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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

BETWEEN ARCHBISHOP ONAIYEKAN AND THE CAN PRESIDENT

I am not a member of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), but I was not happy when the tenure of Archbishop John Onaiyekan as president of CAN ended and heralded the commencement of that of Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, president of the Pentecostal Federation of Nigeria. Archbishop Onaiyekan has been a bridge builder and a pillar of Christian-Muslim dialogue in Nigeria before, during and after occupying the exalted position of the CAN presidency. No Christian-Muslim committee for mutual understanding is complete without the name of John Onaiyekan. He has a genuine passion for and a total commitment to Christian-Muslim peaceful co-existence and mutual respect. Genuine, because when you come close to him, you can easily discern that conflicts and lack of harmony between the adherents of Islam and Christianity hurt him; he sincerely wants us to live in peace. Every year I and many Muslim scholars and leaders in Nigeria receive at least 4 congratulatory and goodwill messages from Archbishop Onaiyekan: 1) for the Maulid celebrations; 2) another on commencement of the fasting of the holy month of Ramadan; 3) the one for the Sallah (Lesser Bairam) festivities marking the end of fasting season; and 4) in form of a personalised seasonal greeting cards (Greater Bairam hajj sallah celebrations) addressed to the Muslim recipient from the Holy Sea, Vatican and signed by His Holiness, the Hope. This is the peak of investment in Christian-Muslim mutual understanding!
In his public utterances Archbishop Onaiyekan does not waver in speaking the truth to power, for the words he speaks come from his heart with clear conscience, seeking acceptance only from his Maker and not desiring public acclaim or governmental largesse. No; he always prefers Christians and Muslims coming together on their own, not at the government’s behest, to form bodies for the purposes of dialogue and harmonious relations. Humble yet elegant in his simple, ascetic and clerical tunic, Archbishop Onaiyekan is a shining example of how a CAN president should exercise restraint in times of crisis, use his offices and public pronouncements in extinguishing the embers of religious hatred, senseless killings and burning of places of worship.
                               Archbishop John Onaiyekan

Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor is a distressful successor to Archbishop John Onaiyekan. His past record during crisis periods even before ascending the throne as CAN president has been fraught with reckless and inciting statements. Old habits die hard; last Sunday, the fiery pastor called for the immediate arrest and prosecution of General Muhammadu Buhari and political leaders in the North for inciting post-election violence in the Northern part of the country.



                                                  Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor

“I don’t know how the Federal Government should sanction sponsors of such mayhem that have left hundreds of innocent Nigerians dead” said Pastor Ayo, “but I think the government should do something to keep this nation one indivisible entity for the benefit of every citizen…. I believe in one indivisible Nigeria but I also believe that if Nigeria is ever going to remain one nation, which I believe it could, then certain persons must be sanctioned because of this continued violence we are experiencing in the northern part of Nigeria.
“Let us not pretend by always saying the violence is taking place in some parts of the country. People like Gen. Buhari and others like him should not be allowed to roam the streets of this country because they are part of the confusion that has enveloped the nation today. I believe that the current violence we are experiencing in parts of the North is because certain highly placed persons in this country magnified the PDP problem of zoning offices and gave the impression to the electorate and the generality of northerners, especially the gullible illiterates that it was their turn to rule…”
What do you expect from a man of God who declared his support to candidate Goodluck Jonathan days prior to the elections? Do the above words resemble those of a clergy or will they most appropriately fit a card-carrying member of the PDP? I believe Archbishop Onaiyekan will not make such a vile accusation against Buhari or the Northern leadership knowing well that Buhari has not encouraged or supported violence against anybody. Rather, in line with his calling as a man of God and a leader, Archbishop Onaiyekan is sure to condemn the violence, as all of us are wont to do, advise the government to stop the carnage and tersely make reference to the causes and how to avoid recurrence. In a recent (6th April) Breakfast Meeting at Hilton Hotel, Abuja, between religious leaders and members of the International Observation Mission to Nigeria’s 2011 Presidential Elections under the aegis of National Democratic Institute (NDI), Archbishop Onaiyekan questioned the rationale of election observations if that will not be followed up with concrete action by the observers if elections were found to be flawed, as witnessed in the past. Of course the international observers had no answer. To my mind the body is here to serve a purpose as we see in other places around the world: go to a limited number of polling units on Election Day, collate incomplete information about the conduct of the elections and pronounce flawed verdict. They called us to this Hilton meeting only to make us call people to order, avoid violence and inform them to accept the results of the ballots before they were cast. When the NDI president, Mr Kenneth Wollack asked us what role we were going to play in preaching to our flock to accept the election results, Archbishop Onaiyekan answered by saying: “I will not tell my people to accept flawed election results. In fact, where elections are rigged, I will encourage them to complain……………” This is what we expect from a CAN president; standing firmly for fair play and justice. Unfortunately, Pastor Ayo had no time for such important a meeting that was aimed at the role of religious leaders in curbing electoral violence. The CAN president was represented by Barrister Uko Albert, National Legal Advisor of CAN. What a pity!
In his call for the arrest and prosecution of General Buhari, Pastor Ayo is depicting a picture of a Northern Muslim affair as if Pastor Bakare, Tony Momoh, Lanre Tejuoso and many other Christian members of the CPC are Muslims. Yes, some people voted on religious lines, but we must concede that both Muslims and Christians voted for all the candidates. Jonathan and Sambo profess different religions, just as Buhari and Bakare; in all cases, the one a Christian, the other a Muslim. The CAN president would have served a better purpose, as a man of God, by condemning the barbaric act of killing innocent souls on both sides, including those of the NYSC members, burning of churches and mosques, and the culture of rigging elections and stealing, changing results at collation centres which actually caused the unfortunate mayhem in the North. Incidentally, at least three of the corps members in Bauchi who lost their lives were alleged to have been colluding with election riggers and one was said to have been caught with fake electoral materials; this does not justify the killings, that is barbarism in its crudest form, but it tells you that when people are pushed to the wall and expect no real justice, they do take the law into their own hands.
That “one indivisible entity…” Pastor Ayo claims to believe in encompasses Christians and Muslims, Northerners and Southerners; we are all intertwined with and in each other by religion, lineage, matrimony and geography. So, when religious leaders speak on sensitive issues they should choose their words carefully to avoid rubbing salt into open wounds and injuring the sensibilities of others many of whom may be members of their flock.
Introducing those he called ‘gullible illiterates’ to the issue of zoning was an ungodly combination. The two are not related. Only a person who descends from Mars will claim ignorance of PDP’s zoning formula that was jettisoned after its earlier ratification by some strong members that included Pastor Ayo’s benefactor. The ‘gullible illiterates’ are reacting, albeit in a wrong way, because the results declared from the collation centres were tampered with, did not reflect what occurred in their various polling units the outcome of which they knew. Their reactions were unconnected with the victory of the PDP elsewhere. It was not due to anybody telling them when is “their turn to rule”. They only wanted a true reflection of the voting pattern!
Even the INEC chairman acknowledged that there was an ‘honest’ mistake in the figures declared for the CPC in Kaduna and Kano by as much as 26% and 40% respectively! Only a manual calculation of the results exposed the fraud. The CPC, not Buhari alone, is alleging the same thing in other parts of the country. It is certainly curious to hear of 78% voter turnout in areas where originally, all reports said the turnout was lower than that of the National Assembly elections, which witnessed around 55% voter turnout on average. While no sane person should conclude all the allegations are true without seeing concrete evidence, no one who is sane should likewise dismiss them as frivolous.
Pastor Ayo seems to be oblivious of the pervasiveness of ‘gullible illiterates’ in Nigeria, or is he? Every geo-political zone has more than its fair share of the menace of these gullible illiterates manipulated and used as thugs by the ruling elite; the only difference is that some have advocates in the highest offices in the land, in such a way that even where they detonate bombs, kill innocent Nigerians and claim responsibility for the act, their advocate-in-chief would offer presidential defence exonerating them of any wrong doing. George Orwell’s Animal Farm? No firebrand edict from the CAN president against these presidential incongruities. Another noticeable disparateness among the gullible illiterates is in the way governments at all levels implement workable programmes towards rehabilitation, education, poverty alleviation and job creation. Where those of Northern extraction have been neglected and often mown down by heavy artillery at times of crisis, those from the South-South, who have made and are still making life difficult for ordinary Nigerians, are now enjoying an amnesty programme, housed in rehabilitation centres with munificent monthly allowances, and many of them are now studying abroad under a government scholarship scheme – thanks to the intuitiveness and foresight of a President from the North!
Upon hearing the news of their kinsman’s victory, the so-called reformed militants who have ‘surrendered’ their arms and ammunition found some from thin air and detonated bombs and fired countless rounds of live ammunition into the air in celebration.
I wrote I WILL NOT VOTE FOR HIM and a reader retorted that I was not God; the man was ‘God-sent’. The answer to this is that not voting for him would not make him lose the election; there have always been contingency plans against that, but it makes my conscience clear that I did the right thing. Come to think of it, we always get the kind of leaders we deserve. The next few years will prove me right or wrong.

2 comments :

  1. Mal Abkr, people like Pastor Ayo have made up their minds. Regretably, your submission makes no difference to their positions, opinions, and perceptions of what constitute fairness, right and wrong. Very unfortunate, indeed.

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  2. My Mal, once again thank you for you insight into Pastor Ayos views. You will notice like i did that there is a patern into the way & ways sychopahants have reacted to the aftermath of the PDP election rape as they try to present themselves to the President as those who either made him win or will ensure his victory stays. I saw your neighbour my freind Mujahid Asari Dokubo council people of SS not to react to the Northern Killings of Their people.
    I wondered who his people were, was it Namadi whose house was burnt or the Kaduna youth who were said to have done the burning?. We all should wish good luck Jonathan GOOD luck against this shameless crooks.

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