President Bola Tinubu, on Thursday, urged Nigeria’s religious leaders to refrain from cursing and denigrating the nation in their sermons.

He also called for constructive criticism of officials occupying elective positions.

“’Yes, this leader is bad, fine. Wait until the next election to change him, but do not condemn your country. Do not curse Nigeria. This is a beautiful land,” said Tinubu during Ramadan Iftar with traditional rulers and religious leaders at the State House on Thursday night in Abuja.

The President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, disclosed this in a statement titled, ‘President Tinubu appeals to religious leaders: do not denigrate Nigeria in your sermons; pray for the nation instead.’

Emphasising the important role of religious leaders in shaping public opinion and fostering a sense of unity among citizens, Tinubu urged the leaders to forge a strong bond with the government to defeat terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, and other forms of criminality in the country.

He declared that his administration is determined to turn Nigeria’s challenges into prosperity, reiterating that no terrorist can defeat the collective will of Nigerians, no matter how hard they try to prey on innocent citizens.

“Yesterday in Abuja, I attended the burial of the 17 soldiers killed in action at Okuama, Delta State. I saw their pregnant wives and little kids.

“The love of the nation is in your hands. Pray for our country. Educate our children. The sermons we preach to the members of our churches and mosques are important.

“Do not condemn your own nation. As a Yoruba man and as our fathers will say, ‘no matter how slippery the bottom of your child is, you must leave the beads there.’ Leave the beads there. This is your country; do not condemn it in sermons, do not abuse the nation. Leadership is meant for changes,” the President emphasised.

The President, who acknowledged the birthday wishes and goodwill extended to him on the occasion, reminded the leaders that his birthday on March 29, 2024, coincided with Good Friday.

“I have earned the honour of having my birthday fall on Good Friday, and I pray that on this Maundy Thursday, you all shall return to your homes safely.

“May God guide and keep you and your families in good health, and lift your spirits,” he prayed.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Kashim Shettima emphasised the pivotal roles of religious and traditional rulers in promoting peace and unity, urging them to continue to ‘‘build bridges that transcend ethnic and religious divides.’’

Shettima expressed delight that the nation’s economy is on a rebound, noting the strengthening of the naira against the dollar.

“The President means well for the nation, and he has continued to redefine the meaning and concept of modern leadership.

“For many years, fuel subsidy was an albatross. The President took a bold decision from day one, and he hit the ground running. Now the economy is turning the corner,” he said.

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, who spoke on behalf of the Traditional Rulers Council of Nigeria, assured the President of the staunch support of traditional rulers, and commended the government’s efforts to address the hike in food prices and the security challenges.

The monarch declared, “You are not alone, Mr. President. The prices of food items and goods are gradually coming down. You are doing your best on security, and we cannot allow you to do it alone. We will join hands to support your vision to the betterment of our nation.”

The General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Samson Fatokun, noted that the Ramadan dinner with religious and traditional leaders, coincided with Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, observed in commemoration of Jesus Christ’s institution of the Eucharist during the Last Supper.

Fatokun, who delivered the address of CAN President, Dr. Daniel Okoh, commended President Tinubu for fostering a harmonious relationship between the State and the Church.

”We are encouraged that your administration has shown great determination in tackling the challenges of kidnapping and banditry and bringing to justice the perpetrators of this dastardly act.

”We shall continue to show our support to your administration so that you can execute your noble intention for the nation,” he said.

The Emir of Zazzau, Ahmed Bamalli, spoke on behalf of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, highlighting the significance of Ramadan as a period of reflection, empathy, and unity.

On the security situation in the country, the Emir, who represented the Sultan of Sokoto and President General, NSCIA, expressed optimism that the country will return to peace and stability.

”I am happy to see representatives of Muslim and Christian communities in this room. I pray God Almighty blesses the President for him to do more to take the country to the Promised Land,” he prayed.