What Role Would Religion Play in Nigerian Polls?‏ (Photo: OnIslam)
What Role Would Religion Play in Nigerian Polls?‏ (Photo: OnIslam)

Lagos, 9 Jumadil Akhir 1436/29 Maret 2016 (MINA) – As Nigerians vote in a crucial presidential election slated for Saturday March 28, analysts have pointed at different factors which they opine would determine who wins between the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from oil rich Niger Delta, and his major challenger retired General Muhammadu Buhari, a Sunni Muslim from the north.

President Jonathan is the candidate of the ruling PDP while Buhari is running on the platform of the mega opposition All Progressive Congress (APC), On Islam quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.

Key factors expected to sway voters are listed to include money, powers of incumbency and other local variables affecting peoples – such variables differing from state to state, region to region. One key factor many analysts say would play key role is what religion each of the two major candidates practice.

Since the past months, President Jonathan has toured church after church to worship – each time always speaking directly to congregation in manners observers are targeted at swaying votes in his favor. He particularly faces allegations of playing a religious card, with critics condemning his recent religious pilgrimage to Israel and the president kneeling down before pastors who prayed for him.

“No what matter what anyone says, religion is a very big factor in this election. Just yesterday, a church was set ablaze in Kaduna for asking people to vote members of their faith,” Abdul Dumoye, a political analyst, told OnIslam.net.

“This is what is happening everywhere. In churches, pastors are asking people to vote along their religious line.”

But Dumoye said while Buhari cannot be blamed for religious campaign, he said APC supporters are also campaigning along religious line.

“Every mosque you go in the north, you see Buhari’s posters outside there even though no direct campaign is done inside the mosques,” Dumoye said.

In January, two top Pentecostal pastors came under criticisms for using the pulpit to propagate Jonathan’s reelection, including doing videos to accuse Buhari of being “an Islamic fundamentalist who would Islamize Nigeria.”

Buhari has denied such plan.

Ethno-Religious Factor

Analysts have called some regions in favor of each of the two candidates – essentially based on ethno-religious factor.

While Jonathan is expected to win big in his predominantly Christian south Niger Delta and southeastern regions, Buhari is expected to win landslides in his own region of northwest, which is populated mainly by Muslims and his Hausa-Fulani ethnic stock.

The southwest is also called for Buhari because of the support he has from the region’s mainstream political leaders.

“You are aware that north central and northeast are shared among Muslims and Christians and this explains why they are battleground,” Goke Adeogun, a teacher of political science at the Lagos State University, told OnIslam.net.

“Northern minorities especially in Adamawa, Borno, Taraba and much of Benue, Kwara, Kogi and Plateau are likely not going to vote for Buhari because he is a Muslim and a Hausa-Fulani which they see as having oppressed the minorities in the north. And those who will be voting Buhari too are not from similar sentiments.”

In what analysts as pointer to religious tension in the country ahead of the poll, Muslim leaders reportedly refused to meet with Jonathan recently, accusing him of “marginalizing and oppressing” the Muslims.

“Here was a president who refused to address the legitimate grievances of the Muslims when we cried out about marginalization in the composition of delegates which was skewed in favor of the Christians,” Abubakar Abdullahi, a Muslim scholar in the southwest, told OnIslam.net.

“Nobody is saying people should vote along religious line but of course the president does not deserve Muslim vote because he treats us like we are nobodies.”

Neither the spokesman of the NSCIA nor that of the Christian Association of Nigeria agreed to speak on the role religion might play in the poll outcome.

Although no official Muslim/Christian population is documented, several global bodies including the Pew Research and the CIA say Muslims constitute about 50% of the population while Christians make up roughly 40%, with animists having the remaining 10%. (T/P011/P3)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)