We can confirm that the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, made up of five blocs: the Christian Council of Nigeria, the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, the Organisation of African Instituted Churches, and the Evangelical Church Winning All, held its quarterly meeting on Wednesday to review the state of the nation even as Nigeria prepares for another independence day celebration in ten days time.
The meeting was well attended as many of the 105-member NEC and the 304-member General Assembly, with presentation from both the Women and Youth Wings received unofficial reports that the Presidency has, of recent, come under intense pressure to relocate the Villa Chapel, where Christians have been worshipping on Sundays because the Chapel, built and inaugurated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, is said to be too close to President Muhammadu Buhari’s bedroom and kitchen.
Some leaders of the apex religious body were visibly infuriated especially by the report that, ahead of the relocation of the Chapel, the Children’s church, was not only shut but some rooms there also converted to kitchen store and, as a result of the closure, children were forced to relocate to the office of the Chaplain, Seyi Malomo, for their service. To the leaders, anybody who plays politics with the Church will only end up with burnt fingers.
The CAN leadership was said to have managed to calm frayed nerves of agitated members, some of whom were poised for concerted efforts because they believed the reports could be a kite to test the waters in preparation for the demolition of the chapel in line with a hidden Islamic agenda. It therefore adopted a wait-and-see attitude while setting up a machinery to investigate the veracity of the ‘rumour’ and design a suitable approach to the matter to avoid fiction.
All efforts to reach the CAN National President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor for his comments proved abortive as he was said to have jetted out of the country on ecclesiastical mission after the Wednesday night. A concerned Christian elder, who wouldn’t want his name in print apparently because he had not been briefed, told our correspondent that sometimes the Muslims rake up things ahead of what they plan to do eventually. “They have a mosque in the Villa; so why are they targeting the chapel?”, he said, stressing that it’s not really the fault of the other religion, rather it’s the fault of Christians who have refused to assert their position in the country.
“We are supposed to be 50-50 in terms of representation based on religion but Christians have remained docile while the other people control everything. That’s our problem and until we wake up from our slumber to assert our position, Nigeria will continue to go backwards”.
Buhari should not bite his fingers – Okogie
Meanwhile, Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos Archdiocese and former CAN President, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, has described the alleged move to relocate the Aso Rock Villa Chapel as a rumour.
“I regard the report as a rumour because there is nothing to confirm it yet. You know most of our fellow country men and women peddle rumors for whatever reasons and so many of them are not in tune with what President Muhammadu Buhari has been doing since his inauguration. For example, there are so many people who have issue with the delay in appointing his cabinet”, Okogie said.
“There are others who want his anti-corruption probe to go in certain directions instead of his current body language and there is yet another group who have called the president `Baba Go Slow’ and so on; and I think some of these people believe that the greater the pressure on him, the more difficult it will be for him to achieve his set goals. That’s my thought because Nigerians can say all sorts of things. So, I believe it’s a rumour”.
The Sunday Vanguard’s conversation with him continues:
If the rumour turns out to be true, what will the Christian community do?
Hmmmm! What do you expect the Christian community to do? Don’t forget that Nigeria is a secular nation and, as such, it is not just for one particular religion and being the Head of State and going by what he said during his inauguration on May 29, 2015, he will be biting his fingers. And he will not only be biting his fingers, he will be lighting his candle at both ends. And by that I mean we are yet to settle the Boko Harm insurgency and he wants to light another candle. I don’t know any wise person who will do that. As so the response of the Christian community, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor will be in a better position to answer that question. He is supposed to be talking for Christians, not me.