As preparation for the 2023 general election is gradually gaining momentum, traditional and religious leaders have called on politicians to avoid making statements that will throw the country into chaos. In a similar manner, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has warned political parties that their candidate should play by rules, saying their campaigns must be issue-based rather than name-calling or religious politicking. The electoral umpire called on the media to demonstrate neutrality during the electioneering period.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, and President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Rev. Daniel Okoh has called on Nigerians especially the religious leaders to be careful with their utterance that is capable of pitching one group against the other.
The religious leaders made this statement during the 2022 third quarter meeting of the Nigeria Inter-religious Council, NIREC, hosted at the Lagos Continental Hotel, Victoria Island. The Event theme is titled, ‘Working together for Justice and Peace.
The Sultan who is also the leader of the Nigerian supreme council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, and co-chair for NIREC reiterated that the main duty of religious leaders is to be just and fair to ensure their subjects' trust.
He called on both religions to be ambassadors of peace and justice. The Governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha were both in attendance.
On a lighter note, the Sultan urged the Academic Staff Union of the Nigerian universities to obey court orders and return to classes in the interest of the Nigerian children.
He called on Government and ASUU to find a common ground in the interest of the Nigerian youth.
In his remarks, Okoh who is also a co-chair of NIREC called on Nigerians to embrace peace and stop inciting their followers through utterances as this will promote peace he said, calling on the generality of Nigerians to elect leaders that are accountable during the upcoming 2023 general election free of tribal or religious sentiment.
The reverend father said, “As we prepare for the 2023 general election, it is important that we guard our actions and utterances as leaders. We must not be seen as fanning the embers of hate and disunity, encouraging political violence, or attempting to divide the populace along tribal or religious lines.
He disclosed that “As part of NIREC’s intervention to maintain peace at all times, 60 youths representing both faiths are already gathered in Lagos, in this particular hall, for their conference. It is my hope that the outcome of their conference will include strategies to curb youth restiveness and dangers of pre and post-election violence.”
The SGF who was represented by Dr. Maurice Mbaeri called on all religious leaders from across faith to prevail on their subjects for peaceful coexistence.
Meanwhile, the Governor in his contribution called on the religious leaders that their role in maintaining peaceful coexistence is crucial to the survival of this nation and democracy.
Sanwo-Olu said, “We have a responsibility today, tomorrow and in years to come, to ensure we do not fall our nation with our own hands. I believe with interventions like this, Nigeria will not be put to shame. I am hoping the conversation, decision, and discussions at this NIREC meeting will further strengthen that thing that we all swore to – justice, peace, and equity in this country.
He added, “We are in a time that this country needs all of us, now more than ever before, and so, we should not allow hate speech. We cannot afford ethnic bigotry. We cannot afford to be divided. We are going into the election; let us see the commitment and nationality in all of us.”
Executive Secretary of the Council NIREC Cornelius Omonokhua said the meeting was targeted at changing existing narratives to allow a harmonious relationship in Nigeria.
‘There is need for mental re-engineering, change of values, attitudes as well as radical emancipation to address the root of various calamities of national concerns, he added.