Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the Nasrul-Lahi-l-Fatih (NASFAT) has advised religious leaders not to turn their pulpits into campaign.
NASFAT’s chief missioner, Imam Abdul-Azeez Onike, stated this while reacting to the extension of the continuous voter registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
INEC had announced an indefinite extension of the CVR which was expected to end on June 30, 2022.
Its National Electoral Commissioner and Chairman (Information and Voter Education Committee), Festus Okoye, in a statement in Abuja, said the exercise would continue nationwide as part of the commission’s resolve to continue to provide electoral services to Nigerians by registering all eligible citizens interested.
Onike said, “I would like to advise the clerics not to turn the pulpit, altar, minbar, etc to an election campaign box. While voter education is good, it is unmissionary for a religious leader to desecrate the house of God by overtly or covertly doing electioneering inside the church or mosque.
“The mosques and churches are not meant for that. Our Noble Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) forbade buying and selling in the mosque, not to talk of turning worship centres into a campaign ground.”
Onike, however, described the extension of the voter registration exercise as a clear demonstration of the sincerity of the election umpire to ensure that Nigerians were not disenfranchised politically.
“Therefore, I will implore those who are yet to register to cash in on this opportunity. Participation in the process of choosing your leader is an individual religious obligation. Allah says, “and that man shall have nothing but what he has striven for” (Q53:39)
“To the teeming Nigerian youths who have suddenly developed an interest in the electioneering process, which is a good thing anyway, they have to take it further by using their voter card to vote rightly.
“The experience from the past has shown that it has been more of talking than doing, while the aphorism says, “Actions speak louder than voice”, the recent gubernatorial elections in Anambra and Ekiti States showed a worrisome voters’ apathy,” he added.
He also urged the youth to play their roles by voting for credible leaders and asking Allah to continue to bless their choice of leaders and provide them with the required guidance and knowledge.
Similarly, the Christian Association of Nigeria has called on Nigerians to take advantage of the CVR by getting registered to enable them to exercise their franchise in the 2023 general elections.
Speaking with our correspondent, the General Secretary of CAN, Joseph Daramola, said extending the exercise would empower millions of Nigerians to enjoy their right to vote for leaders of their choice.
“It is a welcome idea to give latitude to millions of Nigerians that want to exercise their franchise. It is said that democracy is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
“They should go and collect their PVC and vote (according to) their consciences. They should not sell their future with money or material things that will not last so that their lives will be better,” Daramola said.
He also said it was up to Christians to make up their minds on who to vote for in the 2023 general election, notwithstanding the preference of their religious leaders.
“That is why everybody is given the intellectual capacity to reason. So, if the church tells you to go in a particular direction and you foolishly follow or disobey the church, it is your choice.
“But people should be able to reason and look at how their future can be better,” he added.