The APC vice president elect Prof. Yemi Osinbajo answering questions during a town hall presidential meeting held at Hamdala Hotel Kaduna while opening up on what the APC stands for and plans it has for the good people of Nigeria.
The presidential candidate he said is a man of principle who on several occasions has emphasized on the unity of Nigeria. Repeatedly has he also stated that there is no state religion in Nigeria. This he has demonstrated in his recent commitment before the Catholic Bishops Conference where one of his commitments is ensuring that his government does not play a game of elevating one religion over the other. The inspiring and educating interactive session anchored by the articulate APC’s No. 2 citizen Prof. Yemi Osinbajo which availed people the opportunity to find answers to some burning national issues had the gathering of people of diverse opinions including religious leaders. Zainab Tanimu was there for Top Celebrities Magazine.
The use of religion to divide is a phenomenon that is trying to tear us apart. How is the APC going to bridge the division between the religious groups? How is the APC going to ensure that there is peace?
Let me say first of all that Gen. Buhari has committed himself to one principle. I don’t know whether you have seen the speech he made before the catholic bishop conference where he committed himself to one principle. That principle which is; the first business of government is to ensure the security of lives and properties of everybody of every faith. To ensure the security of places of worship, business and residences of people. When government fails in that responsibility and peoples’ lives, properties and places of worships are destroyed, government must compensate and rebuild. This is because government has cohesive powers. It has been given the police, soldiers and the rest. Thus, the need to compensate and rebuild, is the first commitment he has made.
The second one is that anybody involved in religious violence must face the court of law regardless of faith and where the person comes from.
He has also committed to the building of the national integration centers where Muslims and Christians and people of other faiths can interact and continue in dialogue all over the country. Buhari believes that confidence must be built among the faiths and that government would not play a game of elevating one religion over another.
How would you react to the allegation that in some places religion is used as a ploy to getting votes?
Probably that could be correct. I want to make a point clear that it is a policy of the ruling party to use religion and ethnicity to divide, for it is shown from the utterances of the ruling party. There was a time when the APC was described by the PDP’s PRO as a Muslim party. Imagine such an official organ of a party making such a statement, such false allegation. This is a national policy. This is a fake policy they have adopted on such a very important issue. The ruling party is using religion to divide. That is condemnable as such should all condemn it. We should not stand for it. We should not accept it be it people of any faith. I am a pastor but I do not accept that religion should be used to divide because when you use religion to divide, you are about to create the worst possible crisis countries can face anywhere. Look at what happened in Sudan. Not only has the country been divided, now, there is even further conflict in the Christian at present, so let us be mindful of those who are using religion as a state policy. One thing you can be sure about is that the APC has never used religion as a policy of our party. Never! And you would find it in no document. General Buhari has repeatedly said there is no state religion in Nigeria. We would not promote religious division. We would not. Even the vice president of Nigeria when he was campaigning has said that the ploy of the APC is to Christianize Nigeria because according to him I’m a pastor and I supervise 5000 churches. Imagine such an utterance. This should not be tolerated. We should never accept that. We of the APC would never ever do that. As far as we are concern, religion is a private issue and each and every one of us must respect the religion of one another. So, we would not use it in politics and we would not use it to divide.
Another area I want to stress as regards religion and division is that we must emphasize is that the problem of this country is in two folds; security and corruption. These are two big problems but corruption itself is the central problem even if security is the function of corruption. We must address corruption very clearly because there is no religion that accepts corruption, no religion accepts stealing of public funds neither Christianity nor Islam accepts any of these things. No religion allows you to steal the funds meant for catering for the poor or the poorest in our society and that is why we must have religious leaders condemn in the strongest possible term the corruption that is going on in our country. We must condemn it. The reason why we are where we are as a nation is because of corruption. That is why we cannot support the services that we need to perform to the poorest. Everybody knows that Gen. Buhari would fight corruption and that is why we are saying he’s the man for the job. If we don’t fight corruption, we would be in trouble.
For instance, in 2007, 2008 in this same country, oil prices went up to 147 then dropped to 38 dollars per barrel and we had savings of 62billion US dollars as external reserve. For 5years consistently oil prices were over a hundred dollars and external reserve at 32 billion. Half of what it was when oil prices were 38 dollars, what happens to the difference. We have said repeatedly that the government must account for the huge money that is missing. Why won’t the government account? That is why I am saying that this election is not about religion, is not about ethnicity, it’s about holding people to account for rubbing this nation, for taking the resources of this nation and not applying the resources to the common man. We must stand for the poor and the weak by challenging the ruling party to account.
How do we prevent what happened in 2011. That is the post election crisis?
Let me state categorically that Gen. Buhari has said repeatedly that he never at any time gave anybody instruction to go out and riot. That he could never had done so and he never did. Anyway, you must also not forget that in different part of Nigeria, in the South-West, in Ondo, when there was gubernatorial issue in 1983 in the West-West many of us can still remember the riot on the account of electoral malpractices. In APC even when elections were postponed, people were angry but we took the trouble to explain to all our electorates and our supporters that there must be no riot, no violence. This is what we intend to do, going forward. We intend to continue to preach peace and I would like to tell everyone of us here including our religious leaders just as the last speakers said that justice is important to people. Justice is the pre-condition for peace. It’s okay to tell people, peace, peace, peace but people must also feel that we represent justice and that we are ready to fight for justice for them. If we hold election that is not free and fair, it would be unfair to the people. So as religious leaders; as we preach peace to the people we must also confront the government. We must tell the government the truth; you hold the right to free election everywhere in the world especially in Africa. It is the ruling party that always insists that they would not leave office, because they don’t want to hold free and fair election, that is why elections are forged. Let us not wait for any kind of crisis or riot and start blaming people for going out. You hold the right to free election. This forthcoming election, make sure that they are free and fair. People are saying don’t use the military, court of appeal has said don’t use the military. Why do you want to use the military? We should ask the government this hard question. What have you done in the case of Ekiti state when government ministers were conniving with the military personnel to rig election? What have you done? We should ask the government this hard question. It is very unfair. Let us tell the ruling party what exactly is going on. Just the way you have spoken to us frankly, speak also to the ruling party frankly that you are the one to hold the key to peaceful election so they should make it free and fair. Do something about all the reports that we have been hearing. How can a government minister be heard on tape and the president dismisses it and one of the government minister is again being presented to the senate to be appointed again as minister? How, where does that happen in the world? Please let us as religious leaders bear also the conscience of this nation and let us speak truth to these individuals.