In the sake of equality, justice, and peace, the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) has stated that the South East region of the nation should produce the next president in the general elections taking place next month.
As election campaigns heat up, it also issued a warning against provocative remarks from the political elite and religious authorities, particularly in the north, claiming that such remarks could endanger the country’s corporate existence.
The NCEF, led by Justice Solomon Asemota, SAN, has as members Gen. Zamani Lekwot, retd; Elder Moses Ihonde, Elder Nat Okoro, Gen. T. Y. Danjuma, retd; Elder Matthew Owojaiye, Hon. Justice Kalajine Anigbogu, retd; , Elder Shyngle Wigwe, DIG P. L. Dabup, Sir John W. Bagu, Dr. Saleh Hussaini; and Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife.
Others are Dame Priscilla Kuye, Dr. S. D. Gani, Mrs. Osaretin Demuren, Prof. Yussuf Turaki, Lady Mariam Yunusa; and Pastor Bosun Emmanuel, among others.
The Forum in a statement signed by the Secretary, Pastor Bosun Emmanuel, said: ”On the question of the Presidency going to the South East zone of the country, we make bold to say that in order to complete and show good faith to the post-civil war 3Rs (Rehabilitation; Reconstruction; and Reintegration) and the No Victor No Vanquished policies of the Federal Government, which are still relevant, it is only right that the zone be given the opportunity to produce the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
”All the other zones have had representation at the Presidency and if there are to be no second-class citizens and if there are genuine desires to eliminate separatist agitations nationwide, then, a credible candidate from the geopolitical South East zone should be voted into the seat.
”The unfortunate statements credited to some presidential aspirants that they will lay the foundation for the Presidency for the South-East, after their turn, is not only an insult to the general Nigerian electorate but also a humiliating and derogatory attack akin to that of the religious clerics making inflammatory statements, which is detrimental to the overall peaceful co-existence and equity in the Nigerian project. We speak as Christian elders.”
Regarding incendiary remarks made by various political and religious figures, the Forum said: “NCEF has closely followed the events as they have developed as Nigeria gears up for its next election year in 2023.
“The intrigues, utterances, the horse trading, and outright violent postures by the political class are uncomfortable indications that those who rule Nigeria, and those who are aspiring to political positions in the coming elections 2023, have not learnt any lesson from the errors of the past and have determined to jettison the cherished values of our nationhood for purely sectional interests.
”The country cannot continue doing the same negative things repeatedly and expect different positive results. The recent inflammatory, derogatory, seditious, and inciting statements/ declarations credited to Governor Ganduje of Kano State and one Dr. Abdulmutallab Mohammed, making rounds in the media, which are reproduced below, give the clear impression that some evil-minded persons are laying the foundation for more acrimony, dissention, violence and eventual disintegration of our beloved country, Nigeria.
“Ganduje (Kano State Governor) was quoted thus: ‘For this purpose, this time around, history will not repeat itself in winning this elections if Allah agrees and this is democracy, there will be nothing like nullifying elections’
“Dr. Abdulmutallib Mohammed Auwal’s reported address to a convocation of Muslim leaders says, ‘our aim as Moslem scholars from over 70 different Islamic sects and backgrounds plus our Ibo Moslems and Yorubas in the North, those from the West, have called this meeting to sensitize ourselves about this project to ensure victory.
“The aim is not to tell them that we will distribute weapons to them but to tell them of the need to vote for a person who will promote and advance our Islamic religion.
“The aim is to tell people that a Muslim wherever he is, is far better than a Christian (infidel) and where you have two Muslims, they will achieve what one Muslim cannot achieve and we want to make it clear that the Muslim-Muslim ticket is a very big Jihad for the Muslims.
”Another Muslim cleric, Sheik Muhammad Ibn Uthman Kano, while endorsing the Muslim-Muslim ticket of Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his running mate was quoted as saying ‘all Muslims should vote the Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“As Christian elders, our concern here is not only for the Christians and other non-Muslims, but also for the corporate existence of Nigeria, a country of diverse peoples, nationalities, and religions.
”We are hesitant to believe that the foregoing statements were made by the highly placed named personalities. However, we are persuaded, since there has been no retraction or denial, to accept the fact that the statements were made or that the named persons were privy to their publication.
“In 2012, Abubakar Shekau, the late leader of Boko Haram, boasted openly in a video as follows: ‘this war is not political. It is religious. It is between Muslims and unbelievers (arne). It will stop when Islamic religion is the determinant in governance in Nigeria or, in the alternative, when all fighters are annihilated, and no one is left to continue the fight.
”I warn all Muslims at this juncture that any Muslim who assists an unbeliever in this war should consider himself an infidel and should consider himself dead.
“We took Shekau as Boko Haram threat. Today we have a governor, political and religious leaders addressing the nation in the robes of Shekau and threatening fire and brimstone, referring to other religious groups and persons in defamatory, despicable terms via provocative language in their bid to intimidate and railroad adherents of a particular religion into voting only adherents of the Islamic faith into power in the 2023 elections in a multi ethnic, multi-racial, and multi religious state.
”We cannot as Christian Elders stand idly by and fail to warn Nigerians on the dangers implicit in the vile statements referred to above. We have a constitution, as a nation, and until it is set aside, repealed or amended, it remains the binding instrument of our nationhood.
“There is a ‘firm resolve’, among other uniting provisions in the Constitution, for Nigerians to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God.
“S. 1(2) of the Constitution provides that ‘The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
”S. 2(1) further provided and emphatically too, that ‘Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state. S. 38 (1) provides that ‘every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and public or private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
“These self-seeking politico-religious barons have terrorized and traumatized the average Nigerian with reckless abandon in outright and brazen violation of the foregoing constitutional provisions. This is unacceptable as it is reprehensible.
”Taking it a step further, we make bold to state without fear of contradiction that the deliberate, reckless pronouncements of these religious politicians offend the penal laws existing in Nigeria.
“Statements inciting hatred or contempt against classes of persons in such a way to endanger public peace’ as we have witnessed in recent times and referred to above, which have been made to support and defend same faith ticket, are punishable with fine or imprisonment under our laws.
Therefore, our concern and query is: Why have the law enforcement and electoral institutions turned a blind eye and allowed this careless flouting of our criminal laws to continue?
“While we call on the government, the law enforcement and security agencies to take immediate steps to bring these persons to book, we also demand that the electoral umpire should penalise any political aspirants or parties associated with those prohibited violence inciting pronouncements for the sake of peaceful elections in February.
”Our electoral laws and regulations do not provide privilege for the use of such language or immunity from prosecution in the circumstance.”