Ahead of 2019 general elections, traditional and religious leaders met yesterday in Abuja to brainstorm on how to guarantee a transparent process that would inspire the confidence of the electorate. The occasion, tagged National Stakeholders’ Summit on 2019 Election Integrity had His Imperial Majesty, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, President Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) Reverend Samson Supo Ayokunle, among other dignitaries in attendance. It was jointly organised by Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, (NSCIA) and the Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN).
In his opening remarks, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, expressed concern over the spate of killings in the country and submitted that sanctity of human lives have been debased under the present administration.
He said: “Leaders across the length and breadth of the country must ensure that justice stands as the strongest of what we must do especially if we want to have a God-fearing society. We cannot claim to be God fearing when, as a leader, there is no justice in whatever you do. As Othman Dan Fodio said, a country can endure with unbelief, but no country can endure with injustice and that is why as leaders, we must put justice first as the strongest pillar.
“There are so many organizations, some very small and others big, but one thing that is clear is that everybody is talking positively about what must happen in Nigeria and that is what we must do, by insisting that things must happen the way the constitution which is the law of the land and our religion permits them to happen.
“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 do not even know what is happening or what is governance. This is what is happening across the country and if we don’t stop this and recognize the sacredness of human life, we cannot see peace, 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 neighbour as your self and things like that.”
“People see politics as do or die. We should not see it that way. That is why we tell out politicians always that they should not 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 a 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.”
Chairman of the occasion, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Ogunwusi raised the alarm over the population growth in the country and called for birth control to stem the tide. Speaking further, the Ooni noted that the youth which constitutes about 60 per cent of the country population has since been neglected by the power elite.
“Something is fundamentally wrong in this country. We should know this and not treat it with lip service. This country is growing everyday and nobody is talking about birth control. The population of Nigeria now is between 190 and 200 million. GSM subscribers right now are about 120 million people, the registered voters released by INEC is over 70 million. The population of Nigeria now is getting to 70million. People under 30 years of age constitute about 60 per cent of the population and that is a lot of human power.
“People above 50 are less than 30 per cent of the population while the leadership demography of this country is less than one per cent. They have been ruling us since 1960. Let us compare notes and be realistic and face the fact that there is a problem in this country. Let us not hide under any colour. The active population of this country is about 150 million people with a bleak future.
“The young men that were apprehended and paraded for kidnapping the Chibok girls are below the age of 30. They thought they were doing business because they are very ignorant of what they were doing. There is the problem in this country. What are our leaders doing to orientate them? How are we orientating our youths? Anytime we want to destroy this country, we go to this set of Nigerians, give them a few money and the whole problem will start and the leaders won’t be able to handle it.
“The oxygen of ideal politics is the people, but in Nigeria, the oxygen of Nigerian politics is money, see and buy. What a nation? We are not all safe. It is about time for us to know that the leaders of this country are not safe, the same thing with the followers because a lot of the youths of this country are ignorant. What they want to do is sustain themselves and they need basic things to do that. Are we going to fold our hands and keep talking or walk the talk? The problem is our problem.”
Oba Ogunwusi also decried the monetisation of the electoral process in the country.
“Election is coming now and we are talking about one man, one vote. We can do all the talks for forever, but what are we doing?. There is true leadership and true followership. We all know that oxygen is life and the oxygen of Nigerian politics is money. But everybody that is in a leadership position should know that man made money and it has an expiration date.
Where is the sense of integrity and content of your character? What are our religious leaders doing? How well are we instilling values in people that are so low to us. Our leaders will celebrate the construction of roads and building bridges. What are you there to do? The way it is designed is that there should be leadership and there should be followership. Leadership is about accountability. Every time, you must leave your doors open.
Leadership is the examination and you will not hear the result of your examination when you are still a leader because people will be hailing you. When you leave that position, your phone will stop ringing and they will move to another leader. When are we going to have a very strong character and moral in our society. The problem is not just our leader, but all of us.
It is very important for us to invest in Nigerian youths because of the oxygen of politics of money. This country belong to all Nigerians and the welfare of every Nigeria must count. The way the votes of Nigerians will count individually, the welfare must also count. We are going into the next political dispensation, let us talk to ourselves. Thieves, armed robbers, terrorists are not faceless people. They live in our midst and we can fish them out if we are serious enough. If we are serious enough, then we should let them know that they can be ostracised from the society and that they don’t have a place in this society. We should all come together and see how to better the lots of our youths.”
President of the CAN, Reverend Olasupo admonished Nigerians to be guided by their conscience while making their individual choices in the forthcoming general elections.
He challenged the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) to be more transparent on its handling of the ongoing Continuous Voters Registration, (CVR)
“If you are talking about election integrity, the voters register will be a reliable one and that is what I am not sure of presently. The voters register as produced by INEC, is it a true voters register? Is there no manipulation in that voters register? And they have listed those who registered into regions and relying on them, we have become the victim. Because if the voters register is not reliable, then there will be no election integrity. Are we sure the registered Nigerians are not foreigners?
“For the elections of 2019 to be credible, there must be impartiality on the side of the election umpire. INEC must have no political party, no region. INEC must be the watchdog for us all to guarantee our future. If this is not the case, all the money spent on it will be a waste.
“There must be impartiality on the part of the security agents. 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 lessons. 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 favour 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.”