The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) will not endorse any presidential candidate in the forthcoming election, president of the group, Samson Ayokunle has said.
Mr Ayokunle, a reverend, urged Nigerians to vote according to the leading of the Holy Spirit and their consciences, adding that credibility and integrity should guide their choice.
The presidential election, along with National Assembly election will hold on 16 February.
CAN made its position known in a statement signed by Adebayo Oladeji, the Special Assistant, Media and Communications to the CAN president.
Mr Ayokunle said CAN is for God and His people and is apolitical, non-partisan and impartial.
“Our members cut across all political divides and some of them are even contesting for one post or the other including the presidential. So, the idea of endorsing any candidate as favourite does not arise.
“We have not and will not endorse any candidate for any elective office in the country,” he said.
CAN recently held a meeting with 14 presidential candidates in Abuja for briefings on their plans for the nation.
Mr Ayokunle said at the end of the meeting, the association came out with a position not to endorse any of the candidates.
The CAN president said the association recognises Nigeria’s multi-religious and multicultural composition and it is not in denial of these realities.
“However, in our federal system, it is crucial for all constituents to commit to respect the fundamental human rights of other groups as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“It is against this background that CAN raise serious concerns with the candidates over the sustained violent attacks and persecution of the Church in Nigeria today.
“CAN understands that if the principle of good governance (transparency, accountability, equity, inclusiveness and consensus building) are the hallmarks of governance, it would lead to accelerated development and prosperity for the people of Nigeria. This is our sincere desire, hope and prayer,” he said.
He said the expectation of CAN was that whoever emerges as president and vice-president would address the myriad of critical national concerns and challenges.
“In biblical times, God raised Prophets at different times to speak up against national leaders and policies that promoted injustice against the very people such leaders were called to serve.
“God placed the responsibility of the security and welfare of the citizens on leaders of nations. Nigeria cannot be an exception,” he said.
The cleric said the association noted with encouragement that the candidates interviewed subscribed to its (CAN’s) values as expected of the President of the Federal Republic.
He added that actions should speak far louder than words if anyone of them is elected.
“To this end, CAN will watch closely as the character of the presidential candidates unfolds before, during and after the forthcoming elections,” he said.
Mr Ayokunle said the Christian community is deeply concerned about the misfortunes that had befallen the Nigerian state in recent years.
“These concerns, which must never be swept under the carpet, make the strongest case for setting a standard for how responsible and well-meaning Nigerians should vote in the coming elections,” he stressed.
The CAN president urged all Christians to ensure they were in possession of their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC), and use sound judgment in voting.
Mr Ayokunle said they should ensure that sentiments were eschewed and wisdom was applied in making the decision on the ballot paper.
“Let us be circumspect and discretional. Above all, let the Holy Spirit of God direct you in the voting. Think about the greater good of Nigeria, and not primordial sentiments.
“All Christians are enjoined to remain vigilant during the voting exercise and promptly report any suspicious undertaking at voting centres,” he advised.
He urged all Christians to stay away from any violence or mob action, whatsoever, no matter the provocation.
“Decency, lawfulness and godliness should guide us in any act of disagreement”, he said.
The cleric said the choice of CAN remains any candidate who exhibits godliness, trustworthiness, sincerity of purpose, decency, patriotism, true commitment to national service and who would show care for the Christian community in the nation.
“Christians are called upon to vote credible and trusted candidates into the various elective positions. We must also be discerning about their policy and the understanding of policy details,” he said.