ICC Note: Christians in northern Nigeria nervously brace for what the future holds now that the country has elected a Muslim president who has an outspoken history in support of the expansion of Sharia law. On the one hand, Buhari promises to fight radical Muslim militants Boko Haram with renews fervor and effectiveness compared to his relatively weak Christian predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan. However, Christians that have faced persecution in Nigeria’s north for years are now wondering whether Buhari is a committed Islamist, or if his policies will embrace Nigerians of all faiths.
Christian groups remember new president’s earlier vow to Islamize Nigeria
4/10/2015 Nigeria (World Watch Monitor) – Nigeria’s Christians, especially those in the troubled northeast, had a good reason to be worried that Muhammadu Buhari would be president. The former military ruler had once endorsed the full implementation of sharia — Islamic law — throughout the country.
Yet in the weeks leading up to the March 28 election, leaders of the Christian churches in Africa’s most populous nation announced their support for Buhari. And since the former general defeated incumbent Goodluck Jonathan by a 54-46 margin, they have praised Buhari, a Muslim, as “a man of peace” and “a man of integrity and decency”.
The Christian Association of Nigeria and the National Christian Elders Forum each issued congratulatory statements to Buhari. They praised Jonathan, a Christian, for relinquishing power peacefully, saying his concession and Nigeria’s post-election calm demonstrated “political maturity”.
Buhari swept Nigeria’s majority-Muslim northern states, while Jonathan captured the Christian-majority southeast. The election was won for Buhari in the Christian southwest, home to his vice-presidential running mate, Yemi Osinbajo, pastor of the Redeemed Church of God, a large Pentecostal church in southern Nigeria. A coalition of southwestern clergy, under the banner ‘Christians for Governance, Pastors for Change’, endorsed Buhari.
A majority of Nigerians of all faiths had expressed dissatisfaction with corruption endemic in Jonathan’s government and its inability to put down the murderous Islamist insurgency of Boko Haram in the northeast. Christians have paid a particularly heavy price during the six-year uprising; thousands have been killed, and hundreds of churches have been razed.
Before the election, some northern pastors expressed to World Watch Monitor that they were concerned about what a Buhari victory would mean. Although he is known to be a forthright corruption-fighter and a disciplined, strong leader, Buhari also is a devout Muslim who, during his military rule from 1983-85, expressed the will to Islamize the country to the last corner.
“I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria,” he said in 2001. “God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of the Sharia in the country.
‘‘Muslims in Nigeria should redouble their efforts in the promotion of the full implementation of sharia law all over the country. There will be bloodshed should sharia be stopped from being the law in Northern Nigeria. Nigeria will cease to know peace should sharia be stopped.”
That was 14 years ago. Buhari, now 72, has since run for president, and lost, three times. During the most recent campaign, he tried to re-assure skeptics by defending the freedom of religion, noting that he is not a religious fanatic, and that he had never imposed Sharia law when he was in power.