Catholic Bishops have taken a critical look at the state of the nation and appealed to all Nigerian voters to look back before casting their votes, in the upcoming general elections.
According to the bishops, looking back in reflection would enable the voters do a better assessment and evaluation of those seeking their votes for election and re-election into public offices.
In a Communiqué issued at the End of the First Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) held at the Daughters of Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre, Abuja, the bishops said “Nigerians should assume the responsibility of evaluating the performance and antecedents of those who ask for their votes”.
Speaking specifically on ‘Nigeria as a family and the coming Elections,’ the Bishops regretted that Nigerians do not see themselves yet as one entity. They said seeing one another as one family was necessary for the people to be more responsive and protective of their country.
“Events leading to the 2015 general elections make millions of Nigerians apprehensive and show that we are yet to see Nigeria as a family to which we all belong irrespective of our diverse ethnic, religious and political affiliations. We have been witnessing an electioneering campaign largely devoid of issues of national interest but full of threats of violence, falsehood, rumour mongering, mudslinging and suspicion,” they said in the communiqué signed by Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama Archbishop of Jos, who is also CBCN President and Most Rev. William Avenya Bishop of Gboko and Secretary, CBCN
“It is clear that Nigerian politicians, with very few exceptions, speak and act in ways that negate the consciousness of a nation as a family, a community of persons in pursuit of the common good. All political actors and all political parties in the coming elections should know that they are individually and collectively responsible for the process and its outcome. Utterances and conduct capable of undermining the credibility of the democratic process must be avoided. On their part, Nigerians should assume the responsibility of evaluating the performance and antecedents of those who ask for their votes”.
The Catholic bishops said time had come for Nigerians to realize that the country was bigger than any individual, ethnic, religious or political groupings and act accordingly. “Our diversity is a beauty to celebrate in gratitude to God. Every Nigerian has a right to be different in so far as such difference is not inimical to the common good and the ideals we share in common. This is the time to reflect and to identify those ideals summed up in the words of our old national anthem: “Though tribe and tongue [and creed] may differ, in brotherhood we stand.” Faced with the challenge of nationhood, let us enlarge our traditional African concept of family. Let us liberate ourselves from the shackles of ethnocentrism, of malicious ethnic and religious solidarity. Let us, in our diversity, recognize our common humanity. For the sake of our children, and for the sake of generations yet unborn, let us see one another, irrespective of the families to which we belong, as members of the same family—the family of Nigeria,” they said.
Earlier in a homily the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, of Jos, was worried that the ‘feverish, barren political campaigns’ did not encourage national family and the quest to win elections at all cost contributed to heating up the polity.
Archbishop Kaigama further expressed dismay that people were relocating for fear of post-election violence and suggested that the heads of the two major political parties – PDP and APC, President Jonathan and General Buhari, should do more to diffuse the tension, quell the fear and encourage nation building.“We will like to see a friendly, social interaction between Mr President and General Buhari, and if possible, with other aspirants where the issue is not elections, but a light-hearted conversation about the good of Nigeria.”
The Catholic Bishops also announced the re-election of Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos, as President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria; Most Rev. Augustine Akubeze, Archbishop of Benin, as Vice President; Most Rev. William Avenya, Bishop of Gboko, as Secretary; and Most Rev. Felix Ajakaye, Bishop of Ekiti, as Assistant Secretary.