Elections: Religious leaders tackle Ibiyeomie over comments on corps members

The College of Bishops, Imams and Clergy Councils of Nigeria (CBICC) has slammed the General Overseer of Salvation Ministries, Pastor David Ibiyeomie, over comments on the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), members that participated as ad-hoc staff at the just concluded February 25, 2023 presidential election.

The group alleged that Ibiyeomie described the NYSC members as ‘fraud.’

Reacting to the comments, the convener of CBICC, Bishop Abel Oduma Joshua, in a statement signed on Monday in Abuja urged the clergy to apologize to serving Corp members.

Joshua noted that such utterances will double their risk of being attacked by criminal elements.

The statement reads, “As a faith-based organisation with a mandate to promote unity amongst the various religions as well as peaceful co-existence amongst Nigerians irrespective of religious beliefs, it is important we speak up and appeal to Nigerians to tone down their rhetorics.

“We are particularly concerned with religious leaders, highly placed Nigerians to use their positions of influence to advance national interest rather make utterances capable of inciting hatred.

“Our attention has been drawn to comments made by the General Overseer of Salvation Ministries, Pastor David Ibiyeomie while ministering to a multitude of worshipers in Port Harcourt, Rivers state.

“To insinuate that all Corps members who participated in the just concluded elections as frauds who must not be employed without careful scrutiny. In making such wild statements, the pastor forgot to appreciate the immense sacrifices of the Corps members who have volunteered to serve the nation and the enormous risk they are exposed to based on pure patriotism.

“In keeping with the teachings of Apostle Paul, Pastor Ibiyeomie is supposed to have known that leadership comes from God and that participation in civic duties is a divine duty to God and the nation just like the payment of tithes. To single out Corps members who volunteered to serve the nation for ridicule and attack over an election they risked their lives to conduct does not speak well of a man who is called by God to be the shepherd.

“As a pastor whose ministry is dedicated to the salvation of souls, it is sad that Ibiyeomie chose to rather destroy the souls, psychology and future of Corps members in the country probably because his candidate of choice did not win the presidential elections.

“The unfortunate thing is that most of those who listened to that message may have already made up their minds to see every Corps member as a fraud and will not hesitate to treat them as such. This is an incitement to violence and a threat to national security.

“Nigerians must beware of pastors who deviate from their core spiritual values and dabble into politics and or enjoy political patronage to an extent that it affects the sense of judgement and morals.

“Turning the altar to a platform for political discourse weakens the resolve of members who are not of the same persuasion with you. In fact, of all places, the church is supposed to be a neutral place of worship and consolation.

“The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to which Pastor Ibiyeomie is a beneficiary has come through for Nigeria in very trying periods in the history of Nigeria.

“It’s possible that Salvation Ministries has over the years engaged the services of Corps members in her churches and schools and other business interests.

“For the all the good works Corps members have done in the area of health, education, community development and general administration, none of them have merited a Sunday sermon attention except the conduct of the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections which obviously did not favour his preferred candidate.

“But INEC has accepted responsibility so where are corps members to blame?

“As a senior citizen and patriot, it is not late to tender an unreserved apology to serving Corps members and to the NYSC directorate bearing in mind the hate and incitement his sermon generated.

“If Corps members are ordinarily targeted for all sorts of crimes, it is possible that utterances like this will double their risk of being attacked even though they did nothing wrong aside offering themselves for national service.

“At this period in the history of country, we call on security agencies to be extra vigilant and investigate every form of incitement.

“Religious leaders and institutions all over the country must be monitored to ensure that they are not spreading hate and incitement through their sermons and utterances.

“This is not a time to preach hate but a time to heal and unite. Elections must not be seen as a do or die affair.”