ECWA President: Church Will Announce Presidential Choice Soon

•Northern Christians already settled for Atiku, says Dogara 

•Muslim-Muslim ticket recipe for disaster, former vice president warns 

•In Ekiti PDP candidate promises to prioritise human development

•INEC hails ECOWAS commission over dialogue with parties ahead of elections

Seriki Adinoyi in Jos, Udora Orizu in Abuja and Gbenga Sodeinde in Ado Ekiti 

President of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Rev. Dr. Stephen Baba Panya, has said the church would soon announce its presidential preference ahead of the February 25 election based on its conviction.

Speaking in Jos at the 2023 extraordinary General Church Council (GCC) of ECWA, Panya said the church had been following closely the programmes and proclamations of the major presidential candidates and would soon take a position on the person to support.

But former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who represented former vice president and presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, at the ECWA summit, said northern Christians had already declared support for Atiku. Dogara said the process leading to their decision was scientific.

Atiku, in his speech, warned that a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket, which the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) had settled for, was a recipe for disaster.

In another development, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) hailed the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) commission over its dialogue with leaders of political parties towards a peaceful 2023 general election.

Panya appreciated Atiku for paying attention to what the church was doing and sending eminent political leaders to grace the GCC meeting. He said the church had been “watching, monitoring and listening to all the candidates and would take decision according to its conviction soon.”

Atiku encouraged Nigerians of different religious backgrounds to live in peace and harmony. He said, in the speech read by Dogara, “A divided Nigeria cannot achieve the purpose of God for us as a people. A divided country will only keep us in darkness and disunity. All through my life, I have lived and worked harmoniously with people of other faiths and ethnic affiliations with ease, because of mutual understanding and respect.

“My business and political partners come from different backgrounds with zero expressions of religious or ethnic sentiments. I have never contemplated same faith ticket throughout my political career.

“The Muslim-Muslim ticket adopted by some people is a recipe for disaster. It is an indication that not everyone will be carried along in government. As governor- elect of Adamawa in 1999, I gave my full backing to Boni Haruna to take over when I was nominated vice president against all odds.

“Boni governed Adamawa for eight uninterrupted years. In Taraba, Rev Jolly Nyame was encouraged to contest the governorship in 1999 just after losing the local government primary elections. We have and are working together with many Christians across the nation and the Church should have confidence in my capacity, experience and ability to deliver.”

The PDP presidential hopeful also expressed his appreciation to Christians all over the nation for their prayers and commitment to the nation. He assured them that he would not relent in cementing the cordial relationship between Christians and Muslims all the time.

According to Atiku, “The Church stands to get a lot under my watch as President of this nation, if elected. Knowing the significance and importance of unity in peace and development, I will do everything possible to sustain and consolidate it. Any society that is not united will suffer. We have no reason to divide ourselves for whatever reason. A divided Nigeria cannot take us anywhere. If Nigeria is divided, both Christians and Muslims will suffer. Together with Senator Ifeanyi Okowa as Vice President, we will take Nigeria to greater heights.”

Atiku commended ECWA for sustaining the annual extraordinary GCC council meeting, where progress and developments were reviewed and new working strategies adopted.

Speaking in his personal capacity, Dogara admonished Christians to take stock of what each presidential candidate had done for northern Christians and meditate on it.

Quoting extensively from the Bible, Dogara likened Atiku to the centurion, whose faith was acknowledged by Jesus because of his determination to help across divides. He said northern Christians settled for Atiku after a scientific analysis of the various candidates carried out openly, where Atiku emerged as the leading candidate.

Dogara apologised for the absence of Atiku and his running mate, Ifeanyi Okowa, who were in Ekiti State for the PDP nationwide presidential rally. He told the gathering, “Do not waste your votes by casting them elsewhere. We believe very strongly in coming together and living together. The Muslim- Muslim ticket is not an option at all. It does not give room for mutual understanding, unity, peace and stability.

“Atiku has great respect for northern Christians, hence, his choice of a Christian to deputise for him. We know him as a good man, who has contributed in building the brethren and the church, even as a Muslim. He does not segregate and his experience and abilities speak for him all the time.

“This period of gross darkness hovering over the nation must be overcome. We keep surviving one catastrophe and jumping to the other. Darkness is an evidence of the absence of light. We must lighten our lights and let them shine.

“Atiku remains the pan-Nigerian candidate that has what it takes to move this nation forward by uniting us across the various divides we have found ourselves. Based on the scientific analysis inclusive of CAN leadership, we arrived at the choice of this man as a candidate to beat in the coming elections.”

Atiku Promises to Prioritise Human Development in Ekiti

Atiku said while campaigning in Ekiti State that he would put a premium on human capital development, if elected President.

The former vice president arrived the Ado Ekiti Pavilion, venue of the PDP rally, about 2:35pm in company of his running mate, Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, the PDP national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, as well as other party leaders.

He criticised PDP members who he alleged were working against the party in the state.

Atiku, who was quite emotional at the rally, said, “What I saw today almost made me to shed tears. Before we came to Ekiti, they said we won’t see anybody to receive or identify with us today, but you surprised us. To stop you from coming to this event, they created artificial scarcity of fuel and made transporters to withdraw their services from the road, but you broke the challenges to be here en masse.

“I can assure you that if you vote PDP to power on February 25, we will continue to always make you happy everyday as you have made us happy. We will fix the dilapidated Ado-Akure road and others that linked the state to other states.”

In an apparent attack on former governor of the state, Ayo Fayose, and his supporters in the Ekiti State PDP, Ayu said, “We heard that some enemies within had conspired against our outing today. We learnt that they even blocked the ways to stop our people from attending the rally.

“There were also speculations that they even collaborated with some people to influence drivers not to work so that many Ekiti people, who love PDP, would not attend today’s rally. But the mammoth crowd we have seen today have demonstrated a great love for us. We can confidently say, shame on our enemies.”

Meanwhile, INEC hailed the ECOWAS commission for its dialogue with leaders of political parties towards a peaceful general election this year.

Speaking during the ECOWAS commission engagement with the leadership of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and other stakeholders on “Non-violence 2023 general election” in Jos, the state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr. Oliver Agundu, said the ECOWAS commission had taken a rather unique and commendable step. Agundu said the move would help to strengthen channels of information, deepen relations among stakeholders, and promote widespread collaborations on common issues faced during elections.

The leaders, drawn from the North-east and North-central states, were taken on training and interactive engagements on dialogue and mediation for national peace.

The four-day training and interactive workshop was geared towards violence-free 2023 general election in Nigeria with the enhancement of participants’ dialogue and mediation tools and platforms for addressing contentious issues. The goal was to prevent and mitigate election-related conflicts and violence before, during, and after the polls.

Represented by the commission’s Head of Voters’ Education, Mr. Otokpa Egwurube, the REC said, “We also urge stakeholders to act and behave responsibly even in the face of defeat or when victorious because in an electoral contest, there must be a loser and there must be a winner.

ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Amb. Abdel-Fatau Musah, who was represented by ECOWAS Commission Programme Officer on Mediation, Directorate of Political Affairs, Dr. Brown Odigie, noted that interactive engagements by political actors and stakeholders were critical in electoral processes. Odigie said the ECOWAS commission prioritised creating opportunities for such interactions to be held as well as equipping stakeholders with the necessary skills and competences for dialogue and mediation.

The representative of the United Nations Office in West Africa and Sahel (UNOWAS) Liaison Office in Nigeria, Mrs Sa’adatu Shuaibu, noted that the training fell within the framework of UNOWAS joint efforts with ECOWAS to support member states in their efforts to conduct peaceful, inclusive, and credible elections and entrench democracy.

Plateau State Commissioner of Police (CP) Bartholomew Onyeka, said the country’s recent history of pre and post electoral violence was the reason many Nigerians were very apprehensive.

Allaying the fears of the citizens, Onyeka, who was represented by Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Ejike Ochiabotor, said, “Plateau State Police Command under my watch as the prime law enforcement agency in the state has involved various workable strategic measures to ensure that the forthcoming general election is conducted peacefully without any hitch all over the state.” Onyeka added that the command had carried out effective sensitisation of its officers and critical stakeholders in the state to virtually all rules guiding the conduct of the elections.

National Secretary of IPAC, Alhaji Yusuf Dantalle, said free, fair, credible, transparent, inclusive, peaceful and acceptable election was the beauty and bedrock of democracy, noting that the forthcoming general election was critical to sustenance of democracy in Nigeria.

Dantalle stated, “The success of the elections will be a defining moment for our fellow compatriots, who desire and yearn for transformational, visionary, progressive, purposeful and resourceful leaders, who will restore Nigeria as the great arsenal of democracy in Africa.”

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