By Yakubu Dati
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), established to make peace reign in the country by settling ethnic and religious crises, has gone through a lot over the years.
Since it has elected a new leadership to steer its affairs, it is pertinent to offer the body a word or two of advice to save it from being used by politicians to achieve their selfish aims more so as we are on the cusp of another political season.
It is no longer news that immediately after the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, picked a former governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima, as his running mate, that CAN took a position on the matter siding with certain APC members, especially former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr David Babachir Lawal, and a former Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, who lost out in the quest to be appointed running mate to Tinubu, to reject the ticket.
But it is now an open secret that the position of CAN may have been influenced by the duo, purely out of vendetta against the APC presidential candidate, for not looking their way to pick his running mate.
They forget that it was Asiwaju Tinubu who nominated David Babachir Lawal as Secretary to the Buhari administration as a mark of respect for the Adamawa born politician.
Left for Tinubu, who was then one of the national leaders of the APC, Babachir would have continued in office and probably even retained the position in the second tenure of the Buhari administration like his kinsman, Boss Mustapha has done, but for the “grass cutting” controversy that eased him out of the government.
Notwithstanding, the Jagaba of Borgu, in an attempt to rehabilitate the sacked former SGF, gave him the responsibility of shortlisting possible vice-presidential candidates for him.
But even that simple task was twisted to favour certain parochial interests. Babachir recommended the North Eeast and North West for the position to the detriment of the North Central Geopolitical Zone, which is the hub of Christianity in Northern Nigeria.
This ostensibly was to foreclose the consideration of Plateau State which paraded the only Christian governor of APC in northern Nigeria.
Interestingly, the Babachir committee recommended Senator Kashim Shetima as top on their list and the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, simply acted on it. When confronted with these facts on national television, Babachir confirmed it, stating, however, that it was a draft!
As evidence that Babachir was not sincere in his recommendation, he immediately took advantage of the religious fault lines together with Dogara, the other aggrieved VP hopeful who lost out, ignited the Muslim-Muslim controversy and unwittingly recruited CAN into the fray.
But they forgot that there was no way Tinubu would have picked either Babachir Lawal, who hails from Adamawa State or Yakubu Dogara from Bauchi State because of the implications to his electoral fortune.
Adamawa, where Babachir hails from, and Bauchi, Dogara’s home state, are both PDP-controlled states. Both men, in spite of their positions and enormous resources at their disposal, have consistently failed to deliver their respective states to the APC.
This is unlike Tinubu, who always delivers.
Due to the hullabaloo generated by the duo of Babachir and Dogara, the Asiwaju has gone ahead to pick Simon Lalong, the governor of Plateau State and Chairman of Northern Governors Forum to lead his campaign as the director general. This choice is based on Gov. Lalong’s enviable track record of fairness regardless of tribe, religion or creed. His excellent management of men and resources resulting in the restoration of relative peace in the once restive Plateau State has projected him to national limelight.
As a Knight of the Catholic faith, Gov. Simon Lalong also resonates with the northern Christians whose fears have been allayed.
Those trying to rock the boat by insinuating that his appointment is an attempt to ridicule Christians were the same lot that campaigned vigorously against Christian candidates, including an ordained pastor, at the APC primaries.
The APC northern Christians are now energised, more than ever before, to pour themselves into the campaign.
Religious bodies should be accommodating to all adherents without allowing themselves to be led by the nose by those who remember the association only when their selfish interests are at stake.
Religious leaders should be wary of being reduced to lap dogs of politicians.
This is the real challenge before the new leadership of CAN.
Dati is the Commissioner for Land and Survey, Plateau State, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org