World Watch Monitor
Still, as thousands celebrated Buhari’s victory in the streets, particularly in the North, familiar notes of sectarian division could be heard. In Kano, the largest city in Nigeria’s restive north, joyful mobs chanted “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the greatest) and jihadi songs of victory, while in Mubi and elsewhere, celebrating residents were reported to say they would get rid of the ‘arna,’ the Hausa word for ‘infidels,’ in reference to non-Muslims.
Northern Muslims voted in large numbers, foregoing prayer as in times of war, said Pastor Haruna Yola, who was monitoring elections in Kano. On the other hand, fear of violence kept many Christians away from the polls, as in the local government areas of Tudun Wada, Kibiya, and Rogo, all in Kano State, and which, combined, have 370 churches.
Voting was impossible for more than 100,000 Christians who have fled their homes – and home voting precincts – to escape Boko Haram violence, especially in Christian enclaves in southern Borno and northern Adamawa states. They were ineligible to vote in the places to which they had fled.
Buhari had made the defeat of Boko Haram a centerpiece of his campaign. “Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror, and bring back peace and normalcy to all the affected areas,” he said in his acceptance speech. “We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism.”
It was that determination to rid Nigeria of Boko Haram that prompted Christian leaders, in part, to endorse Buhari months before Election Day. In February, the Northern Christian Leaders’ Eagle-Eyes Forum lined up behind Buhari, saying his reputation for no-nonsense administration was needed to get a handle on the chaos. In the final week of the campaign, Rev. John Bakeni, the secretary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, in Borno State,said Nigeria’s bishops see Buhari as “a man of integrity and decency who can fight corruption and Boko Haram.”
For some church leaders contacted in the north, Buhari’s victory has raised some anxieties along with expectations. He may well stop the Boko Haram violence, they say, but will he tackle the ethnic Fulani herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s central states? Will he address the even larger marginalization of Christians and churches in Muslim-dominated areas in the northern region? And how will Buhari reconcile his agenda to promote Islam with freedom of religion for non-Muslims, and application of full sharia...