The Nigeria Interreligious Council, NIREC, under the joint-leadership of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, and the President of Christian Association of Nigeria, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, on Tuesday, rejected claims by some prominent citizens and other Western nations that the 2023 elections may make or mar the country.
Instead, the Council affirmed that with the collective action of critical stakeholders and the people, a national rebirth for Nigeria could happen after next year’s election.
The NIREC co-Chairmen stated these at the 4th quarterly meeting of the Council in Abuja where the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, assured that the forthcoming elections would be conducted in a peaceful and credible manner. The theme of the event is: ‘Peaceful and Credible Elections for National Renaissance’.
Recall that former President Olusegun Obasanjo had said the 2023 elections may make or mar Nigeria when the CAN President paid him a courtesy visit at his residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital; noting that if clerics allow the political class to wreck Nigeria, everyone would regret it. In the same breath, the Embassy of the United States and other European countries warned that there was an elevated risk of terror attacks in Nigeria, specifically in Abuja, ahead of the 2023 general elections.
However, in his address at the 4th quarterly meeting of NIREC, the Sultan dismissed fears of a brewing storm over the forthcoming polls, saying he does not believe in such negative testimonies coming from those he described as ‘enemies’ of the country.
The royal father said, “A lot of people made comments about the 2023 elections as a make or break election for Nigeria. And I don’t believe in that. I totally refuse to believe in that. The forthcoming polls are just an election in which people will go out, cast their votes in peace. And then whoever emerges as the winner as the Almighty Allah decided, will be the leader of this country and the states where we all come from. I don’t believe it’s a make or break election.
“We should not and must not play to the hands of those enemies of Nigeria who keep on parading or bringing up such issues. I guess this is the election that will decide the fate of this country, and only Allah decides the fate of this country and any other country. Let us not play into their hands. Let us go out campaigning peacefully. And whenever the elections come up, we will elect who we think is best for us and we leave the rest to Almighty Allah.
“Those countries that keep on saying these things, have their own very serious problems, but their systems work to some extent. So, if our systems work, we will be better off. I affirm my belief that Nigeria is much better than so many of these countries. The 2023 elections are just another exercise in which people will go out and vote for whom they want and at the end of it, INEC will announce who the winner is.”
Speaking also, the CAN President, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, pointed out that the ugly history of pre-or post-electoral violence will not be repeated in 2023, if all critical stakeholders decide to halt the trend through strategic conversation that appeals to the conscience of the political class. According to him, unbridled ambition and cutthroat competition among Nigerian politicians is a major part of the problem.
He explained, “Even people with no coherent political ideology and development agenda of any kind also engage in do-or die politics. The other issue is the lack of transparency in the electoral process, and the ungodly alliance of some security agents with the political class to subvert the process and confer undue advantage on one political party against the others.
“All these make the process tense, frightening and disenfranchising the weak and feeble minded. There is no doubt in my mind that the 2023 general elections hold the key to our national renaissance, freedom from insecurity, economic subjugation and all other social vices that have dotted our ugly past.”
Nonetheless, Okoh said for this happen and usher in the expected freshness in the country’s body polity, the new set of leaders that will emerge post 2023 general elections and all of Nigerians must collectively resolve to deal with the culture of impunity that places the political class above the law and deprives the
ordinary citizens of their legitimate rights; the absence of institutions that check or regulate electoral violence thereby allowing defaulters to get away with heinous crimes that ought to be punished; and the perception of Nigerian politics as a rewarding financial investment that must be recouped after elections are won. According to him, this skewed ideology advances the culture of winner-takes-all syndrome and makes it a mortal sin to lose an election in Nigeria.
Other issues the CAN President identified as requiring attention include hate campaign speeches by politicians that paint the opposition in a derogatory and
defamatory language in a bid to make themselves unacceptable to the voting public, election rigging and youth unemployment that renders millions of able-bodied youths economically inactive and vulnerable to abuse by unscrupulous politicians as well as unguarded speeches by religious and community leaders that will not give a level playing ground to candidates vying for elective positions.
In his keynote speech, the SGF Boss Mustapha, said the forthcoming general elections shouldn’t be seen as a do or die affair but rather a peaceful one in order to reflect the rebirth of the nation. He stated, “In order to ensure there are peaceful and credible elections for National Renaissance, the election must be transparent, inclusive, and accountable, and there must be equitable opportunities to compete in the election.
“At this critical period of active political activities, the leadership of NIREC are expected to be apolitical in any of their dealings and should be father for all regardless. More also, the Council’s leadership should ensure that they sue for peace among their followers by ensuring their sermons in all worship centres are tailored towards peace in pre, during and post election period.
“The conduct of peaceful and credible elections come 2023 is very important because it will ensure National Renaissance. Also, if there is peace in the country every aspect of the Nation is sure of witnessing a rebirth which life brings about development. The National Renaissance that is required today should go beyond politics.
“I, therefore, wish to reiterate that Mr. President, has provided every necessary requirement for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in order to ensure that the election is conducted in a peaceful and credible manner. It is therefore the time for the religious leaders to take this campaign to the different wards and communities of this country and other spheres of influence by urging eligible Nigerians to conduct themselves peacefully during and after general elections.”