President Goodluck Jonathan in Borno state

ABUJA—President Goodluck Jonathan has dismissed the idea of an Interim Government being insinuated by some people saying that such utterances amount to treason.

Speaking, yesterday, at the first 2015 plenary session of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), in Abuja, President Jonathan reiterated that the re-scheduled elections will hold on March 28 and April 11 as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The Catholic Arch Bishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan on his part urged the president to call his supporters to order in their hate speeches and campaigns.

President Jonathan said that having been elected with clear mandate of the people, there was no way he would push for an interim government, assuring that his personal ambition will never supersede the interest of the nation.

According to him: “Interim government is not known to the Nigerian constitution. I don’t have powers to redefine our constitution.

“There is no way Goodluck Jonathan, who was elected by the people with a clear mandate, will now go and head an interim government without a mandate.

“The only interim government that anybody can contemplate is a military government which, of course, will not be accepted.

“ECOWAS will not accept it, that is why we forced Burkina Faso to take the decision they took; AU will not accept it, the UN will not accept it and Nigerians will not in this present generation accept it.

“So any insinuation about interim government is treasonable and people should not talk about it. Elections will be conducted as scheduled by INEC,” he said.

He argued that Nigeria has had its unfair share of insecurity which also led to the postponement of the election but there was no going back on the new dates.

The president, who expressed worry over some media reports, especially on the social media, stressed that the nation must remain stable.

“The kind of statements we read in the media, especially in the social media, sometimes are worrisome. Is Nigeria going up in flames? But I am convinced that this country will continue to be stable,” he said, adding that the elections were postponed due to issues of insecurity and reaffirmed his commitment to the new dates.

Gombe attack

On the attack on Gombe State on February 14, the former date of the election, Jonathan expressed concern that the election could have been disrupted had it held on that day.

“Probably if INEC had gone ahead to conduct the elections, there would have been a major crisis in the North-East.

“It is better for us to conduct elections that are free and fair; elections that are credible, elections that will not be interrupted and there will be no crisis.

“I am pleased with what is happening in the North-East now; I am convinced that before March 28, this country will be in a position that no criminal element will disrupt our elections.

“I will not in any way because of my personal interest, do anything that will jeopardise the interest of our nation as a whole; Nigeria is bigger than anybody.

Nigeria’s unity

“There is no office that is more important than the unity of this country,” he said.

He expressed gratitude to Catholics, all Christians and other religious groups for their fervent prayers for Nigeria.

The CBCN President and Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Kaigama said: “The feverish, barren political campaigns do not allow room for a national family spirit and the quest to win elections at all cost contribute to heating up the political temperature.

“We are surprised that some people who are doing business elsewhere are moving back to their home towns for fear of political violence during the elections.”

On a strategic approach to ensure violence free 2015 elections, the Catholic Bishops called for continuous interaction between President Jonathan and All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.

Kaigama told the congregation: “We will like to see a friendly, social interaction between Mr President and Gen. Buhari and, if possible, with other aspirants where the issue is not elections, but a light-hearted conversation about the good of Nigeria.”

In his message, Cardinal Onaiyekan emphasised the need for a loving nucleus family in order to have a peaceful nation, a normal society and a morally upright society, adding that the nation needs to do more in promoting family life as a good family makes a goo d nation.

“Good families make a good nation. We can go even further to state that a good nation should be a family of families. The diversity of our nation is well known. But that is no reason why we cannot see ourselves as belonging to the same national family. Apart from the fact that the things we have in common far outweigh our differences, even those differences need not be causes for conflict and friction. If we acquire the habit of respecting one another, then our differences can become beauty to celebrate in harmony.

“Politics is very much in the air. It is a notable and sacred task meant to serve the common good of the family that is the nation. The hot competition between political parties should not make them forget the common objectives that everyone should be pursuing— justice, peace, prosperity, harmony, good order, building a nation we can all be proud of, etc. The differences are in strategies and priorities. These are what should be presented to us, positively and transparently, to guide our free choice at elections.

“There should therefore not be room for negative campaigns. Personal insults and caricatures should give way to rational discussion of issues that concern us all. Truth must be sacrosanct even in politics. Lies, deceit, calumnies cannot move us forward. They are the hallmarks of the bad politics which have not allowed us achieve the high level that we deserve as a nation. These are what build tensions, heat up the polity, spread dangerous rumours and cause deep distrust among rival political groups. This is not in the interest of our people”, he said.

Re-scheduled polls

On the rescheduled election, the cleric asked politicians to use the extra time to mend fences. He warned that the dates should not be violated to avoid dire consequences.

He said the President should be given the benefit of doubt when he assured that elections will be held and handover date remains sacrosanct.

“However one judges the wisdom or even justice of the postponement of the elections, we should commend the political parties for patiently accepting a “fait accompli” that seriously disrupted the plans – and maybe even budget – of many of them.

“The nation will nevertheless be better served if we use the unexpected extra time to work for better outcome in our elections. Can we spend the time left to change attitudes, repair broken relationships and build trust. For example, Mr. President has declared publicly that he is committed to a free and fair election. While we believe him, we hope that he will not allow any of his supporters to poison this his holy resolve.

“In the same vein, he has declared that not only May 29 but also March 28 and April 11 are sacrosanct dates. There is no question of any new shift of dates. By the same token, he has excluded any idea of a much speculated “interim government” for which there is, is any case, no provisions in our constitution. These are sacred declarations from our President, which cannot be violated without the kind of serious consequence that is in nobody’s interest. It would be better, therefore, that we give Mr. President the benefit of the doubt and stop sowing doubts that only raise tensions and create avoidable anxieties”.

He said, “The clergy should lead in this regard. As spiritual fathers to all for the common good, they should avoid reckless and politically partisan utterances, liable to compromise their sacred role and confuse the flock. We commend and encourage our lay members who have decided to take on the apostolate of public life, in the spirit of service and not for selfish aims. As catholic politicians, they should be witnesses to the truth, justice and peace that are the hallmark of our Catholic Social Teaching. If it is often said that “politics is dirty”, they should dare to be different, armed with God’s grace, and play a clean game, even at the cost of being declared losers at the polls.”

Senate President, David Mark in his remarks said the postponement of the elections has become a blessing in disguise, as many Nigerians would have been disenfranchised. He added: “I want to be re-elected but I don’t want to go through the back door. There is no place for interim government in our constitution, so nobody should contemplate it.”

The Papal Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Augustine Kasujja expressed worry over the pervading rate of extremism and terrorism around the country.

Kasujja urged Nigeria to brace up the challenges of raising good families, as the prevailing outcome of terrorism emanated from broken homes.

Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, represented by the Primate of Anglican Communion, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh called for a united front in building good families for the better of society.

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