•It’s threat to national unity, says Catholic Church
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has said Christians across the country would consider the decision by any political party to field a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket as a declaration of war against the freedom of religion, as well as the peace and security of the country. A statement signed by CAN’s General Secretary, Rev. Joseph Bade Daramola, said such a move would amount to a deliberate action to plunge the country further into religious violence and extremism, and equally destroy the unity of Nigeria.
CAN said in the statement, “Therefore, we give notice to all political parties that we will protect the religious diversity of the Nigerian state and will mobilise politically against any political party that sows the seed of religious conflict by presenting to Nigeria a presidential ticket that is Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian.
“We will consider such action as a declaration of war against the freedom of religion, the peace and security of the Nigerian state. We will consider such insensitive action as evidence of a deliberate action to plunge the country further into religious violence and extremism and destroy the foundations of the continuation of the Nigerian state.
“As an association committed to praying and working for peace, justice, and stability of the Nigerian state, we are always concerned about issues that can throw the country into strife and pains and raise our voice as a plea for wisdom.
“We are burdened by a responsibility to speak truth to power and comfort and defend those, who are brutalised by abusive use of state power. We are not partisan. We are children of God, who love our country and are passionate for its safety and wellbeing.
“We recognise the right of political parties to decide on who becomes their candidates for general election. The constitution and the electoral law have granted the members of the parties the exclusive right to choose the candidates that citizens will vote into political offices in 2023.
“This right calls for a deep sense of responsibility and accountability. It requires that in exercising this right, party members be sensitive to the issues that confront the country and focus on promoting the common good.”
Similarly, the Catholic Church in Nigeria said foisting a Muslim-Muslim presidency on the country would threaten the existing fragile unity and cohesion among the people. In a press statement issued by the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja, the church said any attempt by any political party to present a Muslim-Muslim presidential candidacy would amount to tacit endorsement of the negative voices of many non-state actors, who have been threatening the country’s unity and peaceful coexistence.
The statement jointly signed by the Secretary-General, Very Rev. Fr. Zacharia Nyantiso Samjumi, and Director, Social Communications, Very Rev. Fr. Michael Nsikak Umoh, stated, “With the present glaring crisis and division in the nation, a Muslim-Muslim ticket would be most insensitive and a tacit endorsement of the negative voices of many non-state actors, who have been threatening this nation’s unity and peaceful coexistence without an arrest.”
The Catholic Church further said going by the Kaduna experience, one could perceive the havoc the Muslim-Muslim ticket had brought upon the predominantly Christian people of Southern Kaduna.
“We, therefore, strongly advise those political parties toying with divisive agenda to have a rethink by presenting a more inclusive ticket, while calling on all people of goodwill to resist this budding injustice that may be hatched against a cross section of the people,” it said.
The church said political parties must not lose sight of the fact that the unity of the country had over the years been maintained by a delicate balancing of the religious and the regional.
It stated, “Even in the despotic military era, most juntas ensured a balance of the religious architecture in their regimes. For instance, we had Murtala-Obasanjo, Obasanjo-Yar’adua, Babangida-Ebitu Ukiwe, Abacha-Diya. This also applied to the heads of the various military formations and the different government parastatals, like Customs, Immigrations, Finance, etc.
“Significantly, it was only during the General Muhammadu Buhari era as military Head of State (Dec 31, 1983 – Aug. 27, 1985) that we had a Muslim-Muslim military dictatorship.”
The Catholic Church also condemned what it described as the atrocious attack and murder of its faithful at St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo on Sunday, June 5, during Holy Mass. It said the incident was not just an attack on humanity, but also a terrible slap on the sovereignty of Nigeria and an indictment of the federal government.
The church, however, acknowledged that there were still things to be happy about. It noted the newly enacted Electoral Act 2022, which allows the use of electronic devices for accreditation, capturing, and transmission of results.
The Catholic Church said the prompt release of election timetable by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and the renewed confidence in the electoral process by the electorate, as demonstrated in the massive last-minute turn out for voter registration, amongst others, were positive signs.