By Sam Eyoboka
LAGOS—THE Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, has blamed the protracted crisis rocking the umbrella body of Christians in Nigeria on pride among the ranks of leaders.
Asked what he felt about the crisis that attended the august Christian group’s last year over election of principal officers to succeed Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor after two terms, Okogie, who led the organisation from November 1988 to November 1995, said the cardinal problem of CAN was pride among the members.
“When we left, we left everything intact to the best of my knowledge. Then this problem started when people started agitating that ‘must it all be Catholic?’ You must first of all admit that you know nothing and then God will now start to direct you.
“I was shocked when I was told I had spent 39 years as archbishop of Lagos, I couldn’t believe it, 1973 to 2012.
“They said must it be only Catholics? Then they went for an election when my tenure was over but that was the background. Then they brought in a Methodist who now started dancing gradually to the tune of the government.
“During my time, individual members pay their way to the venues of meetings but now they go to governments that they need money for transportation,” Okogie argued.
Continuing, the Catholic Archbishop Emeritus admitted that President Shehu Shagari “asked us to build a national cathedral for Christians and a national mosque for the Muslims and offered to give N100 million each and we refused the money. It was during my time.’’
He explained that while he served as a chaplain in Nigerian Army during the civil war, they recognized just three institutions, including the Muslims, Protestants and the Catholics.
According to him, if the Protestants and the Catholics were recognised as two separate groups, why will the Federal Government allocate N100 million to them and not N200 million for the two groups.
He said: “Major General Muhammadu Magoro (retd), was then Minister of Internal Affairs and we had it tough then. I said sir, you don’t know what I have in my pocket and I don’t care what you have in your pocket. So you have to have that courage to speak the truth.
‘’It’s not easy. They didn’t give the N200 million, and that was why we now turned it to ecumenical centre. We started it. Obasanjo completed it.”
Meanwhile, indications emerging from the diplomatic shuttles of the new CAN president, Rev. Samson Supo Ayokunle who at inauguration declared that the association under his watch would not be anti-government, but will not patronize the government, appear not to have yielded desired fruits.
Vanguard checks yesterday showed that the battle for the soul of the Christian Association of Nigeria is far from over as all efforts by the CAN President to woo Catholics and appease Rev. Gado of ECWA who is in court, may land the CAN leadership in another round of crisis.
According to a reliable source close to CAN, Rev. Ayokunle last week held a meeting with representatives of Catholics bloc who had given CAN a long list of conditions to be fulfilled before their return to CAN fold which he acceded to.
One of the conditions, our source said, included the fact that he (the CAN President) should not consider himself as the Leader/Head of Christians in Nigeria.
Vanguard also learned that the CAN President held a secret meeting with the ECWA President on February 20, 2017, and agreed to trade CAN General Secretary, Rev. Musa Asake, for peace to reign. It was also learned last night that Rev. Ayokunle has agreed in principle to settle Dr. Gado’s legal fees in addition to frustrating the CAN General Secretary, Rev. Musa Asake (from ECWA bloc) out of office and to hand the TEKAN/ECWA bloc leadership to Gado.
Reports yesterday also maintained that a peaceful resolution of the crisis will determine if Ayokunle’s CAN presidency will be officially recognised by Federal Government.
A meeting of the National Executive Council, NEC is scheduled for tomorrow to consider some of the conditions.