The Sultan of Sokoto and President-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, has said that all efforts must be made to ensure that votes count and peaceful elections is guaranteed in 2019.
Sultan spoke in Abuja on Thursday at a National Stakeholders Summit on 2019 Election Integrity and the official unveiling of ‘Rig No Vote’, an election integrity movement established by Youths Off The Street Initiative.
The event was jointly organized by Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), NSCIA, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), and Ring4ChangeUk.
Sultan, who is also Co-Chair, NIREC, and Chairman, National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria, said the campaigns must be issues-based.
“We must ensure that there is a peaceful election in 2019 and that we have one man, one vote, one woman, one vote, one youth, who is not under age, one vote and the vote must count. We must work hard to ensure that the votes count and the election must be peaceful. Campaigns must be carried out with respect. If we believe that you are good enough, we vote for you,” he also said.
He added, “People see politics as do or die. We should not see it that way. That is why we tell our politicians always that they should feel they must be in a particular office always. You can contribute to the development of the country or your community by being an independent person. It is not by force for you to go into a public office.
“If you know the consequences of holding a public office when you are going to face the almighty God, you will not want to hold a public office. People feel you just come into public office, take whatever you want to take, go about in convoys. That is not leadership. If you are elected by people, let them come near you so that you feel their pains. You can’t be in an office and nobody come close to you.
“A leader must take decision concerning his people by consultations. You don’t just wake up and enact a law that is totally against my freedom. These are things that we must continue to speak out as religious and traditional rulers. There is nothing to fear about because if we don’t tell the truth, it will one day work against you and you will find yourself in a bad place and you will be struggling to get out of it and you won’t be able to.
“God is a merciful God, He is for all and is not a wicked God. He is mainly with the downtrodden and He hears their cry faster that the leaders. If you hear so much cry, then something is wrong with the leadership and that leadership must take correction so that we see how to get things right.”
He underscored the need for religious leaders to come together to fight the problems of thuggery, violence, terrorism, and shedding of innocent blood among others.
Sultan, who said leaders must ensure that justice stood out in order to have a God fearing society, condemned the current spate of killings in Nigeria.
“As Christians and Muslims, we know the sacredness of life. We cannot go about killing innocent people and claiming to be doing so in the name of religion. This is not right and must be condemned and must be removed from our communities. All of us must rise up against those people and let them know that this is not our religion. We have done this over time.
“There is too much blood shedding in Nigeria, the blood of innocent people who does not even know what is happening or what is governance. This is happening across the country and if we don’t stop this and recognize the sacredness of human life, we cannot have peace and development in any place.
“Nigerians must wake up and know that we must come together because our religion does not allow us to kill people, but preach peaceful coexistence, loving your neigbour as yourself and things like that. So, when people spread a different notion about what Islam or Christianity said about loving your neighbour by killing him or abusing him every day and calling him all manner of names, I don’t know.
“The CAN President speaks for the millions of Christians in the country and I speak for my own brothers and sisters who are Muslims. You don’t have to bring everybody. You just need to bring the leadership to a room to discuss. But we must discuss what we believe in and what our religions order us to. Once we go out, we can through the media spread that campaign. It is one thing to come to a meeting and say one thing, it is another to go out and implement those things that we agree on.
“In Islam, for you to do what you don’t believe in is very bad. And so, you cannot say one thing and do another. So, we must do what we say and work with what we believe in.”
He advised the religious leaders to always watch their actions, saying that frequent engagements among them would bring solution to the current challenges.
“As religious leaders we must come together and realize that there are so many things we have in common than the few things that will lead us astray and those few things can lead you to hell fire as religious leaders. We must be very serious about how we do things as religious leaders and if we want to have a country.
“We must be serious about the cry of the common man who is crying daily for one thing or the other. We think that things are right. Definitely, things are not right and when you know that there is a problem, then it is half solved. We must agree that there is problem so that we now know that we have half of the solution. The more we come together and talk, the more we come closer to the solution,” said Sultan.
The CAN President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, who regretted that Nigeria had been ruled by wrong leaders due to manipulation of votes cast, said that all stakeholders must agree to pick the best Nigerian politician to be our leader in 2019.
Rev. Ayokunle said that Nigeria could only talk about election integrity when the voters’ register was reliable, the electoral umpire and the security agencies were unbiased, and the courts dispensed justice on political matters.
“If the reports that we have heard and seen from the state elections that we have been watching, I don’t think there will be an election that will be free and fair in 2019. The two political parties have not learnt their lesson. Vote buying by the two political parties, is that a way to stop corruption?
“We must be ready to talk sincerely to ourselves without fear or favor because we are in Nigeria together. Nobody has a higher stake in Nigeria than us. There must be love for the nation by the contestants. I don’t know any other country where politicians are so desperate in having their way as Nigeria. We must also be sure that when we go to the courts, there must be said to do justice,” he added.
Dr Oby Ezekwesili, the former World Bank Vice President and the Convener of the RED Card Movement, called for the use of technology to stop electoral malpractices.
Dr Ezekwesili also called for the prosecution of those involved in vote buying in the elections.
The chairman of the occasion and Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, stressed the need for massive investment on the youth population in the country to stop all social ills.