Nigeria (MNN) — Muhammadu Buhari is the president-elect of Nigeria. A former military ruler (1983-1985 by coup) and Muslim from the north, he beat incumbent Goodluck Jonathon handily in this weekend’s elections. Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, says this election was groundbreaking in a number of ways.
First, “This is the first time in Nigeria’s history that an opposition party has defeated a sitting president in the country.”
Second, “It’s the first time in history that a sitting president has given a concession speech and said, ‘I was beaten. I turn the power over to you, now.’ So this is a significant step forward for Nigeria.”
The terror group Boko Haram attacked so fiercely during the campaign that the elections were postponed six weeks. Odd, since they were one of the reasons why people voted for a Muslim president. “Buhari ran on the principle that he would clean up the corruption, that he would aggressively handle Boko Haram and get control of that situation.”
Under a Muslim strongman, will the situation in Nigeria mirror that of India with the election of BJP Narendra Modi? For reference, under Modi’s leadership, many Christians have been saying BJP (Hindu nationalists) have been oppressing and persecuting them with impunity. Religiously-motivated attacks have jumped 55% in 300 days of Modi’s leadership. Organizations that support the Persecuted Church are keeping watch.
Now what? Nettleton responds, “[Buhari has] won the job, and we get to see what he actually does and if he is able to fulfill the promises that he made as a candidate.” A tall order, Nettleton notes. It seems he was able to loosely unify people. “About two years ago, three major opposition parties came together and said, ‘We couldn’t beat Goodluck Jonathon as three separate parties; let’s join hands and work to try to defeat him together.’ That seems to have worked.”
However, how long will that unity will last? Nobody knows, and it’s too early to tell. “It’s a significant challenge to unify the people of Nigeria together behind any one idea or candidate. Once that candidate wins, as Buhari has done, now the challenge is to unify and govern.”
What do reforms look like for Christians under a Muslim president in a country with a Muslim insurgency? A crucial issue will be the appointments he makes. Nettleton says, “We want to pray for president-elect Buhari as he’s forming his government. Pray that godly people will be put into positions of influence and that they can be a blessing to their country.”
Is this election one to close the books on? That depends on whether the People’s Democratic Party leaves without violence when the All Progressives Congress takes over. PDP supporters are already crying “foul.”
“Particularly in the northern part of the country, pray that there will be security,” urges Nettleton. “[Pray that] there will be safety, and that they will be able to worship and serve the Lord without as much fear as they’ve faced in the last five years.”