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Vol 54 No 22

Published 1st November 2013


On a wing and a prayer

Goodluck Jonathan is the first Nigerian President to make an official state visit to Israel

The declared aim of President Goodluck Jonathan’s 23-29 October trip to Israel was for him to join another 30,000 Nigerians on a Christian pilgrimage and to preside over signing a Bilateral Air Services Agreement with the government. However, the economic, security and diplomatic purposes of the trip went far beyond that. Front-page pictures in Nigerian newspapers showed Jonathan, wearing a kippah (skull-cap) and praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. That fitted neatly into his backers’ election strategy of scooping up votes from Nigeria’s Christians, just under half of its 170 million population. The state spends tens of millions of dollars each year to subsidise Muslims eager to go on the Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca, trips which are often about business as well as piety. Now, Christians are demanding more of their own state-backed pilgrimages. Jonathan has been a strong supporter.

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