Nigerian Christians feel mixture of hope and anxiety after Buhari's presidential win

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to defeat the six-year insurgency of Boko Haram in his term.Photo: Reuters/Folabi Sotunde

Christians in Nigeria are feeling both hope and anxiety as the country's government transitions to a new leadership under General Muhammadu Buhari.

According to the World Watch Monitor (WWM), one of the main concerns Nigerian Christians have about their new president is his previous intent to Islamise the entire country.

"I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria," the WWM quotes now-President Buhari as saying in 2001.

"God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of the Sharia in the country," he promised at that time.

This commitment has not been forgotten by Nigerian Christians who feel some fear towards the newly elected president, Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam told the WWM.

Rev. Pala-Mallam is a regional director for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), a global fellowship of national student movements in universities all over the globe.

However, the IFES director argued that the Buhari elected on March 28 was different from the Buhari that held a hard-line Muslim stance 14 years ago.

"He met with Christian leaders and assured them that he has no Islamic agenda. This was reiterated in his campaign speeches," Para-Mallam revealed.

Buhari had said in his campaign speeches that every government has the duty to protect "the liberty for citizens to exercise their respective faiths." He also promised during his victory speech that his government will not be biased nor exercise favouritism "based on ethnicity, religion, region, gender or social status."

Despite their fears, WWM said that Christian leaders in Nigeria endorsed Buhari instead of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who is a Christian, because of his expressed desire to deal with the insurgent group Boko Haram, which has terrorised Nigeria for six years.

"Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror... We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism.,." Buhari vowed during his acceptance speech.