Nigeria Bridges Christians and Muslims by Electing Buhari
For the first time, Nigeria has democratically elected an opposition leader with Muslim Gen. Muhammadu Buhari defeating Christian Goodluck Jonathan.
Challenger Gen. Muhammadu Buhari is leading incumbent Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in Nigeria’s presidential race. As the votes come in, Gen. Buhari has won heavily contested districts in the predominantly Christian southern Nigeria. Currently holding a 3 million vote lead, Gen. Buhari’s campaign is already declaring a victory. BBC News has also announced a victory for the challenger Buhari.
Back in 2011, the voting pattern was quite easy to predict. Christians both in the Southern and Northern regions of Nigeria voted massively for Jonathan due to his faith. The country has been heavily polarized along religious and ethnic lines. However, for the first time in the young democracy’s history, the opposition party looks to win through a democratic vote, which many have praised internationally.
With the current ravaging Boko Haram insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives since it began, coupled with the wanton stealing and corruption among politicians in Mr. Jonathan’s government, in a manner that has surprised political pundits and observers world over, the electorate has made a U-turn in 2015 as Nigeria’s Presidential poll draws nearer. Goodluck Jonathan’s handling of Boko Haram’s terrorism, plummeting oil prices, and corruption scandals have not helped the incumbent Christian president in the Nigeria election.
This time around, the average Christian electorate is more inclined to vote for Muslim Gen. Buhari, rather than a Christian like they did back in 2011. General Buhari, the Presidential flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress party (APC), has built a successful campaign against the incumbency of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), which has firmly clinched power since the country established its modern democracy in 1999.
While some well recognized religious bodies and groups like the Northern Christian Leaders’ Eagle-Eyes Forum have come out to openly endorse Buhari, the Catholic bishops and other religious camps have not formally endorsed a candidate, though even they may lean towards Buhari. The religious bodies in Nigeria that have publicly endorsed Buhari have supported their move by saying they believe that the country needs a leader who can protect both Christians and Muslims.
“The bishops see him as a man of integrity and decency who can fight corruption and Boko Haram,” praised secretary of the Maiduguri Roman Catholic Diocese Rev. John Bakeni.
Buhari’s popularity among the Christian folk might have also been helped and boosted by his party’s smart pick of Yemi Osinbajo, a senior Pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God – one of the country’s biggest protestant congregation – as his running mate. Having a Christian running mate certainly assuages any potential fears of Buhari establishing a purely Muslim government.
Buhari, who has heavily come under accusations by the ruling People Democratic Party that he has plans of Islamizing the nation once he gets onto power, has assured the masses that he has no hidden religious agenda. He seems to look to bridge a Nigeria that has been split between its Christian and Muslim communities.