The Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Sa’ad Abubakar III, has expressed fears that unless something was done urgently, millions of Nigerians, including himself, would be disenfranchised as they were not able to collect their Permanent Voters’ Cards, PVCs.
Abubakar spoke in Sokoto when he received President Goodluck Jonathna, who was in the state for a political rally in his palace.
He asked Jonathan to ensure that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, provides all
eligible voters with their cards before the elections as well as ensure that government takes steps to respect the people’s wishes by delivering credible, free and fair elections.
He said: “Let’s respect people’s wishes; let’s not try to disenfranchise anybody. We have had issues of the PVCs and I want to tell you that even myself, I don’t have a PVC, so it means I will not vote on February 14.
“So, we have to look for a way out. It is for your government to now look for what to do; how to ensure that all the cards get to the voters before the voting day or in the alternative, find a way out because in any problem there is a solution and we believe you will find solutions as regard this very serious hitch facing us because millions of Nigerians seem to be heading towards disenfranchisement and they won’t be able to vote but I have heard comments from the INEC Chairman. We are still waiting for our cards to come.”
The Sultan said the difficulties in obtaining the PVC was one of the challenges bothering him and other leaders as it appeared millions of Nigerians would be disenfranchised during this year’s general elections.
Condemns religious colouration of campaigns
The Muslim leader condemned the religious colouration being given to this year’s campaigns and called on politicians to rather focus on issues.
He noted that because of the country’s diversity, it was not “possible” for elections in Nigeria to be all about religion.
Sultan said: “They will come to seek the votes of the common man … but they will not see you again for four years but we have the privilege of seeing you everyday and maybe every time and we always express to you the problems of our people.”
Tasks politicians on Abuja peace accord
He challenged all politicians to not only abide by the Abuja Peace Accord between President Jonathan and the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, General Muhammadu Buhari and 12 others, but also ensure that their various supporters at all levels get the message and behave accordingly.
He further decried the prevailing insecurity in the country and urged the president to stop it by ensuring that Nigerians once again, enjoy peace.
He said: “As the leader of the Muslims in this country, I will not fail to intimate the President and his government with the problems Muslims face in this country, that is our own area of attention as Muslim leaders. We care about how we live as a people and we are very worried about how we are living now as a people and God Almighty who placed leadership of the country on your shoulders, we feel we must always alert you on how we have been living.
“As such time now and I will say never a time in this country’s history that we faced very serious challenges like what are facing now. The whole politicking had been turned into either religion of ethnic matters and this should not be so because we see what happens across the world.
“We are worried because religion had been brought into it, we made it very clear in 2011, there is no way religion should be an issue in the election campaigns or even the election itself.
“As you have seen here, I think there are more Muslims in this room than Christians and coming here now to come for prayers for success of your campaigns goes to show that as the leader of the Muslims, I have no choice than to pray for you.
Issues that should face political leaders
“Therefore, the insecurity issues facing us in all parts of country, we have heard campaign promises left, right and centre but we want to hear from our political leaders, how do you intend to resolve the security issues; how do you intend to tackle unemployment, how do you intend to tackle the rot in education?
“These are issues that should face the various political leaders instead of mudslinging, calling each other names and whatever. We are very worried about what we read in newspapers, watch on television and the comments we hear from our people, brothers and friends. Politics of this country has now been turned into a war, families are being divided, friends have become enemies just because of seeking for political office.”
The Muslim leader urged Nigerian journalists not to compound the already worsening security situation in the country by re-publishing the offensive French magazine cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.
While condemning the killing of the journalists who first published the cartoons and the reprisal killings and violence that followed in some other countries, Abubakar urged Nigerians not to let negative influences of the Western world cause disruption of peace in Nigeria.
He wished the Jonathan campaign team well in their endeavours as he prayed for peaceful and fair elections.
Jonathan had told the Sultan earlier that he was in the palace to formerly introduce himself and his vice as candidates in the 2015 general elections.
He assured the Sultan that the PDP-led government under his leadership was committed to transforming the country, noting that various interventions in agriculture and the education sector such as the the Almajeri programme were geared towards speedy economic growth.