By HENRY UMORU & DAPO AKINREFON
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, were yesterday, locked in a war of words over use of religion to achieve political goals.
While the PDP, which first threw the gauntlet that the APC was shaped in Islamic fundamentalist robe insisted on its claim yesterday and challenged the opposition party to name its 35 interim officers.
The APC on its part said the use of religion by the PDP was a new low for a party it claimed stands for incompetence, looting and election rigging.
Reiterating its earlier accusation that the APC was a party adorned in religious attire. The PDP in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, thus dared the leading opposition party to name its interim officials for the world to know.
Metuh said “it is shocking that the APC would attempt to hoodwink Nigerians even in the face of incontrovertible facts exposing its religious inclinations and plots to divide the nation along religious lines.”
The PDP said contrary to the denials posted by the APC in a hollow statement yesterday, “the revelations by an Islamic cleric, Ambassador Yusuf Garba and the Religious Equity Promotion Council, REPC, that APC seeks to impose an agenda like the Egypt Muslim Brotherhood remains a fact that cannot be brushed aside.”
Counter to clams by the APC that the PDP was playing a religious card to overheat the polity, the ruling party said it decided to “buttress an alert to Nigerians on the evil machination of the APC with every sense of duty to ensure that Nigeria remains united as one and not fall to the evil plot of the APC.”
The ruling party reiterated that it “remains committed to the interest of all Nigerians irrespective of religious, tribal, ethnic or regional affiliations” adding that it will continue to expose and resist anything that seeks to cause divisions among the people and balkanize the country.
“It therefore called on Nigerians not to succumb to the antics of the APC which is now bitter that its plans have been exposed, but to be alert and ensure that the enemies of the nation are not allowed to have their way.”
The APC in a sharp riposte articulated by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said: “this irresponsible accusation by the PDP that the APC is dividing Nigerians along religious line is a new low even for a party that stands for nothing but incompetence, looting and election rigging. It is an indication that the desperadoes in the PDP will throw everything, including the kitchen sink, into their campaign to stop the wave of change blowing across Nigeria.’’
According to the party, the reason it has refrained from joining issues with the PDP, despite its sponsored campaign to portray the APC as an ‘Islamic party’, is because it knows the dangers that religious politics portends for any nation that brings religion into politics, and that no nation which has descended into religious warfare has survived intact.
The APC said no party wishing to lead Nigeria aright can do so on the basis of religion or ethnicity. Therefore, we are compelled to warn the PDP not to play what it believes to be its trump card, the religious card, against the APC, because whatever politicians do, they must refrain from ethnic or religious politics and put the country above selfish considerations. Only an irresponsible party will play the religious card for any reason.
“It alleged that even when President Goodluck Jonathan decided to wear religion on his sleeve, kneeling down before respectable religious leaders and pushing the pictures into the media in an apparent ploy to score political gains, the APC refrained from making any comments on it.”
The party further alleged that when President Jonathan also decided to lead a bloated delegation of his cabinet to an extended pilgrimage in Israel and ferret to the media back home the pictures of the delegation members at the Wailing Wall and other religious landmarks, the APC did not make an issue of the glaring exhibitionism.
“The basis of our circumspection is that in the first instance, we believe that all Nigerians are constitutionally guaranteed their right to any faith of their own, and that playing their religious card should be avoided at all cost in the larger national interest,’’ APC stated.
The party said it is neither logical nor rational to accuse a party whose 35 interim officials are almost equally split between the adherents of the two major religions (18 Muslims and 17 Christians) and cuts across all ethnic lines; a party whose elected officials – Governors, Senators, House of Representatives members etc – profess various faith and a party that has never expressed any preference for one religion over another as an Islamic party.
“We are therefore warning the PDP to stop this dangerous campaign forthwith, unless of course it has decided that its interest supersedes that of the nation. If the PDP fails to stop this campaign, we will be compelled to conclude that the party (PDP) is trying to plug in to the global stereotype against adherents of a certain religion just to spread fear and garner support in certain circles,” it said.
APC appealed to Nigerians to ignore the dangerous game that the PDP is playing by labelling the APC an “Islamic” party as a scaremongering tactic that the comatose ruling party hopes will revive it.