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Due to Sabbath, President of Adventist Church in Nigeria Declares Election Boycott

This report has been updated.

According to statements by Joseph Adebisi Ola, president of the North-Western Nigerian Union Mission, as reported in the September 18 edition of the Nigerian Tribune, members “will not be participating in the 2011 general elections.”

He said this during a news conference at the church headquarters, Maryland Lagos, on Friday, stating that no member of the Adventist Church would vote for any political party or candidate in the 2011 polls.

[I wondered about the “Maryland Lagos” reference, but that is part of the conference office’s address.]

According to him, the church had resolved to boycott the elections because the timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) coincides with the church worship hours on Saturdays.

He said, ‘because we find ourselves in this kind of situation when INEC has refused to consider our church programmes, we have resolved to boycott the elections. It is like trampling upon the right of every member of the church to worship his God. God’s directive is that we should worship him on the Sabbath day, which is Saturday from morning till evening.’

It appears that by making a public statement, Elder Joseph Adebisi Ola is attempting to apply pressure on the electoral commission to make them change the day. It would be helpful to know how uncommon Saturday elections are. But he seems to be taking a gamble because the population of Nigeria is 158 million. The union mission lists an official membership of 113,665 people. Including another connected territory, on background, one church leader estimates total Nigerian membership around 300,000. Thus Seventh-day Adventists appear to make up 0.002 percent of the country. Certainly all governments should not disenfranchise minority religious voters – something similar to this happened with at least one of the 2008 Democratic primaries in the U. S. presidential election. But how much power does a boycott of 0.002 represent? On the other hand, Dr. Ola is of royal descent (tribal prince). And, in addition to its high level work in combating poverty in the country, the Adventist church runs the best school in Nigeria, Babcock University, where many government officials send their children.

It would be helpful to know if he is saying that voting is not an option for Adventists in Nigeria due to inconvenience. (He does cite “church programmes.”) On the other hand, he does imply that voting would violate “God’s directive,” so he might also be saying that Adventists are morally prohibited from voting on the Sabbath. I wonder what might cause the electoral commission to reconsider, an argument from convenience or from morality. On the other hand, which is actually true for Seventh-day Adventists?

He explained that it became necessary for the church to boycott the poll now because INEC had snubbed its plea to consider about 17 million people that worship every Saturday at the Adventist Church.

[I am not sure how the entire world church is “snubbed” by this, but perhaps it does have implications for governments beyond the Nigerian borders.]

He posited that any member of the church who might be contesting for any electoral position had been advised to stay away from the polling booths during the election.

Thanks to Jeff Crocombe for sending the article over.

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