By Omeiza Ajayi, Joseph Erunke, Ike Uchechukwu, Luminous Jannamike & Ibrahim Hassan-Wuyo
THE camp of the presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, reiamed adamant last night, despite accusations that his party invited ‘fake’clergies to the unveiling of Senator Kashim Shettima as its running mate in the 2023 general elections.
Although the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Felix Morka, failed to respond to text messages or take calls on his phone at press time, a party source said: “We (party) didn’t hire the clerics. The Tinubu Campaign Organization has spoken on the matter already and that settles it. The clerics are Nigerians, some of them likely members of the party. APC is made up of all Nigerians.”
Firing back at critics who accused his team of hiring street urchins and dressing them as Christian clerics during the unveiling of his running mate, Tinubu in a statement by his campaign organization, said the event was open to all, including clergymen.
Accusing the opposition of cashing in on the development to stir unnecessary attacks on APC, the Director, Media and Communication of the Tinubu Campaign Organization, TCO, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, also described as “unwarranted distractions” the viral pictures and videos of some clergymen and women at the unveiling.
The campaign spoke as Apostle Ekapong Ubi, who was named as one of the clerics allegedly listed as one of the clerics at the event denied being there, saying he was in Calabar and had not been to Abuja for over three months.
Also, the Conference of Concerned Christians of Nigeria, CCCN, challenged the APC to disclose the identities of the bishops and clerics at the ceremony and commended the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, for opposing the same faith presidential ticket.
Some of the ‘fake’clergies were seen in a viral video yesterday, changing their clothes after the event.
I didn’t hire fake Christian clerics — Tinubu
Onanuga said: “The event was an open affair, which allowed members of the public to attend, including the clergymen and some others now being derided by hirelings of the opposition.
We want to say that those clergymen were not fake, mechanics or yam sellers as the purveyors of hatred have made Nigerians to believe in social media. They are not big names in Christendom yet, they are gradually building up their missions.
“They are church leaders who genuinely believe that Nigerians must eschew politics of hatred and religious bigotry and rather embrace politics of peace and nation building.
“We, therefore, deplore the hysterical twisting of the presence of these men and women in cassocks and the false accusation against our candidates, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Senator Shettima.
“The orchestrated social media sensation over the presence of the men is needless and all calculated to detract from the huge success recorded at the momentous event on Wednesday.
“We believe Nigerians are too wise and discerning to see through this shenanigan. Asiwaju Tinubu and his running mate and our great party are working very hard to provide purposeful leadership and good progressive governance that will improve the quality of life of Nigerians.
“We are well aware that the opposition parties and the sponsors of the social media charade are jittery and threatened by the intimidating political credentials of our candidates. The only way they hope to shift the attention of public scrutiny away from their uninspiring candidates and credentials is to create social media distraction.
“Our campaign is determined on focusing on core governance issues that affect all Nigerians with a view to confronting them and making the desired improvements in the standard of living of our people.”
Disclose identities of ‘bishops’, others at Shettima’s unveiling ceremony, CCCN
However, the Conference of Concerned Christians of Nigeria, CCCN, while condemning the appearance of some persons, who masqueraded as bishops, Rev. Father’s and pastors at Wednesday’s unveiling of Senator Kashim Shettima as vice presidential candidate of the APC challenged the ruling party to disclose their identities if they were not fake.
While maintaining that the Muslim/Muslim ticket is the height of “audacious impunity”, the Christian group said only an uncultured child will seek to undermine their parents.
In a joint statement by its National President, Rev. Bitrus Chollom, and National Secretary, Pastor James Alkali, the CCCN challenged the APC to disclose the names of the ‘Bishops, and their respective denominations, to allow for scrutiny.
The statement warned that harsh judgement awaits those that seek to embarrass the Body of Christ, for a mess of pottage. It, nonetheless, vowed to make public the identities of all those they described as “interlopers and usurpers”, in a bid to convince Nigerians that the APC – as presently constituted – is, indeed, a scam that happened to the country.
For instance, many, who witnessed the ‘show-of-shame’, wondered why true ‘men of God’, who are worth their salt, will shove and push, in order to gain entrance to the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, venue of the unveiling ceremony.
Also on various social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, angry stakeholders in the New Nigerian Project, had described the fake attendees variously as “fake”, “charlatans”, “impostors”, “spoilers”, “interlopers”, “pretenders”, and the like.
“Our position is accentuated by no less a personality than a social critic and renowned pastor, Reno Omokri, who said those that showed up at the Shehu Yar’Adua event, were neither pastors, nor members of CAN. We are happy that the CAN has since reacted to the charade of endorsement that happened in Abuja,” the group said.
“We challenge Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to disclose to the world the identities of the so-called pastors and bishops, who were so unsure of themselves, by virtue of what transpired during their ‘shopping-in.’ To the charlatans, we advise you to repent of your evil outing, denounce the choreography that characterised the event, to serve as recompense,” the CCCN said.
I was at home in Calabar, never in Abuja, says Apostle Ubi
Indeed, one of the clerics who were among those allegedly “contracted” by the APC for Shettima’s unveiling, Apostle Ekapong Ubi, has denied being among the hired bishops.
Apostle Ubi, who was number 26 on the purported list of the hired bishops made this known in an exclusive interview with Vanguard on Thursday in Calabar.
Ubi explained that the news of his alleged participation as a hired bishop came to him as a shock adding that he was at his Calabar residence when he saw a list purporting he was among those hired to grace the unveiling of the APC vice presidential candidate.
His words: “As I am talking to you now, I am at 8th Miles, Calabar, Cross River State. I have not travelled to Abuja in the last three months.
“Thank you so much my brother, greetings from our ministry and my family and greetings from Calabar. I wanted you to see me physically. I am in Calabar. I never travelled to anywhere talk more of Abuja.
“No call was put across to me by anybody. I’m not aware and I am not an APC member so they have decided to use that to collect money.
“The living God that I serve will judge them. I am calling on the Inspector General of Police and other security agencies to go after those fake mischief makers so that they will be dealt with. It shows that if APC can go this way, the 2023 election is not safe for us.
They got my number from my Facebook page, handbills or posters. The news came to me as a shock. I must confess, I have been in Calabar for a long time. The last time I went to Abuja was around April.
“As for the Muslim-Muslim ticket which I call a “kangaroo ticket,” it is painful for a place called one Nigeria to have that kind of kind of ticket. Nigeria does not need such a combination,” he said.
CAN warns APC, politicians to stop impersonation
Meanwhile, the Christian Association of Nigeria, on Thursday, warned the APC to stop parading hirelings as church leaders or face divine judgment.
In a statement signed by its General Secretary, Barrister Joseph Daramola, CAN said the warning became imperative after some unidentified men wearing priestly garments were invited to grace the unveiling of Senator Shettima as CAN’s representatives.
The CAN scribe insisted that those who were presented as church leaders were ‘unknown clerics’, warning the leaders of APC to desist from attempting to soil its integrity by mobilising non-clerics and passing them off as members of CAN in order to promote their unpopular decision to fly a same-faith presidential ticket in 2023.
The statement read: “We are shocked, disappointed and worried about the desperation of some politicians, who once claimed Christians do not matter in governance and politics, but went to hire some unknown ‘bishops, pastors and priests’ to impersonate the leadership of CAN in their political meeting.
“This is totally unacceptable, reprehensible, unprecedented and ungodly. If they are saying Christians have no electoral values why impersonate them in their meetings?
“We are throwing their principals and sponsors into the court of conscience. These actions of theirs have shown who they are to the public and what they are capable of doing to us all.
“We are asking political parties not to ignore religious sensibilities and sensibilities of the people, especially in today’s Nigeria when Christians are becoming endangered species daily.
“Our quest is within the constitutional requirements and ignoring it is akin to trampling on the Constitution, especially the Federal Character Act.”
APC members in Kaduna quit party over Muslim-Muslim ticket
Members of the APC on the banner of Minds Alike Group in Jema’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State, have kicked against the Muslim-Muslim ticket and have started resigning their membership of the party. Speaking at a press conference, the group’s Legal Adviser, Ibrahim Samuel, also condemned the Muslim-Muslim presidential and Kaduna governorship tickets.
The group expressed dismay over alleged insensitivity exhibited to the diversity of the people, which they noted would further polarize the country along religious lines.
The APC Likeminds Alike Network also condemned “the impunity with which the party was run in Jema’a Local Government Area, and assignments were issued to party members based on the cliques they belong to.”
“In view of this, members of the APC Minds Alike Network have resigned their membership of the All Progressives Congress. Our next political destination would be made known after due consultation,” he said.
Some members of the group who resigned their membership of the APC were the Party’s Legal Officer, Ibrahim Samuel; Financial Secretary, Barnabas Samuel; Auditor, Simon Yakubu, and a former three-term Councillor of Atuku Ward, Habila Latu.
Others were former Director of Planning and Strategy during the last Local Government elections, Peter Joshua; former Councillor and Treasurer of Jagindi Ward, Shua’ibu Yusuf, and Nehemiah Cameo Bitrus.
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