Elections overshadow Nigeria’s Easter celebration | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Elections overshadow Nigeria’s Easter celebration

Posted: Apr 5, 2015 at 12:02 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Aramide Oikelome and  Chinyere Abiaziem, Lagos

Every year, Christians in Nigeria join their counterparts across the world to commemorate the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The celebration, which is often preceded by a period of forty days fast, otherwise known as Lenten Season, afford Christians the opportunity to spend, give themselves to sober reflection, piety, repentance and prayers. Expectedly, the last few days of Lent, popularly known as the “Passion Week” is a period for Christian faithful to identify with the suffering and vicarious death of the savior Jesus Christ as observed on Good Friday while the resurrection morn (Easter Sunday) exudes profound joy and commemoration of victory over sin, death and hell.

Between Easter and the ballot box

Between Easter and the ballot box

Describing the essence of the season, the Prelate-Emeritus, Methodist Church Nigeria, His Eminence, Dr. Sunday Ola Makinde noted that, “Christ’s resurrection is the central teaching of Christianity. Without it, Christianity becomes meaningless, baseless and non-existent. As Paul said, if he was not resurrected, then Christianity is a complete sham; all who believe in Christ for salvation are still in their sins. The resurrection of Christ is the ultimate re-assurance to all believers that death has finally been defeated; that we will all be resurrected, just as Christ did.  Once you understand that Easter is a celebration of the defeat of death, you will finally understand why we celebrate this holy day-that it is not so much about the date but about the essence and significance”.

For Christians in Nigeria, this year’s Easter is perhaps different for many reasons. One, the traditional Lenten Season fell within the weeks preceding Nigeria’s most heated and highly debated Presidential/National Assembly elections, having been shifted from February 14th to March 28th.  Of course, the elections came with lots of electioneering campaigns and politicking. And although lots of Nigerians were disappointed at the postponement, some prominent Christian leaders upheld that the coincidence of the two events provides an opportunity for Christians to devote ample time to prayer and intercession for a peaceful election and transition.

Speaking earlier with our Correspondent, the incumbent Prelate, Methodist Church Nigeria, Rev. Dr. Chukwuemeka Uche, expressed great delight that this year’s  Lent coincided with the general elections, assuring that the fasting and prayer annual event will not in any way suffer set back but afford Christians the opportunity to pray and seek God’s face for peaceful elections.

Secondly, the Presidential elections, held on 28th March came a day before the Palm Sunday; an event generally marked with Holy Procession. Unfortunately however, the procession of Christian faithful, with palm fronds and dance to commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem was not readily visible in towns and cities this year. The reason is not far-fetched. The apprehension and tensed atmosphere that characterized the elections scared many away from the roads as they were not certain about how Nigerians would react to the outcome of the elections if it did not favour their choice candidates. Thirdly, it would be recalled that the Holy Week, otherwise known as the Passion Week, wherein Churches give attention to intense prayers, Holy Communion, feet washing and other sacred ordinances that precede Christ’s crucifixion as commemorated on Good Friday were not visible at all. Instead, many Nigerians, devoted Christians inclusive, were glued to their television sets for the three days it took INEC to announce the results of elections from across the States before it finally declared General Muhammadu Buhari as winner and President-elect.

Again, Easter Sunday, which is now consequently sandwiched between the first leg of the polls (Presidential/National Assembly) and the second leg (Governorship/State Assembly), scheduled for April 11th is obviously passing without much attention. Unlike before when Easter is noised across the nation with shopping preparation, charity outreaches, exchange of gifts and greetings cards, pomp and pageantry, with the attendant eating and drinking, this year’s Easter celebration is essentially low-keyed and quiet.

Sunday Independent spoke with some clerics and Christian faithfuls on this development and here are their views-

Prelate-Emeritus, Dr. Sunday Makinde

This election has not in any way affected the Easter celebration because election was neither held on Easter Friday nor Sunday. As Christians we should not look for loop holes, the pioneers of Nigerians were Christians and Nigeria is our baby, so we should not allow Nigeria to collapse at all. We are to hold Nigeria in prayers. It is a weak excuse not to give attention to the voting exercise because of Easter.

The Bible says we should give to God what belongs to God and give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.  There is nothing wrong in not holding procession because of the election. I don’t see it affecting the poll or the worship of God.  God will not be annoyed because of that because God wants us to exercise our civic duties.

Whether we like it or not, that is the teaching of the Bible, without a peaceful Nigeria none can practice religion whether Christianity or any other religion; without political stability there cannot be religious stability. It is when Nigeria is stable that our people can be stable. So, it is the religion for the people and by the people and because we are dealing with people, there is nothing wrong with the election timing.

Professor Magnus Atilade

Easter is more than the celebration of the festival of drumming; it is a spiritual exercise; it is a message of rebirth. It is very appropriate at this time of election as Nigeria is going through a rebirth, so we are to be more connected to God and ask God on behalf of our nation to resurrect every good thing that has gone wrong. In fact, it is prophetic that Easter falls at this time, the timing cannot be more appropriate.
Thanks be to God that on the third day He rose again.

Jesus Christ is raised from the dead and indeed he is raised, all the other religions have their founders not raised from the dead, they are still lying in their graves.
While on earth, Jesus healed the sick; opened the eyes of blind people, gave eyes to those born blind, healed the lepers and even raised up the dead. He was crucified for a purpose, which is the remission of our sins.  He has gone to prepare a place for all His followers.

That is the hope and story of salvation. Those who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and saviour will rise up with even after death to the place where He has prepared for them.  Halleluyah!

Ven. Funso Awe, Vicar Anglican Communion

As far as I am concerned, all is well that ends well. Easter will always come year after year but what we should look out for is the significance of the victory for Easter and pray that God in his infinite mercies will associate the goodness of Easter to the incoming government because Easter is a period of hope, rejuvenation, and renewal.

Christ died and everybody thought it would be over but on the third day he rose again. Easter is festival of victory over death and we hope that this will be a victory for our country and that things will begin to pick up. Even as the story of Easter is that of salvation, we hope that our country will be salvaged and move forward.
People should now look beyond election; this election has sharply divided us.

A lot of people voted on ethnic and religious lines.  We vented our anger on one another and exposed one another but now we should come together in love and embrace each other; forgetting our ethnic or religious difference.
Let us see ourselves as one. For us Christians, the Bible tells us that no government is in place except for the one put by God.

So let us see what has happened as the move of God embrace and begin to pray for one another.
There have been so much hatred, so, the incoming leaders should come in and preach peace and love. They should embrace those who didn’t even vote for them and work with the outgoing president.  Let them look at the present situation and move forward. This should not the case of the victor and the vanquished; all of us should share the victory together.

Whatever we need to salvage the nation let us do.
Let our leaders allow the country to move forward, he who fights and run lives to fight again; there are always things to do. Look at the case of Fayose; he lost out and came back again. So, we should embrace the spirit of sportsmanship.

Folorunsho Philips, Real Estate Consultant

I can say that the tension before now affected our interest in celebrating Easter, people were tensed, scared of moving freely and talking in public. So with this I think one might just stay home, mediate, relax or catch some fun instead of going out.

Ikenna Asomba, Writer

I still believe a lot of people travelled before the election for the celebration. The only area I feel it affected the celebration is in the area of financial constraints; a lot of people don’t have money to spend. I can say this election affected the finances of some Nigerians.

Oloye Tondu, Artistes Manager

For me, the election did not in any way affect Easter. The presidential result is out already, which in a way is leading us into a festive mood for Easter already. It will also increase our measure of celebrations.

Emmanuel Aghachukwu, Criminologist

It is certain that this Easter celebration is different from the past ones, for example Palm Sunday was not celebrated like before. Certainly, a lot of people have forcefully travelled home; hence the joy of Easter will not be fully expressed due to this. Sincerely, we are not in Easter mood but election mood.

Sunday Iyama, Cleric, Rose of Sharon Fellowship

It didn’t change anything but we thank God there is peace and because of it, people will still enjoy their Easter.  If there is chaos it would have affected the celebration but with the atmosphere it will be enjoyed.

Jonathan Iwu, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) Executive

One thing is that the first phase of the election has come and gone. It was ordained by God at this time. There is nothing that happens that God does not allow.  As God would have it, the atmosphere so far calls for peaceful celebration.

Alex  Aita, Cleric

Easter is  a seasonal celebration on the reflections of what Jesus Christ did on our behalf, it is not only about the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus but about  the realization of who we are in Christ Jesus and He has lifted us out of the dungeon of failure. I think what is happening now in terms of election is not in any way affecting Easter; rather it reminds us that God is mindful of what His people are passing through in life.
We cannot put God out of what is happening, He knows the end from the beginning.

If we have been crying that we need a new lease of life, I believe God will hear us, just the way He heard the cry of the Israelites, when they were suffering in the Hands of a new king who did not know them while in Egypt.
It is only those who don’t understand the mind of God that will agitate over a lot of things.  I don’t think this election has any negative effect on Easter because Easter has what it is representing in our lives.

By virtue of where we have found ourselves, we expect a new lease of life. It is not coincidental but deliberate by God that the election period falls within the Easter period.  I believe it is for the resurrection power to come upon us. It will not be the way we thought but may be God is breaking protocols to have His way in our nation and lives.

 Erin Hebrews, Gospel Artiste

As for me this election has been the best so far and all glory belongs to God for making it a huge success. We recorded neither chaos nor calamity, which obviously is going to have a positive effect on all celebrations, especially in this Easter period.  The outcome of the election was expected by many, but for the first time I saw an election in Nigeria that was not about who won or who lost. I feel it’s time for a new Nigeria.
We can now have a positive reflection on the citizens without religious grouping because we are being led by both. Good people, great nation this is what we should strive to achieve.

Stanley Aigbokhan, Entrepreneur

It depends on the perspective we want to look at. In terms of security, people were affected as many could not travel home to see their loved ones.

Tope Akerele, Public Servant

This Easter period is one marked with hike in prices of food stuff, take for instance economic activities that were grounded due to fear, tension and restriction on movement.  Again, some don’t even have enough money to afford what they need in making the celebration a memorable one, due to the inflation. So, I think the election has grossly affected this year’s Easter celebration.