By Ismaila Chafe
Abuja, Oct. 13, 2018
President Muhammadu Buhari has frowned at the activities of some individuals using religion and ethnicity for cheap political gains, saying such persons were fraudulent politicians and should not be trusted.
The president, who stated this at the closing of the 3-day Interfaith Conference on “Religious Harmony in Nigeria: Towards the 2019 General Elections’’, in Abuja on Saturday, said such politicians did not always mean what they said.
Buhari narrated how he was cheated (politically) during his previous attempts to occupy the presidential seat in 2003, 2007 and 2011 by those he described as members of his religious and ethnic groups.
He opined that most Nigerian politicians were more materialistic in nature than religious or ethnic champions, saying that they only use religion or ethnicity for selfish reason.
The President rhetorically cited the 2015 APC presidential primary where dollars were disbursed to delegates to edge him out of the race as well as one of the just concluded party primaries where dollars were also used by aspirants to secure presidential ticket.
“The question of religion and ethnicity is fraudulent. Some people are not sincere they don’t mean what they say.
“I’m telling you and some of you know during my primary (in 2015) my opponents said naira had finished and people were given dollars.
“Even in their late primaries recently dollars were being given, nobody takes naira.
“Really, it’s materialism that we will fight to make sure that we stabilize every level and do justice to our country.
“But, what I found out regrettably is that we refused to learn by other people’s experience and we are refusing to learn from our own mistakes,’’ he said.
Buhari also enjoined religious leaders to always avoid partisan politics or political controversies to avert losing their status and public respect.
He called on traditional rulers to enlighten their subjects and encourage them to ask questions and seek clarifications before going out to vote.
He said: “Having witnessed the roles our religious leaders have been playing so far, I appeal to them to eschew partisan politics and appeal to their respective members to read the manifestos of each political party, discuss and pray for God’s guidance before casting their votes.
“Religious leaders should not be seen to involve themselves in partisan politics or political controversies. Otherwise they risk losing their status and public respect.
“On their part, traditional rulers are also requested to enlighten their subjects, encourage them to ask questions and seek clarifications before going out to vote.
“As your President, I will request that you encourage your subjects to come out and exercise their voting rights as responsible citizens.
“To all of us politicians, I ask that we discharge our political responsibilities with integrity, bearing in mind that we will one day give an account to God, the Almighty.’’
According to the President, the nation has moved on, the era of free money, lack of transparency and accountability is over!
He said, “we deserve continuity; we deserve a better future for the coming generations.
“I sincerely hope 2019 will move us closer to these goals and so I look forward to a peaceful, fair and credible elections come 2019.’’
In his remarks, the co-convener of the event and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, urged politicians to always promote religious harmony so as to move the nation forward.
“We will also follow utterances of political leaders. There must be no violence before, during and after the general elections,’’ he warned.
He particularly called on President Buhari to ensure that the 2019 general election was free, fair and credible.
The Sultan pledged to submit the recommendations of the conference to the presidency for possible implementation.
John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, another co-convener, identified selfishness on the part of some Nigerians as the root cause of the nation’s problems.
According to him, the nation needs moral revolution if meaningful development and transformation must be recorded.
He said that politics should not be seen as an avenue for making money, saying that those looking for money should venture into competitive businesses.
In their separate goodwill messages, former Heads of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon and Abdulsalami Abubakar lauded the efforts of the organisers of the conference for promoting peaceful co-existence among the diverse socio-political groups in the country.
They advocated that no politician should be allowed to use religion or ethnicity to promote disunity among Nigerians.
In his keynote address, Archbishop Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury, stressed that it was the responsibility of religious leaders to speak up and condemn all forms of violent activities during political campaign or elections.
He said Nigeria must take up its leadership role in Africa by way of conducting free, fair and credible election in 2019 and beyond.