Give us this day a free, fair and non-violent election! This is the prayer of all Nigerians, especially Catholic Bishops, as the general election draws near.
On Saturday, February 16th , all eligible voters will go to the polls to elect the President and members of the National Assembly. On March 2nd they will return to choose the governors and members of the state legislature.
This is an important national assignment in a Nigeria filled with unemployment, bad roads, no water, no electricity, insecurity and a seemingly endemic corruption. It is against this backdrop that well-meaning individuals and groups have been speaking out and admonishing both the electorate and officials.
A pastoral statement entitled: “Ensuring Peaceful and Credible Elections in Nigeria” came from the Catholic Bishops Conference, Owerri Ecclesiastical Province while their counterpart from the Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province issued a communiqué entitled, “Nigeria General Elections: Time to Walk in the Right Path.”
Both were admonitions addressed to the various stakeholders in the electoral process on how to prevent all forms of electoral malpractices and guarantee free fair and credible election.
The Bishops of Owerri Province urged Government at all levels to guarantee the safety of lives and property and ensure a level playing ground for all participants. They reminded the independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) of their sacred duty to see to the unbiased and proper conduct of the elections.
They also warned against intrusion and intimidation of voters by both authorised and unauthorised security agencies, including hiring of thugs to impersonate security agents and cause havoc during elections. The Bishops urged the judiciary to focus on their statutory function, and remember that they are the last hope of the common man.
The Bishops urged political parties, candidates and party supporters not to see elections as a do-or-die affair. They warned against PVC and vote buying, bribing of INEC staff and misusing security operatives.
The statements which were signed by Most Rev Anthony J.V. Obinna, chairman, and Most Rev. Augustine T. Ukwuoma, secretary, also advised youths not to allow themselves to be used as tools for negative roles during the elections.
Similarly, the seven-point communiqué signed by Most Rev. Gabriel Abegunrin, President, and Most Rev. John Oyejola, secretary, the bishops of Ibadan Province called on Nigerians to learn from the past and correct previous mistakes, in order to produce a truly free, fair and credible election.
“National elections at various levels in Nigeria are here again. Given the high expectations of Nigerians and the not-so positive experience during past elections, having a better performance at the forth coming exercise assumes monumental importance for Nigeria,” the prelates said.
They stressed on the need to educate voters to respect the sanctity of human life and work for the triumph of truth during the elections.
Finally, the burdened bishops reminded Christians of their duty to oppose injustice, falsehood and all forms of evil, especially during this period. ” By doing this, you do nothing more than build a good legacy for generations to come and bring about God’s kingdom of love,” the bishops added.
RELATED LINK: THE 21 DAYS PRAYER FOR NIGERIA’S 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS