By Abujah Racheal
Abuja – Ahead of 2019 general elections, Sokoto sultanate, fellowship of Christian Council of West Africa and other Nigerians have called on politicians and other stakeholders for peaceful, free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
The stakeholders spoke at a forum on Religious Leaders Consultation Towards Peaceful 2019 General Elections in Nigeria, organised by International Centre For Inter-Faith Peace and Harmony (ICIPH) in Abuja on Thursday.
The theme for the event was: “Towards a credible, free, fair and peaceful elections in Nigeria.”
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, who was represented by Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, stressed the need for all Nigerians, irrespective of their political and religious inclination, to promote peaceful coexistence to ensure economic growth and development in the country.
Abubakar identified peace as a factor for any nation that wanted development and urged Nigerians to guard against anything that could threaten the peace currently being enjoyed in the country.
He, however, urged politicians and other stakeholders to do their best to ensure credible elections in 2019, adding that it is the wisest course to peace and progress in the country.
According to him, the ICIPH will continue to mobilise religious leaders in the nation to promote peace and harmony among Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.
He said religious leaders were key to ensuring lasting peace in the country, adding that they had a crucial role to play in ensuring religious harmony among Christians and Muslims in the country.
This effort, he said, was part of the centre goal of promoting healing, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence among Nigerians.
He said the goal would not be achieved without fostering inter-religious partnership and sensitising communities to the need for peaceful coexistence.
“The religious leaders will therefore use their existing platforms to propagate the message of peace and tolerance,” he said.
The sultan commended the interfaith group for its efforts towards strengthening unity among Muslims and Christians in the country and encouraged it not to relax in educating Nigerians to shun conflicts and religious intolerance.
Vice President, Christian Council of West Africa, Rev. Benebo Fubara-Manuel, advised politicians to desist from their attitude of desperation for power.
“Peace is important. If we kill ourselves because of elections, in the end, who are we going to lead? ”.
Fubara-Manuel called for peaceful period of campaign by all the political parties, urging Nigerians to reject political violence, inter or intra party violence in the forthcoming general elections.
Rev. Israel Akanji, President of Abuja Conference of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, expressed hope that the forum would help proffer ways of promoting peace in the country ahead of the general elections.
He urged Nigerians to be united and look beyond political affiliations to create harmony, peace, healing and reconciliation among the people, with special reference to the 2015 elections.
Dr Usman Bugaje, a former Political Adviser in the Presidency during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, called on politicians to avoid hate speech, instead, focus on issue- based campaign.
Bugaje stressed that politicians and other stakeholders should be more concerned on a process leading to free, fair, transparent and peaceful polls in 2019.
ICIPH is an establishment of a specialised Interfaith Centre in Nigeria to address inter-religious conflicts.
It was borne out of a fact-finding mission undertaken in May 2012 by an international delegation of Muslim and Christian leaders, led by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Royal Jordanian Aal Al-Bayt Institute of Islamic Thought (RABIIT). (NAN)