By Sam Eyoboka
ABUJA â€” FOR the second time in two months, the Electoral College set up by the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, to recommend candidates for the leadership of the umbrella body of Christians, CAN, has failed to conduct elections.
Reports last night indicate that the 15-member Electoral College, scheduled to pick two out of three candidates, ran into hitches as deliberations became riotous as a Catholic monsignor (names withheld) was said to have attempted to hit a member.
The member, an elderly man, was said to have protested an attempt by a group to exclude the PFN candidate, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor from contesting the elections based on what was described as trumped up charges that his bloc, CPFN/PFN is in disagreement.
At an earlier meeting in March when elections would have been held and recommendations made to the National Executive Council, NEC, similar charges were made by desperate quarters who were said to be uncomfortable with the popularity of the PFN candidate and at the end, the body had to adjourn till yesterday.
But feelers from the Ecumenical Centre venue of the deliberations indicate that the electoral college could not vote yesterday because some members made electioneering impossible as the atmosphere was said to be too charged for any peaceful conduct of elections.
A source close to the venue who spoke to our reporter last night in confidence, said it was later agreed that the issue at stake which is a perceived disagreement among the bloc, CPFN/PFN should now be tabled before the NEC meeting which was scheduled for 6.00 p.m. last night.
NEC was now expected to decide on the next line of action to resolve the issue.
“We are hoping that reason will prevail at the NEC meeting this evening (last night) because you needed to see how respected clergy men were behaving like desperate politicians. These were the same people who allowed erstwhile PFN president, Bishop Mike Okonkwo to contest twice without raising any issue of a dispute in the bloc,” our source told us.
Asked if there was any provision in CAN constitution that precludes a candidate from contesting if there was any dispute in his bloc, our source said there was none, adding “if there was any such provision, Bishop Okonkwo would have been disqualified three years ago.
“You recall that Bishop Okonkwo was vice president and later contested the presidency but lost,” the source added, stressing if there was any constitutional provision barring any candidate as they are now claiming they should not have allowed the former PFN helmsman to contest then.
“Even the CPFN people who did not vote for him (Okonkwo) then, did not protest his candidacy. So why are people suddenly, now saying because there is a perceived dispute in any bloc, a candidate cannot emerge from that bloc. After all, one of the objectives for the establishment of CAN is to foster Christian unity,” our source pointed out.
Vanguard also gathered that the Media was barred from covering the deliberations.
According to CAN 2004 amended constitution, the three candidates including the incumbent president, Most Rev. John Onaiyekan, his deputy, Most Rev. Daniel Okoh and the PFN president, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor are expected to go through the electoral college and the candidate with the highest votes will be recommended to the National Executive Council of CAN which is meeting till today to deliberate on the recommendation.
The NEC, according to the constitution, will in turn make its recommendation to the General Assembly of the association which has the final authority to ratify who becomes the next national president of CAN.
CAN was set up in 1976 to serve as a platform for unity among the different churches, to promote understanding, peace and unity among the various peoples and strata of society in the country and to act as a liaison committee through consultation and make common statement and actions for the common good. It was also expected to act as a watch dog of the spiritual and moral welfare of the nation.
Onaiyekan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Abuja defeated outgoing Anglican Primate Peter Jasper Akinola by 72 votes as against Akinolaâ€™s 33 to become the fourth CAN president on June 19, 2007 while the president of the Organisation of African Instituted Churches, Archbishop Daniel Okoh is the associationâ€™s vice president.