Traveling from the modern overcrowded streets of Lagos on the Atlantic coast to the hot, humid jungle villages of eastern Nigeria may seem like traveling through time. Lagos is Nigeria’s commercial center, the second largest city in Africa. Its towering high-rises are a sharp contrast to the eastern villages, where traditional beliefs and ways of life are still being practiced.
Located along Africa’s west-central coast, Nigeria is Africa’s most populated nation. It is home to more than 250 people groups, hundreds of languages, a variety of histories, and large groups from several major world religions. Nigeria is widely considered to have the largest Islamic population in Africa.
Nigeria officially gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1960; and it is still a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Established as a federalist republic, much like the United States, Nigeria has struggled to maintain a democracy. In 1999, after 16 years of military rule, Nigeria once again regained civilian rule, and a new constitution was adopted. At the end of May, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua became the first civilian to succeed a democratically elected president, marking the longest period of civilian rule in the nation’s history.
Even though Nigeria has the world’s tenth-largest petroleum reserves, political instability and weak infrastructure have kept the nation from capitalizing on this natural resource. This is unfortunate because this industry plays a major role in Nigeria’s ongoing financial stability, as petroleum alone accounts for more than 20 percent of Nigeria’s economy and nearly 95 percent of its foreign export income.
Years of political instability, ethnic and religious tensions, and accusations of corruption and mismanagement within the government plague this nation. The regionalization of Nigeria’s Muslim and Christian population underscores its diversity. The north and southwest are predominantly Sunni Muslim, the south and southeast are mostly Christian, and the eastern villages are mostly animist.
Animist roots run deep in Nigeria. Although only 10 percent of today’s population is animist, the 14 million adherents represent a region that is considered the home of voodoo. The ancestors of the 30 million member Yoruba ethnolinguistic group brought voodoo to the Caribbean when they were taken to the new world as slaves.
The Adventist Church is well established in Nigeria, with a number of educational and medical institutions. Babcock University, one of the oldest Adventist higher-educational institutions in Africa, makes a powerful impact on its community. More than half of its 3,500-member student body is not Adventist. But there are still great challenges to mission, especially in the east where there are currently no Adventist schools.
This quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help build three evangelistic centers in Nigeria, a worship center for students at Babcock University, and a secondary school in eastern Nigeria.
To learn more about Adventist mission work in Nigeria watch “The Road Well Traveled” on this quarter’s Adventist Mission DVD, or visit:www.AdventistMission.org to download your copy of the mission quarterlies.