By Sam Eyoboka
This is because the CAN Constitution does not have a provision for the disqualification of candidates on the basis of intra groupâ€™s crisis or manoeuvres.
It is the groupâ€™s Constitutional right to present a candidate. This right cannot be scuttled because of the groupâ€™s intern-al crisis. The Constitution says a candidate shall come from one of the groups (eligible) of CAN. It does not say that such a group shall be crisis-free. It is worthy to note that the two component units of the CPFN/PFN group are stakeholders of equal rights within the group, Yerima further argued.
“Why then should the right to oppose the candidature of a candidate over ride the right of the candidateâ€™s aspi-ration? Which of these rights will be most infringed and affected? Is it the right of the unit which is not interested in aspiring but has the right to vote for any candidate of its choice during the election that will be most infringed if the candidate is allowed to contest? Or the right of the other unit and the candidate who is aspiring that will be most infringed if he is denied the opportunity to participate in the election?â€ he queried.
Yerima believes that people of decent minds will readily agree that it is the candidate who is aspiring that has a better right higher and above the opposition who has nothing to lose because, however, one looks at it, their (CPFN) right to express their opinion is in their votes which they have clearly stated in their letter of March 31, 2010 to the CAN General Secretary that they are in support of the incumbent but did not frown at the candidature of Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor.
â€œNow, if we impute disqualification to the candidature of Pastor Oritsejafor of PFN because of the above support for the incumbent, then it will be right to say that the incumbent is not qualified to contest for election into the office of the president because he would have been presented by a one and half group (i.e. CSN and Â½ of CPFN/PFN) which is not recognized by the constitution,â€ Yerima argued.
Continuing, Yerima also averred that Article 14d(v) is the only provision in the whole CAN Constitution where a candidate may be opposed and not at the Electoral College level as being witnessed in the present circumstance. â€œThe opposition must come from the majority of members of the National Assembly and on reasons and not arbitrary. Where such developments occur, the National Assembly shall refer the matter back to the Electoral College for reconsideration of the suitability or other wise of the candidate but shall not be compelled to substitute the candidate. Therefore, the power to nominate candidates rests squarely on the Electoral College.
â€œThe President-in-Council as proposed by the NEC to look into the present crisis may not have the constitution-al power to do so since its duty as spelt out in Article 9(3) of the CAN Constitution is to: (a). There shall be a President-in-Council which shall comprise, the National Officers of the Association and The head/leader of each Church-Group. (b). The president shall consult members of the President-in-Council or a majority of them before making public statements of policy or taking urgent decision on behalf of CAN in an emergency situation or in urgent emergency the president can act on behalf of the Association and report back immediately to the President-in-Council.â€
The issue at stake, Yerima further argues, cannot rightly fit into the content and meaning of the above provision. Therefore, the Electoral College should be asked to reconvene and nominate two candi-dates from the candidates aspiring and present same to the NEC within a reasonable time.
According to the petition addressed to the National President, Yerima hoped that â€œwiser counsel will prevail on you and your executive committee as you peruse over this document with a view to solving the problem at stakeâ€. He warned on the dangers inherent in politics of exclusion, saying it can lead to the erosion of the ideals of the founding fathers; and in extreme cases, may culminate in the collapse of CAN at a time when the Christian Community needed, more than ever before, to speak with one voice.
Also speaking, a founding father and former CAN president, His Eminence Sunday Mbang advised the current CAN leadership to fast and pray for the soul of what they had built over the years. According to him, every Church group is free to present a candidate of its choice to contest the office of the president, saying â€œYou know I am retired, so I wouldnâ€™t know if the current people have changed the constitution. Except they have changed the constitution, otherwise anybody who is representing any of the constituent groups is eligible to contest for the office of president.â€
He therefore advised the current CAN leadership to ensure that the dreams of CAN’s founding fathers are not sacrificed on the altar of some selfish considerations, stressing the need for fasting and prayers for Godâ€™s guidance in reaching a compromise.
Another founding father of the Association and current Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, His Eminence Sunday Ola Makinde lamented the development leading to a botched election, saying “if we, Christians, cannot cleanse our own house, how can we have the moral latitude to accuse secular politicians of wrong doing in the Nigerian polity?â€ Makinde, who confirmed receiving an invitation to the May 18 President-in-Council meeting, pleaded with our reporter to be patient until they had finished that deliberations in Abuja before making an elaborate statement concerning the botched CAN elections. â€œWe are the light of the world and we are the salt of the earth. If we loose our salinity then are we no longer useful,â€ he reminded the reporter, suggesting that the meeting would not be stampeded to any unconstitutional act.
In the same vein, the immediate past CAN vice president, Bishop Mike Okonkwo, who unsuccessfully contested the office of the president in 2007 from that same church group, CPFN/PFN called for caution, saying that church leaders will attend the May 18 meeting with a view to tackling the impasse with-out dragging the name of the Association to disrepute.
â€œI am yet to find out if it is a constitutional issue. If the constitution says anything regarding a consensus in any bloc before a candidate can be qualified, then, we have a bad case, but if not I do not see any reason why anyone should oppose our candidate. All they need to do is to take a close look at the CAN constitut-ion and thereafter resolve the issue which really is not an issue,â€ the erstwhile PFN president.
Many Christian leaders who pleaded anonimity for obvious reasons, expressed disgust at current develop-ment in the Ecumenical Centre in Abuja. According to a reverend gentleman, after reading the first part of this report last Sunday, the immediate past CAN presi-dent, Most Rev. Peter Akinola was said to have under-performed, hence he was voted out of office after only one term. But today, we know better why the man who completed the Christian Centre was deliberately eased out of the place to ful-fill a pre-conceived agenda.
“It was the same reason why a cabal opted for the Most Rev. Daniel Okoh who did not originally contest the 2007 election as vice president in place of Bishop Mike Okonkwo who came third in the polls and who was favoured by the CAN constitution to be ratified as vice president,” another contributor stated, explaining that after the 2007 polls Onaiyekan came first and the Akinola who came second to serve as a vice president. Instead of Okonkwo who came third to be ratified as the vice president, another electoral college was set up and quite understanbly he was defeated by Okoh who did not initially contest the elections.
Those who oppose the current plot to exclude Oritsejafor, also argue that the election of the present CAN Scribe was another reason why the PFN can-didate’s exclusion will be resisted vehemently. Accord-ing to them, Engr. Samuel Salifu was elected Secretary-General from TEKAN and his opponent at that election was from ECWA, the other half of the same group, TEKAN/ECWA.
There are very strong indica-tions that the expanded President-In-Council meeting now postponed to early June may be used to disqualify Pastor Oritsejafor from contesting. The plan, accord-ing to feelers, is to conduct fresh elections as soon as possible but the church leaders may be made to plead the doctrine of necessity toÂ exclude the ‘warring’ CPFN/PFN group and by implication bar the PFN president.
But some church leaders say that such will signal the beginning of the disintegra-tion of CAN because the last PFN president, Bishop Okonkwo had set a pre-cedence by contesting the election twice, first in 2004 and again in 2007 from that same ‘warring’ group and nobody raised an eyebrow on the two occasions. One of two things may happen to CAN—those who believe that the present leadership had presided over an unpre-cedented number of religion crises in the North without any solution may decide to pull out of the association to form a parallel association or, for the first time in the history of CAN, the issue might attract litigation in the court of law.