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Nigeria ‘s Touchy Transition

ICC NOTE: Nigerian Christians worry that a return to Muslim control would marginalize Christians.

Isaac Phiri

3/19/2007 Nigeria For the full article (Christianity Today) So far, all signs point to a peaceful handover following April’s elections. But Kenya-based Nigerian evangelical leader Tokunboh Adeyemo said many Christians have expressed disappointment that Obasanjo, a Baptist, endorsed a Muslim governor from a northern state. He urged Christians to understand the context.

“[Obasanjo] was respecting a gentleman’s agreement,” Adeyemo explained. According to a 1998 memorandum of understanding agreed to by Obasanjo, the Nigerian presidency must alternate between a Christian and a Muslim. Christians, predominant in the south, and Muslims, concentrated in the north, have clashed for decades.

According to Adeyemo, Obasanjo’s heir apparent is “a moderate Muslim, not a fanatic.”

“If [Yar’Adua] wins,” Adeyemo said, “there should be no reason for Christians to fear.”

Still, some do. In Akure, capital of Ondo, a largely rural southern state, Iyabode Okoro worries that a return to Muslim control would marginalize Christians.

“Even now with a Christian president, the persecution is not abated,” said Okoro, who runs the family-focused Christian Heritage Ministries with her husband, Stanley. “We continue to hear of church burnings from time to time and to hear of deprivation of people’s rights because of their faith.”

Okoro said Muslim leaders would not be politically capable of imposing Shari’ah law across all Nigeria . But in some northern states, moves to install Shari’ah over the last few years have contributed to greater restrictions against Christians.

Obasanjo also curtailed the national influence of northern Muslims, an ever-urgent concern for Christians, Adeyemo said. “He put an end to the hegemony of the Islamic north that purports that only Muslims can rule.”