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Priest warns against using religion as campaign tool

The National Coordinator of the Progressive Pastors Platform, Reverend Adebayo Ayokunle, has called on religious leaders to encourage their members and supporters to campaign as Nigerians and not as Christians or Muslims, urging them to refrain from campaign only for candidates who favor their religion or ethnic group.

According to Reverend Ayokunle in a statement to Kaduna on Sunday, experience has shown that such expectations are unrealistic.

The statement noted that the platform observed with keen interest the religious sentiments and turmoil that greeted the emergence of candidates from different parties.

He said the platform recognizes the fact that everyone, including religious leaders, has the right to belong to and vote for any political party or candidate they choose, adding that no religious leader or group of religious leaders in any form or umbrella have any legal right or spiritual right to coerce, cajole, coerce or manipulate their members or supporters into hating or despising any political party or candidate.

“This is clearly contrary to the message of love and peace that is at the heart of the religions we profess.

“As religious leaders, we must recognize the fact that we have a mixed population of citizens belonging to different religions with different denominations and sects. So, regardless of our personal opinions and preferences, we have a sacred and patriotic divine duty to minimize the issues that divide us and focus more on issues that serve our common interests as Nigerian citizens.

“As we run our campaigns, we encourage all Nigerians to promote only candidates who have good leadership records, proven ability, programs and policies that will benefit all Nigerians, because any the world, regardless of religion or tribe, will benefit from the government that emerges under either party.

“Furthermore, we Nigerians should note that if we desire to have outstanding leaders, then the misconception that a political party or candidate is for or against a particular religion or tribe MUST be discarded.

“Such views are born out of political ignorance, misinformation and/or outright mischief and should be cast out of our society.

“From historical facts and present day experiences, all Nigerians should know that our present state of underdevelopment has been caused by bad rulers of all religions and tribes.”