Persecution in Nigeria

Post-Election Persecution in Nigeria

on May 8, 2019

The chaotic Nigerian elections which saw the reelection of President Buhari and the close results within several Governors’ races have seen Christians still violently targeted by various actors in the country.

Various sources have reported between the middle of February and the end of March, an estimated 280 people were murdered in the restive Middle Belt part of the country. The breakdown of fatalities broke down to 130 deaths in Kaduna State, 120 in Zamfara State and 30 in Benue State. This carnage follows dozens of deaths that were reported during the polls themselves. And the murder of Christians by Fulani jihadists and Boko Haram continues.

Also in late March two Catholic priests, one from Enugu State and the other from Kaduna State, were kidnapped. And a Protestant Christian Pastor named Emmanuel Haruna was taken from outside his home during the evening. Their status remains unknown at this time. The brazenness of these events occurring right after the elections show the divisions currently within Nigeria.

Appallingly, even though he has been reelected as president of the country, President Buhari has not condemned any of the actions that have taken place. Nor has the government responded to the calls for assistance from the Governor of Nasarawa State to deal with the spike of kidnappings that have taken place in his state.

Another way to assess the situation is as follows: The inability of the previous administration to rescue the 300 Chibok schoolgirls and to control the Boko Haram insurgency were key elements that caused the electorate in Nigeria to vote for change by electing President Buhari in the first place. The inability or unwillingness of the Buhari Administration to address these issues which actually took place before the country voted for President and continue in some form on a daily basis should raise and are raising some alarm bells.

There is a general rule that when a new leader assumes office they are most effective in generating new legislation and following through on their agenda during the first 100 days of the term. President Buhari did attempt to introduce reforms and re-establish a presence in the northeastern part of the country, but in the long run these efforts did not end up being successful.

The unfolding crisis in the Middle Belt has been allowed to fester for years. Currently that crisis has the ability to increase internal strife within Nigeria to the breaking point if it is not addressed not only by the Nigerian Government but also State Governments. Having a State Police Force that can answer to local leaders and not have to wait for a response or approval from Abuja to address the crisis is paramount in this situation.

Failure to accomplish this will increase the feeling among the Christian community in Nigeria that they are considered to be prey to the attackers and that the government is turning a blind eye to their plight. That will not bode well for those who seek to maintain national unity.

Currently for those who seek to worship Christ in Nigeria, particularly in the northern and middle belt states, there is a conviction that they are suffering like those who suffered persecution and martyrdom at the hands of the Roman Empire during the early days of the Church.

It has been said that free and fair elections are often the cure-all for many political ills that plague a country. Sadly whenever there is an election cycle in Nigeria, it has most often turned into a violent period of time where Christians are targeted. The silence of the government can and will be taken as a sign of complicity. If Buhari does not want that to be the case, he needs to turn the situation around immediately, bring the perpetrators to justice, and protect the innocent.

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