A delegation of Abuja-based pastors and bishops on Sunday threw their weight behind the Presidential Candidate of All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who they described as having the right frame of mind to rule the country.
But hours after the endorsement, the Christians Association of Nigeria kicked against the move, saying CAN is standing on its earlier stance of “No to same-faith ticket”.
The endorsement of the former Lagos State Governor by clerics under the aegis of the Nigerian Coalition of Pastors for Good Leadership took place after a town hall with some party chieftains of Tinubu’s support group, City Boy Movement.
In a statement jointly signed by the coalition president, Apostle Babatunde Oguntimehin, and secretary, Revd Friday Obi, the ministers disclosed that it would be unfair for Nigerians to sacrifice the capacity of the APC candidate on the altar of the contentious Muslim-Muslim ticket.
The group noted that as advocates of power shift, they were left with the option of Tinubu and the Labour Party’s candidate, Peter Obi, before they settled for the former because of his antecedents.
The statement read, “It is with a deep sense of duty that we members of Nigerian Coalition of Pastors for Good Leadership decide this morning to make known our position on the coming national election, especially as it concerns the vexed issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket as adopted by the ruling APC.
“Our primary responsibility will be less arduous with a functional nation and a working system. It is in view of this that we have not only considered it a civil responsibility, but also a noble cause to support and promote the candidates that can best serve the interest of our nation toward realising her dreams.
“For a start, we are fully in support of the power shift to South after President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, would have ruled for eight years. This is for equity and fairness as well as in the spirit of the existing unwritten rule to have power rotate between North and South.
“We were left to choose between His Excellencies Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Peter Gregory Obi, who are the frontline candidates from the South. After consideration of so many critical factors and wide consultation, we have decided to settle for the candidacy of Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Kashim Shettima.”
Oguntimehin said the pastors hinged their decision to endorse Tinubu on a number of factors.
Continuing, the coalition president described Nigeria as a complex nation that could only be governed by someone with demonstrable experience, capacity, ability and capability, which were evident in the Tinubu/Shettima ticket.
He added that the APC national leader had remained loyal to the cause of Nigeria, which was demonstrated through his involvement in NADECO activities that brought the military to its knees and ushered in the current democracy in 1999.
“We have since noted that making religion or faith the top factor in choosing a candidate for the nation has never helped and will never help this nation. We cannot therefore sacrifice quality leadership on the altar of religion or tribe.
“It is therefore with sadness that we note the unnecessary controversies that have trailed the partnership of Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Kashim Shettima both of whom are Muslims.
“It would be pretentious and preposterous of the NCPGL to be dismissive of the concerns from some quarter over the Muslim-Muslim ticket. But it is important to urge Nigerians to look beyond religion in choosing the leadership of the nation,” he said.
His position was also corroborated by Head of Mobilisation for the City Boy Movement, Francis Shoga, who said Nigerians should look beyond religion and ethnicity to choose its leaders.
He stated, “Our interaction here today has shown that politics goes beyond religion. We must look at capacity and who can get the job done in today’s Nigeria. We must focus on capacity and professionalism. The moment we start introducing ethnic and religious sentiments, it wouldn’t give us the needed transparency to run good governance.
“Asiwaju has shown us that he has the capacity to do the job, especially with what he has done as governor in Lagos. We are hopeful he has the experience to leave Nigeria a better country for our children.”
But Luminous Jannamike, Special Assistant on Media to the CAN President, Most Rev. Daniel Okoh, kicked against the endorsement, saying the group of clerics is a faceless one.
Jannamike disclosed that inasmuch as the body could not prevent individuals and self-acclaimed ministers from carrying out their activities, they could not be seen joining issues with religious blocs not affiliated with CAN.
He said, “The message is very simple and clear. We still stand on our earlier stance of ‘No to same-faith ticket.’ As far as we are concerned, they are a faceless group. We can’t really be seen joining issues with them. They are free to do what they want to do.
“We need to be conscious of the fact that people have right to congregate under any platform they want and say whatever they want. These people are not affiliated to CAN and we don’t even know them. They (Abuja pastors) are individuals who chose to endorse Tinubu. Good luck to them!
“Had it been that it was the Catholic Church, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria or any of CAN blocs that did this, the association will be in a position to give a response. The truth is we don’t even know them.
“You claimed they are appealing to the body but I am not sure they wrote the CAN president. Perhaps they merely made the appeal through the press.
“We have spoken and CAN is not changing its stance, even though it was made by our predecessor. Besides, the CAN president has announced that ‘where my predecessor left is where I will continue.’”