The United State Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington yesterday joined top Christian and Muslim religious leaders at a one day round table engagement in Jos, Plateau State to brainstorm on the role of religious leaders in ensuring a violence free election.
The engagement, which was organised by the Gideon and Funmi Para-Mallam Peace Foundation, drew religious leaders from various in the state including the Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev. Ignatious Kaigama, the Secretary General of Jama’atu Nasril Islam, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu as well as Christian and Muslim Youth and women leaders.
In his speech Symington said it was not enough for religious leaders to speak about peaceful elections but they must inspire non-violence through their actions.
He urged Nigerians to work together to ensure a peaceful election that would lead to a choice that would be respected by all adding that, “the beauty of democracy is that the citizens are the government, the governor is there temporarily, the citizens govern forever”.
Kaigama in his opening remarks cautioned religious leaders against making unwarranted statements.
“We must mind what we say and the actions we take. Our main concern is how politics should translate into good governance and positive social transformation; to liberate our people from the shackles of poverty, disease, insecurity and other social maladies.”
He urged Nigerians to distance themselves from the politics of tribe, religion or denomination and stressed that elections should, instead, produce winners who are genuine performers, fair minded and willing to serve the common good rather than partisan, sectional or selfish personal interests.
Convener and founder of the foundation, Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam explained that the narrative that tend to build up tension and acrimony around elections in Nigeria tend to reflect the destructive narratives people imbibe from religious indoctrinations and received biases.
He said religious and traditional rulers have a critical role to play in dismantling such negative narratives by pointing their followers in the direction of peaceful co-existence and respect for the rule of law.
Earlier, the JNI Secretary General, Dr. Khalid Aliyu advised politicians to play the game according to the rules adding that, “government should do everything possible in terms of logistics, providing security and equipment to ensure credible elections.”