Let me begin with self-introduction. I am a Christian and a communicant of the Roman Catholic sect. In life, change is inevitable. So, at some point in my undergraduate days, my faith dragged me to the Pentecostal ministry on campus.
I rose to the rank of an Assistant Pastor with a campus Pentecostal ministry. I have served in similar capacities at home and abroad. I played strong and influencing roles at the University of Ilorin Christian Fellowship Association (UCFA). It was at a time most of the leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) now were still in Theological Seminaries for vocational training in order to become pastors.
By my religious practice, I have tested the fruits and experienced the teachings/doctrines of both orthodox and Pentecostal Christian sects. My faith has remained strong and unwavering in the worship of God through the Christian religion.
My romance with multiple Christian organizations is enduring. I am versed in the doctrines of the church and the modus operandi of Christian associations, like adherents of Aristotle and Socrates.
In the past few days, the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), its sub- associations and the Presidency have been embroiled in very bile public altercations. The recent war of words is spurred by the unfortunate abduction and eventual death of Pastor Lawan Andimi, the CAN Chairman, Michika LGA, Adamawa state and others by Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists in Nigeria.
It’s a doleful moment for the Christian community in Nigeria. I empathize with all the brethren and the government of Nigeria over these tragic incidents. Like English poet and cleric in the Church of England, John Donne said in a verse, “Oh death, thou are wicked.” May we be consoled, as we pray for God’s intervention to halt the evil and beastliness which have engulfed our land.
The brawls between CAN leaderships at different levels and the Presidency as symbolized by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina have degenerated into plain invectives and resort to uncouth language by CAN, which smolders with hate passions. I have keenly monitored these exchanges. What I discerned clearly is its slide into who is right or wrong between CAN and Adesina. And by my treasured experience, vintage position and knowledge of the issues, I should be able to tell between CAN and Adesina who is wrong.
Abroad for further studies, I remained an elder in the Student Campus Fellowship of Salem Church, United Kingdom (UK). I have busied myself with the gospel for many years in foreign lands. And I still render my assistance even whilst on leave from the pulpit. All these qualify me both as a believer and a Christian elder to interrogate the position of these two believers- that is, CAN and Adesina. The recent response of a Christian sub-group by the identity of Nigeria Christian Graduate Fellowship (NCGF) to Adesina titled “No, Adesina, You Are Wrong,” was most disappointing. It was signed by Prof. Charles Adisa and Mr Onyenachi Nwaegeruo, National President and General Secretary of the association respectively.
In the public statement, in reaction to the Presidential media aide’s earlier position at the doorstep of CAN’s national leadership, I was stunned at the sheer display of unjustified anger, umbrage and a vacuous appeal to Adesina to repress the truth because it concerns Christians.
We must know and uphold the religious sanctity that truth should not only be domiciled in our churches, but also in our hearts as Christians. We cannot seek to replace mendacity with falsehood because of the desperation to erect a bulwark around Christianity. I find the outbursts of CAN and NCGF very abhorring; profanely ungodly!
I perused repeatedly to find where Adesina’s reply to CAN denigrated church leadership, disappointed Christian or where he reneged from supporting the church when it mattered most as generously pontificated by NCGF. But there was no such clue either overt or concealed.
Some of us have come to understand that national leadership of CAN and affiliate associations have become misguided and partisan messengers of God on the pulpit. They have no regard for either the teachings of Christ nor the religious doctrines they publicly profess. They have de-robed themselves of truth for partisan convenience!
For a first, it is now common knowledge that CAN has over polluted itself and can no longer speak for the body of Christ. Yes, I say this with a religious conviction because in our clime, religion and politics are distinct. Any attempt to lump the two as presently promoted by CAN disrupts religious and political harmony. So, CAN or NCGF’s statement in countering Adesina were more political and betrayed the body of Christ in Nigeria. I agree with Adesina that CAN cannot mix sympathy and bias wrapped in one. CAN cannot erect a multiple tripod. It confines itself to issues of religion. It has no business dictating to President Muhammadu Buhari how to administer Nigeria or when to sack his Service and Security Chiefs.
CAN cannot overtly perform the functions of opposition parties. And that’s where Adesina is right! It was enough to mourn the death of Pastor Andimi and others murdered by terrorists. It touches my heart deeply. It was alright to persuade the Presidency to ensure the release of our little sister, Leah Sharibu still in captivity of Boko Haram.
But I was amazed when CAN began to raise issues of the President’s bias, nepotism or lopsided appointments and determining who should be sacked, retained or appointed by Mr. President. It is stretching their freedom of expression and religious liberty beyond the limits of church righteousness.
Adesina could not have been wrong to draw attention to their reckless comments. Like Adesina said, “You can’t sow discord, and expect concord.” I don’t know which clause in Nigeria’s laws recognizes CAN under the Federal Character principle for it to morph into a partisan or ethnic pressure group against the federal government. The response of NCGF was most unchristian. They bandied falsehood, as facts and inflated figures of terrorism/ herdsmen killings in Nigeria under the Buhari Presidency. And NCGF embellished hate preachments coated in their known partisan biases.
I was pissed off completely, when NCGF said, “Finally, on the general security situation in the country, does it not occur to Adesina that he is deluded to believe that their government is winning the war against insurgency? He is not seeing that whatever seem to be the magic and gains of 2015 has been reversed in 2019. Yes, there are no incessant bomb explosions, but number of Nigerians killed by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen between 2018-2019 are far higher than 2009-2014. Can Adesina check available records both within and outside the country?”
Haba! Why would leaders of the church publicly lie so freely? I don’t know which authority they gleaned to arrive at such humongous figures. I advise CAN to visit the 2019 report of Amnesty International (AI), Nigeria’s covert enemies; Human Rights Watch (HRW) and any other such organization which document Boko Haram/herdsmen killings in Nigeria within the period they cited. Its only at this point, CAN would realize that they lied to themselves and the Christian community while standing on the sacred pulpit.
Let me juxtapose this single incident of terrorism. On January 3-7, 2015, serial raids of Baga town, in Northern Borno state by Boko Haram, left nearly 2,000 persons dead. When CAN takes time to consult AI, HRW and similar other organizations’ latest reports on documented history of Boko Haram/herdsmen killings, it will dawn on these leaders how they lied to service their ego. I don’t expect barefaced lies from my Christian brethren intent of discrediting the Buhari Presidency.
And as far back as 2013, former President Goodluck Jonathan told the UNGA in New York that Boko Haram has killed over 13, 000 Nigerians from 2009 to 2013. These are figures in public domain. CAN cannot mix hatred for Buhari with hypocritic posturing for Nigeria’s Christian community. Buhari is antichristian, insisted NCGF! That has been the narrative concocted against President Buhari for ages. But in the general Christian community in Nigeria, we have come to know it only exists in the imagination of leaders of CAN. Adesina cannot be wrong by asserting that such malicious persecution of Buhari has outlived its usefulness. It’s extremely stale! Facts on the ground heatedly contradicts the position of these CAN leaders.
I advise CAN and other Nigerians not to look far, but revisit even results of the 2019 presidential elections in Nigeria. Buhari was not only overwhelmingly reelected with majority votes. Interestingly however, bulk of these votes for President Buhari came from Christians and Christian states.
What other affirmation does CAN requires to know President Buhari has no religious bias or is an Islamic extremist? Much as I can understand, CAN leaders spoke in favour of personalized convictions, which have nothing to do with Nigeria’s Christian community or the Church of God.I dare say, whilst Adesina is doing his job as Presidential spokesman and can easily be forgiven, the leadership of CAN is indebted to Nigerians. CAN owes the entire body of Christ in Nigeria an apology for polluting the organization with lies and profane thoughts. It must apologize for its other scandalous acts. This CAN is evil in itself and the crux of the multi-layered problems besieging and compounding Nigeria’s progressive development.
May I boldly state that CAN is older than Boko Haram in evil and wickedness. It is better for unbelievers to pledge allegiance to the god of Mammon, but worse for believers. The Bible says such a person will roast in hell. This is the same body that went to town to celebrate one of its own after a sister accused him of rape. It took the intervention of some “ungodly believers” Christians’ like us for the voice of the sister to be heard, even if for the sake of fairness. It is the same CAN that defended Apostle Johnson Suleiman of Omega Fire Ministries (OFM) who stood on the sacred altar and incited his congregants to kill every Fulani man at sight, much against Biblical injunctions and religious/church teachings.
I have known CAN for many years as a disgrace to the body of Christ. In 2005, one of the wings of CAN was enmeshed in the Benny Hinn crusade scandal in Nigeria for doing everything wrong.
That wing of CAN later took over the leadership of CAN. It has left us with this odious stench that each time we tell people that we are Christians, we must hide our faces in shame. CAN, you are so wrong on the Buhari Presidency! I pray that CAN should rediscover itself. Almighty God, we seek your intervention!
Agbese is a teacher of the gospel, an author and human rights activist.