Nigeria Christians On Edge As Muslim Wins Presidential Ballot

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

By BosNewsLife News Center

ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife) -- Christians in Nigeria were on high alert Monday, April 23, as election officials confirmed that the outgoing Christian president of Nigeria will be succeeded by a controversial Muslim candidate following Saturday's election.

Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman Maurice Iwu said Umaru Yar'Adua had won the vote, which observers said was marred by fraud and violence.

"Candidate Atiku Abubakar, party AC, 2,637,848 votes; Major General Muhammadu Buhari, ANPP, 6,605,299 votes; Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, PDP, 24,638,063. I will like to further affirm that Umar Musa Yar'Adua of PDP, having satisfied the requirement of the law, and scored the highest number of votes, is declared winner," he announced in comments aired by the Voice Of America (VOA).

Shortly before the announcement Christians in Nigeria and abroad have raised concern about the impact a new Muslim president would have on religious freedom in Africa's most populous nation.


"If there's a Muslim-elected president – and the two leading candidates are both Muslim - Christian rights in that country will continue to suffer,” Open Doors USA president Car Moeller told Mission Network News. “We know that Nigeria is the home to some of the largest and fastest growing churches in Africa. However, there's also a great deal of persecution going on in the northern states."

A Christian teacher was recently brutally beaten and burned alive by her students in a Muslim dominated northern town. Two days later in the same town, an evangelical church was burned, Christian officials and human rights watchers said.

Nigeria's outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo urged those opposing the outcome to take advantage of constitutional and legal mechanisms to seek redress.

"Elections are a process which allow for dissent and have in-built mechanism for redress," he said. "Our constitutional and legal system anticipates that participants in elections may feel aggrieved and therefore provide remedies. Our elections could not have been said to have been perfect. My advice to all those who feel aggrieved by the outcome of the elections, is that they should avail themselves of the laid-down procedure for seeking redress in electoral matters."


Some opposition candidates have reportedly vowed to challenge the elections at election tribunals. Obasanjo was scheduled to step down next month, when his second four-year term ends. The process is meant to set up Nigeria's first-ever handover of power between elected heads of state.

However dozens of Nigerians have died in violence related to the elections. The new president is expected to deal with corruption and grinding poverty and religious and ethnic violence which has killed thousands since military rule ended in 1999.

Yar'Adua reportedly assured Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola in a special meeting last month that he would respect "all religions" should he be sworn in as president on May 29.

"I would like to see that I have a government that is trusted and credible and that can be so, if we have proper respect for law and order - in other words the rule of law is placed in an exulted position," he said in an interview. However Christians in especially Muslim dominated regions have heard this rhetoric before and Nigerian churches on Monday, April 23, were anxiously watching whether the political intentions would become reality. (With reports from Nigeria).

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