Cleric to Nigerians: Vote wisely, Nigeria more important than your political party

By Leonard Okachie
 A Catholic cleric, Bishop Michael Ukpong, has advised Nigerians to vote for a presidential candidate that has the capacity and competence to solve the multiple challenges facing the country and not for political party.
Ukpong gave the advice on Sunday, while delivering a homily in his first official Mass as the new Bishop of the Umuahia Catholic Diocese at Mater Dei Cathedral Parish, Umuahia.
He said: “Nigeria is more important than your political party and personal political aspiration.
“The country must first exist before political parties and your political ambition.
“Our problem in Nigeria is selfishness.
“People only think about themselves and their personal interest and not about others both in public and private spheres.
“Our problem is in our hand but we have the capacity to change our situation.
“So this time around, let us all be very careful who we vote for.
“If we do not get it right this time around, we have endangered our lives and future.
“If you are a child of God and a Christian, be honest to yourself and vote according to your conscience,” the clergyman said.
He urged every registered voter to come out on each election day to cast their vote for the right leaders.
“If God has kept us alive until the 2023 General Elections, we must make sure we vote and vote according to our conscience.
“Any registered voter that refuses to vote is a saboteur. He is an anti-Christ and anti-Christian,” Ukpong said.
He said that unlike previous elections in the country, the 2023 General Elections would be positively different.
He said that he was fully convinced  that votes would count this time around.
He further advised the electorate to resist the temptation to sell their votes, no matter the amount of financial inducement.
“When you sell your vote, you have sacrificed the salary of workers, good road, electricity and other projects that government ought to provide for the people.
“Supposing at the election ground, somebody offers you N100,000, it certainly may be too tempting for you to resist.
“However, what you should know is that you have been paid off and won’t be remembered again until another election year.
“Besides, when you multiply 365 days by four years and divide by N100,000, you are getting barely N68 (less than N100) per day for the next four years.
“Do not sell your birthright. Your vote is your birthright. You should not sell it for a plate of porridge.
“Remember that it was for a plate of porridge that Jacob sold his birthright to his younger brother, Esau,” the bishop said.
He further admonished the electorate not to vote based on party affiliation but to be circumspect in choosing whom to vote for.
According to him, like the Jews, the upcoming election provides an opportunity for Nigerians to chose between Jesus Christ and Barnabas.
He recalled that the Jews rejected Jesus and asked that Barnabas, a criminal and murderer, be released to them.
“So they voted for insecurity, poverty, deprivation and hunger,” Ukpong said.
He decried the current economic hardship in the country and hoped that the sorry situation should help the electorate to make a good choice.
The cleric also reprimanded politicians who hire unemployed youths as thugs to snatch ballot boxes and rig elections for them, describing the practice as condemnable.
“And for our young men, who allow themselves to be used as thugs, you should ask yourselves, where are the children of the politicians that hire you?
“Unfortunately, once you finish doing the dirty job, the politician goes his way and never remembers you again because he believes he had paid you off,” Ukpong said.
Meanwhile, the cleric has eulogised the Chief Whip of the Senate, Sen. Orji Kalu, for attracting meaningful developmental projects to Abia North.
Ukpong, who hails from Ohafia in Abia North, affirmed that Kalu had facilitated the building of many roads in the area and deserved to be appreciated.
“If other political office holders had made similar impact in their areas, Abia would have been a better place,” he said.
He, however, recalled that as governor of the state, Kalu might not have met the expectations of the generality of the citizenry.
“I am sure that you are older now than you were as a governor and if given the opportunity again, there are things you did then that you could have done differently and better now,” the bishop said.
He thanked the lawmaker for finding it expedient to attend his first official Mass as the Umuahia diocesan bishop.
In a remark, Kalu said that he was billed to attend the bishop’s inauguration on February 2, but could not make it due to a last minute engagement.
He congratulated Ukpong on his elevation from Auxiliary Bishop to a substantive bishop of Umuahia diocese.
He also commended Ukpong’s predecessor, Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji, who is now the Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, for being instrumental for the smooth succession process.
He expressed joy over the robust partnership between the church and government in the state, describing it as healthy for the overall development of Abia.
He announced a donation of N5 million toward the maintenance of the cathedral church complex and additional N2.5 million to the bishop to assist him in settling down in his new office.
He promised that the donations would be spread over five months, with N1 million and half-a-million naira, respectively each month. (NAN)