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Onaiyekan, Oyedepo, 2 others in secret talks with Jonathan

By Sam Eyoboka & Daniel Idonor

ABUJA—BARELY 48 hours after they met behind closed doors with ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua, four top Christian clerics, National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Archbishop John Onaiyekan, General Overseer of the Living Faith International, Bishop David Oyedepo, Bishop Emmanuel Kure and former Chaplain of Aso Rock, Prof Yusuf Obaje, yesterday, held secret talks with Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.

The meeting was held moments after the weekly meeting of the newly reconstituted Executive Council of the Federation, EXCOF.

The four clerics were seen coming out of the Acting President’s office, in company of the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission, NCPC, Mr. John Kennedy Okpara.

From left: Former Chaplain, Aso Villa Chapel, Prof. Yusuf Obaje; General Overseer, Living Faith Church, Bishop David Oyedepo; Bishop Emmanuel Kure and the National President, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Bishop John Onaiyekan after a closed-door consultations with Acting President Goodluck Jonathan at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday.

The clerics stopped at the corridor of the Aso Rock Villa apparently to concretize their resolve to keep the outcome of their deliberations a top secret before zooming off. And, in line with their position, they did not speak to State House correspondents on their mission to Aso Rock.

Vanguard, however, learnt that their visit might not be unconnected with their Easter Monday’s visit to Yar’Adua in the villa, where they were said to have prayed for the quick recovery of the President.

Though they did not give details of the president’s health condition, possibly for fear of misrepresentation, they confirmed that Yar’Adua is sick. Their discussion with the Acting President was done behind closed door.
It would be recalled that some notable Islamic clerics had also gone to see and pray for President Yar’Adua, a few days earlier.

The visit of these clerics has continued to generate controversy among the populace, especially because they have all maintained a sordid silence about the state of the president’s health.

Many Nigerians are questioning the rationale for the visit and the criterion for the selection of the team of Christian leaders for the trip.

Since November 23, last year when the President was flown out of the country for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, nobody, including the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has been allowed to see him even after his return.

Clerics react
Responding to the secret visit of Christian clerics, yesterday, one of the presidential candidates in the 2007 elections, Rev. Chris Okotie told Vanguard that the whole drama was becoming messier than one expected. He said that unless the citizens were careful, the nation might be heading for something much more terrible.

Okotie said the visit was part of a grand plan by certain quarters to heat up the polity, warning that Nigerians must be vigilant at this very critical period of the nation’s evolution.

Theatre of the absurd
Also speaking on the issue, member of the Save Nigeria Group, Pastor Tunde Bakare, criticized the visits of Muslim and Christian clerics to President Umaru Yar’Adua describing them as “the theatre of the absurd.”

Pastor Bakare, who spoke in Lagos on Tuesday, on the heels of Monday’s visit of Christian leaders to Aso Rock to pray with Yar’Adua, said: “It doesn’t matter the number of clerics and ‘babalawo’ taken there. The simple truth is there is something to hide. You know those who operate in the light cannot be afraid to come out.”

Noting that it was not a crime to be sick, Bakare stressed that Nigerians deserved to know the state of the president’s health which these men of God have refused to avail the nation.

He said: “My good wishes and prayers to the president, if he is truly recovering. If they are playing a dangerous political game with his health situation, then nobody should give support to the foolishness that is going on.”

Citing the example of Fidel Castro of Cuba, Bakare said powerful world leaders had also found themselves in such situation before, but have been open about it. He said the cohorts taking care of the president should be asked: “What is wrong with allowing the acting president to see him at the Aso Villa?

“I think you journalists should do a serious investigative journalism on this. To be honest with you, I think everything is just becoming a theatre of the absurd; that is all that I could say.”

Last Thursday, some Islamic leaders visited the ailing president. On Monday, it was the turn of Christian leaders who only claimed they sighted and prayed with Yar’Adua.

Leaders went in private capacity
Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, Dr. Sunday Ola Makinde, in his reaction, said the four Christian leaders went to Aso Rock in their private capacity and not on behalf of CAN or any bloc that make up the umbrella body of the Christian Association.

While he didn’t see anything wrong with their visit, especially if the Christian and the Muslim clerics were dully invited to pray for the ailing president, Makinde said “after all we all have been praying for the man either corporate or individually in churches across the country.”

Makinde said that no mortal being was above sickness and if there was any ailment it behove on those that are alive to pray for those who are sick. While stressing that there is nothing God cannot do, the Methodist prelate said, “but what I find a little odd is the politicisation of the man’s illness.

“As a man of God who was invited to come and pray for speedy recovery of the president, they could have gone there, prayed and returned to their respective places to carry on their individual duties and not make noise about it.

“Why should these fellows go to pray for the president in their private capacity and come out to publicize it for the world to know and yet they have refused to tell the world the president’s state of health. It is the right of every Nigerian, those who voted for him and those who didn’t vote for him, to know about the president’s health condition.”

Makinde said he had not spoken with any of the four clerics including Onaiyekan and Oyedepo who visited Yar’Adua on Easter Monday, stressing that they didn’t go there on behalf of CAN.

Conspiracy of silence
The Director of Social Communications at the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Rev. Monsignor Gabriel Osu, in his comments, described as worrisome the current conspiracy of silence among the Christian leaders who visited Aso Rock, saying that thousands of Christian faithful in the country were looking up to them for leadership.

Osu argued that sickness was itself not a sin and saw no reason why the Christian leaders should be shrouding such an important visit as politicians.

He said that the Egyptian president recently went for medical treatment and handed over to his immediate deputy just as it happened in the case of other world leaders including even the Catholic Pontiff.

According to him, “some day and very soon all of this abracadabra will come to an end,  because no matter how long one tries to hide the truth, God has a way of unearthing the truth because He is the truth. You cannot hide the truth for too long. You can deceive the people for some time but you cannot deceive them for all the time.”


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