Since the emergence of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the presidential flag bearer of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) up to his victory at the 2023 general election as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Christian community in Nigeria has not been the same.
It has been divided across several lines.
While some have publicly declared that they would not address him as their president, others are of the view that the Church should move on not minding the process that produced the president.
That seed of discord was essentially sown when Tinubu announced Kashim Shettima, a Muslim from the Northeastern state of Borno as the vice presidential running mate.
Tinubu was declared president-elect after winning 37 percent of the total votes, which generated reactions from several sections of the country with the two leading opposition parties rejecting the declaration.
The other two leading candidates in the election, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) both challenged the declaration by the INEC.
Part of the grouse by the Christian community was the perceived abysmal performance of Muhammadu Buhari for eight years. Buhari was helped to become president in 2015 by Tinubu.
With the state of the nation, many Christains thought it was advisable for the party to continue in office with the level of its failure. They also thought it was not right for another Moslem to get on the power stool after Buhari.
However, in a move that appeared to be contrary to the position of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella body of churches in Nigeria at the national level, the chairman of the Lagos branch had endorsed the presidential candidate of the APC, saying that it was in his personal capacity.
While it could be argued that the endorsement was carried out in his personal capacity on the back of their close working relationship with the formal Lagos State governor, the endorsement raised more questions than answers as to why a member of the national body (CAN) that has agreed not to support any of the presidential candidates would endorse anybody in his personal capacity.
That endorsement further cemented the rift within the umbrella body of the Church in Nigeria, indicating that some of the pastors had their interest separate from the position of CAN, which also sent a different signal out to the public indicating that the Church leaders were out to fight for personal interest and not probably that of the Church.
There were utterances made by some Church leaders, showing their level of frustration with the goings on in the political space. Some obviously pitched tents with some other presidential candidates, advising and directing their members to follow suit.
In the thick of the standoff between Tinubu and the Church, as it were over his Moslem-Moslem ticket, at a presentation of his running mate in Abuja, some individuals were allegedly dressed in pastors/bishops’ robes. This seemed to have angered many Church leaders who felt they were being impersonated.
One of those who spoke out against Tinubu’s victory was Tunde Bakare, Serving Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church.
“I will address Asiwaju (Tinubu) as a President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but I will never call him my president,” Bakare said earlier in May, disclosing that he would never address Tinubu as his president in any public lecture anywhere until the current mess in the country was cleared off.
The cleric and politician, who admitted addressing the immediate past President Buhari as, “my president,” alleged during a webinar that a series of malpractices during the 2023 election by the Independent National Electoral Commission made a mess of the electioneering process.
Lyndsey Koh of Mission Network News wrote in a March 2, 2023, in an article stated that “While Tinubu wins Nigeria’s presidential election, Christians aren’t placing their hope in politics.”
According to the article, the Christian community in Nigeria does not believe in the electioneering process based on the outcome of the 2023 presidential election.
“I think this quite honestly could be the most consequential election in the last generation. And that’s not just for Nigeria, that’s for Africa because Nigeria is such a trigger point for the entire continent of Africa. As Nigeria goes, so much of Africa goes.
“It’s really located itself literally right in the dividing line of demarcation from Christianity and Islam, and that cuts right through the centre of that country. So, there’s a tremendous amount of hostilities, religious challenges, and persecution in Nigeria,” Greg Kelley of the World Mission, stated in the article.
While Nigerians are struggling to cope with the high cost of living on the back of the oil subsidy removal and other fiscal policy of the Tinubu administration, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Enoch Adeboye, one of the powerful and authoritative voices in Nigeria, predicted the possibility of the Naira bouncing back and this time greater than the United States (US) dollar.
“The days when Naira will be stronger will come back; those glorious days will return when that happens you will know,” Adeboye stated during the Church’s monthly thanksgiving service for September with the theme, ‘Uncommon Miracles.’
Adeboye, in assuring his congregation of the uncommon miracle that will bring the Naira at par with the US dollar, said that “Miracle is totally unusual. God can give you a miracle that will be difficult to share.”
Another influential leader in the Christendom, the General Superintendent of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry, William Kumuyi had recently declared that God would build Nigeria through President Tinubu.
“Let’s forget the past. This is a new day and I believe; we all believe that we’re going to see new things for our country through our President and through the members of the cabinet. Good things will happen,” Kumuyi said.
Speaking in Osogbo ahead of the Church’s monthly Global Crusade with Kumuyi (GCK) for the month of August, he disclosed that Nigerians should be rest assured that God would rebuild Nigeria through President Bola Tinubu.
“If you look at the new ministers one by one, you’ll see the good things they’ve done either as state governors of the past or as former ministers and I would say they have been carefully chosen. If we support and accept them and if we are not criticising their every step, we believe that God will walk through them and use them as instruments to build our nation,” he stated.
According to Kumuyi, God will perform a miracle in the heart of the country’s leaders to turn their hearts towards the people and the wisdom to lead the country, and do everything that will benefit citizens of the country, “the Lord himself will do it in their hearts.”
Kumuyi’s comments had set the social media on fire as it were as all manner of reactions poured in. His comments were interpreted by many, even among Church leaders, as an endorsement of the Tinubu administration.
Charles Adewale, Mass Communication lecturer at Caleb University, Lagos, who lauded the comments, said it was a good development to see religious leaders actively lending their voices to political issues in the country.
He however, added that they should be cautious and sensitive about their comments.
“Nigerian leaders are elected not appointed. He may not deserve to be the president in their view, but he got the highest number of votes,” he said.
An Abuja-based cleric, who pleaded anonymity, said that over the last eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria had been plagued by increasing violence — particularly in the northeastern region, where the Boko Haram insurgency has been active for over a decade.
He noted that the radical Moslem group has carried out numerous attacks, targeting Christians and other minority groups in the north, thereby displacing millions of people from their homes.
Joseph Ojo, the presiding archbishop and founder of Calvary Kingdom Church (CKC), told BusinessDay that that the major lacking ingredient in those that rule the country was being “just.”
Quoting 2 Samuel 23:3, Ojo said: “The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.”
According to him, “Based on this Scripture. I can’t comment on those who think that Tinubu did not deserve to be president. I can only talk about the kind of leaders that will get us to where everyone will have no choice but to be patriotic.”
He further said that a ruler or leader according to God’s Biblical requirement must be just and should rule in the fear of God.
“Any one that meets these criteria definitely deserves to be President, Governor and so on,” Ojo said.
Wole Olarinde, publisher/editor-in-chief of Christian Benefits magazine, said that it should be noted that not all churches and Christian leaders were against Bola Tinubu’s becoming Nigeria’s president in 2023.
According to him, those churches and leaders who appeared to be against Tinubu, were actually, on one hand, against a Moslem succeeding a Moslem, and on the other hand, against the Moslem-Moslem presidential ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2023 presidential election.
“There were others who wanted the APC out of power at all cost regardless of the pedigree of its presidential candidate because of the party’s poor governance. Some others reasoned along tribal lines that for the sake of fairness, justice and equity the South East should be the next to produce the president of the country after former President Muhammadu Buhari’s government,” Olarinde said.
He further said that the need for fairness, justice and equity basically made some churches and their leaders kick against Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s presidency. According to him, it is not out of hatred for Tinubu as a person, but for the process that produced him as a president.
Gracious Akintayo, publisher, Providence News, said: “Everyone has different opinions and reactions. As long as we are human, we will always have our differences, beliefs and opinions. We can disagree to agree; it depends. Churches and church leaders that do not believe PBAT won the election must probably have personal interest or grudge against his person.
“Of a truth, the Nigerian Church and the Church leaders never wanted him as the president of Nigeria. They are not against him as a person, but against the Moslem-Moslem ticket which fuels the opposition against him,” Akintayo said.
He pointed out that despite efforts, campaigns and prayers against Tinubu’s emergence, if God has destined and chosen him as the President of Nigeria, no matter his flaws and shortcomings with negative campaigns against him, there is no way anyone can stop him.
“God is all-knowing, He is the beginning and the end. He has better plans for His people and His ways are not our ways,” he said.
With the ruling of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) on Wednesday, September 6, 2023, there is renewed call on the Church to put aside its differences and unite towards building Nigeria for a greater future.