• Interfaith body tasks government on credible polls
Sultan of Sokoto Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III has urged religious leaders to promote their views with caution to avoid heating up the polity ahead of the general elections.
He deplored the way some clerics predict the winners of elections, saying the trend could cause a crisis, especially if the proclaimed candidate loses.
The Sultan, who is also President of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, stated this during the second general assembly of the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP) in Abuja yesterday.
He regretted that politicians were creating so much tension in the country. According to him, since religious leaders know that power comes from God, they should pray that their preferred candidates win rather than sell out to vote seekers.
He said: “As religious leaders, we should be careful about what we say to our followers in churches and mosques, bearing in mind that we will all, one day, stand before Allah and account for our deeds. We should never allow ourselves to be used by any political party or candidate. If you want to support any party or candidates, do it personally.
“Religious leaders should preach love for one another and do whatever they do with the fear of God. President Buhari has given assurances that the elections will be free and fair. But are the security agencies and politicians ready?”
Also, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Rev. Dr Samson Ayokunle urged politicians to shun desperation. He enjoined the electorate not to vote for persons who have no other means of livelihood besides politics. He called on the police and other security agencies to be fair to all parties.
While urging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deliver a credible election, he regretted that some people in the northeast would not be able to vote due to the insurgency. “They will be disfranchised. We should provide security for people,” he said.
Ayokunle added: “Nigeria is experiencing relative peace due to prayers by the faith community. Persistent prayer is the key to getting what we want. Nigeria is one of the most fortunate countries of the world but it also has many unutilised opportunities. Religious leaders should not put the country on fire through their utterances.”
While delivering a paper on ‘General Elections and National Security: the Role of Interfaith Communities,’ the Waziri of Katsina, Prof. Sani Lugga, stressed that interfaith communities have a critical role to play in ensuring credible elections.
“Nigerian Muslim and Christian leaders at all levels must take up the challenge of ensuring religious peace, understanding and accommodation. This is the most important role that interfaith communities in Nigeria can play towards the attainment of peaceful, free, fair and credible 2019 elections,“ Lugga said.
On his part, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. James Igwe, urged interfaith leaders to exercise restraint on prophecies that declare who would win or lose in the elections.
“Nigerians are yet to cast their votes, yet some religious leaders are biasing the minds of voters and swaying votes from one candidate to the other. I urge interfaith leaders to use prophecies to promote peace and love and act in manners consistent with tolerance and harmony,” Igwe said.
Similarly, some religious leaders called on Buhari to provide adequate security for the elections.
They made the submission yesterday in Abuja at a forum organised by Community Life Project (CLP). The forum sought to deliberate on the responsibility of religious leaders and faith communities during the polls.
Founder of Lux Terra Foundation, Rev. Fr. George Ehusani, charged the Federal Government to ensure that security agencies comply with the electoral law. He said no attempt should be made by the government to use coercion against anybody, party or group. “Fair play is the name. Ensure that there is justice, ensure that there is fair play and we shall have peace in the country,” he said.
The General Secretary of Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, noted that no political post is worth the blood of any Nigeria. “I urge free, fair and credible elections. To the government and political aspirants, I urge them to play the game according to the rules, to take it easy and do it the way it is done elsewhere in the world without rancour and violence,” he said.