CAN election: All eyes on the body to set example
Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor’s tenure as the National President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is winding up. The search for his successor is, therefore, currently in the front burner. The five blocs of CAN, its NEC and other relevant bodies are meeting regularly to fine-tune the process that will usher in the new CAN President. Oritsejafor became President of CAN in 2010, having taken over from John Cardinal Onaiyekan of the Catholic Secretariat in Abuja. And for two consecutive terms, he was CAN’s helmsman. What is the umbrella body of Christians doing to ensure a successful outing, and above all, set a standard for others to emulate? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports views of CAN members.
‘As Christians’ association, CAN is expected to set the pace’
(Pastor Ezekiel Joel, Full Salvation Believers’ Assembly Int’l, Nnewi, Anambra State)
IN every human organisation, it is expected that there will be diversity of opinions. People are bound to differ in their perspectives or approaches to issues. CAN is not going to be an exception. However, being an association of Christians, it is expected that this respected body will set the pace, and give the nation an exemplary election that is free, fair and transparent. This is more so because the Church of Christ is, and should be the light of the world. But, a large and national body, composed of several Christian denominations, having different doctrinal persuasions, may easily run into troubled electoral waters, if great care is not taken. Of course, as usual with every election into leadership positions, men are not the only interested parties. God is also interested, and would like to be involved, because He still rules in men’s affairs. Satan, the usurper and agent provocateur, is very much interested too, whether or not he is invited.
It is for this reason that the outgoing executive and national delegates must spend time to pray before the election, so that the conduct and outcome will be peaceful and God honouring. It will be unfortunate, if even before the election, there are pockets of dissent on the basis of ethnic jingoism. Such is obviously in contravention of the sacerdotal prayers of Jesus Christ for the Church’s unity –“that they may be one,” which happens to be CAN’s motto. All people of goodwill in the Church expect the provisions in CAN’s constitution to be strictly adhered to with regards to which bloc, as there are five major blocs that make up CAN, and part of the country the different national officers should come from. All things being equal, with prayers and due consideration for the unity and progress of the body of Christ, nationwide, there shouldn’t be any rancour or acrimony, with regards to who should be elected into positions of service, in the body of Christ.
My advice is: let all the previous gentleman’s agreements, either about zoning, blocs or tenure be strictly adhered to. The goal posts should not be changed in the course of the game.
‘All blocs in CAN must have a taste of its Presidency’
(Rev. Francis Ejiroghene Waive, General Overseer, Fresh Anointing Missionary Ministries INC/Senior Pastor, Church of the Anointing, Warri, Delta State)
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has always shown an example of godliness in its rancour-free succession and this year’s election will not be an exception. The election will be transparently free and fair. The present hullabaloo is a carry-over from the 2015 Presidential Elections that was characterised by huge propaganda and almost a religious and regional divide. The men of God involved in the forth-coming CAN elections will be true to their faith and calling. After the elections, the nation will realise it was all a storm in a teacup stirred by the enemies of the faith.
There is no crisis in CAN. The talk about regional origin of the next CAN President emanates from our national psyche. One day, we shall get over tribalism in our body politics. Whenever I travel through the Port Harcourt airport, I marvel that someone from that region was this country’s president for six solid years and yet that airport is such a disgrace. Now, a President of northern origin will be the one to fix it.
CAN’s Constitution does not provide for tribal or regional succession. All it demands is that all the blocs in CAN must have a taste of its Presidency. The out-going President, Pastor Ayo Oristejafor is a Pentecostal. His predecessor was Catholic. This means that his successor will either be an Evangelical or from the OAIC (Organisation of African Instituted Churches) better known as white garment churches.
The notion that the outgoing CAN President was too close to the immediate past government was promoted by the politics of 2015 Presidential elections. Most of the stories peddled around were either outright falsehood or grossly exaggerated. Pastor Ayo did his best for the church in Nigeria and especially our brethren in the north. The in-coming CAN President must do better.
‘This is time for CAN leadership to demonstrate christ’s teachings’
(Dr. Francis Akin-John, Church growth consultant)
THE Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is regarded as the topmost umbrella body for Christians in Nigeria. As such, it should be above board in everything. But recently, there have been disturbing news emanating from CAN, pertaining to the last government and the forthcoming elections.
Scripturally speaking, CAN should be apolitical, neither a friend nor a foe of government of the day. Rather, it should be a body that keeps government on its toes. It should serve as the watchdog of society, fighting for the populace and downtrodden rights. It should be seen to represent Christians’ interest in a reportedly secular society. Tribal, ethnic and political undertones should never be heard among Christian leaders that claim to represent Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of the world. Politics should not be allowed to creep into the issue of who becomes the topmost leader of CAN. This is a great opportunity for those aspiring to CAN leadership to demonstrate Christ’s teachings by showing godly, sincere and honest examples.
The outgoing executive should not impose any candidate, either openly or covertly. They should allow the Lord to choose any genuine Christian from anywhere in the country that has the scriptural qualities, as enumerated in 1Timothy3: 1-7.
The church as a whole is in need of genuine revival in our nation, refreshing from the Lord and divine visitation. Our umbrella body, CAN, therefore, should be headed by a God-chosen Christian that can lead the church back to true Biblical Christianity, as well as restore the church’s battered image in our nation.
‘I’m expecting leadership not based on sentiment, but on godly character’
(Most Rev. Emmanuel A.S. Egbunu, Bishop of Lokoja Diocese/Archbishop of Lokoja Province)
WE must be conscious that there are enough guidelines in the Bible on choosing leaders, that is, what kind of people they must be and the kind of agenda they must set. Having said that, we are also conscious that human factor tries to ignore God-factor and usually when that happens, it dishonours God. So, I’m expecting that the leadership that will emerge will not be based on sentiment, but leadership that will put Godly character into consideration, as well as the nation’s interest. It should be leadership that will be concerned in building even with our political leaders, which includes calling them to order or encouraging them. It is a leadership that will join in the fight against corruption and unite rather than divide the Christian body. They should not be divided over non-essentials; so it is important that we have leadership that is uniting because a united church is a blessing to Nigeria.
Again, we need leadership that will be courageous in challenging whatever looks like a contradiction or indeed a threat to the welfare of the Christian body; a leadership that will be very much informed about issues in the nation, and not be narrow-minded over issues. It should be a leadership that will take advantage of people who know what is happening and what kind of response they should give.
Already, the government has been trying to tackle issues of corruption, but the matter of insurgency and especially this one that is almost increasing the terrorism of Boko Haram i.e. the raid by herdsmen and the way it is going presently, we need a leadership that will challenge any complexities from government and we will be willing to be part of the solution. I expect a leadership that knows the difference between issues that the church should be involved in and those it shouldn’t and should steer clear of such. What we encourage Christian leadership to do is to be able to call to order those who are in political leadership and tell them for instance: We are in touch with the grassroots. This thing you are about to do is one that may not work well. It is when political leadership blocks all avenues of receiving that kind of honest advice that sometimes public criticisms become necessary. But if political leadership creates legitimate avenues to embrace ideas, not just from Christians, but also from Muslims and there are no hidden agenda or suspicious, I would expect that integrity should mark us. We shouldn’t be muddled up in such a way that they are now saying, ‘oh, we are too close to government and we were not able to speak out and condemn evil any more. That will be scandalous. I think that Christian leadership, especially for CAN must not stay aloof, but must also not hobnob too much with government. Rather, they should keep a respectable distance, and only speak when and how it is necessary.
We should be guided by credibility, rather than sentiment. Yes, some people are saying that the president must come from the north and even if this is so, you find that all denominations are represented in the north not only ECWA. And even if it is from the south, all major denominations, including ECWA are also in the south. And if as a Christian body, you begin to put this kind of thing forward, I’m afraid that we may be shooting ourselves in the foot. It is important for us as a family to come together and say this is our need for the hour. We need somebody that can fulfill this kind of role because if CAN cannot model that kind of objective approach, when is Nigeria ever going to get there? We can’t sacrifice merit on the altar of zonal, regional or denominational sentiment.
‘Avoid external interference, especially government sponsorship’
(Anthony Olubunmi Cardinal Okogie, Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos)
FOR the eight years that I was there, we avoided external interference and any time we wanted to do election, we never created room for external interference. That was why we were effective and we were able to attack the government of the day. But unfortunately now, they have taken the campaign to the corridors of those who are not supposed to meddle in CAN affairs, and when you begin to campaign in that manner it is no longer Godly. Why should there be agitation in the house of God? Someone is saying, ‘Oh, it is my turn to rule,’ and the other person is also saying it is my turn, when we are supposed to be one. That is why they are no longer effective. They’ve destroyed the system by allowing sentiment to be the order of the day — ‘if I like his face, let’s vote for him, but if I don’t like his face, we scatter the process.’ In God’s House, we should allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. We are not politicians, but they have polarised Christian Association of Nigeria because of money.
They want to be good in the eyes of the president and they need to come back to the grassroots, as we were doing before, to sit down, talk things over and then decide who can do the job and give the desired result.
During our period, we had groups and it was from among these that people were nominated. During election, you were expected to compete with others. But each group must state why they’ve chosen so and so person. Again, any time we were going for meetings, you spent your own money, as nobody sponsored you and you wouldn’t go to government to source money. We spoke with one voice and if there was problem in Kaduna, it was brought to the centre, where we put our heads together and spoke on behalf of Kaduna.
But now, everywhere you turn, it is CAN this and CAN that. There is no unity or love any more. So, how can you pursue CAN’s agenda to a logical conclusion with such a posture? Then, every decision must emanate from the centre. But now, everybody wants to be there. I have seen different kinds of names and personalities canvassing for votes.
In God’s House, there is no Jew and no Gentile. We are one before God and that is the example I want them to follow. And remember that if government sponsors someone, who eventually becomes CAN president, it is government bidding you must do, as whoever sponsored you would dictate what you are going to do as CAN president, which means the Association is doomed.
Back then, we were not looking at faces, rather each bloc nominated someone and we didn’t ask where he came from. You didn’t force yourselves to be represented. There is something wrong now. They’ve sold themselves to the government right from the time we left. The only way they can prove to Nigerians that they are not partisan is by going to their various blocs to nominate one person each. And on the election day, whoever emerges as the president takes the mantle of leadership. If they can do this, a credible candidate is sure to emerge.
‘Candidate must be God-fearing, not money-conscious’
(Prophet I. B. Sebastin, General Overseer, Mountain of Mercy Ministry, Egbeda, Lagos
The person that is going there must have the fear of God and must not be money-conscious because that is the cankerworm that is trying to destroy the umbrella body. If the candidate possesses the above qualities, he will be a successful CAN president. When you have the anointing, people, including government will come and look for you. You are not the one that should run after government. Jesus was not going to meet government. Rather, those who had need were running to Him for solution. Look at what happened during the last administration. Some men of God were prophesying that Goodluck Jonathan was going to win, while some said the incumbent president was going to win. Everything has been consigned to history now. We’ve seen those who are true men of God, and those who are not. They have used that office to play politics hoping to get money in return.
The new CAN should be neutral. For instance, if somebody gives a pastor N20m and then the man misbehaves, can you tell him that what he did yesterday was an error? He will simply throw you out of his office because he knows you are feeding from there. They should stay away from government. But if you are the type that cannot be bought with money, whatever you tell the man, he will go to his closest and adjust. But if they begin to run after government and what goes into their pockets, they will derail CAN’s agenda and what it stands for. They are to direct the government and governors, especially now that there are so many issues such as the herdsmen among others, to discuss.
‘There should be no God-fatherism in CAN election’
(Bishop (Dr.) Chris E. Kwakpovwe, publisher, Our Daily Manna (ODM) and General Overseer, Manna Prayer Mountain Interdenominational, Worldwide)
WE are expecting to see a very transparent election. The issue of winner-takes-it-all should be forbidden. Whoever becomes CAN president should carry everybody along. There should be no clique, no spiritual or political party and above all, CAN should focus on its agenda because people can derail easily. We are expecting that the election will be peaceful. They should avoid going to court. Look at what is happening in Assembles of God. It is not good at all. We are Christians and because of leadership, we take one another to court. If CAN doesn’t get it right, what we will get is that churches will not also get it right. Churches will start fighting themselves, with pastors also fighting among themselves. There should be impeccable transparency. They should not allow external influence. Sometimes, even the government is interested in CAN and unlike in the political circles, where you have godfathers, there should be no godfatherism in CAN election, where one big man from nowhere or a politician will come and start dictating what happens there.
Moneybags should not come into CAN and begin to influence them with money to vote. Government is influencing CAN elections; we know that they sponsored candidates in the past.
But we never allowed their candidates to win. They even gave money for the election/convention, but CAN resisted that in the past. I must say that for the record. People like Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor resisted external influence, when he came into office. At a point, however, he became close to Jonathan, but I don’t think Jonathan influenced his election.
CAN must be neutral so that it can support good and not evil. If the government is doing something bad, you can shout. For instance, if Isolo Local Government Chairman comes to your office and gives each of you N1m, it will be difficult for you to criticise him. I think CAN should resist political penetration after election, because they will use money, car and all sorts of things to influence them. And even if they did not sponsor you, still they will try to come in uninvited. It is very difficult to resist government penetration and this is the truth. If you send gifts to me tomorrow, I will take it, but I may not know your motive. CAN has always battled the influence of external forces in government, some political moneybags and everybody else. Same way they tried to decide who becomes NBA president and that of ASUU, National Association of Medical Doctors and so on. So, it’s not only CAN that has that problem. But having said that, the only way to avoid such is to be neutral and then go back to the Bible. Some of these people agitating for leadership position are only going there because of the money, and not because they have the passion to serve the church or anybody. They only want to wine and dine with power brokers; sometimes their motives are corrupted. So, the best way to avoid that is to have a pure motive, which nobody knows anyway.
And all the blocs should be allowed to present candidates, that is how it is done. Sometimes two or three blocs come together and present a candidate. ECWA has, Catholic has, the Pentecostals have, the Evangelicals (they are the ECWA people from the North), they have. I think they are about seven blocs, but the issue is that you have to bring a candidate. Everybody wants a leader to emerge from his/her zone. But if a group is saying now that it wants somebody from the north, that is tribalism. PFN is also in the North and it is PFN that brought Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, not the South. PFN is national, jus like ECWA is. ECWA should lobby, which is normal, but to say north or south is evil. There is nothing like North or South in CAN, which is made up of blocs and not tribes.
‘CAN should follow due process to show example’
((His Eminence Dr. Samuel Chukwuemeka Kanu Uche, Prelate, Methodist Church Nigeria (MCN)
CAN should follow due process. Whatever the constitution says should be strictly adhered to, so that we can show a good example to the world. Whenever there is crisis, it is often based on selfishness. So, let everyone sink his pride. Let the people close ranks and work together. They should be upright in the election and unite. After all, the image of Christ should be projected and not any human being. So, everybody should work for the cause of Christ and the Church’s unity. So, let everything be done in righteousness, which is what exalts a nation. It will be a shame to allow government to dictate what we should do in a Christian body. We are people of honour and integrity. So, my plea is that they will not make us go back and start afresh.
‘CAN will ensure there’s fairness and equity’
(His Grace, Most Revd. Emmanuel Josiah Udofia, Primate of the African Church/President, Christian Council of Nigeria)
CAN executives are meeting with some members of various blocs next week and from there, we are going to take a position concerning the election. We’ve heard so many things and this meeting will afford us the opportunity to address certain issues. We are one in CAN and regardless of whether somebody comes from the West, South or North, we belong to one umbrella body. It doesn’t matter where he comes from, and at the same time, we have to ensure there is fairness and equity. CAN has asked the blocs to send their presidential nominees and forward same to the body. Whosoever emerges as CAN president holds the leadership mantle and I know that the Electoral College will do its work to present a credible candidate to succeed the outgoing president. So, by the grace of God we will set good example.
CAN has always played its advisory role whenever there is need to meet with the government. It makes suggestions where necessary, as the aim is to move the nation forward. I don’t understand what people mean by hobnobbing with the government. CAN is there to speak out and condemn what needs to be condemned and praise whatever needs to be praised. That does not mean that CAN is under government’s tutelage. CAN is a separate body from the government. As a Church leader, I’m telling you we’ve been doing our work. It is one thing to suggest or give advice to a government and another thing for them to implement the suggestion. Like this present government, we can advise and speak out, whenever there is need to voice out for the benefit of Nigerians.