chose to retain Atiku, but according to The Africa Report (12 August 2022), ‘all key positions in the PDP are occupied by northerners, which insiders say was done in order to boost the party’s chances of victory in the north… Atiku’s decision to delete his tweets condemning the blasphemy killings in the north in order not to anger Muslim hardliners in the regions also revealed his hand.’ While Atiku has chosen a Christian as his running mate – Ifeanyi Okowa, the Governor of Delta State in Nigeria’s South-East – the PDP’s decision to retain a Northern Muslim as its presidential candidate triggered an internal party war and left Christians feeling totally betrayed.
As the presidential candidate for Labour, Peter Obi has been taking the country by storm. Running on an anti-establishment, pro-education platform, Obi has been winning the hearts and minds of youths across the nation, including across the North. His running mate – Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed – is a former Senator from Kaduna who resigned from the APC in 2017 accusing ‘Buhari’s government’ of being ‘incompetent and corrupt’. At recent rallies in the North East states of Borno and Gombe, Obi urged the electorate to vote ‘for competence and accountability instead of voting based on religion, ethnicity or tribe’. ‘When they say vote for them because they are from the North, tell them we are hungry, tell them we have no jobs, we have no schools, you are not secured… Don’t vote for them because of religion. Don’t vote because it is anybody’s turn. It is your turn to take back Nigeria… We want to build a new Nigeria. You voted for the umbrella [the logo of the PDP], which leaked and left you suffering; you voted for the broom [the logo of the APC], they swept you into poverty. Now is the time to vote for human beings to bring about a new Nigeria. It’s time to vote for mama, papa, and children.’ [The logo of the Labour party is a wheel with a man, a woman and a child engraved in the centre.]
Lastly, the presidential candidate for the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Rabi’u Kwankwaso, was the Governor of Kano when that state adopted Sharia Law in June 2000. Centred on Kano in Nigeria’s North West, the NNPP is – like the PDP and APC – chasing Buhari’s Fulani Islamist vote bank. In the hope of winning over some Christians and southerners, the pro-Sharia Kwankwaso has adopted Buhari’s strategy and chosen as his running mate a Pentecostal mega-church pastor: the obscenely wealthy, gospel singing tele-evangelist and prosperity-preaching ‘bishop’ Isaac Idahosa, of the Illumination Assembly in Lagos [Idahosa's Instagram].
According to Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy (1, 2023) (the magazine of the International Strategic Studies Association), the PDP’s pro-business Atiku Abubakar is the best candidate to unite Nigerians, and the only candidate who ‘has offered a truly pan-Nigerian approach to governance along with a concrete set of specific proposals as to how he would streamline government, reduce corruption, improve security, and stimulate investment.’ Meanwhile, multiple polls have Labour’s Peter Obi in the lead, much to the delight of his mostly-youthful supporters who identify as ‘Obidients’. The question remains however: would Buhari’s vote bank of Fulani Islamist Muslims – including many military officials who have benefited from the government’s corruption – accept an Obi win? Could an Obi win – or even the threat of an Obi win – trigger fresh pogroms against the Igbo, Nigeria’s most Christian (98.8 percent), most industrious and most widely dispersed tribe? More on that next week.
Dear God our Father,
we do not presume to know what you have planned for the nation of Nigeria in the short or long term. We only know that you have a plan for your beloved Nigerian Church – a Church committed to your Great Commission (for global mission; Matthew 28:18-20).
Nor do we presume to know what is best for Nigeria or for your Church at this particular time in history (His-Story). We only know that you know what is best and that you alone have the power to bring it to pass.
Consequently, Father, we humbly place the Nigerian elections in your almighty and loving hands; help us to trust you with the results. We humbly lift the people of Nigeria before you, and plead for your grace and mercy. We humbly beseech you to protect, sustain and bless your beloved Church in Nigeria that she might fulfil all you have planned for her in your generous sovereign grace and great plan of redemption.
May evil be restrained and may candidates and commentators refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and incitement to ethnic or religious violence. May peace, freedom, justice, truth and righteousness prevail.
Lord have mercy!
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
NIGERIAN ELECTIONS: THE CANDIDATES
On 25 February, Nigerians will elect a new president amidst gross insecurity, escalating Islamic terror and soaring ethnic and religious tensions. Normally a two-horse race, this year is different with four leading candidates hailing from the four corners of Nigeria (NW, NE, SE, SW), and from its three leading tribes (Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo). Three are Muslim, one is Christian. Many fear the presidential election could cause the country to blow apart. Should that happen, it would trigger a Christian Crisis of monumental, even genocidal proportions, especially for Nigeria’s long-suffering Christians in the volatile mixed Middle Belt and predominately Muslim North. Nigeria has a population of 220 million, around half of whom identify as Christian. The Nigerian Church is one of the world’s leading missionary-sending Churches. This is a spiritual battle! Please pray.