The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) says the country’s democratic process ahead of the 2023 general elections is threatened by religious and ethnic sentiments.
NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed stated this in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja.
Baba-Ahmed argued that these sentiments would frustrate the capacity of the country to turn around its fortunes in 2023.
He accused politicians of desperately dividing Nigerians into two irreconcilable religious and ethnic divides in a bid to garner undeserved advantages during elections.
Baba-Ahmed stated that the controversy surrounding the Muslim-Muslim ticket indicates that politicians will not allow the country’s democratic system to grow beyond the narrowest of confinements.
He said, “These developments threaten our already distressed democratic process. Our politics now operates outside safe and tolerable boundaries, and the nation will pay dearly for the desperation and limitations of those who ought to show leadership and responsibility among our politicians.
“It is not responsible to resist the urge to caution politicians only on the ground that many matters that will impact on our lives and the quality of our national existence are purely internal affairs of political parties.
“The search for a running mate for the APC’s presidential candidate with the religious faith of two individuals as the sole issue at stake represents a sad reminder that our politicians will not allow our democratic system to grow beyond the narrowest of confinements.
“Nigerians take their faith seriously, but we are also painfully aware that the faith of our leaders has never been a factor in the manner we are governed. The political manoeuvres in the APC now divert attention from serious issues around the quality of governance and point to the danger that we are a multi-religious country whose citizens will pay dearly if one politician is not a Christian or Muslim.”
Baba-Ahmed also weighed in on the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the alliance talks between the Labour Party (LP) and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) which broke down.
He said: “The melodrama around a selection of the PDP’s presidential candidate’s running mate, and the role of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike will remain constant reminders that power and wealth, irrespective of how they are acquired, have made our political process hostage.
“The ransom that will be paid to free our democratic process may be such that the nation cannot afford it. Our nation is being carved into strongholds controlled by powerful individual politicians who must be placated at all cost, and we will pay a huge price if these politicians succeed in stamping their personalities into the democratic process.
“Among a handful of other parties with the potential to make a difference, ethnicity and greed are threatening to frustrate the emergence of a nation with the capacity to turn around its fortunes in 2023.
“Instead of exploring options and opportunities that will improve their chances of giving Nigerians real and credible, we only witness frightening levels of hostility and ethnic chauvinism, as we saw recently in exchanges between Labour Party and NNPP leaders. Ethnic identity in particular looks capable of being elevated to a point where it alone can cripple a successful transition to 2023 and beyond.
“Our politics has become an additional burden on the Nigerian citizen, even dwarfing the spreading insecurity, poverty and cynicism over the prospects of our survival as one nation. If the way our politicians are seeking power is any indicator of the quality of leadership they will provide, then the nation has a very genuine reason to worry over its future. Other leaders representing particular interests compound our worries with periodic threats and ultimatums that an already weakened leadership has no solution for.
“The prospects for the safe conduct of electoral activities and a free and fair election are being threatened by the conduct of our politicians. We must find the resolve and the strength to step back and pull the nation away from its current precarious position. What is at stake is more than an election. It is the survival of our country.”