By John Shiklam in Kaduna
The Catholic Archbishop of Kaduna, Most Rev. Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso, has warned against politics of religion and ethnicity in Kaduna State.
He called on politicians not to plunge the state into yet another crisis in their quest for power.
The warning came amid increasing tension following the ethnic and religious dimension politicians have introduced in their desperate plots to win the governorship election scheduled for Saturday.
The main contenders for the governorship seat are the incumbent Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Hon. Isa Ashiru of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
As the elections approach, local radio stations in Kaduna and the social media have been awash with hate speeches and all forms of propaganda, as politicians have resorted to the use of ethnic and religious sentiments and smear campaigns against one another.
Ndagoso, at a news conference on Thursday in Kaduna, urged politicians to avoid politics of religion and ethnicity which is detrimental to unity, peace and stability.
He said politicians should be working towards ensuring justice for all citizens, stressing that due to the lack of structures that guarantee a just and equal society, some people fall prey to what they think can give them justice at the expense of the unity of the country.
He said: “The danger of (the increasing) tension as we are aware, is that it can escalate, and violence can be the result.”
The Catholic Archbishop said Kaduna had witnessed too many violence and politicians who seek to govern the state should be seen to be promoting peace.
Ndagoso said: “We have seen too much violence. Too many people carry the weight of death, destruction and injuries caused by those who do not value their neighbour as they value themselves, their own family and their own homes.
“People have taken it upon themselves to decide that only their own way of thinking and believing is correct and so have wreaked havoc on anyone who has a different way of thinking or believing.
“Too many innocent lives have been lost in the process. Yes, my fellow Nigerians, we have seen too much violence. One person who dies in an unjustified manner is a loss to all of us and a loss one too many. Violence in any part of the country diminishes all of us. We are better than that and we need to show the world that we are actually and in reality better than that.
“As a Christian leader, I am again making a special appeal to Christians. We have entered the season of Lent, a season in which we reflect on our own following of Jesus Christ who eschewed violence even to the point of death and who even in his death, forgave those who brought it about.
“The prophet Isaiah reminds us in this season of Lent that the fasting God asks of us is that we reach out to one another, take care of one another and avoid quarreling and strife, so that our light will break forth and healing will quickly come (cf. Isaiah 58).
“As we prepare to vote, I urge each person, each citizen of this country, particularly of Kaduna State, to carry out his or her civic duty and vote according to the dictates of conscience and not to be swayed by others, whether tempted by material goods or overwhelmed by smooth words.
”To vote and have a say in who becomes a political leader is a God-given right and responsibility; let us carry it out with full awareness and without fear or favour.”
The Catholic priest urged security agencies to carry out their duty and responsibility to provide full protection during the voting process, to ensure that voting is not only free and fair, “but, above all, to protect and defend human lives, to guard against whatever can degrade human dignity in any form whatsoever”.