After six long weeks of delay, a champion was finally announced. Widespread, fanatical responses were had all over Nigeria: in the streets, women and men joyously celebrated the victory of their new president, “elaborately sweeping the dust” ahead of them to welcome his “flamboyantly” robed dignitaries (source). Women, in brightly colored hijabs, proclaimed his praises in an united, sing-song voice; people partaking in the celebration cried out, “Only ‘him’!” and “When ‘he’ is elected, Nigeria will go better” (source, “him” and “he” mine). Over a period of 48 hours, he became one of the most beloved, admired, revered men in all of Nigeria. And, remarkably, in only one day, his election marked a historic turn of events– surely, a great sign of growth– for democracy in the country. He seems hopeful, vigilant, and resolute in his promises. His name is Mohammadu Buhari.
This election marks more than just the first democratic turning over of power from the PDP to the APC, though it is a big deal (as the PDP has reigned over Nigeria since the country’s return to democracy in 1990). The fact that the election even happened at all is something to celebrate. Over the past six weeks, Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon have been persistently fighting Boko Haram, dislodging it from around 30 towns and freeing up Yobe and Adamawa states (source). Despite this great progress in the fight against Boko Haram, violence was still rampant: suicide attacks became much more frequent between February and March, killing over 50 people and injuring 140 more, while gunmen shot 41 people on the day of elections at various polls in Northeast Nigeria (source 1, source 2). The bravery millions of Nigerians expressed in even showing up to vote amidst Boko Haram’s violent attempts at hindering the election is extremely praise-worthy. This praise belongs not only to the Nigerians themselves, but, truly, to Jesus, who answered our prayers and gave them courage to fight for freedom by casting their vote.
This truth about praise is something one can observe not only about the election, but about the reaction to the winner of the election. The fact that Buhari is a muslim is concerning, but is not the main concern seen here: the people of Nigeria, swept up in the victory of Buhari, have seemed to put more faith in his– a man’s— promises to change the nation than in Jesus, who put Buhari into leadership for His own purpose and glory (Romans 13:1, NLT). While it is surely exhilarating to feel that finally, their efforts have amounted to some real, lasting change, it’s saddening that so many have put their trust in those efforts instead of seeking and praising the One who let it come to pass– and who is truly in control of everything.
The description of the celebration that erupted in the wake of Buhari’s win can remind one of (but by no means, rival) the ultimate triumphal procession: Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem.
“When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’
‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
(Mark 11:7-10, NIV)
The men and women of Jerusalem, in many ways, parallel the men and women of Nigeria who are now rejoicing over Buhari’s victory. At the time of Jesus’ coming, the Jews were weary of Roman rule, and were looking expectantly for their Messiah– who, in their minds, would free them from the “yoke of Rome” that they hated. God had not sent them a prophet in 400 years, since the time of Malachi; then, in approximately 26-29 AD, John the Baptist stepped on the scene, preaching repentance and prophesying of the Messiah’s imminent coming (source; Luke 3:3, 15-18, NIV). This sudden proclamation excited the Jews– and when they later saw Jesus’ ministry and His triumphal, humble procession, many became convinced that He was the Savior they were looking for, the One to usher in a “new kingdom” on Earth for them.
The Real King
Yet, this triumphal entry– and the Nigerians’ expectancy of a “new kingdom” under Buhari– is where the similarities end. For, Jesus did not come to do what the Jews had in mind; He came to do something much bigger and more eternal than any person could fathom: the will of His Father. As the Jews soon found out, Jesus did not come to defeat a physical government and break the bonds of Roman oppression. Instead, He came to defeat the power of sin, death, and “the rulers… over this present darkness… the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV). What the men and women of Israel thought they needed was extremely temporal and small compared to what the Messiah actually wanted to give them. In this ignorance and unbelief, the people crying “Hosanna!” six days before hand shouted “Crucify Him!”, and, with evil fervor, nailed the Son of God to His cross on Calvary– at the very same time the Passover lambs were being slain (source; Mark 15:13-15, NIV). Sentencing Him to death for not being the Messiah they wanted, Jesus died as the Messiah they needed: the moment of His death, the Veil was torn from “top to bottom,” symbolizing the complete access people had in and through Jesus Christ’s death alone (Matthew 27:51, NIV). Though the enemy had seemed to win on that dark day, Jesus was proven to be the true King and Eternal Victor three days later, as the angel proclaimed: “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (Matthew 28:6, NIV).
In many ways, the people of Nigeria (and honestly, every person on the Earth) are looking for the same true salvation, freedom from oppression, and abundant, eternal life that can only be found in Jesus. While Mohammadu Buhari could easily be painted as Nigeria’s savior, doing so would be a pitiful, offensive comparison to the True King and the Name above all Names: Christ Jesus. May the Eternal King be the One who is praised, always and forever. Amen.
During this time of celebrating Easter, praise Jesus for faithfully equipping and encouraging Nigerians to vote in a credible, transparent election. Praise Him, that Goodluck Jonathan gracefully congratulated Buhari on his win, solidifying that “no ambitions were worth the price of bloodshed to him” (source).
Praise Jesus for also strengthening and upholding the AU army that is currently fighting Boko Haram! Pray these towns and locations would continue to be liberated and healed from all that when on there.
More than ever, pray for all world leaders. Pray that number one, Buhari would come to know Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior; number two, pray that He’d have much wisdom, insight, and honesty as leads the people. Pray that corruption and crime in Nigeria would be reduced, not created, during his presidency. Most importantly, pray that Christian Nigerians would be able to “live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” there (1 Timothy 2:2, NIV).
Of course, pray for the Chibok girls and the situation with Boko Haram. Pray that the girls would get home soon– April 14th will be the one year anniversary of their kidnapping. Pray that those captive and displaced would come to know the Lord, would be brought justice, and that the restoration of Nigeria would begin.
Most of all, pray that Nigeria– and all countries– would rely on Christ alone for true salvation, both here and after.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” — Psalm 20:7, NIV