Image: REUTERS/Nigerian Presidency

By Alex Pollock

Ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu has been declared the winner of Nigeria’s disputed presidential election. The 70-year-old veteran politician got 37% of the vote, official results show. His main rival Atiku Abubakar polled 29%, and Labour’s Peter Obi 25%. Their parties had earlier dismissed the poll as a sham and demanded a rerun. Mr Tinubu urged them to accept the result, but Labour said it was taking legal action to annul his victory. Mr Tinubu is one of Nigeria’s richest politicians and based his campaign on his record of rebuilding the biggest city, Lagos, when he was governor. He was nevertheless defeated in the city by Mr Obi, a relative newcomer who mobilised the support of many young people, especially in urban areas, shaking up the country’s two-party system. Mr Tinubu won most other states in his home region of the southwest, where he is known as a “political godfather” – for helping to put others into office. He campaigned for the presidency under the slogan: “Emi lo kan” which means “It’s my turn” in Yoruba. (BBC)

Election Results

Mr Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress defeated 17 other candidates in Nigeria’s 25 February presidential election to become the African nation’s 16th head of state. His two main opponents, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, have officially contested the result with the Independent National Electoral Commission, claiming the result is fraudulent. Mr Tinubu comes from the same political party as incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. To win the election, Mr Tinubu had to secure an overall majority of votes with at least 25% of the votes in at least 24 of the country’s 37 states. He will be sworn in as president on 29 May 2023. Mr Tinubu drew some controversy for his selection of running mate, Kashim Shettima, the ex-governor of Borno state. Mr Tinubu and Mr Shettima are both Muslims, violating a gentleman’s agreement that stipulates that the running president and vice president should be of different religions, which has been upheld unofficially for the last three decades. Despite this obstacle and a much stronger-than-expected showing from the up-and-coming Labour Party, Mr Tinubu secured the presidency. Mr Tinubu’s wife, soon-to-be First Lady Oluremi Tinubu, is an ordained Pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God.

Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party – the country’s main opposition party – came second with 29.1% (approximately 6.9 million) of the votes. He was hindered in his campaign by allegations of financial mismanagement and corruption. Mr Abubakar is Nigeria’s former vice president, and this election was his sixth attempt at becoming president. As vice president, Mr Abubakar was in charge of the government’s economic strategy and successfully oversaw reforms in the fields of telecommunications, banking, pension legislation, and job growth.

Mr Abubakar, and third-place candidate Peter Obi, have officially challenged the results. Mr Obi, of the Labour Party, received 25.4% (6.1 million) of the votes behind a strong showing from Nigeria’s youth. According to an INcontext contact in Nigeria, many Christians supported Mr Obi, who was raised “in a devout Christian home” and completed his studies at Christ the King College.

On Saturday 18 March, Nigerians in 26 states went to the polls again to elect new state governors. The All Progressives Congress and People’s Democratic Party dominated the election, winning a majority of the state governorships. The election of state governors is very strategic in Nigeria’s federal governmental system as governors hold much power over what happens in their states. They are responsible for the distribution of financial resources in their respective states and can pass state legislation, giving them equal to more power over the day-to-day lives of citizens than the president. The All Progressive Congress won 15 states, including Lagos, and the People’s Democratic Party won seven. Two races were recorded as inconclusive. The Labour Party led in just one state. The gubernatorial elections were postponed by the Independent National Electoral Commission because of the electronic malfunction of voting machines during the presidential election. There were several incidents of voter intimidation, violence, and loss of election materials reported on Saturday. According to European Union observers, 21 people died from election-related violence.

Bola Tinubu’s Campaign Priorities

“I shall bring the same determined, problem-solving spirit to solving insecurity at the national level. Our administration will be committed to permanently   securing the safety, freedom and prosperity of all Nigerians.” -Bola Tinbu

Mr Tinubu served as the governor of Lagos from 1999 to 2007 and developed a reputation as the “Godfather of Lagos.” He used his success in that position as a pillar of his campaign for the presidency. His campaign focused mainly on the economy and worsening insecurity. He promised to boost Nigeria’s exports and reduce the country’s reliance on imports. He also committed to focus on revamping military training to lessen the violence and chaos caused by several security challenges, including a violent insurgency in the north and ethnic clashes in other regions of the country. Many Christians throughout Nigeria expressed concern over Mr Tinubu’s choice to go against the agreement to maintain religious diversity within the country’s top leadership because of the increasing religious hostility between the Muslim-majority north and Christian-majority south. Mr Tinubu defended his decision saying he focused on finding a running mate that is qualified and capable of instituting meaningful change, rather than on following a tradition. Mr Tinubu will face several challenges as he tries to unify and restore Africa’s most populous nation. Nigeria faces deep-rooted and long-standing divisions religiously, economically, and socially.


The Nigerian Church and Politics


91 UNREACHED GROUPS (31.4%  of pop.)

Nigeria is a country rich in resources and has the potential to be a major player in both regional and global geopolitics, however, it has been plagued by disintegration and conflict. The agreement to balance the power of governance between Muslims and Christians was designed to ensure that the wants and needs of both groups could be heard and met, however, an argument can be made that the agreement consistently creates political deadlock, hindering the country’s ability to adequately handle the issues it faces. According to the contact in the country, many Nigerians – including many Christians – are weary that the new president-elect will not be able to initiate real change that benefits the whole of Nigeria.

As the conflicts in Nigeria have intensified over the past couple of years under the Buhari government, the Church has become more active in Nigeria’s political landscape. Having previously been quiet and unwilling to mix faith with politics, the Church became something that people compartmentalised. In this recent election, however, many churches and faith leaders became more vocal about what the Church should be doing to help restore communities affected by the multiple crises. The Christian Church in Nigeria “came alive” during this political process, according to the contact, and began to seriously consider the role of the Gospel within their communities and individual church congregations.

Christians in Nigeria face very high levels of persecution, especially in the Muslim-dominated northern states. Because of this, many Christians have migrated to the south where they experience a higher level of security and community with other believers. While this is an understandable reaction to the dangers they face, it often leaves communities in the north with no visible witness of Christ. The Bible tells Christians that they will face persecution on Earth, but to take heart because Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). This promise that Christ is the ultimate victor can give hope to Christians in Nigeria who are trying to be the salt and light amid dangerous circumstances. However, the global Church should also take hands with Nigerian believers to encourage them, intercede for them, and provide practical support to remind them that they are part of a larger body and not fighting the battle alone.

Various groups within Nigeria have advocated for independence or splitting between the north and south, similar to what happened in Sudan. However, despite the split, Sudan and South Sudan have continued to face conflict, hardship, and disintegration of people groups. If Nigeria split along any contentious border, it is not a guarantee that the conflict that now engulfs the country will end. Instead, the Church should pray for opportunities to take its place as an agent of reconciliation, peace, and unity.


“There is a division between the spiritual life and secular life of believers in Nigeria. There is difficulty in translating the Gospel from being something within the walls of the church to something that purifies our communities. The Church in Nigeria needs God’s intervention, it needs God’s work to teach us, and to raise people to break down the walls and bring continuity into the lives of Nigerian believers so that their lives are not fragmented into spiritual and secular, but Christ in them is interacting with every aspect of their lives. Then people will be able to see practical applications of scripture in their daily lives. ” [sic] – INcontext contact in Nigeria

Please join us in praying for the following:

  • For the new government of Nigeria to seek wisdom as they enact policies and for them to truly have the best interest of all Nigerians at heart
  • For the Lord to raise up church leaders who are dedicated to working and committing to spreading the Gospel to those who are lost
  • For each Nigerian believer to be salt and light in their communities, no matter the circumstances they face, and for the Lord to sustain them, strengthen them, and uphold them

Statistical Information sourced from the INEC & The Conversation Statistics