By Paul Ejime
A member of the National Peace Council, John Cardinal Onaiyekan has appealed to fellow Nigerians to come out enmasse and vote peacefully for the candidates of their choice during the country’s 16th February and 2nd March elections.
“The elections are not about the contestants but about all of us (citizens), Cardinal Onaiyeken, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese said on Sunday 10th February during a post-Ordination Mass for two Priests at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Since the system only allows political parties to field candidates, “who may not be your choice,” the prelate enjoined the citizens to all the same exercise their civic right because according to him, “no candidate is perfect and there no angels around.”
He warned against the consequences of voter apathy, which has been identified as a major problem in the country with an estated 30% voter turn-out in the last presidential election in 2015.
“If you have your Permanent Voters Card, PVC), go and vote,” he said, adding that staying at home because “you do not have a candidate of your choice” will deny the voter a say in the governance of the country.
In any case, he reminded the electorate that those elected into office will only serve for a specified tenure followed by another round of elections.
Noting that there are “no perfect governments” anywhere in the world, Cardinal Onaiyekan stressed that the “important thing is for the country to continue in peace and not in pieces after the elections.”
To this end, he said the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria has declared three days of national fasting from 13-15 Fedruary for peaceful elections in the country.
He also urged all stakeholders, particularly the security personnel and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to be professional in their conducts to ensure that the polls are credible and peaceful.
Cardinal Onaiyekan, who recently celebrated his 75th birthday with 50 years of his life dedicated to service to God and humanity following his priestly Ordination in 1969, later had a group picture with the two newly ordained Priests Anthony Chigbo and Justin Chiagum, their parents, as well as the Pro-Cathedral Administrator (Pastor) John Jimoh, and other visiting Priests.
Nigeria’s 84 million registered voters go to polls on February 16 to elect a president and members of the 469-seat bi-cameral National Assembly, and on 2nd March, 36 governors and members of the States’ Assemblies.
More than 70 candidates are vying for the presidency in Africa’s most populous nation with an estimated 180 million population and 91 registered political parties.
The two front runners are President Mohammadu Buhari of the ruling APC, who is seeking re-newal of a four-year mandate and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, of the main opposition PDP.
The National Peace Council of Nigeria, made up of eminent citizens has been involved in preventive diplomacy, aimed at easing political tension during electoral periods, including putting together Political Accords signed by political parties and their candidates to ensure peaceful elections, respect the outcome of the polls and to seek legal and constitutional remedies if aggrieved.
* Paul Ejime is an International Media & Communications Consultant.
– Feb. 12, 2019 @ 11:19 GMT |