The streets of Jos, Nigeria, are especially crowded today, the day before the national election. People are buying extra food and supplies, in case there is violence after the results are announced, which could close stores and make it unsafe to go out. Many of the plans of the organization I am working under, the Crisis Management Team of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria or EYN), are put on hold for the weekend to see how things work out.
Nigerians, who have fled their homes and villages because of violence, can only vote if they go back to their former towns and villages of residence. That means most of the Nigerian Brethren and other internally displace people, from the areas where Boko Haram has attacked, will not be able to vote. People find it hard to predict who will win, since the race for President seems to be very close. They express difficulties with both major parties, saying neither is free of corruption or problems that their being in power might bring to Nigerian society.**
I have heard expressions of concern or fear, but also the sentiments of those who choose to relate to the current political situation through their faith. One church leader told me, “I choose not to worry, as this is something I have no control over.” An EYN woman, who had fled from her home with her family a month ago, said, “We can only pray and trust that God will guide the outcome, and what it means for our society. And at least we know that whatever happens, we are in God’s care.”
They are also thankful for their brothers and sisters in the U.S. and around the world who are joining them in these prayers for peace.
And while Nigerians are praying for peace during and after the election, an organization called Christians and Muslims Peacebuilding Initiatives (CAMPI), supported by the EYN Crisis Management Team, also sponsored a pre-election conference in Mubi this month on ”Peace and Democracy: Promoting Civic Responsibility.” A hundred and twelve Christian and Muslim, male and female youth leaders, came together to think about how to promote good citizenship and peaceful ways to participate positively in the election process. This event is one of many across Nigeria organized to work toward a violence-free election.
** This article doesn’t deal with the issues of the election. I have only been in Nigeria six days, and don’t consider myself to be qualified to do this. But for those who would like in depth exploration of the issues by people who have studied Nigeria’s political history, here are links to two sources of more information:
- “Boko Haram and Nigeria’s 2015 Elections: A Fighting Chance for Democracy?” by Brandon Kendhammer, https://africaplus.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/boko-haram-and-nigerias-2015-elections-a-fighting-chance-for-democracy/
- “Nigeria: What is to be Done?” (A series of articles about the Elections) https://africaisacountry.creatavist.com/nigeriawhatistobedone