The National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) was inaugurated by the President of CAN on Thursday 15th January, 2015 at the invitation of Christian Social Movement of Nigeria, as an Advisory, Mediatory, Reconciliatory, and Enlightening body of Christians Elders from the six geo-political zones of the country for CAN. The NCEF works within and outside the Church to advocate for Christianity.
In this Report, the NCEF provides reasons why Christian consensus for 2019 Elections may not be as effective as desired. The Report is provided to prompt Christians to take corrective measures for now, and for the future.
REASON NUMBER 1: CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP
Immediately after the 2015 General Elections, the NCEF reviewed the outcome and concluded that Nigerian Church has some major problems:
- The Church lacks unity of purpose; Christians do not speak with one voice – this was deliberate under the principles of divide and rule and constituting Christians in Nigeria into minority groups.
- Christians are naïve and politically ignorant because many Christians do not understand that “Taqiyya” (approved deception) is a doctrine in Islam and has been consistently utilized against non-Islamists in Nigeria.
- Christians serve as collaborators with the Islamists primarily for pecuniary gains.
It was decided that the problems should be solved on the basis that knowledge is power and the pen is mightier that the sword. The first step of the NCEF was to embark on Unity and Reconciliation meetings with leaders of the 5 Blocs of CAN. This was followed with meetings with the Executives of CAN, the six Zonal Chairmen of CAN and the States Chairmen of CAN from the 36 States and FCT. At the end of the exercise, the NCEF produced a 184-page Report for CAN from which the first Strategy Document for the Nigerian Church was developed. (It should be pointed out that the failure of CAN to implement the Strategy Document is partly responsible for the current defeat of the Church in many spheres.)
The Islamists, over the years, were able to separate the Sheep from the Shepherd as Christian leadership from many Church Groups denominations were co-opted into their support structure, made very rich and became the minds and voices of all Christians in Nigeria. Leading Church leaders were made to believe that Democracy and Sharia are compatible and in the process, reduced Christians to the position of minority in a country where they constituted the majority.
The Reconciliation Meetings with the five Blocs of CAN yielded good results and if it had been constructively nurtured, Christian consensus on many issues, including politics, would have been very easy. Unfortunately the reverse was the case due to change of leadership in CAN.
As the NCEF was working on Christian Unity, it was at the same time engaging the task of enlightening Christians in politics by seeking to build bridges with Christians in Governance. The NCEF met with the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Christian Senators led by Senator Hope Uzodinma, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and also met some Christian Governors. In order to engage political establishments, NCEF met with the Chairman and Executives of PDP, APC, and APDA. After meeting various political leaders in Nigeria, NCEF met with the High Commissioner of Britain to engage him on developments in the country and raise concern on the compromise of democratic values in Nigeria.
All these while, NCEF was assessing the political direction that would promote Democracy in the interest of the entire country as well as protect Christians and Christian interests. It is also instructive to note that from its inception in 2015 to date in 2018, NCEF produced 108 various papers/reports advocating for Democracy and Christianity in Nigeria. NCEF worked with a clear mindset that during the 2019 Elections, Christians would utilize their superior population in the country to influence the emergence of a President that would entrench Democracy in Nigeria.
After all the consultations and deliberations, NCEF proposed to convene a meeting of Christian leaders to provide Report of its activities and commence the process of building Christian consensus for 2019 Elections. The late General Secretary of CAN, Rev. Dr. Musa Asake, was approached to inform the President of CAN, Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle and explain what NCEF has in mind as well as solicit his approval. The President of CAN gave his consent to the meeting and it was scheduled for Thursday 10th May, 2018 at the National Christian Center, Abuja.
Surprisingly, on 6th May, 2018, NCEF received a written message circulated by the President of CAN, Rev. Dr. Samson Ayokunle on CAN National Whatsapp platform, which states inter alia, “Let me call your attention to the letter dated 26th of April, 2018 and signed by the General Secretary of CAN that I directed him to invite all church leaders to a meeting on the 10th of May to come and listen to a report of the National Christian Elders Forum on their meeting with British Government. I did not authorize such a meeting at any time. The meeting does not have the blessing of National Executive of CAN. This type of action is divisive and the invitation was not from me nor from CAN leadership.” This was AFTER he had granted approval! To press the deception home, the CAN President falsely invoked the National Executive of CAN as taking the decision. CAN has a five-man Executive as follows: The President, the Vice President, the General Secretary, the Treasurer, and the Asst. General Secretary. Both the Vice President and the General Secretary did not join in this decision and the Treasurer was not available as of that period. So, which “National Executive of CAN” took the decision?
After reviewing the development with the late General Secretary, the NCEF resolved to proceed with the meeting more so when the General Secretary gave the assurance that the CAN President gave him approval and if he changed his mind, he should simply have said so and give reasons but not to deny what he said earlier. Therefore, the NCEF proceeded.
When the President of CAN learnt that NCEF was proceeding, he sent an email on 7th May, 2018 which also states inter alia, “I need to let you know that since the National Executive Committee of Christian Association of Nigeria and I did not approve the meeting the National Christian Elders Forum want to hold with church leaders in Nigeria, the National Christian Centre must not be used for that meeting. Let those under you in the office who hold the keys to the Centre be well informed about this. I am sending this email to the Bloc Leaders for their information.” This is another falsehood since the “National Executive Committee (NEC) of CAN” did not meet to pass a resolution that the meeting should not hold.
It must be pointed out that members of the NCEF who have had between four and seven decades in private and public service, concluded that the CAN President acted like a “Mukharabat”, an operative of the Islamists. This made the NCEF to repeatedly ask, “on whose side is the CAN President?” Was the President of CAN on the side of the Church that requires Christian unity or on the side of the Islamists opposed to Christian consensus?
Certain issues arise from these developments:
- Why was the President of CAN desperate to prevent Christians from meeting to discuss a Christian political agenda? Was he acting of his own volition or was he under pressure from some forces opposed to Christian participation in Governance?
- By copying the Heads of the 5 Blocs, his email that he “did not approve the meeting …”, Dr. Ayokunle sent panic into the Church and any hope of building Christian consensus for 2019 dissipated.
Even though the NCEF continued undeterred, much traction had been lost and getting the participation and involvement of Church leaders in the consensus building process was compromised by CAN. It is very disturbing that the institution saddled with the responsibility of protecting and promoting Christians could behave in such manner. Christians that constitute the majority in Nigeria and in four geo-political zones are faced with the prospect of another four years of Presidency from either PDP or APC. Both have proven, over the years that the whole concept of politics in Nigeria is to use Democracy as a stepping stone to Sharia and then the Caliphate.
Nevertheless, the NCEF launched the THINK NEW social mobilization Movement under CSMN to rally Nigerians to demand new leaders that would produce new Nigeria. Work is ongoing on this project.
REASON NUMBER 2: CHRISTIAN APATHY
In addition to the compromise of the Church by CAN, the average Nigerian Christian would also need to accept responsibility for the inability to build Christian consensus. The Unity and Cooperation Committee of the NCEF met on 27th June, 2018 in Abuja to commence work on consensus building. It was felt that it was still possible to work round the mischief of the CAN President and mobilize Christians to work with one mind and purpose for 2019 Elections.
The Conference passed a resolution that Christians should contribute N1, 000 each for the next six months to drive the convergence process. The Conference affirmed that Christians would have to fund the process if they want it to work. It is rather surprising that from 27th June till 31st October, 2018, the sum of N2.2m was all that Christians contributed. From this amount, two major Conferences were funded on 28th August, 2018 in Abuja and on 12th October, 2018 in Lagos.
It is not impossible that Christians would have contributed more funds if not for another CAN obstacle. On 13th and 14th August, 2018, the Legal Adviser of CAN, Barrister Samuel Kwamkur, under the instruction and approval of Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, the CAN President, issued a libelous Press Statement in PUNCH Online News denouncing Christian Social Movement of Nigeria and the fund raising to build Christian consensus. The Press Statement went so far as warning Christians against contributing funds to the CSMN. This issue could easily have resulted in litigation since CSMN is a duly registered body, but mature Christian counsel prevailed.
This unwarranted attack against a body seeking to build Christian political consensus is another confirmation that some Church Officials are opposed to Christian consensus for 2019 Elections. Since there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, it is only time that will reveal what is at stake for these Church Officials that such resistance was mounted against Christian consensus.
While NCEF appreciates all the individuals and ministries that contributed, the fact remains that Christians should re-appraise their support for credible bodies in the Church if they desire good results.
REASON NUMBER 3: COLLABORATION WITH ISLAMISTS
The history and culture of Nigeria have perpetuated the culture of minority rule, starting with traditional rulers, then the British, thereafter, the Fulani who have collaborators first with the Hausas and Kanuris then Yorubas, Ndigbo and other minorities among over 350 ethnic nationalities. Fulani are now in the “majority” in an independent Nigeria. Today, 2018, it is clear that the two defunct major political parties - Action Group (AG) and National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) that largely represented the two large ethnic nationalities of Yoruba and Ndigbo, have collapsed into the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), established by the Fulani in the First Republic.
The reasoning of the NCEF is that the one unified party presented at different times since 1979 as National Party of Nigeria (NPN) later the “military” and now PDP and APC can be regarded as NPC 1 (NPN), NPC 2 (PDP) and NPC 3 (APC), designed to provide a minority rulership, comprising one tribe and one religion. The emerging political agenda for 2019 is to step down NPC 3 (APC) so that NPC 2 (PDP) will again form government. Both AG and NCNC have collapsed into NPC due to the greed and covetousness of Christian and other Southern leaders.
The use of “collaborators” is the main reason why the Fulanis with a population around five million in Nigeria exercise control over 195 million indigenous ethnic nationalities. It is more painful when some of the key collaborators are not only Christians, but they are Church leaders. The key mouth piece of Northern People’s Congress 3, (APC), are Pastors. Other Church leaders work surreptitiously under the radar to undermine Christian consensus and promote the interest of their new colonial master.
The relevance of the Church in 2019 Elections would depend on the preparations made before then. If Christians are seriously desirous of building political consensus, they should first establish means of neutralizing the Islamist collaborators in the Church. So long as those collaborators are actively operating, either overtly or covertly, the goal of Christian political consensus shall remain a mirage. The NCEF was prepared to provide the required mobilization and harmonization towards building effective Christian consensus for 2019. For reasons stated above, the goal was hindered.
Nevertheless, the NCEF remains undeterred and continues working with the minimal cooperation that Christians offer.
After the NCEF produced the preceding Report on 5th November 2018, the Christian Elders continued the intervention for the Church as well as harmonization efforts to get the Church ready for the 2019 Elections. The following activities and developments followed the Report:
- On 23rd November, 2018, NCEF under Christian Social Movement of Nigeria (CSMN) addressed a Press Conference stressing the need for a Christian consensus candidate to emerge. The two major political parties APC and PDP were prepared to field Muslim candidates from the North symbolizing no relief from the conflict between Democracy and Sharia ideologies, the very bane of the Nigerian crisis.
- On Friday 30th November, 2018, NCEF convened a meeting with New Presidential Candidates. Thirteen of the New Presidential Candidates attended the meeting, all of them Christians. At the end of the deliberations, they gave NCEF the mandate to endorse one of them as the consensus Christian Presidential Candidate.
- The NCEF convened a meeting for 10th December, 2018 to deliberate on the mandate of endorsing one of the New Presidential Candidates. Surprisingly, CAN which had not been active in mobilizing or harmonizing Christians for political consensus, and in a manner consistent with its actions on 6th and 7th May, 2018, (reported above) suddenly made a statement in the media that it would “interview” Presidential Candidates on 10th December, 2018, the very day NCEF was to have commenced the process of endorsement of a Christian Presidential Candidate. CAN eventually “interviewed” eight Christian candidates and the two Muslim candidates from APC and PDP.
- When NCEF became aware of the plan by CAN, the Christian Elders resolved to defer the exercise to CAN as the umbrella Christian organization to complete its “interview” and announce to the Church the candidate it would recommend for Christians to adopt. NCEF took this decision to prevent conflict of choices which would cause confusion and contention in the Church. The entire Church thereafter waited for CAN to conclude its “interviews” and announce the preferred Christian Presidential candidate.
- On Friday 21st December, 2018 CAN issued an Advertorial in The Punch Newspaper titled TOWARDS 2019 ELECTIONS. According to many observers, the Advertorial was “blank”. It gave no direction concerning any Christian consensus candidate, and it was reminiscent of the 2015 “vote your conscience” campaign which divided Christian votes and brought President Buhari into office.
- Many observers could not understand why CAN chose to intrude into a process it was never involved in. Some people concluded that CAN intruded into the process of harmonizing and mobilizing Christians for effective participation in Governance to stop NCEF from endorsing a Christian candidate thereby, giving the Muslim candidates the opportunity to remain front runners. This line of thought was reinforced by the action of CAN inviting the Muslim candidates for its “interview”. It strengthened the impression that CAN was playing a “neutralizing” role for the Christian efforts to harmonize Christians for Governance. As observed by one of the Christian Presidential Candidates during the meeting with NCEF, “when the Council of Ulama would meet to agree on a Muslim candidate, they would not invite any Christian”. Before the 2015 Elections, the late Catholic Archbishop of Kafanchan, Bishop Joseph Bagobiri remarked thus in a paper, “Neutrality of the Church at times like this is tantamount to leaving the flock without the guidance of the shepherd”. Christians have ample time to decide whether the successive actions of CAN were to protect Christian interests or that of the Islamists.
- The above are some of the FACTORS HINDERING CHRISTIAN CONSENSUS FOR 2019 Elections. Personal interests by some Church leaders and security operatives within the Church are the greatest obstacles to Christian unity and harmony in all spheres. As it is, the age long crisis of the minority in Nigeria ruling the majority has again reared its head. From the days of Lugard, there was a conscious policy of promoting minority rule over the majority in Nigeria. The minority was first the British colonialists who were replaced by the Fulani as minority rulers. The plan of the NCEF was to harmonize Christian majority into a cohesive political structure so that democracy can prevail over jihad. Unfortunately, the agency representing the majority group in Nigeria chose to work to sustain minority rule. This must be stopped with the adoption of a Christian presidential candidate as the preferred candidate and the development of a Christian party in a country where Democracy and Sharia are incompatible.
CAN DISSOLVES NCEF?
Apparently dissatisfied by the constant admonition of Christian Elders that Christianity is being compromised under the current CAN Officials, the President of CAN caused to be published in PUNCH Newspaper that on 12th October, 2019, NEC of CAN dissolved the National Christian Elders Forum. This information cannot be correct. If anything, it only serves to further confirm the impunity of the current Officials of the Association.
Articles 6 and 8 of CAN Constitution does not give CAN the power to “dissolve” any Christian Denomination, Group or Fellowship. The Constitution clearly lists the five Church Groups of CAN that the Association can “suspend” pending determination of the issues at a meeting of the General Assembly. NCEF is not one of the five Groups so listed.
NCEF also wish to place on record that it was formed by the Christian Social Movement of Nigeria. The CSMN on 30th December, 2014 invited the former President of CAN to inaugurate the NCEF and the Forum started working since its inauguration with CAN to build Christian unity and strengthen Democracy in Nigeria.
Nigerian Christians need to be circumspect and bring all these issues into perspective as they grapple with the conflict between Democracy and Sharia ideologies in Nigeria. The ability of Christians to work based on truth and righteousness will determine the outcome of this conflict.
WHICH WAY FORWARD?
Whichever Party emerges victorious in the 2019 Elections, Christians should be prepared to be organized to defend Democracy as well as Christianity in Nigeria. It is better to focus on defending Democracy since as an ideology, it appeals to non-Christians as well. This will enable Christians to network and build bridges with other Groups in the country.
It is evident that the Islamists in Nigeria are determined to impose Sharia ideology over Democracy in Nigeria. Under the Buhari Administration, they have gained a lot of inroad into power domination in Nigeria and they would not be willing to relinquish the grounds they have gained unless they are compelled to do so.
Therefore, Christians should be committed to the following:
- Pay close attention to Islamist collaborators within the Church and evolve means of neutralizing them before they compromise Christian interests to the detriment of the Church.
- Support and strengthen the Social Arm of the Church that was established by Church leaders in 2001 for the purpose of Christian engagement with the society and politics. The Christian Social Movement of Nigeria (CSMN) which was set up for this very purpose in 2001 shall continue with its assignment to serve both the Church and the Society for the Common Good of all.
God bless Nigeria.
National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF)
10th January 2019