National Conference leadership accuses CAN of misinforming Nigerians

“It is unfortunate that a body like CAN, if it indeed authorised the statement, would make such frivolous and unfounded allegation against the Chairman of the Conference”

Our attention has been drawn to a misleading statement issued by Mr Sunny Oibe, who signed as the Director (National Issues) in the Secretariat of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). There is no truth whatsoever in the unfortunate alarm raised in the press statement which tends to give the impression of an attempt to undermine Christians in the National Conference.

In trying to whip up unnecessary sentiments, Oibe claimed that the Committee on Religion is made up of 12 Muslims and eight Christians. That is not correct. The Committee has 21 members – 11 Muslims and 10 Christians. Please see the list below.






 1. AJAKAYE, Bishop Felix Femi                                  Christian
 2. ALFA, Hajia Shetu                                                    Muslim
 3. BAGOBIRI, Bishop Joseph D.                                 Christian
 4. DATTIJO, Hadija Dije                                               Muslim
 5. EKPE, Prof. Obini E.                                                 Muslim
 6. EMMANUEL , Pastor Bosun                                  Christian
 7. ERINOSHO, Prof. Layi                                              Muslim
 8. HANGA, Mal. Muzzammil Sani                              Muslim
 9. HARUNA, Prof. Andrew                                         Christian
 10. IKE, Monsignor Obiora                                          Christian
 11. IYOKE, Barr. Godswill Iyoha                                  Christian
 12. JIBRIL, Prof, Munzali                                               Muslim
 13. LEMU, Alh. Nuruddeen                                           Muslim
 14. GAMBARI, HRH Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu CFR              Muslim
 15. GUSAU, Aisha Aliyu                                                Muslim
 16. IBRAHIM, (Mrs) Fati Eunice                                  Christian
 17. ACHIMUGU, Barrister John A.                              Christian
 18. OKPARAEKE, Dr (Mrs) Kate                                   Christian
 19. OBAJE, Dr. Jonathan                                               Christian
 20. OLOYEDE, Prof. Is-haq O.                                       Muslim
 21. OMOTI, Hajia Amina B.                                           Muslim


It must be noted that delegates were asked to submit names of three committees they would prefer to serve, in order of preference. Seven Christians indicated Religion as their first choice, four as second and two as third choice. That brought the total number of Christians to 13. Three Muslims made Religion their first choice, seven made it their second choice and eight made it their third choice bringing the total number to 20.

However, some of those who had other committees as first and second choices were placed in the primary committees of choice leaving the Committee on Religion with a lesser number than was required to form a full Committee. It must also be noted that the official list of delegates showed that both Muslims and Christians have six representations each; which means that only 12 out of the 492 delegates are at the conference as Christian and Muslim leaders. The specification below shows faith-based delegates and the status of their preferences.

Muslim leaders                               Preferred choice of Committees

  1. Alkali, Prof Muhammad Nur          *Did not pick Religion at all
  2. Oloyede, Prof Is-haq O.                   Religion 2nd choice       Law, Judiciary 1st
  3. Omoti, Hajia Amina B.          Religion 1st choice
  4. Hanga, Mallam Muzzammil Sani   Religion 3rd choice       Law, judiciary 1st
  5. Lemu, Alhaji Nurudeen                   Religion 1st choice
  6. Ekpe, Prof. Obini E.                         Religion 1st choice

Christian leaders                                       Preferred choice of Committees

  1. Bogobiri, Bishop Joseph D.             Religion 1st choice
  2. Haruna, Prof Andrew             Religion 1st Choice
  3. Achimugu, Elder Barrister John A. Religion 2nd choice       Law, Judiciary 1st
  4. Bosun, Pastor Emmanuel               Religion 1st choice
  5. Okpareke, Dr (Mrs) Kate                 *Did not choose Religion at all
  6. Iyoke, Barrister Godswill Iyoha      Religion 1st choice

When the preferences, as submitted by the delegates, were collated by the Secretariat, the result was as follows:

First Choice                                                                            Group Represented

1       Haruna, Prof. Andrew                                        Christian leaders

2       Bogobiri, Bishop Joseph D.                                Christian leaders

3       Iyoke, Barrister Godswill Iyoha                                   Christian leaders

4       Bosun, Pastor Emmanuel                                            Christian leaders

5       Ajakaiye, Bishop Felix                                        Ekiti State

6       Viko, Mrs Lydia J.                                                         Elder Statesman

7       Ike, Monsignor Obiora                                        Enugu State

8       Lemu, Alhaji Nurudeen                                                Muslim leaders

9       Ekpe, Prof Obini E.                                                       Muslim leaders

10 Omoti, Hajia Aminia B.                                                Muslim leaders

Second Choice                                                             Group Represented

  1. Yaro, Rt Hon Mohammed                                  Ass. of Fmr Speakers
  2. Mamman, General A. B.                                              Elder Statesman
  3. Ogbole, Mr Dogara Mark                                            Elder Statesman
  4. Junaidu, Prof. Sambo                                        Elder Statesman
  5. Musa, Mrs Binta Ibrahim                                            FGN
  6. Oloyede, Prof Is-haq O.                                               Muslim leaders
  7. Raji, Prof Ganiyu                                                 Oyo State
  8. Ochefu, Prof Yakubu A.                                               Professional bodies
  9. Usuma, Hajiya Alina                                           Women groups
  10. Ezenwa, Mrs Ifeanyinwa                                             Women groups
  11. Achimugu, Elder Barrister John                                  Christian leaders

Third Choice                                                                 Group Represented

  1. Iheme, Chief Uzoma Nwosu                              Ethnic Nationalities
  2. Etiaba, Dame Virgy                                            FGN
  3. Hanga, Mallam Muzzammil                               Muslim leader
  4. Jubril, Prof. Munzali                                           National Academies
  5. Erinosho, Prof Layi                                                       National Academies
  6. Bala, Hajia Dije                                                   Niger State
  7. Filani, Prof Titi                                                    Ogun State
  8. Bello, Maryam Jumai                                         Organised Labour


Because all the Committees must have the least required number of members, which was put at 24 (average), delegates with related credentials were moved from other loaded committees to Religion, but they protested and opted out. As at the last count, the Committee on Religion still had the least number of members (21), followed by the Committee on Citizenship, Immigration and Related Matters which has 22. In terms of preference, the Committee on Religion, as sensitive as CAN would want the public to perceive, was placed 18 out of 20.

Efforts were made to complete and balance the Committee on Religion but delegates would not want to serve in the Committee. It would therefore be mischievous for anybody or group to insinuate or accuse the Chairman or the leadership of the Conference of “working out a script to undermine the interest of Christians in the dialogue body”.

The chairmanship of Committees was shared equally between the North and the South; and those that were seen as contentious Committees are co-chaired by a delegate from the North and South. The two co-chairmen of the Committee on Religion could not have come from the North as CAN would have wished; and it would amount to peddling ignorance to think that a Christian from the South does not know what Christians in the North are facing, as Christendom is one body.

It is unfortunate that a body like CAN, if it indeed authorised the statement, would make such frivolous and unfounded allegation against the Chairman of the Conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, to the effect that he picked Alhaji Nurudeen Lemu as the Co-Chairman of the Committee, because they are from the same state. The Chairman had excused himself from selecting the leadership of any committee and did not recommend Alhaji Lemu.

During deliberations at the plenary sessions, particularly during the discussion of the President’s speech, Lemu received accolades for his insightful contributions. His intellectual insight and moderate views on religion naturally recommended him for selection unanimously, and had nothing to do with the preference of any principal officer of the Conference.

Although Oibe indicated that CAN does not have a problem with Bishop Ajakaiye as Chairman,  but it would have preferred a Christian from the North; the issue may well be that Bishop Ajakaye is a Catholic Bishop and thus may have issues with CAN. Not being active in CAN does not make Bishop Ajakaye a lesser Christian.

It is unbecoming of a religious body to peddle falsehood in a bid to prove a non-existent point. Dr Jonathan Obaje is not on holiday. He applied to the Secretariat (not to the Chairman) indicating that he would be traveling briefly to Japan to keep an appointment which he had fixed early this year before his nomination to the Conference. He is one of the Diaspora delegates and lives in Singapore. Dr Obaje would not be the first to do so, and certainly not the last. Permission granted Dr Obaje by the Secretariat has nothing to do with his membership of the Committee on religion.

Akpandem James

Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications

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