The Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province on Wednesday called for the strengthening of the nation’s electoral processes in order to move the country forward.
The church, which comprises of Ibadan Archdiocese, Ilorin, Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti and Osogbo Dioceses, made the call in a communique issued in Ado-Ekiti, jointly signed by it’s Chairman, Most Rev. ‘Leke Abegunrin and Secretary, Most Rev. John Oyejola.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the communique was issued after a meeting held at the Domus Pacis Pastoral Institute, Igoba, Akure, Ondo from July 19 to July 20.
The communique said the ongoing electoral reforms by the present administration provided another opportunity for reviving the hopes of the people and confidence in the nation’s democracy.
According to the communique, the high level of despondency in Nigeria may make people to lose hope and zeal for democracy.
It stated that such development was, however, not a good solution toward sustaining the nation’s democratic system.
The communique said education of the people that participate in building and promoting democracy remained an integral part of the electoral reforms which was often times ignored.
“An important part of electoral reform, which is often ignored, is the education of the people who participate in building democracy.
“Only participation in the political process and adherence to the rule of law offer an enduring means of authentic change but people must be helped to understand this fact.
“We urge the media and civil society groups to sustain this education agenda so that Nigeria can reap the full benefits therefrom.
“We also urge our people to register and obtain their voter cards.
“Only this grants them the power to exercise their rights to determine who governs them from time to time.
“Our country will greatly benefit from this,” the communique added.
The communique also expressed the church’s displeasure with the recent alleged attack on the media by the National Assembly, saying, “only the truth can set the country free.
“We declare again, as we have done often in the past, that only the truth can set us free.
“The attempt of the Nigerian National Assembly to silence the press and penalise journalists for merely doing their job is to be completely rejected.
“We hold that the freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, guaranteed by the constitution and cannot be alienated by any government least of all in a democracy.
“For the sake of our democracy, that right exercised with responsibility, must be protected.
“We support Bishop Kukah (Matthew) in his effort to unveil the truth about the Nigerian situation in order to ameliorate things.
“We call on the Nigerian government to learn not to see criticism as an attack or a crime,” the communique added.