Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday in Abuja denied the persistent allegations of religious bigotry levelled against him, saying throughout his public life as a soldier, politician and administrator, he has never violated his oath of office.
Buhari, who stated this while receiving a delegation of the Arewa Pastors Non-Denominational Initiative for Peace in Nigeria led by Bishop John Abu Richard, said religious leaders have a responsibility of creating an enabling environment for peace and development to thrive.
Buhari, according to a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said in his days as military head of state, he had more Christians in his cabinet than Muslims.
â€œSome voices, for political or ethnic reasons, are making unguarded statements accusing the government and myself in particular of religious bias.
â€œLet me assure you, honourable clergymen, that this is far from the truth. In my career as a soldier, administrator, and politician, I have never veered from my oath of office.
â€œWhen I had the honour to lead a military government there were more Christians than Muslims in the Federal Executive Council and the Supreme Military Council.
â€œThis was not by design, but I appointed people on merit without the slightest bias. The present Federal Executive Council is also evenly balanced, again not by design but by respecting and rewarding individual qualities,â€ the president was quoted to have said.
The statement said Buhari welcomed the groupâ€™s proposal to hold a one-day prayer and fasting meeting for the nation on April 26, promising to direct the Inspector General of Police (IG) Ibrahim Idris to provide adequate security for the gathering.
It added that the leader of the delegation, Richard, told Buhari that more than 45,000 pastors in Northern Nigeria had registered with the initiative to use their pulpits for the propagation of the gospel of peace and will shun political distractions.
It also said the clergyman urged other pastors to support the administrationâ€™s effort to stop violence in various parts of the country and avoid politically motivated sermons.