THE election of the 7th National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, to succeed Pentecostal Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor may have come and gone but the nation may not have seen the end of the exercise as there were attempts to stop the electoral process when the campaign director of the TEKAN/ECWA bloc aspirant, Dr. Jeremiah Gado, raised a motion that the election could not proceed, arguing that there was a court injunction stopping the process.
The motion was immediately put to vote and only four persons supported it. Even at that monumental defeat, the campaign director insisted that there was a court injunction stopping the electoral process. After rowdy debates and a briefing by CAN’s legal advisers that there was no court injunction, it was alleged that the motion was an attempt to mislead the gathering. Supporters of Gado later staged a walk-out, arguing that the President of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) was duly nominated and should have contested the election. New CAN President, Rev Ayokunle Confusion started within the TEKAN/ECWA bloc when it conducted a primary election to select its candidate for the CAN election on March 29, 2016 while the bloc’s Chairman, Rev. Emmanuel Dzaggau, and two other clergymen were in the den of kidnappers. CAN, founded in 1976 with His Eminence Dominic Cardinal Ekandem (late) as first President (1976-1986), is an association of Christian churches with distinct identities, recognizable Church structures and system of worship of one God in the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It is made up of five blocs: the Christian Council of Nigeria, CCN, the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, CSN, the Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria/Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, CPFN/PFN, the Organization of African Instituted Churches, OAIC, and the TEKAN/ECWA, which is a grouping of all those churches that trace their genealogy to either the Canadian-based Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) or the largely British-based Sudan United Mission (SUM). Since the time of Ekandem, CAN has been led by Anthony Cardinal Okogie of the Catholic Church (1988-1995), Prelate Sunday Mbang of Methodist Church (1994-2003), Primate Jasper Peter Akinola of Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) (2003-2007), Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Catholic Church (2007-2010) and Oritsejafor of the CPFN/PFN (July 2010-July 2016). After two extensions (first one week and later, two weeks) to enable a resolution of the crisis and there was no breakthrough from the TEKAN/ECWA bloc, the CAN NEC decided to proceed with the election. At the end of the electoral process, last Tuesday, the President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC) and candidate of the Christian Council of Nigeria, CCN, Rev. Samson Olasupo Adeniyi Ayokunle, emerged the new President of CAN. Ayokunle defeated Elder Joseph Otubu of the Motailatu Church Cherubim and Seraphim Movement (MCCSW) who represented OAIC with 57 votes to 28.
In his acceptance speech titled, “My Vision for CAN”, Ayokunle identified seven cardinal objectives to cement the bond that wedged Christianity in the country, stressing that without unity in CAN, there cannot be progress.
They included an atmosphere where the member churches of CAN can have a more effective fellowship and dialogue on Christian Faith, its defense in Nigeria and all over the world. He desires an association that will be an advocate of freedom of religion in terms of the right of each individual to associate and worship without any coercion, fear of molestation and persecution from any quarter and will resist any attempt by the government or her agencies to favour one religion more than the other or turn this nation into a mono-religious state.
Ayokunle also envisions a CAN that will challenge the ills in our society and ensure that the attention of those in government is always called to serving the nation creditably just as all efforts would be geared towards eradication of corruption in our society in collaboration with other credible bodies in the nation who are committed to the same goal. He will also ensure that Christianity is given its rightful position in this nation and that Christians are never treated as second-class citizens with regards to any other religious adherent. In this direction, all anti-Christ moves in the nation will be totally condemned with a view to making sure that they are dropped. CAN, according to him, needs a relief agency with a separate purse from that of the mother body (CAN) which can immediately respond to disasters within and outside the body. Care for the hurting, the less-privileged and the poor is one of the cardinal ministries of the Church. He therefore appealed to all Christians in the country to join hands with him to do valiantly all the set objectives.
A communiqué issued at the end of the post election CAN NEC meeting commended the National President, Oritsejafor, for providing the enabling environment for the Church blocs to present candidates of their choice and participate in the election, acknowledging that the meeting was well attended by national officers of the association, all the five heads of blocs, the zonal chairmen, the states chairmen and delegates representing the five blocs of the Association.
The communiqué, signed by the General Secretary, Rev. Musa Asake, said the meeting conducted a successful election that produced officers who will be inaugurated after the General Assembly Meeting of the Association to be held at a later date. But the Coalition of Nigerian Christian Elders and Nigerian Christian Youths dissociated itself from the CAN election, saying “the election was worthless.” The group, which made this known in a press statement signed by its Public Relations Officer, Peter Jacob, in Jos, described the election as a flagrant abuse of office by Orisajefor, calling on church leaders and Christians in general to discard the election.
The reasons for disregarding the election, according to the group, are: “There were contending issues concerning the election especially regarding TEKAN/ECWA bloc artificially and mischievously created by the CAN leadership. There were clear evidences of plan to deny or disenfranchise some contestants the right of participation in a free and fair CAN election. “Contrary to CAN regulations and or precedence of rotation of leadership among the blocs as well as freedom and right of participation, Oritsejafor and his collaborators outrightly denied the process leading to a free and fair election and that the election date was quickly re-adjusted from the initial date of Wednesday, June 15, 2016 back to Tuesday, June 14, 2016 without prior notice”.