The National Christian Elders Forum: Our Goal, “One United, Free, Democratic, Stable, Progressive Nigeria”.
“That all may be ONE” was the summary of the Prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ in John Chapter 17.

As Nigerians, the commitment in our Independence National Anthem in 1960 was that ‘Though tribes and tongues may differ, in brotherhood we stand’. Nigeria thereby enunciated the principle of ‘Unity in Diversity’.

We prayed, among other things in our Independence National Anthem, regarding our National Flag, ‘to hand unto our children a banner without stain’, and finally asked ‘the God of all creation, grant this our one request, Help us to build a National where no one is oppressed.’

A common slogan during the civil war 1967-1970 was, ‘To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done’.

In our present National Anthem, we pledged that ‘the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain’.

Our commitment to God and the Nation Nigeria, as Christian Elders, is to admonish and encourage fellow Nigerians to consider and return to our past values and endeavour stay and live together as one nation with different and varied ethnic and diverse religious backgrounds and orientations hence our Motto ‘Watch & Pray that we may be one’.

As Christian Elders, we have watched the developments in the past two decades and noted with grave concern that the virtues and values which were so much cherished and honoured in the previous years were steadily and relentlessly being bastardised and violated by the very persons who swore to defend, protect, and uphold same.

There has been a steady and orchestrated vicious campaign by some privileged sector to emasculate a larger and more diverse segment of the Nigerian society through the instrumentality of political and official patronage.

The National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) has observed, with keen interest, the unfolding events as Nigeria prepares for another election year in 2023. The intrigues, utterances, the horse trading, and outright violent postures by the political class are uncomfortable indications that those who rule Nigeria, and those who are aspiring to political positions in the coming Elections 2023, have not learnt any lesson from the errors of the past and have determined to jettison the cherished values of our nationhood for purely sectional interests. The country cannot continue doing the same negative things repeatedly and expect different positive results.

The recent inflammatory, derogatory, seditious, and inciting statements / declarations credited to Governor Ganduje of Kano State and one Dr. Abdulmutallab Mohammed, making rounds in the media, which are reproduced below, give the clear impression that some evil-minded persons are laying the foundation for more acrimony, dissention, violence and eventual disintegration of our beloved country, Nigeria.
Ganduje (Kano State Governor) was quoted thus:

“For this purpose, this time around, history will not repeat itself in winning this elections if Allah agrees and this is democracy, there will be nothing like nullifying elections.”

Dr. Abdulmutallib Mohammed Auwal’s reported address to a convocation of Muslim Leaders says,

”Our aim as Moslem scholars from over 70 different Islamic sects and backgrounds plus our Ibo Moslems and Yorubas in the North those from the West, have called this meeting to sensitize ourselves about this project to ensure victory. The aim is not to tell them that we will distribute weapons to them but to tell them of the need to vote for a person who will promote and advance our Islamic religion. The aim is to tell people that a Moslem wherever he is, is far better than a Christian (infidel) and where you have two Moslems, they will achieve what one Moslem cannot achieve and we want to make it clear that the Moslem-Moslem ticket is a very big Jihad for the Moslems.”

Another Muslim cleric, Sheik Muhammad Ibn Uthman Kano, while endorsing the Muslim-Muslim ticket of Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his running mate was quoted as saying “All Moslems should vote the Muslim-Muslim ticket. Christians should be removed from every government in Nigeria. It took the servant of God, El Rufai, in Kaduna State to tame the infidels in the State.” He was also quoted in many social media outlets as ‘endorsing the ethnic cleansing ongoing in Kaduna State while urging Muslims to make sure that no Christian attains any elective position in Nigeria’.

As Christian Elders, our concern here is not only for the Christians and other non-Moslems, but for the corporate existence of Nigeria, a country of diverse peoples, nationalities, and religions. We are hesitant to believe that the foregoing statements were made by the highly placed named personalities. However, we are persuaded, since there has been no retraction or denial, to accept the fact that the statements were made or that the named persons were privy to their publication.

In 2012, Abubakar Shekau, the late leader of Boko Haram boasted openly in a video as follows:

“… this war is not political. It is religious. It is between Muslims and unbelievers (arne). It will stop when Islamic religion is the determinant in governance in Nigeria or, in the alternative, when all fighters are annihilated, and no one is left to continue the fight.
I warn all Muslims at this juncture that any Muslim who assists an unbeliever in this war should consider himself an infidel and should consider himself dead.”

We took Shekau as Boko Haram threat. Today we have a Governor, political and religious leaders addressing the Nation in the robes of Shekau and threatening fire and brimstone, referring to other religious groups and persons in defamatory, despicable terms via provocative language in their bid to intimidate and railroad adherents of a particular religion into voting only adherents of the Islamic faith into power in the 2023 elections in a multi ethnic, multi-racial, and multi religious State. We cannot as Christian Elders stand idly by and fail to warn Nigerians on the dangers implicit in the vile statements referred to above.

We have a constitution, as a Nation, and until it is set aside, repealed or amended, it remains the binding instrument of our nationhood. There is a ‘firm resolve’, among other uniting provisions in the Constitution, for Nigerians to “Live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble Sovereign Nation Under God…”.

S. 1(2) of the Constitution provides that “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution”.

S. 2(1) further provided and emphatically too, that “Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble Sovereign State…”

S. 38 (1) provides that “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and public or private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

These self-seeking politico religious barons have terrorized and traumatized the average Nigerian with reckless abandon in outright and brazen violation of the foregoing constitutional provisions. This is unacceptable as it is reprehensible.

Taking it a step further, we make bold to state without fear of contradiction that the deliberate, reckless pronouncements of these religious politicians offend the penal laws existing in Nigeria. Statements ‘exciting hatred or contempt against classes of persons in such a way to endanger public peace’ as we have witnessed in recent times and referred to above, which have been made to support and defend same faith ticket, are punishable with fine or imprisonment under our laws. Our worry and question, therefore, is why have the law enforcement and the electoral agencies looked aside and allowed this reckless breach of our penal laws to persist?

While we call on the government, the law enforcement and security agencies to take immediate steps to bring these persons to book, we also demand that the electoral umpire should penalise any political aspirants or parties associated with those prohibited violence inciting pronouncements for the sake of peaceful elections in February. Our electoral laws and regulations do not provide privilege for the use of such language or immunity from prosecution in the circumstance.

We are compelled by the call to duty as Elders, to make categorical statement on the eligibility or suitability of candidates for all the elective positions in the forthcoming elections.

For a clearer appreciation of our identity and mission, our membership of the National Christian Elders Forum NCEF is drawn from the 5 Blocs that make up the Christian Association of Nigeria CAN,

i. the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria - CSN,
ii. the Christian Council of Nigeria - CCN,
iii. the Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria /Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria - CPFN /PFN,
iv. the Organisation of African Instituted Churches - OAIC and
v. the Tarayya Ekklisioyi Kristi a Nigeria/Evangelical Church Winning All - TEKAN/ECWA.

We also cover the six geo-political zones of Nigeria and different occupational and professional callings. At the same time our Membership cuts across all the political parties and organisations. We cannot, therefore, afford or be seen to be partisan in our comments or demands from our respective candidates in the forthcoming elections, hence we proffer following solutions to the credibility issues concerning our candidates.

Certain damaging allegations affecting the credibility and suitability of some of our candidates for the forthcoming elections have been published in recent times. These allegations and accusations if proven wrong and malicious, are outright defamatory and libellous. The only remedy will be in the civil courts. Mere verbal replies on the political platform will not suffice to clear the concerned persons. Silence, they say, means acquiescence and if the concerned persons in any of the political parties do not challenge these damaging allegations, some of which are written in Books by notable Nigerians, and clear their names via civil suits, we urge the voting populace to consider the allegations proven and treat the concerned candidates as such. The electoral umpire should also not wait till there are court convictions to sanction such tainted candidates.

We have watched the developments in the Peoples’ Democratic Party PDP and have concluded that cause of the crises is that the party subverted its own constitution when it elected a Presidential Candidate from the same geographical region as the Party Chairman. The call, therefore, for the Chairman who was already in office and conducted the primaries which saw the Presidential Candidate from his own zone elected, presupposes that election of the Presidential Candidate is contrary to the Party rules and so that Candidate ought not to push out the Party Chairman who was already on seat. The Candidate should vacate for a Candidate from a geographical region other than that of the Party Chairman to emerge. This is a simple solution to the problem. The Presidential Candidate knowing fully well that the Party Chairman belongs to his geographical region ought not to have offered himself to contest in the first place.

Secondly and most importantly, the ignoble role of the Presidential Running Mate who earlier on had hosted Governors from the south geographical region in his State and had the privilege of reading and making public the Resolution of the said Governors that the Presidential Candidate of their Party the PDP should emerge from the South Region, only to turn round and accept to run as Vice to a Candidate from the North Region, is not only reprehensible but robs him of the credibility necessary for that office. He should reconsider his decision and act wisely to restore public confidence in him.

On the question of the Presidency going to the South East Zone of the Country, we make bold to say that in order to complete and show good faith to the post-civil war 3Rs REHABILITATION, RECONSTRUCTION AND REINTERGRATION and the NO VICTOR NO VANQUISHED Policies of the Federal Government, which are still relevant, it is only right that the Zone be given the opportunity to produce the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. All the other Zones have had representation at the Presidency and if there are to be no second-class citizens and if there are genuine desires to eliminate separatist agitations nationwide, then, a credible candidate from the geopolitical South East Zone should be voted into the Seat.

The unfortunate statements credited to some Presidential aspirants that they will lay the foundation for the Presidency for the South-East, after their turn, is not only an insult to the general Nigerian electorate but a humiliating and derogatory attack akin to that of the religious clerics earlier noted which is detrimental to the overall peaceful co-existence and equity in the Nigerian project. We speak as Christian Elders.

When God, in Genesis 4. 9 asked Cain “Where is Abel thy brother?” And Cain replied “I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper?” God’s reply in the succeeding verses and the curse which he placed on Cain ought to be a lesson to caution against indiscriminate and unlawful shedding of innocent human blood as we have witnessed in recent years in this country.

Genesis 4. 10, 11,12 “the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground” “And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened its mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand”. “When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength, a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth”.
God’s admonition and direct sentence passed on Cain and His Commandment in Exodus 20: 13 “Thou shalt not kill” predate any known religion or belief, whether Christian, Muslim or paganism. Shedding of blood cannot, therefore, be justified or defended in favour of any religious belief or persuasion.

The BLOOD of our INNOCENT BRETHREN killed in the name of religion or any other reason, like the BLOOD of ABEL cry unto GOD for vengeance.

The only way out to atone for the innocent blood, escape the ‘curse of Cain’ on us and our land and chart a new noble cause for us and future generations, is to elect a credible character who possesses the necessary gumption and intelligence to deal with our sorry security situation with precision, love for humanity/human dignity and political will. Nigeria requires a character who has no tainted history or questionable background, a character who will address our national problems, economic, social, political or cultural without first attending to the whims and caprices of political/spiritual godfathers and personal greed, a character whose ‘stomach is not his god’.

Whether one is a Christian, a Muslim, a traditionalist, or a free thinker, it is clear to Nigerians that leadership is crucial to our wellbeing. Not only is leadership crucial, but the national ideology of the country is also of equal importance. This country was birthed on the laps of Liberal Democracy as the national ideology to ensure justice, equity, and fairness in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious society.

Power should not be given to those who will use it against Nigerian citizens. We cannot be doing the same thing over and over and expect different results. Let us use our votes to determine our preferred future.

The choice is ours now. Choose wisely, vote wisely.

God bless Nigeria.

For and on behalf of National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF),

Dr. Samuel Gani, CON

Bosun Emmanuel