Prayer urged for Nigeria presidential election on Saturday

Nigerian presidential election billboard (PHOTO: Pius Utomi/Epeki/AFA/via Getty Images/FP)

By Elizabeth Kendall — Originally published in Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin

This Saturday, February 25, Nigeria’s presidential election will be held amidst soaring ethno-religious tensions, gross insecurity and the threat of widespread election-related violence. 

Nigeria has a population of 220 million, around half of whom identify as Christian. Those most at risk are minority Christians in the Muslim north and all ethnic Igbo living outside the south east. [The Igbo are Nigeria’s most Christian (98%), most industrious and most widely dispersed tribe.] The Nigerian Church is one of the world’s leading missionary-sending Churches.

‘Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armour of God [described in vs13-17] … [and] keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication [earnest prayer] for all the saints.’ (From Ephesians 6:10-18 ESV)

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A Redfield & Wilton Strategies poll conducted over 10-12 February showed Labour’s Peter Obi – an ethnic Igbo Christian from the long-marginalised south east – well out in front. Excerpts from the R&WS poll results: “Peter Obi (Labour Party) 62 percent; Bola Tinubu (All Progressives Congress) 22 percent; Atiku Abubakar (Peoples Democratic Party) 12 percent; Rubi’u Musa Kwankwaso (New Nigeria People’s Party) 3 percent; another candidate, 1 percent. … While enthusiasm for Obi is said to be driven by younger voters, majorities of voters across all age groups say they intend to vote for Obi. … Peter Obi is the only major candidate in the upcoming election who is viewed favourably by a majority of Nigerian voters…”

However, Obi’s campaign has not been without its challenges. In recent weeks several of the Labour Party’s northern Muslim gubernatorial and state assembly candidates have abandoned Obi and Labour and defected to the APC and PDP, both of which are running Muslim candidates. The defecting candidates accuse Obi of running a non-inclusive campaign and pandering to the Igbo, something his campaign and his supporters deny.

Ndi Kato, a spokesperson for Obi’s campaign, told The Africa Report (February 15) that she does not believe the high-level political defections will have any impact on the polls. “Our foot soldiers are the people of Nigeria. They are volunteering … this election is between the people and the political class.”

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Kato’s analysis hits the target! This is an election between the people (i.e. those who have been impoverished) and Nigeria’s political and military elites (i.e. those who profit from systemic corruption). However, it will also be fought between those advancing ethnic (e.g. Fulani) and/or Islamic hegemony, and those demanding religious freedom and tolerance, education and jobs, health, peace and prosperity in a ‘New Nigeria’. The battle is about to begin!

Nigeria is entering a very challenging and indeed pivotal period of its history. Please, keep alert and pray.

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