The Northern Traditional Rulers Council Assembly (NTRCA) has warned that kidnappings, banditry, insurgency, farmer-herder clashes and other forms of crimes might hamper the conduct of the general elections.
It also urged politicians to honour the signed peace accord, saying this would reciprocate President Muhammadu Buhari’s pledge to ensure free and fair polls.
In a communiqué signed in Sokoto yesterday by the coordinating committee chairman and Emir of Gummi, Justice Lawal Hassan, they described the election year as crucial, noting that people all over the world are watching Nigeria.
The rulers, who had just concluded their fifth general assembly, commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on its preparations, resolving they would assist the agency to achieve its goals.
The council appealed to the executive and legislative arms of government to provide adequate funding and other relevant needs for a successful conduct of the exercise.
It decried the rising level of hate speeches, bickering and vote buying. It also regretted the use of youths as political thugs and appealed to parents to monitor their wards.
The event featured a lecture on ‘Pervasive Insecurity in an Election Year’ and discussion by different personalities.
In attendance were the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, and representatives from the traditional councils of the 19 northern states.
Others included INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, who led five other commissioners of the electoral agency.
The Primate of All Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Rev Nicholas Okoh, also cautioned politicians to steer clear of hate speeches and acts that may jeopardise the exercise.
In an interview with The Guardian in Abuja yesterday, Okoh warned that no pressure group or individual should derail the process.
“We should not put ourselves in a situation where foreigners would come and sell arms to us or be donating food to us. Politicians should know that without Nigeria, there will be no election or office for them to occupy,” he said.
The election is critical and everything must be done to ensure it is peaceful, credible, free and fair, the cleric stated.
He urged people not to succumb to intimidation but come out en masse to vote for their preferred candidates peacefully. He further called on INEC and security agencies to stay neutral.
Similarly, the chairman of Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, Samuel Nwanosike, yesterday charged Buhari to conduct a credible election.
“What Nigerians should do this year is rise and take back their country. This nation does not belong to just one million people who are out there, churning out programmes and policies that have not helped the citizens. This country belongs to all of us,” Nwanosike said, after he presented his 2019 budget of N4.2 billion at the council’s headquarters in Isiokpo.
He added: “We expect to see and witness a free and fair election. Even if the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government has failed in its electioneering promises, Buhari should not fail to give us a credible poll, because he benefited from a credible election under former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“If Jonathan did not conduct a free, fair and credible election in 2015, I don’t think he (Buhari) would have become president today. So, what millions of Nigerians need from him this year is to emulate his predecessor and conduct a credible exercise.”
Meanwhile, in pursuit of national unity and inter-religious harmony, members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) yesterday attended a New Year service at St. Mary’s Parish Church, Samaru, Zaria, Kaduna State.
The leader of the delegation, Prof. Isa Mshelgaru of Building Department, Faculty of Environmental Design, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, said the visit was to strengthen relationship between the two faiths.
He stressed that the tenets of the two major religions in Nigeria were against violence, noting that Christians are the closest people to Islam. He also denounced the activities of divisive and selfish politicians who hide under religion to achieve personal desires.
“Killing one another is an imaginary life. In the actual sense, it does not exist. One God created us all. We must therefore endeavour to live together in peace with one another. We should share joy, happiness and sorrow together. Our leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zazzaky, said we should learn to live together in peace.
“When we are united, as Nigerians, nothing will break us apart and nothing will go against the peace of the nation, not even Boko Haram or militants or any other thing else,” Mshelgaru said.
Responding, the parish priest, Rev. Fr. Michael Ibrahim-Bazai, expressed appreciation for the visit, describing it as first of its kind.
“We are happy to receive our brothers and sisters from the Islamic faith here in our church to celebrate with us today. It is true that sometimes we are scared of each other. This is because some of us are ignorant of the religion. But we are all one,” the priest said.
Ibrahim-Bazai stressed the need for followers of the two religions to uphold their tenets, to foster harmonious relationship. He encouraged them to respect and tolerate each other with a view to building a stronger nation.
The priest also lauded efforts by IMN at rescuing and providing medical treatment to some Christians during religious crises in Zaria, urging the group to sustain the tempo.