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“Catholic Church does not play partisan politics”: Nigerian Priest Ahead of Elections

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The leadership of the Catholic Church “does not play partisan politics”, a Nigerian Priest has sought to clarify ahead of his country’s general elections scheduled to take place next year. 

Addressing journalists at a media briefing on January 28 ahead of the Communication Week, Fr. Uche Obiechina said, “Catholic Church does not play partisan politics but members of the church are expected to play party politics, just that the church as an institution ought not to play party politics.”

“Party politics means politics of APC, PDP, PRP and whatever,” Fr. Obiechina said in reference to various political parties in Nigeria, and added, “The church cannot play such politics, because there are members of the church that are in APC, PDP or PRP. Because of this we cannot identify with any political party."

The Priest who oversees the Church and Society department at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) noted that what the Church does is to “recognize individual church members and to encourage them (to) participate actively in politics but not to support the parties.”

“The Church identifies with our sons and daughters in various political parties. And that is why the church will not field a candidate and say vote for PDP or APC. The church does not do that and would not do that,” he said.

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Fr. Obiechina said that what the church was doing is to “encourage its members to go and register, participate in party politics, contest and vote in the election.”

“Our members are to vote for any man or woman of their choice who satisfies their conscience and values in truth, in honesty, in fair play and justice,” the Nigerian Catholic Priest said, and added, “The Church is mobilizing Christians and non-Christians to rise up to the reality of politics.”

“It is through politics and governance that you can bring about the common good and our country is in dire need because we have had terrible politics and party apathy amongst a good number of our Christians who will say politics is a dirty game, I don't want to be involved in it. If you don't get involved in it, then you are going to have the dirty men involved in it rule you and you become a victim,” he observed. 

Fr. Obiechina further said Christians who claim that they are clean should go into politics “to help clean up the system.”

Reflecting on the amended Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the Nigerian Priest said the Catholic Church is advising the President “to ensure the conduct of the election respects known symbols of operation and practices that will guarantee free and fair election.”

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“The government of the day is dilly-dallying on assenting to this bill. We are against such dilly-dallying. The President should assent to the bill because the bill provides for regulations that will ensure transparency of practice during election and even after elections,” Fr. Obiechina said.

On his part the National Director of Social Communication, Fr. Michael Nsikak Umoh, said the Catholic church is “eagerly waiting for the next administration that would not give room for trading blames nor for petty partisanship that are defined along tribal, ethnic, religious or political affiliation.”

“These tools in the hands of typical politicians have been used for too long to mesmerize and exploit the people. Most politicians use them as a smokescreen to hide their clandestine interests and ambitions,” Fr. Umoh said.

The Nigerian Catholic Priest urged citizens to shun politicians that play the dual cards of religion and ethnicity as a “smokescreen for their sinister interest" adding that "Nigeria cannot afford to elect such people in 2023.”

“The only reasonable political consideration left to choose from, irrespective of tribe, tongue and religious beliefs, is between truth and falsehood, the good and the bad, the oppressed and the oppressor, the loyal and disloyal citizens of Nigeria. These are the only two parties that matter in the country now,” Fr. Umoh said.

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He added, “Now, more than ever, is the time true Nigerians must rise in unison to act and lend their voices to all that is good and noble in order to save our country. It is time to wise up and correct mistakes of the past that have plunged the nation into the excruciating pains we now experience.”

“We cannot wait for another chance, if we are blessed to have this one; and we may not have another chance to rescue this nation if we fail to take advantage of this one,” the National Director of Social Communication in Nigeria said.

He encouraged the electorate in Nigeria to take part in the poll saying, “Every good citizen of Nigeria must go out to obtain their voter’s card, while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must ensure that the process is made easy for the people, and the people’s votes are made to count during the election.”