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Nigeria’s Religious Leaders to Persuade Losing Presidential Candidates


Religious leaders in the northern Nigeria are reportedly planning to persuade the two main presidential candidates who lost in the April presidential election to drop their legal challenge against President Umaru Yar'Adua. The religious leaders held a meeting and reportedly resolved to calm tensions brewing in the country due to the disputed outcome of the elections, which has been widely condemned as flawed. Opposition party supporters have questioned the rationale behind the religious leaders’ attempt. Meanwhile President Umaru Yar'Adua has said that he will begin major reforms in the country’s electoral system once the electoral tribunals conclude their work on disputes that arose out of the April elections.

Lai Mohammed is the spokesman for the Action Congress party. From the capital, Abuja he tells VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey that the party is not ready to drop its legal challenge against the election of President Umaru Yar'Adua.

“I think they are within their democratic rights to try to persuade both Atiku Abubakar and General Buhari to drop their petition. But the truth of the matter is that this matter is one, on a party level and two on a personal level… in our own case I know that at least Atiku Abubakar is the first plaintiff and senator Benotbi is the second plaintiff and AC as a party is the third plaintiff. And as such, withdrawing the cases from court will mean that the party must meet and agree and also the presidential candidates and their running mates must also agree to withdraw the cases… and as of today, I know that no such decision has been taken,” Mohammed pointed out.

He said the party is in no haste to withdraw the court case, which challenges the legitimacy of President Yar'Adua.

“I believe very sincerely that the Action Congress would look at the entire ramification, and look at the long term objective of the party and the country before taking any such decision,” he said.

Mohammed said people who are calling on the party to withdraw its court challenge are not seeking the good of the country.

“I think those who are of that view… (It’s) the same kind of statement that has led Nigeria in its sordid past, this willingness at every turn to compromise, this readiness every time not to see matters to its logical conclusion. On the contrary, the true patriots are those in the Action Congress who believe that the country must be given a clean beginning. And that you cannot build legitimacy on illegitimacy. I think we are the true patriots,” he noted.

He said although he welcomes President Yar'Adua’s admission of problems associated with his election, the problems should not be left unresolved.

“I would very much appreciate President Yar'Adua’s statement, necessarily his admission that the election itself was flawed. But what we do not appreciate is that this matter should be swept under the carpet. We believe that we should allow the matter to take its full course and let there be a judicial pronouncement,” Mohammed said.

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