The Christian Association of Nigerian, CAN, an umbrella body for the country’s teeming Christians, descended into full-blown crisis Wednesday with the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria making public its decision to pull out of the fold over the way the Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor-led executive is running the association.
The Catholic bishop’s action is perhaps the first time in the association’s 37-year history that any of its five blocs would pull out over alleged poor leadership and politicization of the association. CAN was formed in 1976 by five Christian blocs in the country: the Christian Council of Nigeria; the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria; Organisation of African Instituted Churches, and the Evangelical Fellowship of West Africa.
But in a letter to Mr. Oritsejafor in September but made public Wednesday, the Catholics, one of the association’s most influential blocs, said it was temporarily exiting “over some recent attitudes, utterances and actions of the national leadership of CAN which in our opinion negate the concept of the foundation of the association and the desire of Our Lord Jesus Christ”.
The letter, dated September 24, 2012, is signed by Most Rev Ignatius Kaigama, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBNC) and addressed to Mr. Oritsejafor. Mr. Kaigama said his group was suspending “participation in CAN meetings at the national level until such a time the leadership of CAN reverse back to the original vision, mission and objectives of CAN”.
Expatiating further on its grouse with the Oritsejafor-led leadership of the association, the bishops lamented that CAN had been politicized and was no longer being used to promote peace and unity in the country. “CAN is being dragged into partisan politics thereby compromising the ability to play its true role as conscience of the nation and the voice of the voiceless,” the bishops said.
Mr. Oritsejafor has often been accused of being divisive in the way he is running the association, often making comments in support of the Peoples Democratic Party-led federal government and President Goodluck Jonathan.
Some Christians believe he has pushed CAN into ignominy with his utterances and actions making Nigerians to regard the association as an arm of the PDP. Mr. Oritsejafor became even more unpopular among his colleagues and around the country in late 2012 when he got a new jet as gift from unknown donors even as many more than 70 percent of Nigerians live below the poverty line.
He is yet to disclose the names of those who gave him the jet. But he maintained that the jet would enable him to travel around Nigeria and the world for evangelism with little or no flight delay.