We Won't Vote, Seventh-day Adventists Vows
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Nigeria, a church group that observes Saturday as its day of worship, has decried the disenfranchisement of its members by successive governments of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Just like the case of those on special duties such as the police, nurses and several others, Adventists, through the years have had their civic rights of voting impinged upon by the governments, despite being citizens of a society that preaches freedom of worship.
Besides being disenfranchised during electioneering periods, several other policies of the government such as the environmental sanitation, fixing of major examinations dates on Saturdays and several others, directly encroaches on their rights of worship as citizens of the country.
Even though their demands have not been heeded by the governments, they are not leaving it lying low, as records indicate that they have been making frantic efforts and representations to the Federal Government.
In the words of the President of the Northern Nigeria Union Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists Church, Pastor Stephen Bindas, who is in charge of 18 states of the federation including Abuja, "it is a deliberate way to frustrate Adventists, but as peace loving people, we have resolved not to go confrontational but to pray and ask God to intervene:
"When the General Conference President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church came all the way from the United States and visited President Goodluck Jonathan in Aso Rock, we mentioned the issue of elections on Saturdays and he asked me, what is the membership of the church in Nigeria? I answered about 500,000 members, apart from Sabbath school members and children, which means if we are to include our Sabbath school members and children, it will be about a million and he said, that is a good number.
"President Jonathan then said the issue of election is not his own alone, that it has to go through legislations. And recently, I sent a message to the chaplain of Aso Rock, Venerable Onwuzurumba, who is my friend, asking him to please remind the President of the complaints we lodged about Adventists. He didn't reply the text and till today, he never said anything. I also remember that our lawyers have made submissions, even during the recent confab, asking the governments to fix elections on ordinary days. Nothing has come out of it.
"And of course the constitution recognises the freedom of worship. So it means we can throw the constitution away when it pleases us. And I want to say that this is the reason we cannot have credible elections in Nigeria since about 500,000 people are denied their rights to vote," he said, adding; "It is not fair for a country like this that we are preaching democracy; we should give everybody the chance to vote. But if the government refuses, we don't have any choice but to report ourselves to God, who only can change situations."
Also, Secretary, Nigerian Union Mission, Maryland, Lagos, Pastor Ezekiel Atolagbe Adeleye, condemned the act in strong words, saying; "we are all citizens of Nigeria and have our civic rights. We have to serve God according to the dictates of our conscience. Elections should be fixed on ordinary days when everybody will be able to vote.
Adeleye said that on their part, they cannot force government but will continue to appeal to them:
"Maybe, one day, God will touch them. As a rule, law abiding citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, are joining voices with Adventists the world over to appeal to the government of the federation to respect the tenets of the constitution which allows for freedom of worship to all of its citizens," he said.
Labels: Seventh-day Adventists