By Oji Odu
The solidarity visit and congratulatory message by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to President Muhammadu Buhari on his victory at the polls on February 23, 2019, has elicited mixed reactions among Nigerians, some of who believe that the actions of the body in recent times show that they cannot be the mouthpiece of Christians.
Is CAN really the mouthpiece of Christians? Did it have any other option other than congratulate President Buhari after an election that was alleged to have been widely rigged, and electorate intimidated in many areas; an election where violence went up to high heavens with great connivance by the security agencies?
Did CAN congratulate President Buhari because the Christians have already changed their prayers in most, if not all the churches before the election, that God should not allow President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) a second term in office because Nigerians are suffering?
If Atiku Abubakar, the Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who has gone to the Electoral tribunal to prove that his mandate was stolen by President Buhari through the connivance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), will CAN not turn around and not only pay a solidarity visit and send congratulatory message to him?
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) led by its President, Samson Olasapo Ayokunle and the Executive Council of the association, had congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari for his victory at the presidential election, in February, asking the president to ensure the release of Leah Sharibu from Boko Haram captivity and permanently address the killings in Kaduna State and release the leaders of the Ajara chiefdom to douse the tension in the zone.
In his speech, Ayokunle said: “This delegation has come on behalf of the Christian Association of Nigeria (the largest Christian Association in Africa) to congratulate you for victory and for being declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the just concluded 2019 Presidential Election in our nation.
“Our prayer for you is that God shall grant you everything it takes to perform hundred times better than your first term. We pray that your administration would lead Nigeria to become the glory and pride of the nations in Africa and a country many people would desire to be, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
“Please count on this organization as one that has the success of your administration at heart. In that respect, we would not cease in praying for you and speaking out about what is expected to be done from time to time in keeping with the Bible, the word of God.”
“Each passing day inflicts anguish in the hearts of the parents of this young girl, the rest of us who are parents, all Nigerians and others all over the world who love freedom and regret that Leah’s life is being wasted in captivity for no sin of hers other than for her religion. Doing all within you to free Leah Sharibu and according it top priority shall confer greater credibility on your government and on you as a person.
“Please and please, Mr. President, let Leah Sharibu and those in captivity of insurgents be freed to enjoy their lives,” he said.
Speaking further, the CAN President revealed that there were some Christian leaders who opposed the visit, whom he described as “saboteurs and politicians in cassock. Saboteurs didn’t want us to come here (Aso Rock). We are old enough to know what to do and what not to do. If somebody like me after 60 years of age will be under pressure, it means that my life would never have meaning again.
“But by the grace of God we have a meaningful life, I know what to do. By God’s grace He has prepared me well for this assignment. So, those detractors and those politicians in cassock should go and find better job to do.”
CAN’s visit was also to remind Buhari of the expectations of Nigerians in his second term. According to Ayokunle: “Now, he has mastered the job; he has mustered enough strengthen to be able to go full swing into action. We want him to do more on security- kidnappings almost everywhere and the issue of insurgency in the North-East; the insurgents should be silenced once and for all.
“These ethnic militias that have now moved to the northwest, which used to be peaceful, and they are now causing violence there – before they will grow wings, their wings should be clipped completely.”
In a chat with Roland Michael, a Sociologist, CAN had no choice than congratulate the President on his election victory whether he won it by hook or crook. Check the composition of the executive of the body, they look like politicians.
“ If Atiku later wins at the tribunal, will the same CAN body which preached and prayed that the President should not get a second term not pay a solidarity visit and send congratulatory visit to him? The issue is that when you seek the opinion of many Christians, you will know that they don’t see CAN as a strong voice of their problems.
“ In the killings and alleged takeover of Christian communities in the North, have they really spoken with strong voice in condemning the killings? How many of them, even individually had voiced out against the killings in Benue by herdsmen? Is this what happens in other climes? I think they are playing to the gallery and maybe under pressure to do what they did,” he said.
The Magazine learnt of earlier reports that CAN was under pressure to visit Buhari, but that the organisation had chosen to wait till after the conclusion of the case presented by Atiku Abubakar at the Presidential Election Tribunal. Ayokunle debunked the claims as untrue and blamed “saboteurs” for the report.
For Johnson Tamunokombia, a Christian: “ Sometimes I get surprisingly confused by the actions of the so- called CAN and the affiliate bodies when they take decisions or speak on issues affecting Christians.
“ In this case, they will now change their preaching that it is the will of God. Where they not the same people that prayed with their congregations tirelessly for President Buhari not to win a second term in office? Is everything that happens the will of God or due to not doing the right thing at the right time? The thing here is that some of these CAN leaders are in their comfort zones, and will not like to lose them, hence the stance to congratulate whosoever wins by any means.”
Tamunokombia believes that the Christian body is more than that. “ It is high time it stand and speaks strongly on issue affecting not only Christians, but this country.
Unyio Peters believes that CAN has no option but congratulate any winner of any election. “ It must be in the constitution to do such whether the winner got the mandate by hook or crook. Check past elections from Shagari, Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan, the body has been congratulating them, even when things on ground show that all did not go well. I don’t think they have any choice, unless they want to step on toes,” she stated.