Nigeria (MNN) – On Saturday, 84 million voters in Nigeria elect a President.
However, “Even more than the economy is the safety of the people. They see the attacks of Boko Haram, they see more attacks, they see bigger scale attacks that are affecting more people, and they say ‘what is our government doing to protect us?’”
Nigeria’s government is no longer able to ignore the resurgence of violence by Islamic extremists in the country’s troubled northeast region in the weeks prior to the election. Nettleton notes that the frequency of the attacks cost President Muhammadu Buhari voter confidence, as he seeks a second term.
”The current president, President Muhammadu Buhari, is saying ‘give me four more years. Look at what I’ve done since 2015 when I was elected the last time.’ The opposition candidates are saying ‘what have you done?’”
Although there is a field of candidates, the main opposition rival, Atiku Abubakar, hopes to finally secure the presidency after four previous attempts. His message is hard for Muhammadu to counter.
“Here we are, four years later. Boko Haram is still very active in Nigeria. You haven’t defeated them. Corruption is still a very real problem. You haven’t gotten control of that. We’ll see, this Saturday, who the voters choose to lead their nation.”
At least the risk of a hotly contested result seems somewhat mitigated. Neither ethnicity nor religion, are in play in this election, as both frontrunners Buhari and Abubakar are Hausa-speaking Fulani Muslims.
Buhari won his ticket four years ago by leaning heavily on his military record.
“‘I am a former military general. I know how to fight. I know how to get control of Boko Haram’”, notes Nettleton, adding that the recent attacks on the town of Rann in Borno State only serve to underscore Buhari’s failure. “That’s one of the things that will turn this election–whether people perceive progress or no progress against Boko Haram over the last four years.”
Extremism In The North
Who is Boko Haram? They are an extremist group with roots with Al Qaeda and connections with ISIS, going so far as to name themselves ‘The Islamic State West Africa Province’. They are also ISIS’ largest presence outside the Middle East, estimated at over 3,000 fighters.
As they rampage their way across Northern Nigeria, ”They have targeted Christians and they have targeted the government. They are trying to set up an Islamic control area in Northern Nigeria, but I think Nigerian Christians watch this election process and say ‘who is going to protect us?’”
The conflict there has left more than 7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and driven almost two million people from their homes.
Christians in the north are asking a lot of hard questions and they’re hoping for accountability from this election’s winner, explains Nettleton.
“’Who is going to provide safety? Who is going to make sure that the churches don’t get bombed? Who is going to track down the culprits when there are attacks and bring them to justice?’ I think that’s a very significant issue for Christians, particularly in the North.”
Prayer Cover Needed
The other big question: is will the election be fair? “How fair will the election be in a country where many people are displaced by the violence? How are they able to vote? Are they able to vote, because they’re not where they’re registered to vote. They’re not in their home territory because they’ve had to leave. There’s a lot of those kinds of nuts and bolts issues of actually holding the election, counting the votes.”
Logistically, it’s a nightmare. Nettleton says there are a number of ways to be praying for the elections, Nigeria’s Christians and the days ahead.
First, ”Pray for fairness; pray for a true result in the election; pray for godly leaders.” And then, “Pray that whoever wins will consider Nigeria’s Christians as a vital part of the citizenship there, people who are worthy of protection, people who are worth of freedom of worship, freedom of religion, and will protect some of those rights that are promised in the Nigerian constitution.”
Header photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA.