The Sultan of Sokoto and co-chair of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), His Eminence Saad Abubakar, has said the 2023 general elections must hold despite attacks on facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He stated this Tuesday in Abuja during the 4th quarterly meeting of the NIREC themed: “Peaceful and Credible elections for National Renaissance”.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to deliver credible elections in 2023 and that anyone who tries to sabotage his effort should be dealt with.
He said: “Before the elections, we will see the opportunity of bringing service chiefs to a meeting so that we can discuss with them on people’s feelings and apprehension about the election. A lot of people have made comments about the 2023 general elections being a make or break elections and I don’t believe in that. I totally disagree with them. It is an election that people will go and cast their votes in peace and whoever almighty Allah decides will win will Insha Allah be the leader of this country, leader of the states where we all come from.
“Let us not play into the hands of the people who think the election is make or break. Let us all go out there and campaign peacefully. All the countries that are saying these things have their own serious problems. Just last year, something happened in the USA where a sitting president lost his seat. I don’t want to go into that because we all know what happened. Countries in Europe have their own problems.
“Let’s not look at what Europe or USA or others do. Let us all look at our own homegrown problems and we will all do better. I was in Maiduguru 10 days ago and I delivered a lecture about leadership and our indigenous problems. It has been on social media. I said that we think that most of these countries are better than us. They are not. But there, systems work to an extent. If our system works too, then we will be better for it. They know what we have. God has blessed us abundantly. How many of our doctors are practicing abroad? If they come here and change the system, we will be better for it.
“The important thing is knowing about our problems and the solution. The 2023 general elections are just another exercise. People will go out and vote and INEC and God will decide the winner. INEC will prepare and security agencies will provide security. How many INEC offices have been burnt? What is the role of security agencies? These are questions we need to ask ourselves.
“Mr. President was in Sokoto some time ago and he said openly that he is committed to providing credible elections. Mr. President has said so himself, so why will anyone go around and do otherwise? He is committed and I don’t think he will go back on his words. If some people want to sabotage his effort, he is still the Commander-in-Chief and will act. So, let’s work towards what Mr President wants to achieve for this country. “
INEC has gotten needed support
Also speaking, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said President Buhari had given INEC all the needed support, but that it behooves on religious leaders to preach for peace before, during and after the elections.
Mustapha said if there is peace in the country, every aspect of the nation is sure of witnessing a rebirth, which life brings about development.
He said: “I am particularly glad that this meeting comes at a time where the nation is preparing for its general election, which is expected to be free, fair and credible that will eventually translate into national rebirth. The leadership of NIREC has a critical role to play in this forthcoming coming General Election because they are regarded as the spiritual head, influencers of society and also custodians of theology and ethics which the followers look up for guidance. 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.
“Also, the leadership of NIREC 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. This faith is confirmed in the existence of the “Nigeria Inter-religious Council (NIREC)” that is a symbol of religious coexistence. The council believes that there is no conflict between Christianity and Islam in Nigeria. The council therefore needs the maximum support of the Government and the cooperation of the delegates who represent both sides.
“The leadership of NIREC has inaugurated the NIREC Youth Forum, which is a clear indication that our religious leaders are ready and willing to refocus the attention of the youths. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has demonstrated the willingness of the present administration to deliver on credible and peaceful elections come 2023.
“The conduct of peaceful and credible election 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. Every profession is important for self-actualization and national integration. The lawyer can develop the nation by ensuring justice that is a condition for peace. The doctor can ensure the growth of the nation by delivering quality healthcare services. The police can grow a nation by ensuring law and order in the society. The soldier is called to defend the nation.
“This is why the army must never be politicized. The soldier is obliged to protect life and defend the sovereignty of the nation. This dedication alone can give the citizens a sense of security. The civil servants can renew the nation by enhancing the dignity of the human person. The smooth running of the nation depends on the Civil Servants. The teachers can renew the nation by becoming role models to the students.
“I therefore wish to reiterate that, Mr. President has provided every necessary requirement for 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.”
“In order to ensure there is 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. 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.
“I therefore call on NIREC to continue to support the Government and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by preaching the benefit of peaceful and credible elections for the rebirth of the Nation to your congregants and family members. Violence, lack of ideologies bane of Nigeria’s politics.”
On his part, President Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) His Eminence Archbishop Daniel C. Okoh, who is co-chair of NIREC, said, while the nation prepares for the polls in 2023, serious questions and doubts were being expressed about Nigeria’s capacity and political will to conduct free, fair, credible and peaceful elections.
He said: “Our national renaissance is possible in 2023, but it requires our collective action.
“The theme of this last quarterly meeting underscores the importance the NIREC members and rest of us attach to the 2023 general elections in our country. It is indeed a year of opportunity as we look forward to a peaceful and credible poll that will usher in a new set of political leaders that will bring about a new Nigeria.
“Election is a democratic norm practiced by many countries of the world. It is a process of choosing someone for a public office by voting. The right to vote has a basis in the social contract theory. This is because every citizen in a state surrenders their right legitimately to the government through free and fair elections, and the government in turn protects the rights of the citizens. This is the basis of democracy and it should be devoid of violence, coercion, intimidation, manipulation, denial and death threats.
“While the nation prepares for the polls in 2023, serious questions and doubts are being expressed about Nigeria’s capacity and political will to conduct free, fair, credible and peaceful elections. Since independence in 1960, violence and electoral irregularities have become constant features of the process of electing the country’s leaders and the most worrisome point is always the number of deaths often recorded in the process.
“Politics of corruption, intimidation, exclusion and violence are now regarded by some elements in the society as necessary weapons of political victory in our country. This ugly trend robs the Nigerian voters of the opportunity to freely choose their leaders. As we navigate the process to the 2023 general elections, the world is watching to see if there will be a relatively peaceful transition, or a repeat of the familiar ugly past always filled with pre-and post-electoral violence.
“As a faith leader, I am convinced that this ugly history of pre-or post-electoral violence will not be repeated if we all decide to halt the trend through strategic conversation that appeals to the conscience of the political class like we are doing here today. Unbridled ambition and cut-throat competition among Nigerian politicians is a major part of the problem. 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 this make the process tense, frightening and disenfranchising to 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.
“The imperatives of a peaceful and credible elections makes it mandatory for us as religious leaders to play active roles in this transition process. This is a time we must use our various platforms to place special emphasis on the messages of hope, peace, brotherliness, unity, integrity and tolerance. We must shun all tendencies that could aggravate whatever challenges we might be experiencing at the moment.
“We shall surmount them and our nation shall become great again. The election of 2023 is a valid opportunity for Nigerian to turn around the fortunes of this country. It is important that we use our leadership positions to mobilize our members to come out on the days of election to vote in the candidates that can bring healthy balance in governance which will restore the confidence of the people in government. Peaceful and credible elections is the best parameter to measure a healthy democracy.
“At the level of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), we shall stand to be counted in this process. We are already making plans to deploy electoral observers in major polling units across the states in Nigeria to observe the 2023 elections. They shall work together with other observers including those from the international community and Nigeria’s development partners. This has become customary to us as we also observed the 2019 polls. Our reports and findings shall be published and made known to all Nigerians. This is the least we can do as a body interested in peaceful and credible elections,” Okoh further added.