The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan has challenged President Muhammadu Buhari to restrain soldiers to the barracks during the 2019 general elections since it is not a do-or-die affair.
Onaiyekan said deploying heavily armed soldiers during the election was an attempt to intimidate the electorate.
The clergy stated this yesterday during a mass to usher in the New Year at the SS Peter and Paul Catholic Parish, Nyanya in Abuja.
Onaiyekan said he was glad to understand that President Buhari, during his New Year message, declared that his participation in the 2019 election was not a do-or-die affair.
Buhari had, in the message on Monday, reiterated that “elections need not be do-or-die affair, and we should not approach that eventuality in a democracy with trepidation and mortal fear. Happily, a large number of presidential candidates have committed to peace, and peace we shall have.”
The Nigerian Army had also announced the commencement of Exercise Egwu Eke III, otherwise known as Python Dance, in all parts of the country in preparation against security challenges anticipated before, during and after the 2019 general elections.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai, who stated this at a flag-off ceremony in Maiduguri, Borno State, said the military exercise would last from January 1, 2019 to February 28.
The Presidential and National Assembly elections hold on February 16 while the governorship and House of Assembly polls hold on March 2nd.
Delivering his homily centred on the solemnity of the Virgin Mary, Cardinal Onaiyekan said 2019 will be a special year for Nigeria, a year of election which the people must face with confidence.
He said: “I was not able to listen to Mr. President because we were in the church, but I was told he said for him, it is not a do-or-die affair. Very good, it’s a sweet music.
“If it’s not a do-or-die affair, then restrain the heavily armed forces, keep the soldiers in the barracks during election. If the soldiers are going about with heavy arms during elections, it’s intimidation of voters,” he added.
The Cardinal wondered why politicians think that they must win elections. “Why must you win for goodness sake? If people vote and want you, you will win, if you lose, find another job.
“Politicians think that they can gain power by force, by threatening to kill people. Between now and the elections, we do not want the do-or-die affair music,” he said.
The clergy also delivered a message from the world leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis on the occasion of World Peace Day, which, he said, centred on the theme, “good politics is at the service of peace.”
He said when politics is good; it becomes actually an outstanding act of charity.
According to him, good politics in the words of Pope Francis stand for justice, equity, mutual respect, honesty and fidelity.
Onaiyekan, who further noted that human beings are ruled by conviction, said it is not possible to have a nation where there is no peace and where the people are hungry and without jobs.
“Our President again today promises to deliver a credible, free and fair election. Since he has said it, may God be with him as he said it. And since he has said it with his mouth, may God make sure that it is done,” the cleric said.
As he concluded the sermon, the congregation shouted in one chorus amen.