New Telegraph

Polls: Don’t impose candidates on followers, Onaiyekan urges clergy

…vote credible candidates not party, he advises Nigerians

AbujaA s the nation gets ready for the election sequence kicking off in roughly three weeks’ time, Archbishop emeritus of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has urged religious leaders to desist from imposing their choice of candidates on their followers. He also appealed to the electorate to vote credible candidates in the forthcoming general election and resist the temptation of voting based on party affiliation.

Onaiyekan gave the advice in Abuja yesterday in his homily at Church of the Assumption, Parish, Asokoro. “We should choose wisely at each level – presidential, National Assembly, governorship and state assembly. Use your choice well. Choose candidates based on their personal merit rather than party because the vast majority of Nigerians are not card carrying members of political parties. “We must clearly reject the evil myth – that we should vote for the winning party. Many of us have been dragged into this mythology. We waste our votes when we vote for bad candidates and our votes are precious.

“We should elect someone who will see public office as a service to the public good. We are praying for a change because we need new blood and someone with vision,” he advised. Admonishing other clergymen, Onaiyekan submitted that it would be wrong for any religious leader to impose his choice of candidates on his followers, insisting that people should be allowed to exercise their personal decisions.

“As pastors, we have personal decisions. I also vote but it is not our duty to impose our choices on anyone. However, we have the duty to exalt every member of the church or of our religion to elect people who will not indulge in self-aggrandizement and personal ambitions,” he said. He said elections were supposed to be a peaceful exercise and decried the use of the military in the conduct of elections.

“In less than three weeks, the long awaited elections will come. There is apprehension in the land and this is unfortunate because elections are supposed to be a peaceful exercise. It is not supposed to be a state of emergency or thousands of security operatives spread all over the place. “The issue of security is a very tricky one. We should be able to tackle questionable elements without subjecting everyone to intimidation from the security men,” he added. While commending INEC for its preparations and assurances given so far, Onaiyekan advised the electoral umpire to ensure that no eligible Nigerian is disenfranchised during the elections. “We commend INEC for their efforts so far. We pray that they should do their work very well and no one should be disenfranchised.”

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