There are indications that despite the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) rejecting the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket, the Christian voting population may not be stopped from voting for the same faith ticket.
CAN during the build-up of the presidential primary election had warned that it will not support candidates who run on the same faith ticket.
The Christian apex body maintained this stand until the All Progressives Congress (APC) finalized its presidential primary election which produced the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is a Muslim from the South.
The APC sensing that picking Tinubu’s running mate from northern Christians may cost them the majority northern Muslim voting population, opted to pick a northern Muslim as running mate.
This decision by the ruling APC was greeted by backlash from especially the northern Christians who saw it as an insult. Also, CAN national headquarters rejected the arrangement and urged their members to follow suit.
CAN has five blocs namely the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (CPFN) /Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) (TEKAN and ECWA Fellowship).
CAN also has Women and Youth Wings, a National Executive Council consisting of 110 members (which elects the President), and a General Assembly of 304 members (which ratifies the President’s election).
When Nigerian Tribune reached out to the Special Assistant to the CAN President, Luminous Jannamike, to inquire if CAN has the power to sanction any member or bloc who acts contrary to the directives of the body, he said CAN being a religious-interest group relies on its blocs or denomination to punish erring members.
“CAN is not a church, but a religious-interest organization created by law. Its membership is also voluntary and those who pilot the affairs of the Christian body emerge through constitutional means.
“So, CAN’s capacity to sanction members is both derived and limited by clearly spelt out legal frameworks. To this end, the denomination and bloc to which an individual cleric belongs primarily sees to his/her sanctioning in situations of well-established unethical conduct or act of ‘rebellion’ as in the recent case of Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka and the Catholic Church”, he said.
It appears that CAN cannot directly sanction a member who does not follow its directives; no wonder the Christian apex body was unable to sanction the Chairman of CAN Lagos State chapter Stephen Adegbite who openly supported Tinubu despite running on Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Although he said his endorsement of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Senator Kashim Shettima Presidential ticket under the APC was done in his own capacity.
Adegbite’s endorsement of Muslim-Muslim ticket divided Christians and the five blocs of CAN.
He did not however deny his action in a statement issued by his Special Adviser (Media, Public Relations and Strategic Communications), Oladapo Daramola.
Another incident that suggests that CAN may not directly sanction its erring members was when the CAN President Aide, Victor Ivoke, six other members of CAN which include present and past officials were listed on APC presidential campaign council.
This happened despite CAN not hiding its objection to the Same-Faith ticket, as it has vehemently criticized the APC for adopting Muslims as their presidential and vice presidential candidates.
The list has the CAN chairman of Lagos State, Bishop Stephen Adegbite, the Personal Assistant to the CAN President, Victor Ivoke, and the Director of Legal at CAN, Barrister Comfort Chigbo.
Others are Dr Testimony Onifade, and Professor Biodun Sanyaolu. Although, the CAN Chairman of Lagos State had earlier said he supports the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, but that still contravenes the position of CAN on the same faith ticket.
Meanwhile, some of those listed on the APC presidential campaign council rejected the appointment while some kept mum and accepted the offer.
The CAN President, Archbishop Daniel Okoh while reacting to the list, expressed shock that despite the position of the Christian body, some of its members found their way into the campaign list of a party that went contrary to its position on the same faith ticket.
Okoh while distancing himself from the list, said he would embark on a full-scale investigation into how his member made the APC presidential campaign council list.
“Such a development is worrisome because it counters the well-known stance of CAN on partisanship.
“I want to categorically exonerate my humble self from this development and any of such that may occur in the future.
“I want to use this medium to assure all Christians in Nigeria and the general public that since I received the news, I have commenced full investigation into how the officials got involved into overt partisanship”, he said.
Another incident was when some clergymen attended the unveiling of Bola Tinubu and Senator Kashim Shettima as the flag bearer of the APC presidential candidate and the vice.
This action by these clergymen received condemnation, especially from the Christian community.
The Vice President of CAN (19 Northern States and Abuja) Reverend Joseph John Hayab during an interview, disowned the clergymen.
He described them as desperados who attended the event for themselves.
“The people we saw at the unveiling of Shettima paraded as Bishops are people who did not have enough time to learn how to wear Bishop garments. Take a closer look at their photo and you will see another Nollywood movie.
“CAN wonders why the desperation. First, a story was out claiming to have come from the Chairman of CAN Borno state only to be refuted. Secondly, there was another lie that BAT (Bola Ahmed Tinubu) and his running mate were on their way to meet CAN President one night. A meeting that was not true and was on a night that the CAN President was in Alabama USA attending the Baptist World Alliance Conference of which he is the Vice President.
“Another desperation story was that they met Papa Adeboye which the RCCG later refuted. If Christians are not important, why the desperation?
“BAT is free to hire mechanics and other artisans and sew clerical garments for them. An effort that will only add to their many ropes when the political exercise is over but will not change the need for fairness and justice that CAN is calling for”, he said.
Till today, no sanction has been placed on these clergymen for acting contrary to the directives of the Christian national body.
It is glaring, that the APC may still get votes from CAN members in the country despite the position of CAN National body on the same faith ticket.