An electoral agent in Lagos, Nigeria, inspects the temporary voter card of a woman Feb. 10. CNS photo/Ahmed Jallanzo, EPA

Cardinal urges Nigerian candidates to avoid hate speech during campaign

By  Peter Ajayi Dada, Catholic News Service
  • February 25, 2015

ABUJA, Nigeria - Politicians should desist from hate speech and inciting Nigerians against each other during the campaign for general elections, said a Nigerian cardinal.

"The hot competition between political parties should not make them forget the common objective of justice, peace, prosperity, harmony, good governance and building a nation that we can all be proud of," said Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja.

"There should, therefore, not be room for negative campaigns. Insolent insults and caricatures should give way to rational discussion of issues that will serve all of us," he said at a Mass to open the plenary meeting of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria.

The cardinal commended Nigerian political parties for accepting the shift in the dates of the polls from Feb. 14 and Feb. 21 to March 28, for the presidential race and national assembly seats, and April 11, for state governors and legislatures. He urged them to use the extra time to change tactics, build relationships and trust among parties.

Earlier, the Church had announced it would send nearly 5,000 observers to monitor elections of 23 of 36 states.

The cardinal spoke on the theme of the assembly, "A good family makes a good nation." He assured Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who was at the Mass, that the Church would continue to pray for the country.

He said the importance of the family in nation-building could not be overemphasized, adding that was why Pope Francis had been calling on all Christians to pray for the family.

"Those who neglect their families because of business or politics will regret their short-sighted priorities," the cardinal said. "The growing rate of marriage breakdowns and a lot of dysfunctional homes, especially among our elites, should be a matter of grave concern.

"We should ask ourselves how people who cannot manage their homes can pretend to rule our nation; a good family makes a good nation," he said.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, president of the bishops' conference, said political parties should see themselves as individual families working for the good of the nation. He said the bishops would like to see the spirit of friendship and patriotism among the political parties so that Nigerians would be reassured that there was no hidden agenda.

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