By Abujah Racheal
President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday in Abuja, insisted the All Progressive Congress (APC) deserved re-election in 2019, in view of the achievements of the APC-led Federal Government.
Buhari then advised religious leaders and traditional rulers to encourage their adherents and subjects to read every political party’s manifesto carefully and vote wisely in the 2019 general elections.
Speaking at the Interfaith Conference on Religious Harmony in Nigeria, organized by the Interfaith Initiative for Peace, the President urged religious leaders to desist from partisan politics in order not to lose their value in the society.
Buhari also called on all aggrieved persons to always consider the stability of Nigeria first before their individual political ambitions, and to seek redress in court where necessary, rather than resorting to violence.
“It is my hope that all, who feel aggrieved will put the stability of our country first before their political ambition, or accept the decisions of their political parties or seek resolution through party reconciliation mechanisms or the law court.
“Very soon, political campaigns will commence leading to elections in February next year.
“It is my hope and prayer that we will even perform better in the polling stations and see to the peaceful conclusion of the entire process without resorting to the negative use of religion and ethnicity.
“Having recognised the role our religious leaders have been playing so far, I appeal to them to eschew partisan politics and appeal to their respective members to read the manifestos of each political party, discuss and pray for God’s guidance before casting their votes.
“Religious leaders should not be seen to involve themselves in partisan politics or political controversies, otherwise they risk losing their status and public respect.
“On their part, the traditional rulers are also requested to enlighten their subjects, encourage them to ask questions and clarifications before going out to vote.
“As you are present, I will request that you encourage your subjects to come out and exercise their voting rights as responsible citizens.
“To all of us politicians, I ask that we discharge our political responsibilities with integrity, bearing in mind that we will one day give account to God almighty.
“I am proud to say that our country has moved on; the era of free money, lack of transparency and accountability is over.
“We deserve continuity, we deserve a better future for the coming generations.
“I sincerely hope that 2019 will move us closer to these goals and so I look forward to a peaceful, fair and credible election come 2019,” the President said.
In his address, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, stated that religious harmony is crucial to fostering peaceful coexistence.
“Religious harmony is very important for peaceful co-existence because there must be understanding before we could collectively move forward as a country.
“Progress and development would continue to elude us if acrimony, mistrust and backbiting are being promoted.
“However, we succeeded in securing the commitment and trust of the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Police, and other critical stakeholders that would be involved in the electoral process.
“We had similar efforts in 2015 and it resulted in peaceful elections that led to surprise defeat of the incumbent president.
“We hope that peace and tolerance will envelop the forthcoming elections.
“It is only God that can give power to whoever he pleases and also take it from him without even prior notice.
“The President has repeatedly guaranteed us level playing field for peaceful general elections next year and we are grateful to him for that.
“We have identified a common problem that has held down Nigeria, and that informed the theme of the conference, `Religious Harmony in Nigeria: Towards the 2019 General Election’.
“We are traditional and religious leaders with massive followership and loyalty.
“It is expected of us to re-educate and enlighten Nigerians so they could deeply participate and make good choices at the polls,” the sultan said.
Also in his address, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan, expressed the belief that the original sin holding the country down is selfishness.
According to him, selfishness has become the primary objective and moving principle in the lives of Nigerians.
He said: “Selfishness at all levels – personal, family, tribal, regional, and even religious. This is at the root of corruption, violence, disloyalty and the win-at-all-cost and by-all-means syndrome at elections.
“If we continue this way, good governance, genuine democracy, national unity, peace and prosperity for all Nigerians will continue to elude us.”
According to him, the country needs a concept of politics that is based on the readiness of politicians to serve Nigerians.
“We need a concept of politics that is based on the readiness to serve the common good of all Nigerians. The emphasis should be on service.
“Not self-service. We the people, on our part, should stop looking for local heroes and tribal champions, who most of the time, do not care, really, about our local needs nor those of the nation,” he added.
Onaiyekan sad that politics should no longer be an avenue for money-making at the expense of the people, who are supposed to be served.
He, therefore, urged all those interested in making money to go into competitive business, where hard work and competence determined success.
He further urged Nigerians not to allow people to continue to take advantage of their political positions to steal the country’s wealth.
“This is the change that Nigerians should be looking for, beyond slogans and emotional speeches and promises.
“In my view, this is what the forthcoming 2019 elections should be about.
“There is need for revolution, a change of mindset, attitude and behaviour patterns.
“This means addressing the heart and soul of Nigerians and leading them into spiritual combat.
“This is what religion – any genuine religion – is supposed to be all about.
“As religious leaders, we need to move from emphasis on competition for dominance to cooperation towards the common good of the entire society.
“We must join hands and our voices to preach a common and clear message of peace and justice, ready to condemn evil, wherever it is found,” Onaiyekan stated.