Religious Tensions Rise in Nigeria’s Elections between Christian and Muslim Candidates


In Nigeria, a Christian candidate and a Muslim candidate are vying for the country’s presidency.

Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south, and Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north, are facing off in an Nigeria election that may test the unity of a country already facing deep divisions over religion and the free practice thereof. 

Nigeria’s population is nearly split down the middle between Christians and Muslims.

Some Nigerian Christians are concerned that Buhari is too much of a hardline extremist, pointing to the fact that strict Sharia law is already part of the landscape in the north.  Lai Mohammed, who was speaking on behalf of the APC (All Progressive Congress) party, said General Buhari “believes in the secular nature of Nigeria,” and that Buhari is neither a religious bigot nor a fundamentalist, calling such talk “mischievous”.  President Jonathan also has detractors, and they are not all Muslims, that maintain he is too close to the popular Pentecostal pastors who are considered “super pastors” that have gained great wealth through their churches.

Nigerians are infamous for their religiosity, and there is little doubt that the patterns of voting will be very different in the north, where Islam is the predominant religion, and the south, where Christianity is more deeply rooted.  In Nigeria, the religion of a voter is a large part of their voting decisions, but it is, by no means, the only factor.  Many Christians, who are skeptical of Buhari, are also skeptical of Jonathan due to his connections to what they see as corrupt pastors.

As the candidates continue their journey to Election Day, the mood of the country may continue to deteriorate, even as both Christian and Muslim Nigerians across the nation pray for peace.  It is ultimately up to the candidates to defuse that tension and promote religious harmony in a very diverse nation.


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