The catholic Bishops conference of Nigeria has set aside April 4th for prayers and fasting for the welfare of the nation. A spokesman for the bishops says they want God to guide Nigeria through the upcoming elections. Rev. Simon Okafor is a member of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria. He is also the bishop of Awka diocese in southeastern Nigeria.
He says the bishops want Nigeria to conduct free and fair elections. "Asking for this prayer is in consonance with the normal way the church does things when an important event is on," Bishop Okafor says. "The church normally supports it with prayers. So it is nothing extraordinary, except that as you know, the nation is going to face elections very soon and we need the intervention, the direction, God's grace, so that will come out well."
Bishop Okafor calls on politicians to play the game according to the rules. "by the end of the day, we will like everybody to abide by divine inspiration, to carry out, do things the way God will want them, peaceful way, the security of lives and property, all these are concerns, honesty in voting, according to conscience, no bribing, no rigging of election, its in order that God may direct human affairs, things will work out according to his divine plan."
Politicians are reacting to the special prayers and fasting planned by the bishops. One of them is Magnus Pepple, a member of the All Nigeria Peoples' Party or ANPP in Rivers State in the Niger Delta region. Mr. Pepple who did not want his voice recorded says the level of political violence in the country requires divine intervention. He says the special prayers by the bishops is a step in the right direction and calls on the government to ensure adequate security in the country.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo says the government will ensure that the lives and property of the people are protected. Mr. Obasanjo says security agencies in the country have been trained and equipped to do their job during and after the general elections.
But Bishop Okafor calls on Nigerian politicians and voters to trust in God. "Nigerians should try to cooperate with God's will in this matter of choosing who should rule. First of all to have values that are worthwhile. If you are ruler, you rule for the welfare of the people, common good always respected, that's what we desire, so that there may be peace, there will be justice, everybody getting his due and there will be peace in the nation."
He says with God's intervention, Nigeria will conduct free and fair elections.