The President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, has assured Nigerians of free, fair and credible elections come 2019, with a firm declaration that the “era of lack of transparency and accountability in the electoral process is over.” He charged electoral officials to discharge their responsibilities bearing in mind that everybody would give account of his deeds, before the Almighty.
President Buhari gave this charge while declaring closed a two- day Interfaith Conference of the Interfaith Initiative for Peace (IIP) in Abuja on Saturday, 13 October 2018.
The President urged religious leaders and traditional rulers to enlighten their subjects to come and exercise their civic rights as responsible citizens. His words, “As your president, I would request that you encourage your subjects to come out and exercise their voting rights as responsible citizens.”
The country he said deserves continuity and a better future. He hoped that the coming months would move the country closer to these goals. President Buhari expressed optimism in the improvement on the electoral process brought about by the use of card readers which, he noted, has made rigging difficult and accounted for his victory in the 2015. He implored religious leaders and, indeed, all Nigerians to pray for the country, especially as we approach the 2019 general elections.
The guest speaker at the events, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev. Justin Welby espoused the virtue of peace and reconciliation as a matter of determined work over generations. He noted, “It is not completed by decorations but by practical action. It faces opposition in every country where there is trouble including mine, the United kingdom, especially by those who seek advantage from disorder and chaos.”
He cited the Bible about how Satan tempted Jesus in the account of the Gospel of St. Matthew, with different ways of seizing power. They all, he stated, involved grand public gestures and high profile activities – to turn stone into bread, to demonstrate supernatural powers and to worship evil for the sake of power. Jesus, he cited, rather chose the path of obscurity and humility, service and sacrifice. For this reason, he noted, Jesus was exalted above all other and seated at the right hand of God.
He charged politicians to do the honourable, essential and demanding work of politics. He chided the people who have formed the habit of criticizing from the side-lines but refuse to come into the pitch and kick the ball. Drawing analogy from the Super Eagles, he observed “who may be criticized by spectators, who in themselves could not do better were they inside the pitch.”
Rev. Welby, who has been in Nigeria for more than 70 times since he first set foot in the country, in 1978, identified with the plight of Nigeria. He lamented the spate of terrorism and herdsmen killings and appealed for cooperative action to root out these evils from our society through a concerted programme of national reconciliation both among the people and with God.
Earlier in his welcome remark, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, expressed delight in playing host to the event. He declared that the conference theme, which centred on “Religious harmony in Nigeria: Towards the 2019 General Elections”, could not have come at a better time, than now, as preparations for next year’s election are on top gear.
According to the Minister, “the various parties have concluded their primaries and very shortly the whistle for campaign would be sounded during which period the unity and cohesion of the country is usually on trial.”
He described faith as a force for good which could be deployed to positive ends, charging our religious leaders to properly guide our youths and nurture our children to imbibe the true values of our faiths, both of which espouse love, good neighbourliness and peaceful coexistence.
The conveners of the conference, Sultan of Sokoto, Alh. Abubakar Sa-ad III and the Archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, were united in urging Nigerians to eschew bitterness and rancour in the forthcoming elections. They informed the gathering that the conference has made far-reaching decisions in their communique which, they said, would be forwarded to the government and concerned stakeholders for action.
Chef Press Secretary