CAN, northern faction differ on Kerry’s visit, reunion

The Christian Association of Nigeria (Northern Zone) and the breakaway faction, Northern Nigerian Christians, have expressed divergent positions on the current status of the Christian body in the country.

The two bodies were also poles apart in their positions on the recent visit of the United States Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry, to Nigeria.

The positions of the two bodies were expressed on Monday.

The position of the Northern CAN was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of its one day meeting held in Jos, Plateau State and attended by delegates from all the 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

In the communiqué signed by its Chairman, Dr. Yakubu Pam, and Public Relations Officer, Joseph Hayab, which was obtained by The PUNCH on Monday in Abuja, the group claimed that after several weeks of bickering, aggrieved members of CAN had rescinded their decision to pull out and promised to work with the national leadership of Dr. Supo Ayokunle.

According to the communiqué, the delegates at the meeting also expressed their reservation over the recent visit of the US Secretary of State, Kerry, which excluded Christian leaders from meeting him but rather chose to make his first point-of-call Sokoto to meet with the Sultan of Sokoto and  the President-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, and select northern governors.

The communiqué read in part, “It was agreed by all delegates at the meeting that the northern CAN would not pull out of CAN to form a different body. The delegates also resolved that nobody or group outside the northern CAN Chairman or the PRO of CAN should speak or issue a statement on behalf of northern CAN henceforth.

“We also resolved that northern governors as Chief Security Officers of their respective states should ensure Christians in their states are not intimidated, molested or killed by religious fanatics under any guise.”

It added, “The delegates condemn in its totality the recent killings and religious radicalism that was displayed at the Zamfara State College of Education by some students of the Islamic faith. We call on the government to ensure Christian students at secondary and higher institutions in the North are given full protection from any form of molestation.”

But the breakaway faction of CAN, the Northern Nigerian Christians, described the communiqué as misleading.

The faction also described as unfortunate a statement credited to the President of CAN, Ayokunle, in which its leadership condemned the recent visit of Kerry to Nigeria.

The spokesman for the faction, Mr. Luka Shehu, while reacting to the communiqué, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Jos on Monday, said the statement was “cooked up and did not reflect what transpired at the meeting.”

Shehu said the northern Christians were not allowed to table their grievances, while notable stakeholders boycotted the meeting.

According to him, the issue of the TEKAN/ECWA claim to the leadership of the Christian body was not discussed adding, “We told them that since they called the gathering ‘unity meeting’, we should be allowed to table our grievances and know how to move forward, but nothing like that happened. So, whatever communiqué they dished out was a figment of somebody’s imagination since we just allowed the meeting to go ahead because of what Christians in the North are going through.”

Also in a statement in Jos signed by Shehu, the faction  said Ayokunle’s criticism of Kerry’s visit left much to be desired and exposed a poor understanding of diplomacy in international politics or the nature of insecurity in northern Nigeria.

He said, “It has become imperative for us to respond to the reports credited to Rev. Ayosupo Ayokunle on behalf of the CAN in Nigeria. His statement on Thursday, August 25, 2016 concerning the visit of John Kerry, the U.S Secretary of State, to northern Nigeria leaves much to be desired of his knowledge, exposure and understanding of diplomacy, international politics or the nature of insecurity in northern Nigeria.

“It is sad and unfortunate that Rev. Ayokunle could further describe the U.S Secretary of State’s visit to Nigeria and by extension to the Sultan of Sokoto as discriminatory, personal and divisive.”

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