President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday denied accusations of religious bias leveled against him and charged religious leaders to work towards building a strong and united country by avoiding insinuations that divide Nigerians along religious lines.
He made the appeal at the State House, Abuja, on Thursday, when he received a delegation of the Arewa Pastors Non-Denominational Initiative for Peace in Nigeria (APPIN) led by Bishop John Abu Richard.
In his response to the address presented by the clerics, Buhari said that religious leaders had the responsibility of creating enabling environment for peace and development to thrive, just as he had done anytime he had the opportunity to serve Nigeria.
His words: “Some voices, for political or ethnic reasons, are making unguarded statements accusing the government and myself in particular of religious bias.
“Let me assure you, honourable clergymen that this is far from the truth. In my career as a soldier, administrator and politician, I have never veered from my oath of office.
“When I had the honour to lead a military government, there were more Christians than Muslims in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the Supreme Military Council (SMC).
“This was not by design. I appointed people on their merit, without the slightest bias. The present Federal Executive Council is also evenly balanced; again not by design but by respecting and rewarding individual qualities”.
The President said that he was delighted at the clergymen’s plan to hold a one-day prayer and fasting meeting for the country on April 26, 2018.
Buhari told his guests that he would direct the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to provide adequate security for the gathering.
In his remarks, the delegation leader said that more than 45,000 pastors in the North had registered with APPIN, to use their pulpits for the propagation of the gospel of peace, and shun political distractions.
He urged other pastors to support the Buhari administration as it works towards ending the violence in various parts of the country and avoid politically-coloured sermons.
Bishop Abu decried the situation where “people use the church to preach violence”, and asked that “if you preach war and war broke out, who will go to church for worship?”
The group congratulated President Buhari on his efforts to revive the economy, with the boom in the agricultural sector, tackling of insecurity, and the fight against corruption.