By AT News Team, March 27, 2015: Adventists in Nigeria have been urged by denominational leaders to refrain from voting tomorrow (March 28) on the Sabbath. Sources in the largest African nation have told Adventist Today that some will ignore the plea of leadership; in fact some are candidates for elected office. “But a large number will not sell their conscience.”
Elections have been scheduled on Saturdays for a number of years in Nigeria. “We have been putting our case before the government for the past seven years,” said Pastor Joseph Ola, president of the denomination in the country at the time, in a 2003 news bulletin from the Adventist News Network (ANN). For nearly two decades now this problem has been unresolved.
“There is no method for an Adventist to vote ahead of time such as what is called an ‘absentee ballot’ in the United States,” an Adventist professor in Nigeria told Adventist Today. “Although Adventists have been disenfranchised for long, there has been no judicial appeals to force a change of some kind.”
This election is notable both because of the violence between Christians and a Muslim sect engaged in armed rebellion and because the two main candidates have relatively equal chances at being elected president. President Goodluck Jonathan is seeking another four-year term as chief executive of the nation and retired General Muhammadu Buhari is the most formidable of his 13 opponents.
Jonathan is a Christian and Buhari is a Muslim. Tensions between the two religions are so high, that the election was delayed for six weeks. In addition to the presidential contest, state governors, members of the Federal parliament and state legislatures are also being elected.
Two prominent candidates for governor in Abia State are Adventists; Laz Otti and Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu. Other Adventists are candidates for the Federal parliament and state legislatures in some places.
The lack of Adventist votes is not likely to be consequential, sources in the country told Adventist Today. Out of a population of 170 million, less than half a million are Adventist adherents, although there are nearly 3,500 congregations and a major university and other institutions affiliated with the denomination.
“Please pray for Nigeria,” one source told Adventist Today. “I am not concerned about voting. We need God’s hand to keep the peace.”