11th February, 2015
The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Muhammadu Buhari has re-affirmed his commitment towards ensuring that Nigeria remains a multi-religious state where every individual is free to practice his or her religion of choice.
Speaking at what Bishop Ignatius Kaigama, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria christened an “Episcopal” Town Hall Conversation with representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, General Buhari stated that although he had been severally and consistently vilified and maligned, he had no personal religious agenda and neither would he support any moves by anybody or group of persons to either Christianise or Islamise Nigeria.
In his speech titled “One Nation bound in Freedom, Peace, Unity and Love”, Buhari, who was accompanied by his running mate Pastor Yemi Osinbajo, the Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Governor Rotimi Amaechi and a host of other members of the party’s PCC, stressed he “will not condone any initiative that seeks to promote one religion over the other.”
Earlier in his welcome speech, Bishop Kaigama, who is also the Archbishop of Jos, said that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria believes in the unity and progress of this country and regretted the wide communication chasm that exists between the leaders and the people. He hoped that the conversation was an indication of the willingness to establish a sustainable communication platform.
In a series of boisterous exchanges, the Bishops variously expressed their concern with the falling education standards in Nigeria, wide spread corruption, violence in the polity, insurgency and the worrisome security situation in the country, amongst others.
Reacting, General Buhari traced the cause of these challenges to unemployment. In his view, “in a country where a large percentage of the younger generation is unemployed and where no immediate respite is in sight, these challenges are prone to abound. Give them self improvement opportunities; offer them a view of a greater tomorrow and all these will be in the past.”
Buhari assured that his government will pursue a well planned agricultural programme in conjunction with development of the rural areas to exploit the multiplier benefits of agriculture, empower citizens and curtail rural-urban drift. He also stated that the solid mineral exploration and exploitation would be given a boost to generate employment.
On fighting corruption, General Buhari maintained that “we already have laws and institutions empowered to fight against corrupt practices. All we need is the will to activate these structures and utilize them appropriately.”
He further stated that Nigeria’s potential for greatness will become evident again and be more appreciated not long after he steps into office.