Matthew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Thursday, decried the cheap values accorded human lives in the country.
This is as thousands of lives have been wasted in the country since the inception of the present administration by Boko Haram insurgents and other militia groups.
Kukah, who spoke on “Electoral Violence in Nigeria: Causes, Consequences and Options for Prevention,” said killings no longer make meanings to people so long as those killed were not from their ethnic nationalities.
Speaking during a one-day conference organised by the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation in Abuja, he said “We have refused to confront the realities of our time,” drawing the attention of the nation’s leaders to Zimbabwe which recently declared a national tragedy over the killing of her six citizens.
The clergy man who was a lead speaker at the occasion harped on the need for government at various levels in the country to provide social services to the populace, arguing that violence was nothing but a reflection of deep frustration in the society.
He, however, raised concerns over people using the social media to cause violence, calling for caution on their part.
On their part, former President, Goodluck Jonathan and ex-Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, urged leaders in the country to learn from history and put Nigeria first in their actions and utterances.
Jonathan, who spoke of the need for political leaders, particularly those seeking elective offices not to let their ambitions set the nation on fire, said without peace, no meaningful development could be achieved.
According to him, the world is watching Nigeria and all effort must be mustered to make the polls violent-free across the nation.
He warned of dire implications for the Africa sub-region should the elections go wrong, adding that as part of his commitment to deepening democracy in Nigeria and the African continent; the foundation would continue to explore avenues to encourage African leaders on the virtues of service and sacrifice.
Giving his remarks at the conference which has “Peaceful elections and national development,” as its theme, Jonathan also called on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and security personnel to be professional in the discharge of their responsibilities before, during and after the elections.
He said: “For democracy to endure and be productive on the continent, African politicians and other stakeholders must realize that true heroes of leadership are not those whose desperation to impose their will endangers society, but those who have the humility to subjugate their personal ambitions to the collective interest of their nations.
“Our political leaders must realize that the greatest and most enduring legacy to leave behind is that of peace and development.
“We are convinced that any one, either in government or outside government, who truly loves Nigeria, will not want to play the role of the villain by lending his support to any action that instigates crises.
“There is no gainsaying that when politicians resort to desperate measures in the bid to occupy important political positions, they run the risk of plunging their countries into serious crises that often lead to loss of lives, degradation of values as well as destruction of private and public assets.”
Jonathan counselled leaders to remember that failure to make the democratic process peaceful always make growth difficult to attain.
On his part, General Abubakar, retd, tasked the nation’s leaders to imbibe the lessons of 2015, stressing that while the enemies of Nigeria predicted doom, the nation disappointed them by conducting a transparent election that ushered in the incumbent government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We all recall the tension in Nigeria during the 2015 elections where the doomsayers were predicting the balkanization of Nigeria but thank God, through the action of Nigerians and the then President, Goodluck Jonathan; they were proved wrong because the gentleman kept his word that his Presidency was not worth the blood of any Nigerian and he graciously conceded defeat at that election,” Abubakar noted.
Abubakar, who is the chairman, National Peace Commission, said effort must be made to make the 2019 polls the most peaceful in the history of the nation.
In his remarks, the special guest of honour and former President of Liberia, Professor Amos Sawyer, said Nigerians must not see the presence of world leaders in the country as an intrusion, saying elections in Africa’s most populous nation meant a lot to the West African sub region.
He said: “Nigeria’s role in West Africa makes election in this country is very critical. So elections in Nigeria cannot be seen solely as a Nigeria’s affairs.”
Sawyer added that the trouble currently rattling the nation’s judiciary should be resolved in accordance with the provisions of the law.
“Nigerian judiciary has been in the news for quite sometimes now in a manner that is of deep concern. It is our hope that the issues involved are resolved in a manner that will leave the integrity of the judiciary intact,” he added.
Dignitaries present at the event included Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the Special Representatives of the United Nations Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel, Professor Al-Hassan Conteh, the Liberian Ambassador to Nigeria, Solomon Arase, former Inspector-General of Police, Boni Haruna, erstwhile Adamawa state governors and Bello Haliru, former Defence Minister.
Others included Mrs. Patience Jonathan, wife of President Jonathan; Mike Oghiadomhe, ex-Chief of Staff to President Jonathan and former Edo State Deputy Governor; Bashir Yuguda, a one-time Minister of state (Finance) and Charles Oputa (Charley Boy), popular entertainer cum activist, among others.