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…Pledge to demand free, fair democratic elections in 2023

By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja

The Sultan of Sokoto, Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar III, and Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, have signed a peace pact to de-escalate religious tensions and ensure peaceful and secure atmosphere in the nation, ahead of the 2023 elections.

The peace accord was signed at the International Religious Freedom Summit 2022, organised by the Global Peace Foundation and 70 international human rights and religious freedom organisations in Washington D.C.

While the Sultan, who doubles as President-General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, was represented by Prof. Yusuf Usman, the apex Christian body was represented by its immediate past President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle.

In a statement in Abuja, yesterday, Ayokunle said the leadership of the umbrella Muslim and Christian organisations pledged to continue to work together, avoid violence, embrace dialogue and remain committed to building resilient communities free from fear.

He added that the two religious bodies also promised to embrace a vision of a common humanity and speak publicly of hope for Nigeria’s peaceful and bright future.

The statement read:  “This is a difficult time in Nigeria, with ever-escalating security crises and an overwhelming loss of trust in government. And unfortunately, so much of the crisis in Nigeria has had a religious context.

“I recall the horrifying death of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu murdered by a mob because of allegations of blasphemy. Likewise, the shocking attack on the St Francis Xavier Catholic Church on Pentecost Sunday that left so many dead. And nearly every day, there seems to be another priest kidnapped or killed.

“At the same time, I know that there are so many across Nigeria, Muslims and Christians alike, who abhor this violence and only want to live in peace with their brethren of other faiths as we have done for so long.

“The Sultan of Sokoto is one of those men, and I thank him for how he swiftly condemned these kinds of attacks.

“We will only build a stronger Nigeria that is able to tackle these urgent ones that are destroying our country from lack of security, accountability, and corruption, to conflicts between different peoples and faiths, to hunger and the economic situation, if we religious leaders determine together to truly lead our people.”

According to Ayokunle, that was why it was important for the Sultan and CAN to sign the declaration for a peaceful and secure Nigeria and to do so on the world stage.

He said: “The declaration we signed lays out a number of principles that we believe all Nigerians can readily affirm.

“It states that all people are endowed by the Creator with inherent value and fundamental rights, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, culture, region or the many other differences that often divide us, and that the essential freedom and dignity of every person must be respected and protected.

“The declaration also calls for collaboration amongst the various traditions and faith communities in Nigeria in order to advance the well-being of all and to resolve conflicts peacefully, also makes clear that we vocally reject and condemn all use of violence and coercion to speed of her political or religious views and identities, or to demean ethnic, regional, or tribal affiliation.”

Ayokunle added that they also pledged to demand that free and fair democratic elections should be conducted in peace and for the benefit of all Nigerians, regardless of ethnicity, religion or geographical zone.

He said: “Especially with the upcoming elections, we note with grave concern that politicians and government representatives, and sometimes religious representatives as well, have not taken seriously their full duty to promote peace and harmony among the people of Nigeria, which has contributed to numerous crises for our nation,” he added.

The statement identified some of the crises as the concerns of political representation and the possibility of a genuinely democratic governance; the questions of judicial integrity and fairness; the issues of governmental bias, corruption, and inaction.

Others include a grievous lack of security, owing to terrorism, militancy, cycles of retaliation, kidnappings for ransom, sexual violence, and organised criminal activities; mass hunger and starvation; poor agricultural policies and a lack of education for sustainable livestock raising; mass displacement of peoples and poor security for them and a hostile business environment and lack of jobs and education, among others.

“Certainly, individuals will have different opinions as to the causes of and solutions to all of these problems.

“But far more importantly, we must share a fundamental commitment to the unity of Nigeria and to work collaboratively toward solutions through peaceful and respectful means, affirming the dignity of one another and our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.

“We call upon all religious and political leaders, and all people of faith, to develop and promote solutions that are grounded in the shared values of our common humanity, and which protect and uplift the value, dignity and fundamental rights endowed by God to every person.

“We, finally, affirm that religious leaders play a special role in leading their communities, and have a duty to shepherd their communities in a way that promotes peace,” the statement added.

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