03/29/2023 Nigeria (International Christian Concern) – Nigeria’s presidential elections in February were marred by technical difficulties, violence, and disappointing voter turnout. At 26.72%, it was the lowest level of voter participation in a presidential election since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999. Turnout has been steadily declining since 2003’s record 69%, but this year’s numbers are particularly disappointing given the high hopes many international observers had for the exercise.
Nigeria’s gubernatorial elections, which happened in March a few weeks after the presidential elections, saw what was likely even lower participation. In parts of the country, Christians were particularly hesitant to participate in the election exercise because of threats from extremist Muslim militants, who warned Christians in Borno and Yobe states against voting.
One pastor told ICC that he and his congregation were afraid vote in the gubernatorial election after about twenty Christians were killed in the wake of the presidential election, apparently for voting in favor of Christian presidential candidate Peter Obi. Borno and Yobe are largely under the control of Boko Haram militants, an Islamist terror group.
In the southern state of Lagos, home of President-elect Bola Tinubu, the elections have stirred up ethnic and relious tensions. Five Christians were reported killed at polling stations and various electoral materials were destroyed by armed individuals.
In Kaduna State, located in Nigeria’s fractious Middle Belt, supporters of Christian Labour Party candidate Jonathan Asake are under threat. At least 22 people in his home area in southern Kaduna were killed in the days leading up to the election. Over 50,000 have been displaced from the area in recent weeks, according to local sources. One local told ICC that “the vote was canceled in Christian polling units and Christians did come out to vote,” adding that “they are afraid of being attacked.”
There was low turnout of voters across polling units in Plateau State, with many voters complaining that Peter Obi was denied victory in the presidential election and saying that there is no need to vote again. Other voters stood in the hot sun with an umbrella, telling an ICC staffer that they wanted to vote for a Christian who has Christian interests. There were no violence incidents or threats in Plateau State.
Christians in Nasarawa State came out to protest the victory of Engr. AA Sule for his second term. Christians claimed that David Ombugadu won the election but was denied victory because he is a Christian. Protestors upset about the election dressed in black or protested naked, demanding electoral officials declare Ombugadu the winner of the election.
Faga David of Nasarawa Mirror wrote, “Serious protest hit Lafia town, the state capital today as aged women took to the streets protesting against the outcome of the March 18th 2023 governorship election in Nasarawa state today. These day will remain fresh in history that our mothers cried out to God about the injustice done to the people of Nasarawa State for taking the mandate of Rt Hon Dr David Emmanuel Ombugadu. They weren’t protesting to be paid but were only seeking for justice, they want the mandate be given to the right person. They voted for Ombugadu who won but instead AA Sule was announced.”
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