25th June, 2019
The Nation Newspaper
REJOINDER TO THE NATION NEWSPAPER:
“HOW CAN PRESIDENT AYOKUNLE WAS RE-ELECTED”
For the second time in two months, the NCEF is compelled to write and correct wrong impressions created about the Christian Elders by journalists of The Nation Newspaper. On 18th April, 2019, the NCEF had to issue a rejoinder to an article by Mr. Sam Omatseye titled “What kind of Elders?” Again, in the wake of the recently conducted election of CAN, Mr. Sunday Oguntola, another journalist with The Nation newspaper made comments in his article “How CAN President Ayokunle Was Re-elected”, published in The Nation on Sunday 23rd June, 2019 which NCEF considers disturbing and should be corrected. We hope The Nation would publish this rejoinder the same way it published the original article.
NCEF is taking these painstaking measures bearing in mind that history is being written in all that is evolving in the Nigerian Church, particularly under a Government that openly harbors anti-Christian sentiments judging by the tepid response it has accorded the genocide going on in Christian dominated areas of the country. In recent times, more prominent Nigerians have lent their voices to condemn what is now openly described as “Fulanization” and “Islamization” agenda in Nigeria. These concerns are in the public domain.
Before proceeding further, it is necessary to assure Nigerian Christians through this rejoinder that NCEF is “not fighting CAN”, neither is it involved in any contest for temporal power or influence in the Church. On the contrary, NCEF is advocating for CAN and for Christianity. The Christian Elders, having full knowledge of what is going on in the apex body of Christianity in Nigeria, are actually resisting mismanagement and the abuse of CAN. It is clear to the Christian Elders that if they do not arise and intervene, there is a generation of Christian leaders determined to compromise the collective interests of all Nigerian Christians to satisfy personal selfish interests. In the recent past, there have been attempts to make the advocacy of NCEF seem like power tussle with some CAN Officials. This is nothing but misrepresentation of facts.
NCEF had refrained from making comments about the election of CAN after giving its counsel to the Church before the CAN election. As Christian Elders, the NCEF has fulfilled its obligations to the Church and to Nigerian Christians and felt no need to comment again about the outcome of the election. However, the article under reference, which NCEF perceives to be an attempt at historical revisionism, is compelling the NCEF to make the following clarifications, for record purposes.
NCEF is not unaware that Mr. Oguntola, the author of the article, is a member of the Baptist Convention, the denomination headed by Rev. Ayokunle, as President of the Convention. This may in part be responsible for the skewed narrative of the role NCEF played in ensuring that truth and righteousness remain paramount in Christian Administration in Nigeria. It is therefore uncharitable for anyone to seek to present the good done by the NCEF as evil.
ISSUE No. 1
“While his critics backed by the elders’ forum wanted CAN to endorse a candidate between President Muhammadu Buhari and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Atiku Abubakar, his supporters opted for a more conservative approach.”
This statement is misleading. Apart from being incorrect, it is certainly a deliberate effort, most probably backed by Rev. Ayokunle to distort narratives.
The intention of the author in making this incorrect statement is to seek to equate NCEF with the politics of Rev. Ayokunle which is geared at undermining Christian interest. NCEF has always put the interest of Christians first in its advocacy.
Where and when did NCEF opt to endorse either Atiku or Buhari as Presidential candidate BEFORE the 2019 General Election? All the political intervention of NCEF was aimed at building Christian consensus so that a Christian candidate can emerge as the Third Force. This goal was behind the meeting NCEF held on Friday 30th November, 2018 with thirteen (13) Christian Presidential Candidates with the objective of persuading them to agree on a consensus candidate. The Christian Presidential Candidates gave NCEF the mandate to endorse one of them which NCEF met to deliberate on in Abuja on 10th December, 2018. It was on this very day that CAN under Rev. Ayokunle unceremoniously intruded into the process and summoned its version of political meeting which included two Muslim candidates.
The intrusion of Rev. Ayokunle into the political consensus process formed part of the Report of NCEF titled FACTORS HINDERING CHRISTIAN POLITICAL CONSENSUS FOR 2019 ELECTIONS in which the Christian Elders openly affirm that Rev. Ayokunle deliberately frustrated Christian political consensus. The position of the NCEF on a Christian President was not based on religious bigotry or discrimination but on the simple realization that a jihad has been launched in Nigeria. Under jihad, every Muslim is expected to participate in, or at the least, support those waging the jihad. NCEF concluded that under the circumstances, a Christian President would be required by Nigeria to put an end to the jihad and restore security and peace to Nigeria. AFTER the Election, which was full of intrigues and manipulations, NCEF encouraged Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to challenge the result since it was clear the Democratic process was flawed. This is in line with the advocacy of NCEF for Democracy.
Therefore, it is very wrong, for The Nation to claim that NCEF wanted Rev. Ayokunle to endorse either President Buhari or Alhaji Atiku. The statement is not correct.
ISSUE No. 2
“Expectedly, the CAN President fired back the salvo, alleging he was being blackmailed for choosing not to mortgage resources of the association to a few vested cronies.”
The statement above is meant to cast aspersion at the NCEF that it is “fighting” for money which Rev. Ayokunle refused to release to it. The author is most uncharitable to the distinguished Christian Elders.
It is absurd for anyone to write that Rev. Ayokunle complained of being “blackmailed for choosing not to mortgage resources of the association to a few vested cronies.” The attempt to whitewash the President of Baptist Convention is pathetic. Ironically, in the same article, the author wrote, “Otubu, who served as Vice National President, fought Ayokunle to standstill, accusing him of corruption, high-handedness and embezzlement.”
Could a man whom the Vice President of CAN “fought to standstill” on charges of “corruption, high-handedness and embezzlement” complain that he was being “blackmailed” for “not mortgaging the resources of the association to a few cronies”? Upon which moral ground would Rev. Ayokunle stand to make such statement?
The evidences of fraud, conversion of CAN funds, violation of CAN Constitution to aid corruption, under this CAN President, abound. The Apostle Bamgbola Committee attempted to sweep these evils under the carpet by producing a one-sided report, but it did not work.
What would have worked is a simple, “I am sorry; it was an error of judgment.” Genuine repentance and restitution would have resolved these issues since July 2017. What has exacerbated the contention in CAN is the unrepentant attitude of some CAN Officials. It is written, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Pro. 28: 13
The more they attempt to suppress the truth, the more it bounces back in their faces. Truly, it is a sad season for Christianity in Nigeria.
Nigerian Christians are yet to be persuaded that leadership is crucial to their survival. If their leadership is compromised and treacherous, it would affect their survival under jihad. Rather than maintain the legendary attitude of docility, the time to act is now; it is of no use declaring prayer and fasting when the enemy has completely conquered them.
ISSUE No. 3
“One, he had the backing of arguably the largest and most powerful bloc in the association, the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN), … The bloc has produced three of the last six presidents of the association. The Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) comes second with two former presidents…”
The information above needs to be corrected and placed in proper perspective. It is CSN, (the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria) that has produced three CAN Presidents as follows: Cardinal Ekandem, Cardinal Okogie and Cardinal Onaiyekan. The CCN (Christian Council of Nigeria) has produced as CAN President, Rt. Rev. Akinola and Prelate Mbang. Rev. Ayokunle is currently the third CAN President produced by CCN.
Having clarified the above, it should be stated that equity and justice breed unity and peace. CAN is made up of five Blocs which have held the office of the President since 1976 as follows:
CSN – 22 years
CCN – 15 years (as of 2019)
CPFN/PFN – 6 years
TEKAN/ECWA – 0 years
OAIC – 0 years
NCEF, in 2015, had counseled that to promote equity and balance in the body of Christ, as prerequisite to strengthen unity and harmony, the two Blocs that have not had the opportunity to produce the President of the Association should be permitted to do so. NCEF came to this conclusion after its Unity and Reconciliation Meetings with all the five Blocs of CAN in 2015 and this issue was raised by some of the Blocs as one of the factors hindering Christian unity in Nigeria. In the 2016 and 2019 CAN elections, this sensitive issue was repeatedly ignored.
It would have taken nothing out of the Blocs that have produced the President of CAN for many years to permit other Blocs the opportunity to do so. This would have strengthened Christian unity and promote brotherly love.
It is disturbing that Christians that are most vociferous about restructuring and equity in Nigeria find it difficult to practice equity within the Church. This is unfortunate. With the nomination of Rev. Ayokunle, we are faced with a scenario in which CCN Bloc wants to produce the President of CAN for a total of 18 years while TEKAN/ECWA and OAIC Blocs would not have had such opportunity at all. This realization formed part of the rationale for the request of the 63 Christian Groups in AFD (Advocates for Freedom and Democracy) that a Christian leader from the North should be permitted to produce the next President of CAN.
NCEF wonders how this lopsided arrangement could promote “That they all may be one” which is the Motto of CAN. One could only pray that Nigerian Christians would summon sufficient courage to address this issue, more so, when the nominated CAN President is morally challenged. There are better candidates who could do this job.
ISSUE No. 4
“Many well-meaning Christians were disgusted by the mudslinging that characterised the electioneering activities.”
Before the CAN Election, NCEF issued a statement titled “CAN: TIME TO HALT THE DRIFT. In the statement, NCEF, as Christian stakeholders, issued an “abridged performance report” of the first term of Rev. Ayokunle and strongly recommended that he should not be permitted to continue in office as President of CAN. For a man whose first term was filled with contention, strife, division, violation of CAN Constitution and allegations of corruption in an organization whose Motto is: “That they all may be one”, such demand is appropriate. After the NCEF had written, the Coalition of 63 Christian Groups called Advocates for Freedom and Democracy (AFD) also wrote to CAN Officials recommending that Rev. Ayokunle should not contest re-election. The 63 Christian Groups suggested that someone from the North, the area most affected by the jihad in Nigeria should be permitted to lead the Church under the present circumstances.
It is very unfortunate that these interventions are included in what The Nation newspaper is referring to as “mudslinging”. NCEF wonders when speaking the truth has become “mudslinging”. Should Christian Elders fold their arms and permit morally challenged persons to lead the Church? Then, why are they Elders? Culturally and Scripturally the Elders are meant to act as moral standards and bastions of truth. Rather than commend NCEF for playing its role, uncharitable persons in the Church chose to disrespect and dishonor them.
Exposing the truth and giving correction to the society is also the function of the media of which The Nation newspaper itself is a member. Would it be right to describe the exposures of misconducts in the society and in the polity by The Nation newspaper as “mudslinging”? To add to the riddle, Mr. Oguntola is himself a member of the AFD and he was aware of the letter of the 63 Christian Groups but made no attempt either to object or stop it. It is therefore curious that the first salvo of his article was fired at what he himself was involved in. So, who was doing the “mudslinging”?
ISSUE No. 5
“Ahima didn’t not only have access to resources, … The combination of ethnic sentiments and heavy war chest worked for Ahima.”
This is misinformation. It was actually the other way round.
Decency would not permit the mention of details of the last CAN Election but the fact remains that the CAN Election was heavily monetized and credible sources in the Church claim that various sums ranging from N300,000, N500,000, and N1,000,000 were allegedly offered by the incumbent to some delegates to secure their vote. Even before the election, there was a report placed in the public domain that the incumbent was offering some delegates N300,000 in exchange for vote. To the best of our knowledge, there has been no rebuttal of the news item.
Nigerian Christians should be interested to investigate these allegations as well as ascertain the source of the money. Decency would not permit certain information to be shared by NCEF in the public domain. Nigerian Christians should cultivate the practice of demanding accountability from Church leaders. Total acquiescence to whatever Church leaders do is what brought Christianity to its current deplorable condition. The attitude of folding the arms and doing nothing while unrighteousness multiplies in the Church is not a Christian virtue. Christians are commanded to “resist” evil.
It should be stressed that this is not how Christian leadership should be appointed. This is degrading the Body of Christ and this generation of Christian leaders shall answer before the Lord for this infraction on holiness and righteousness. Everyone who participated in promoting unrighteousness in the Nigerian Church shall answer before the Lord. The National Assembly of CAN has the oversight to look critically into this election.
Contrary to the title of the article under consideration that Rev. Ayokunle has been “re-elected” as CAN President, the fact in this case is that Rev. Ayokunle has NOT yet been re-elected. According to the Constitution of CAN, Article 14, d (iii, iv & v) he has merely been “nominated” by NEC to be the next President of CAN. Article 14, d (v) makes it clear that his nomination can still be nullified by the National Assembly of CAN. Until the National Assembly ratifies the election done by NEC on 18th June, 2019, it is not valid. The National Assembly will meet in July to confirm or disannul the election. On that day, the decision shall be taken whether Christianity shall survive in Nigeria or not.
In view of the crucial need to resolve the leadership crisis currently plaguing the Nigerian Church in the past three years, Nigerian Christians should note that Article 14, b (iii) of the CAN Constitution stipulates that any candidate for the position of the President of CAN should “Be a leader without reproach, having a good reputation and personal integrity …” This is the Constitutional provision.
There is still an opportunity for Christians to look into this matter and take decisions based on truth and righteousness. There would be no need to be passive and indifferent only to start convening prayers and fasting when the consequence comes upon Christians. A stitch in time saves nine.
NCEF wishes to assure Nigerian Christians that it is not “fighting CAN”. The Association is our collective institution. What NCEF is resisting is mismanagement of CAN to satisfy personal selfish interests at the expense of Christian blood and Christian lives. There is too much at stake for Christianity to accommodate a corrupt and compromised leadership in its apex body. The past three years have been dark days for Christianity in Nigeria. Because of the great diversity of the Nigerian Church, Christianity in Nigeria shall always require a central body. This central body should be manned by men of integrity who shun corruption and filthy lucre.
In this period when the Church is facing existential threat from forces of jihad, Christianity requires leadership that is above board and committed to the progress of the Church and well being of the people of God. NCEF regrets very much all the contention that has been brought into the Church by unsanctified leadership and prays that Nigerian Christians will summon the moral courage to insist on leadership like Jesus Christ in the apex body of Christianity in Nigeria.
God bless the Nigerian Church.
For and on behalf of NCEF,
24th June, 2019