The Nigerian church is not only large but also influential. As the 2019 presidential election comes close, who will it endorse?
The Nigerian church is one of the most powerful and influential entities in the country. Representing 40% of the population the Nigerian church is an institution that influences the way of life of 80 million of its members.
The 2019 general elections are around the corner and it still remains unclear which presidential candidate the church will endorse.
Who is the Nigeria church backing in 2019?
On Thursday, October 11, 2018, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) Atiku Abubakar had a reconciliatory meeting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Atiku Abubakar, David Oyedeo and Olusegun Obasanjo at the meeting
The significance of this meeting close to the election was not lost on anyone. Obasanjo had made it his personal mission to thwart Atiku’s presidential ambitions since 2007 after the latter nearly scuttled his re-election bid in 2003.
After the cold war between the two, the pair were at this reconciliatory meeting aligning to stop one man- President Buhari who is seeking a 2nd term bid.
If you read in between in the lines, this meeting was more than two political juggernauts sheathing their swords, joining forces to fight a common enemy.
At the meeting were two key individuals, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto and David O. Oyedepo, the Presiding Bishop of Living Faith Church Worldwide.
Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah; former President Olusegun Obasanjo; PDP Presidential Candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; and Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi
What were two leading men of God doing at a reconciliatory meeting between Obasanjo and Atiku? We are tempted to say that the men attended this meeting to show their support for Atiku in the election. You could call it an endorsement of sorts.
“I am aware Winners are in every political party in Nigeria, but I don’t belong to any party. I was only invited to make peace. I don’t force myself on people because I am too busy” said Oyedepo.
“I was not in Abeokuta to endorse Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party. I perfectly understand the feelings of many of my friends and members of the opposition who believe that I travelled with Alhaji Abubakar and his team to attend his endorsement by President Obasanjo, but I reiterate that this was not the case” also explained Kukah in a lengthy statement.
No major man of God is yet to endorse any of the key presidential candidates because of how sensitive such an issue is.
On Thursday, December 13, 2018, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) denied endorsing President Buhari’s second term bid.
“We appeal to members of the public to beware of those who are fabricating this fake news for whatever reasons,” said CAN in a statement made available.
However, it should be noted that David O. Oyedepo has not been the biggest supporter of President Buhari.
It seems no renowned man of God wants to stick out his neck in the 2019 election.
In December 2018, the bishop fell for fake news and shared a satirical piece on President Buhari being cloned with his audience as an authoritative news report.
Was this the case in 2015?
2015 Presidential Election
The 2015 presidential election is one of the key moments of Nigeria’s political history as the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan lost to Muhammadu Buhari.
In the build-up to the election, the Serving Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly Pastor Tunde Bakare openly supported Muhammadu Buhari.
Serving Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly Pastor Tunde Bakare
This move was a no-brainer. In the 2011 election, Bakare was Buhari’s running mate on the platform of Congress For Progressive Change.
While he was bold in his decision others played timidly. The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) led by Pastor Adeboye is the biggest Pentecostal church in Nigeria. It reportedly boasts of 5 million members worldwide.
In the 2015 election, the RCCG found itself in a fix. The running mate of President Buhari was Professor Yemi Osinbajo, a senior pastor in the church.
If RCCG publicly endorsed Jonathan it would look like it was turning its back against one of its own.
If it endorsed the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket it would create two problems. Firstly, it would look off for the biggest Pentecostal church in Nigeria to publicly endorse a Muslim. Secondly, going against the incumbent would have been too much of a political gamble.
The RCCG did not openly support any of the major presidential candidates. While the church is an influential institution in Nigeria, Nigerian men of God hardly come out to endorse presidential candidates, unlike America where Christians from the Bible Belt traditionally support Republican candidates.
In 2019, the Nigerian Church will not publicly endorse any of the presidential candidates. However, just with the case of Oyedepo, the ‘body language‘ of influential men of God will be one to watch out for.