Ahead of the rescheduled presidential elections next month, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has intensified its mobilisation of Islamic clerics in the Northeast geo-political zone.
The party organized a huge meeting under the banner of “sensitisation and mobilisation of Islamic clerics on non-violence 2015 elections”. It was the culmination of events including visits to the clerics by Jonathan’s Campaign officials in the seven states that make up the Northwest zone.
The meeting, which was also attended by Vice President Namadi Sambo, saw 3,500 participants – mainly Imams and Islamic clerics – queuing up to collect gift packs, which was said to include cash.
It was learnt that the Senior Special Assistant on Islamic Matters to President Goodluck jonathan, Alhaji Tahir Umar Tahir, led the lobbying team to the Islamic clerics.
Tahir and his team started visiting Imams in their homes and mosques since Friday to persuade them to attend the meeting and support President Jonathan, it was learnt.
At the meeting, he donated N500,000 to Initiative for Muslim Women of Nigeria (IMWON) at NUT Endwell Auditorium, Magadisu Layout in Kaduna and four desktop computers to the organisation to mark the graduation of young Muslim women, who were trained by IMWON in different skills.
The vice president, who addressed participants at the meeting, said the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) is not a religious bigot.
Dispelling the notion that the APC flag bearer is a religious bigot, Sambo told the gathering that a few days ago, Buhari met with Christian leaders from the North and even accepted a gift of Bible from them, which he described as a good precedent of peaceful co-existence and religious harmony.
Sambo, who addressed the gathering in Hausa, added: “So, people should desist from making such unpleasant comments about politics and religion”.
He said the meeting was a clear demonstration that Nigerians must live together irrespective of their religion or ethnic background because God would have made all Nigerians Muslims or Christians if he so desired.
“From our independence in 1960, it has always been Muslims and Christains working together; Sir Tafawa Balewa worked with Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe and Second Republic President Alhaji Shehu Shagari worked with Dr. Alex Ekwueme. Ex-President Olusegun Obsanjo worked with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the Late Umaru Yar’ Adua worked with Goodluck Jonathan and Today by Allah’s will, I am Jonathan’s Vice President. All these show that Christians and Muslims in Nigeria are neighbours and nobody can separate them”.
The vice president said the nation could not afford to have a repeat of what happened in 2011 hence there was the need for restraint from politicians and their followers.
“You as spiritual leaders of our people who have a great role to play for the nation to have peaceful elections. I challenge you to go out from here and reach out to your followers and preach the message of peace during the election”.