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NIGERIA: Power Struggle hits Christian Association of Nigeria

NIGERIA: Power Struggle hits Christian Association of Nigeria
Akinola accused of manipulating electoral process

By Kenny Ashaka, Kaduna
Daily Sun
http://www.sunnewsonline.com/webpages/news/national/2007/june/10/national-10-06-2007-01.htm
June 10, 2007

The love of money is the root of all evil, so says the Holy book. Love of power, it appears, is today threatening the brotherhood of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) following alleged attempts by the out-going National President, Right Reverend Peter Jasper Akinola, to "manipulate the electoral process".

Sunday Sun. findings at the weekend revealed that the association is now split into two over attempts by the out-going National President, to retain his seat even after reportedly losing in a shadow election to the Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Dr. John Onaiyekan.

Onayekan, a former President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, was said to have earlier defeated three of the four contestants including Right Rev. Peter Akinola whom he won by 10 votes to four when the Electoral College voted.

While Bishop Mike Okonkwo, founder of the Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) scored one vote, Reverend Farinto, a candidate presented by TEKAN/ECWA Church group failed to secure any vote when the 15 member Electoral College comprising three members each from the five Church groups that make up the Christian Association of Nigeria cast their votes.

The Church groups are the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), a group for Catholics; Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN), for Anglicans; Methodists, Baptists, First African Church; Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (CPFN); and Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), for Pentecostal Churches.

Others are Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) for Celestial Church of Christ and Cherubim and Seraphim Churches and TEKAN/ECWA with 15 denominations like ECWA, EYN, HEKAN, NKST, COCCIN and LCCN. Constitutionally, the contest for the Presidency of CAN is limited to members who are Spiritual Heads or Leaders not below the rank of a Bishop or its equivalent with not less than 15 years record with his church denomination.

Candidates for CAN Presidency must also represent one of the established five church groups. However, the contest has turned into a battle of will as the incumbent, Right Reverend Peter Jasper Akinola, allegedly changed the date of election to favour his candidacy. The election of the National President of CAN is supposed to end with the ratification of one of the two candidates by the National Assembly of CAN after NEC must have voted in favour of the candidate. The election of the two candidates who made the list of the Electoral College by the NEC of CAN was to take place on the 6th of July.

But Right Reverend Akinola, who is one of the two contestants and primate of the Anglican Church, is said to have rescheduled the election of CAN President back from the original 6th of July to the 19th of June when Onaiyekan is already scheduled to be in Rome attending a conference of World Catholic Bishops.

CAN reacts

Reacting to the issue, the National Secretary of CAN, Engr. Samuel Salifu said that there was no controversy over the forth-coming elections of the association, while confirming that the NEC meeting of the Christian body will hold in June. Salifu said: "The July meeting will still hold. The June 19 meeting is NEC and will receive report from the Electoral College. If possible, the election of the President will take place on that day (June 19). "For anyone of the two candidates presented to the General Assembly by the Electoral College to be elected President, the candidate must score over 50 percent of the 308 members. "If any of the candidates for the election is not present, he can be represented. Nothing stops him from being elected in absential. The runner-up will become the Vice President. "If Akinola wins, he will cease to be President of CAN when he retires as Primate of the Anglican Church".

CAN's assurances notwithstanding, opposition camps vow to Sunday Sun.. they would ensure the election is stalled if the Catholic Bishops were absent. Sources at the PFN Secretariat in Abuja told Sunday Sun. that the grounds may be shifting under Akinola's feet as he may be forced to opt out of the race due to stiff opposition to his candidacy by majority of the members.

Signs that more CAN members are uncomfortable with his tenure became clearer two weeks ago during the primaries. According to top CAN insiders, Akinola's problem have been compounded by his penchant for keeping quiet and not criticizing former President Obasanjo's government while "it assailed the citizenry with shoddy handling of the economy." They defined the challenges of the next leadership of CAN as a mission to make whole again and concluded that the incumbent President could not be trusted.

"The truth is that this man did not represent CAN well while Obasanjo was there. He was not talking. If we now make him President and he now decides to talk, our Moslem brothers will say 'Okay, you did not talk when your brother was there, why are you saying all these now?' "The man CAN needs now is somebody who has been consistent, who the world knows speaks out when things go bad," a PFN chieftain told Sunday Sun.. Angered by the humiliation of the church by Obasanjo while in Office, some members believe now is the time to brace up and defend the honour of the church.

Meanwhile, an underground politicking to turn the table against Onaiyekan has begun. Last week, the CAN President and Primate of the Anglican Church reportedly called a meeting of all Anglican Bishops in Abeokuta and reportedly asked the Bishops to recruit campaigners for the task of ensuring victory for the Anglican Church at the poll. But opposition against Akinola's candidacy is also waxing stronger with his critics citing several of his alleged misdeeds as reasons for their opposition.

For instance, one of the critics said, "throughout the period Akinola was in the saddle as President, in most meetings, there were no deliberations", adding "Leaders will now complain about how they came from a distance without being given opportunity of airing their views. "Again, the fire directorate of CAN did not function well throughout Akinola's tenure. He was running a one-man leadership and treats his secretary as if the man is an errand boy.

"Northern Christian Leaders are not happy with him because he always failed to act each time there was crisis in the North. In fact, in any Christian gathering in the North, the Anglicans are always made to overshadow others". However, the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) and some members of the CPFN/PFN are solidly behind the CAN President.

An Akinola supporter told Sunday Sun. that "CAN is not all about confrontation and therefore, I think Akinola has done well in the circumstance we find ourselves. "We are supposed to show a shinning example. CAN is not a political party and if a critic of government is there as CAN President, political motives would always be read to anything." For now, CAN is divided along the lines of the two candidates.

In the charged atmosphere, that may not be the last statement on the spirited efforts of CAN members to get a CAN President acceptable to all.

END

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