A former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, and senior member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Nasir El-Rufai, on Wednesday described the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Ayo Oritsejafor, as an “irresponsible” leader who has abused his revered office by venturing into politics.
Mr. El-Rufai was reacting to a statement by CAN Tuesday berating the former minister and the spokesperson of the APC, Lai Mohammed, over their responses to reports that a private jet recently impounded in South Africa over suspicion of arms smuggling, belongs to the CAN president.
In the statement, CAN accused the two APC stalwarts of tarnishing the image of Mr. Ortisejafor.
CAN also said Mr. El-Rufai had once said there are three sets of Boko Haram in Nigeria: “Islamic Boko Haram, Politicians’ Boko Haram and Christians’ Boko Haram which he said are being funded by President Goodluck Jonathan and coordinated by CAN President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor. He went further to claim that the CAN President has been given N50 billion by the President and a Jet”.
In his response Wednesday, Mr. El Rufai said the CAN president is becoming “jittery” because his private jet was identified as the vessel impounded by the South African authorities for ferrying $9.3m cash into their country.
Mr. El-Rufai also said after being unable to shake off his connection to the plane, Mr. Oritsejafor has resorted to abuse and vilification.
“Were he more reflective, he would be pondering how, of all the private jets available in Nigeria, it was his that came to be involved in a covert arms purchase scandal.
“Would he have managed any objectivity if the plane involved happened to belong to a prominent person of another faith or political persuasion,” a statement signed by Mr. El Rufai’s spokesperson, Muyiwa Adekeye, said.
Mr. El-Rufai also said the CAN President should explain if the jet involved in the scandal is the same one that was “donated” to him in 2012.
“Did he register it as a commercial aircraft or is the plane illegally moonlighting as one? Has he ever reflected on the impropriety of mixing his religious role with politics?
“Having strayed into politics, and an irresponsible variant at that, can he expect the veneration enjoyed by his predecessors such as Cardinals Olubunmi Okogie and John Onaiyekan?
“Why is he the first CAN leader to provoke pitiful mirth and amusement when he is not being derided as a tragedy, a sort of Ichabod, desperate to separate glory from a revered body?” Mr. El-Rufai said.
He also advised Mr. Oritsejafor to “look beyond the bling to ask himself if it was any of the individuals he abused yesterday that asked him to make his aircraft available for monkey business, or get himself involved in the politics of division”.
The former Minister also advised the Nigerian government to act responsibly in its bid to procure arms to fight the on-going insurgency in the country.
“Our country needs to bolster its military and security forces with the material resources they need to defeat insurgency and restore security to every inch of its territory.
“This would require arms imports. But should Nigeria violate the arms export regulations of other countries in this endeavour?
“Should the FG recklessly impair and jeopardise diplomatic relations by conducting covert arms purchases in friendly countries without the consent of their governments? Such conduct invariably leads to suspicions that such covert arms procurement may not be for purposes of national security,” he said.
He said arms procurement outside official channels amidst an escalating insurgency must concern every patriot.
Mr. El Rufai had in a presentation at the British House of Commons last week, alluded to a link between the government’s handling of the Boko Haram crisis, and the escalation in the insurgency.
“The government has long tried to explain away its incompetence in upholding security by blaming insurgency on the major opposition party.
“But it is becoming increasingly clear to many that this insurgency is benefitting the ruling party and the incumbent president by providing them a pretext to postpone elections and, at the minimum, disenfranchise large swathes of the population that have never supported the PDP or voted for Jonathan,” he said.