All-Muslim presidential ticket wins Nigerian election amid opposition from Christians

Nigeria President-elect Bola Tinubu (R) and Chairman of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) Yakubu Mahmood (L) look on during the presentation of the certificate of return to the President-elect by the INEC in Abuja on March 1, 2023.
Nigeria President-elect Bola Tinubu (R) and Chairman of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) Yakubu Mahmood (L) look on during the presentation of the certificate of return to the President-elect by the INEC in Abuja on March 1, 2023. | Kola Sulaimon/AFP via Getty Images

Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state, has won Nigeria's presidential election amid opposition from Christians for not following the customary electoral practice of featuring one Christian and one Muslim on a party's presidential campaign ticket.

This deviation, Christians fear, may exacerbate the divide between Muslims and Christians in the country.

Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission declared Tinubu of the ruling All Progressive Congress party winner on Wednesday, as many in the opposition called for the vote to be voided, according to Nigerian media.

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

Tinubu, a Muslim from the south, is scheduled to take office on May 29. He chose a fellow Muslim as his running mate, Sen. Kashim Shettima, to secure votes from the Muslim-dominated north, which has more registered voters than the Christian south.

Tinubu received only 37% of the vote and would be Nigeria's first president to take office with less than 50%.

The election recorded the lowest turnout since 1999, with only 27% of eligible voters casting ballots, according to The Associated Press.

Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and political stalwart who is a northern Muslim, got 29% of the vote, and Peter Obi, a Christian from the southeast, finished third with 25%.

As some question the legitimacy of the election, Mucahid Durmaz, the senior West Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, told AP that the low turnout could be due to shortages of fuel and currency as well as voter suppression and violence.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji of Owerri, president of the Bishops' Conference, expressed concerns in a statement shared by Fides. He claimed that before last weekend's election, the federal government assured Nigerians that "sufficient electoral reforms and preparations had been made to ensure that the sovereign will of the people was faithfully reflected in the conduct of the elections."

"In addition, the delay in the electronic transmission of the results of the voting units to the (Electoral Commission) results viewing portal before their announcement in the voting centers has raised suspicions among many people about the transparency of the entire process," the archbishop said. "Therefore, there is a palpable tension in the air and unrest not only from some political parties, but also in a significant part of the Nigerian population."

The outgoing president, Muhammadu Buhari, a northern Muslim from the ruling party, has served the maximum two terms allowed by Nigerian law.

After receiving a certificate from the Nigerian electoral commission confirming his status as president-elect, Tinubu issued a message for Nigerians: "I understand your hurt. To you, I extend the embrace and comfort of one family member to another. This great project called Nigeria beckons to us all. It is bigger and more important than any partisan divide."

Protesters organized under the name Citizens Unite for Democracy marched to Unity Fountain in Abuja Wednesday to demand the cancellation of the Presidential and National Assembly elections, calling for new elections, Nigeria's The Guardian newspaper reported.

The running mate of one opposition candidate, Datti Baba-Ahmed, said a court challenge was imminent, claiming that the incoming government was "illegal and unconstitutional." While court challenges are common in Nigeria, the country's Supreme Court has never overturned a presidential election.

The protesters also urged the international community to intervene and aid in organizing a new election, citing a loss of faith in the Independent National Electoral Commission to oversee a free and fair process.

In January, more than 75 clerics and representatives from Islamic groups across Nigeria gathered in Kano, Northwest Nigeria, for a special prayer conference, where they prayed for the success of Tinubu's candidacy and encouraged Muslims in the country to view the election through a religious lens, according to the Catholic news website The Pillar.

Last July, more than 10,000 Nigerian Christians staged a protest in Abuja against an all-Muslim presidential ticket for the ruling party, expressing concerns over religious tolerance.

The protest was led by the All Christians Community of Northern Nigeria, whose leader, Moses Adams, told the Daily Post at the time that the lack of a Christian vice presidential candidate on the ticket was "unacceptable and a recipe for creating sharp divides between the Muslims and the Christians in the country."

Groups like the Evangelical Church Winning All denomination and the prominent advocacy organization Christian Association of Nigeria also expressed concern over the ticket.

Despite mounting violence perpetrated by Boko Haram, Fulani herders and the Islamic State West Africa Province, all of which have killed thousands of Christians, the ruling party has secured another term. The government has rejected claims that the violence is religion-based, which has only exacerbated tensions and hindered efforts to address the root causes of the conflict.

Predominantly Christian farming communities in Nigeria's Middle Belt states have been attacked and pushed out of their lands by predominantly Muslim radicalized herders. Thousands have reportedly been killed in the violence that has escalated since 2016.

Christian nongovernmental organizations and some human rights activists contend that religion plays a role in the violence occurring in the Middle Belt and could be reaching the level of genocide.

Last June, one of the largest Christian denominations in the country warned of a "deep and irredeemable crisis" if the religion or region of the candidates was given more importance than the constitutional values of religious tolerance.

"Given the pluralistic configuration of Nigeria, we have seen deliberate effort since independence to preserve the peace and unity of the country by ensuring that the presidency is balanced in terms of religion and region," the Rev. Stephen Baba Panya, president of the Evangelical Church Winning All denomination, noted in a statement at the time, according to Nigeria's Daily Post newspaper.

According to the Christian persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA, at least 5,000 Christians were killed in Nigeria between Oct. 1, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2022.

"In much of northern Nigeria, Christians live their lives under the constant threat of attack from Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), Fulani militants and criminals who kidnap and murder with few consequences," Open Doors stated in an earlier report.

"Christians in some of Nigeria's northern states also live under Shariah law, where they face discrimination and treatment as second-class citizens. Christians who've converted from Islam also face rejection from their families and are often pressured to recant their faith in Jesus or face the consequences."

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More Articles