Nigerian politicians and their agents should be civil and respectful in their utterances while canvassing for votes ahead of the forthcoming general election, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria warned on Tuesday.
The organisation regretted that rather than market their candidates and manifestos through issue-based campaigns and discipline of language, some political parties have embarked on the use of intemperate language, threats, character assassination and misinformation.
The CBCN expressed these views during a media parley organized by the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria.
The Secretary-General of CSN, Very Rev. Fr. Zacharia Samjumi charged political parties to understand that elections were not do-or-die affairs.
“We have also observed that rather than marketing a party’s agenda and a candidate’s manifesto through value-based campaigns and discipline of language, some political parties campaigns are often characterized by the use of intemperate language, the issuance of threats, character assassination and the spread of misinformation and outright falsehood about their opponents.
“We urge all Nigerians, especially politicians and their agents, to be civil, decent, and respectful in their utterances as they canvass for votes and debate the country’s future.
“The political parties and candidates should understand that elections are not a do-or-die affair and remember that no one is so good enough to lead another without his/her consent.
“The candidates should stick to their signed peace accord and call on their followers to shun violence and thuggery. Only a peaceful election can guarantee the peaceful Nigeria we desire to live in.”
Samjumi told Nigerians that the election is a very opportune moment that must be properly used.
He said better life awaits Nigerians if they do the right thing in this election.
“To this end, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria have released a Pastoral letter on the 2023 general elections in Nigeria, focusing on the decorum and discipline required for the free, fair and credible conduct of these elections.
“In their document, the Bishops remind all men and women of goodwill in Nigeria that democracy cannot thrive in any society where the rule of law is frequently breached.
“We, therefore, call on all Nigerians, irrespective of creed or tribe, who are of voting age and have registered, to fully participate in the electoral process, which includes registering, collecting their Permanent Voter’s Cards, voting and protecting their votes to ensure they count”, he stated.
He said it is only with the power of the ballot that Nigerians can engender the true progress they need in the country.
The church therefore called on Nigerians to desist from selling their votes but should vote in accordance with their conscience and good judgement, ensuring that only candidates that will improve their lives are voted into power.
The cleric said, “Youths should reject being used as thugs, assassins and electoral violators. We call on the Independent Electoral Commission to eliminate the obstacles of high transaction costs associated with collecting PVCs all over the country.
“In order to guarantee a level field of participation for all voters, INEC has a huge burden to guarantee that BVAS will work on election day in all the 176,846 polling units across the country, as well as the efficient electronic transmission of results from the polling units. This will engender transparency and ensure trust in the electoral process.
“We are aware of credible allegations of manipulating the electoral register in different parts of Nigeria. We implore INEC to investigate these allegations diligently and to ensure that to the extent that they are well-founded, anyone implicated is brought to account in a timely fashion.
“Furthermore, it has been discovered that multiple registrations happened alongside willful and incorrect entries of voters’ information; we implore the commission to ensure that the necessary due diligence is observed in the accurate documentation and cleaning up the voters’ register.”
On the state of the nation, the clergyman said despite several interventions and advice to those in power from Bishops, both as a body and as individuals, Nigeria continues to plunge deeper into the abyss.
He said every day, the country keeps witnessing the pervasive killing of innocent citizens in their homes, churches, mosques, streets, trains, roads, and events.
“Kidnappings, invasion of villages and towns, wanton looting and corruption, ransom taking, raping and territorial conquest are sadly the order of the day.
“We are saddened that Nigerians in their homeland are now at the mercy of non-state actors, who not only terrorize but also kill the citizens from the East to the West, the South and Northern regions.
“Unfortunately, the people are yet to find hope in the present administration’s ability or desire to tackle the many problems that have bedevilled our dear country,” he said.