The International Association for Advancement and Defense of Human Rights (IAADHR) has called on religious leaders to refrain from using their pulpits as platforms to ventilate political campaigns.
The group noted that religious politics is capable of destroying the foundation of unity and common brotherhood that Nigeria was built upon and enjoyed in the past.
IAADHR has also condemned the recent calling of the All Progressives Congress (APC) vice presidential candidate, Kashim Shettima as a Boko Haram associate.
It said such name calling does no one any good but rather ridicule “the image of the country at the international level.”
The President and founder of IAADHR, Comrade Bature Johnson, who made this assertions at a press conference held in Maiduguri on Thursday, said even though Nigeria has more worship centres than any other nation in Africa, it is still struggling with the problem of corruption.
Comrade Johnson, who emphasised that religion should not be a factor in Nigeria’s electoral system, noted that, said “the present debate on religion that has permeated our political space ought not to be allowed to fester as all hands must be on deck to see a Nigeria free from religious sentiments in our choice of leaders.”
He called on religious leaders to resist “being manipulated by unscrupulous politicians, to foment trouble and disunity for selfish gains.”
“None of the holy books preaches intolerance and shedding innocent blood…We remain very religious yet ungodly, because, the religious leaders have failed society. We must resist the manipulative antics of the so-called religious leaders.
IAADHR leader said it was his group’s belief, as a rights group that “the choice of Senator Kashim Shettima as the vice presidential candidate of the APC will ensure that the pitfalls that affected President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration will be avoided given his track record and antecedents.”
The group said it condemns “the reference to Senator Kashim Shettima as a sponsor of Boko Haram insurgency” maintaining that such a claim was “nothing but pure mischief of fallacy.”
Comrade Johnson said rather than resorting to unbridled personality attacks which seemed to be the main focus of the actors in the 2023 election, politicians seeking public offices should rather saturate the clime “with manifestos, ideology, policy programs, that addresses germane issues like gender, improved economy, security and assurances of justice in the judicial system, which could guide voters in making their informed choices.
The group said the nation’s electoral umpire and the security agencies “must ensure that political parties are not allowed to become ecumenical gatherings or interfaith institutions where political parties and religious bodies are amalgamated, rather political parties should be the vehicle that drives good governance and ensure that the affairs of men and women in our society are properly situated and run.”
The group said there was no time in the 10 decades of Nigeria as an independent nation that religion has been used “as a factor in determining our leaders.”
Comrade Johnson said Nigeria’s founding leaders like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello were, during their times, leaders of different political parties whose diverse members cut across the different parts of the country.
“We make bold to assert and clearly that those fanning the embers of religion do not mean well for Nigeria,” Comrade Johnson.
“What Nigeria needs are individuals with proven integrity, competence and record of public service who would serve and add value to Nigeria and ensure that our future is in safe hands.
“It is time for religious leaders too to go into mechanized farming/manufacturing, to contribute, meaningfully to the dwindling economy.
“If the moral fiber of the nation must be strengthened, then our clergies need to do a lot of soul-searching, asking themselves, the pertinent questions of where they got it wrong, that led the nation to the present sad level of moral decadence, if this is done, the nation will remain a laughing stock in the committee of other nation,” Johnson added.