Nigerian voters have been warned to shun religious and ethnic bigotry in the forthcoming general elections, and vote for candidates who are credible, competent and God-fearing.
The Grand Mufti of the Conference of Islamic Organisations (CIO), Sheikh Dhikrullah Shafi’i made this call in an interview with Nigeria’s most authoritative Islamic newspaper, Muslim News.
Religion and ethnicity have greatly influenced the conduct of elections in multi-religious and multi-ethnic Nigeria, right from the pre-colonial era to post-independence period, up to the 2015 election that ushered in President Muhammadu Buhari, who is seeking re-election on February 16 this year.
The Grand Mufti noted that emphasising religious and ethnic affiliations while selecting leaders would not guarantee a successful future for any country which places priority on such above competence.
According to the renowned Islamic scholar, religion and ethnicity is not what the Nigerian electorate should emphasize, because they have consequential effects for the future. “We must not encourage religion and ethnicity as the yardstick for selecting a leader. It doesn’t guarantee a successful future”, he said.
Sheikh Shafi’i called on the electorate to go for trusted and competent candidates, adding that: “There is no crime in voting for a Muslim-Muslim ticket if both candidates have been found to be competent and credible enough to rule the country, same for Christian-Christian candidates”.
“The seats are not permanently labelled for any religion. Involving religion and ethnicity cannot make us progress. What our religion encourages is the competence of candidates we can bestow our trust on. This is what scholars all over the world are promoting.
“If it’s an Hausa that is competent, let him rule, and same goes for a Yoruba or Igbo. If a candidate from any part of the country is fit and capable to bring about development and progress without discriminating against members of other tribes or religions, it is allowed to vote for such person”, the scholar said.
He therefore called on the leaders of all religious groups, particularly Muslim and Christian, as well as ethnic groups (Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, etc) to abstain from political affiliations for individual and personal benefits, and sue for good governance and the general well-being of the people.
He also advised political parties to stay clear of rigging and manipulation and help ensure the people’s votes count in the forthcoming elections.
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