Arow broke out yesterday over Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) leaders’ visit to President Muhammadu Buhari.
CAN President Samson Ayokunle led the visit, which the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) described as “shocking”.
CAN, said NCEF, should not have congratulated Buhari on his victory at the February 23 election.
But the CAN insisted that it remained apolitical, adding that since the electoral umpire has declared Buhari winner, it had no right to say no.
Besides, it stressed that the NCEF had no authority to speak for Christians because “it has been disbanded”.
NCEF disassociated itself from the visit, claiming that it is “sub judice” as the determination of who won the election is still in court. “It is, therefore, premature and presumptuous for anyone to congratulate President Buhari for ‘winning’ an election that is contested in court.”
The forum said the visit, which was made last week, is also not in the interest of Christians.
A statement issued in Abuja yesterday by the Chairman of NCEF, Solomon Asemota (SAN), said: “The National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) was shocked to read in the news that the President of CAN, Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, with some CAN officials and Christian leaders paid a ‘congratulatory’ visit to President Muhammadu Buhari on his purported victory in the 2019 General Elections.
“The NCEF wishes to state that the congratulatory visit to Aso Villa by CAN could not be in the interest of Nigerian Christians who daily bear the agony of thousands of their brethren being killed, maimed, displaced and marginalised in the Jihad launched in the northern parts of the country. It is well known the indifference of the Buhari Administration to the murder of Christians all over the country. This indifference has led many, including foreign observers, to conclude that the Buhari Administration is complicit in the genocide that is taking place in Nigeria.
“The action of the CAN President, Rev. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, is a further confirmation of all the protests and petitions of NCEF in 2018 querying the faithfulness of Dr. Ayokunle to Christ and to His Church. In its 2018 Report titled FACTORS HINDERING CHRISTIAN POLITICAL CONSENSUS FOR 2019 ELECTION, the NCEF provided irrefutable facts that Rev. Ayokunle deliberately frustrated Christian political consensus in a country in which religion has become a major factor in politics. With this ill-advised congratulatory visit to President Buhari, it should be clear to every Christian of good conscience that Rev. Ayokunle is running CAN as an appendage of APC which has proven by its religiously popularism biased appointments and policies that it is primarily a religious party that is to the disadvantage of Christians whom Rev. Ayokunle claims to be representing.
“It would be recalled that during the elections, Rev. Ayokunle presumptuously deployed a 1,000 man CAN Election Observers team to monitor the elections nationwide. The action was presumptuous since CAN does not have the constitutional responsibility of engaging in politics. Christian leaders deliberately established Christian Social Movement of Nigeria (CSMN) for this purpose in 2001 as the socio-political arm of the Church. Nonetheless, after observing the elections, the 1,000-man CAN Election Observers is yet to release its report before CAN rushed to congratulate one of the contestants. Since all the other observers have since released their reports, where is the report of the CAN Observers Team?”
According to NCEF, a notable arm of the Church, the Catholic Church, did not join the delegation that went to congratulate Buhari.
“This would be consistent with the communiqué issued by the Catholic Church expressing concern about the elections and advising that dissatisfied individuals should seek recourse in court of law. This in the view of NCEF is how a Christian body should respond to issues of this nature.
“NCEF is making these points for record purposes so that in years to come, if any further evil befalls Christianity in Nigeria, no one would claim ignorance of the issues that led to the emasculation of the Church. As Christian Elders, we affirm that it was ill advised and ill motivated for anyone claiming to represent the Body of Christ to rush to congratulate President Buhari pending the determination of the suit in Court.
“Presently, Christians are mourning over 200 people murdered in Kajuru and Adara in southern Kaduna. There are increasing reports of Clergy routinely kidnapped and murdered in Middle Belt and parts of the North. These are in addition to genocide in Benue, Taraba, Plateau, and other parts of southern Kaduna. So far, no arrest has been made and no one has been prosecuted. Therefore, for any Christian leader to go and shake the hand of the man who has done nothing to stop the genocide is morally and spiritually reprehensible.
“In addition to the concerns expressed above, it should be remembered that we all witnessed the debacles during the campaigns for the 2019 Elections as well as the violent conduct of the elections. We witnessed the widespread application of ‘inconclusive’ elections where the opposition party had upper hand. We saw with regret the way Kano, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Lagos, Taraba, Bayelsa, and Plateau states election, amongst others, were handled. The campaign debate and presidential interview exposed the competence and capability of the candidates and Nigerians spoke through their votes and expressed their preference. Therefore, the will of the people must not be subverted. It is wrong for anyone, or any group of people, to seek to use CAN to legitimise an illegality. That congratulatory visit, we insist, was not on behalf of Nigerian Christians.
“Fortunately for the NCEF, in making this clarification, no one can accuse the Christian Elders of religious bigotry or ethnic discrimination since both front runners are Muslims from the North and of the same ethnic stock. In the same vein, no one could say that NCEF is holding brief for any political party since NCEF neither supported any political party nor adopted any candidate during the elections. The interest of NCEF is that Democracy should be permitted to flourish and prevail in Nigeria. As President Goodluck Jonathan demonstrated in 2015, the will of the people must not be subverted. We are no longer in the era of military coup in which individual(s) can impose themselves as rulers over the nation. This is Democracy and the will of the people must not be subverted. Any attempt to kill democracy by a President who subverts the very process that brought him to power under the instrumentality of stealth and conventional jihad must be resisted and rejected.
“NCEF aligns itself with the stand of the ethnic nationalities in South West, South East, South South and Middle Belt Zones that the Judiciary should perform its rightful oversight and ensure that the rightful winner of the 2019 Elections is sworn into office in May 29, 2019. If the Judiciary, for whatever reason, is unable to take a stand and defend the will of the people then Nigeria would have destroyed Democracy and signed on as a fascist state.”