Catholic Bishops have called on voters in the country to elect only credible candidates and shun all forms of inducements by politicians during next year’s general elections.
They stated that the next President of Nigeria should be of good character with capacity and track record to lead our nation out of the present socio-political and economic doldrums, irrespective of party, religious and ethnic affiliations.
These were contained in a communique issued at the end of the Second Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) held at the Sacred Heart Pastoral/Retreat Centre, Orlu, Imo State, from 8 – 16 September.
They said that the church teaches that politics is for the common good in which it finds it’s full justification, significance and the source of its inherent legitimacy
According to the bishops, “the Church in the Modern World, as such, political authority has to be exercised within the limits of the moral order and directed towards the common good.
“Politics is a noble vocation. We, therefore, encourage all politicians to uphold the values of integrity and decency. We strongly condemn as unlawful and sinful all forms of vote selling and buying and advise all politicians and voters to refrain from doing so.
“While it is not our responsibility as religious leaders to dictate to political parties the choices of their presidential, vice presidential and other candidates, we have the duty to advise the citizenry to bear in mind the implications of these choices while electing the next set of leaders.
“We, therefore, renew our call on all our faithful, laity and clergy alike, to come out en masse to vote for people of unassailable integrity, who have the good character, capacity and track record to lead our nation out of the present socio-political and economic doldrums, irrespective of party, religious and ethnic affiliations. It is through the right political choices that our current situation can be ameliorated”.
In a communique tittled, ‘Threshold of a New Dawn in Nigeria, the bishops said, “Out of respect for all God’s children, the Church does not identify with nor is she bound to any political party.”
They continued, “nevertheless, the Church is not indifferent or neutral to the formation and activities of the political community ”
“We urge our Catholic Lay Faithful, especially those with talents for the difficult yet noble art of politics or whose talents in this matter can be developed, to prepare themselves for it and, forgetting their convenience and material interests, to engage in political activity in pursuance of the common good and the establishment of the moral order”
They further believed that “The Church in the Modern World, in other words, they are to accept as their divine vocation the task of sanctifying the world like leaven from within ”
The Bishops however cautioned that “while working to promote political activities and good governance that guarantee the dignity of the human person, justice and equity in society, priests have the duty to guide the Lay Faithful,” adding, “in doing this, without prejudice to their rights to exercise their franchise, priests are not to use the pulpit to promote any particular political party or its candidates.”
On civic education, the concerned Bishops called for considerable growth in political consciousness in Nigeria, noting that such consciousness needs guidance through political education so that all citizens, in general and young people, in particular, will be able to effectively play their part in political affairs
“We call on all our citizens and institutions to work towards responsible political behaviour and informed choices. In consonance with the principles of the Social Teaching of the Church,” they admonished
Insisting that “our people should be made aware of the duty to be both good leaders and followers”, they noted that “citizens need to know, right from childhood, that they are stakeholders in the political affairs of their country; that they are actors and not mere spectators.”
They believed that “Only when the people are enlightened to take cognisance of their duties to the nation and their rights in it can they escape the servitude of political manipulation and ignorance in their electoral habits.”
On the 2023 general elections, the Bishops commended the National Assembly and President Muhammadu Buhari for enacting and signing into law the Electoral Bill 2022.
They said “we acknowledge the President’s commitment to ensuring a level playing ground for all candidates in the elections. Furthermore, we commend the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for its innovations, especially in the area of technology, to ensure free, fair and credible elections. We, however, enjoin the Commission to ensure that this technology is transparently deployed, in order to increase the confidence of the people in the electoral process.”
The communique was signed and read out by the Arch Bishop Lucious Iwejuru Ugorji of the Catholic Arch Diocese of Owerri