The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) says either the next Senate President or Speaker of the House of Representatives should be a Christian to correct “the religious dichotomy” in the national political leadership.
The CAN president, Samson Ayokunle, made the demand in a statement signed by Adebayo Oladeji, his special assistant, Media and Communications, on Monday in Abuja.
Mr Ayokunle urged the incoming leadership of the National Assembly to ensure religious and ethnic balance in the selection of officers as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, to avoid marginalisation.
“As you prepare for your inauguration, CAN urges you to balance the appointments of your Principal Officers across religious divides.
“This is to avoid domination and marginalisation of any kind in the interest of equity, justice, and fair play as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“We, from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), recognise the importance of the National Assembly to the stability and growth of our polity.
“It is in this regard that we call for ethnic and religious balance with depth in picking the leadership of that great institution of democracy,” he said.
Mr Ayokunle said doing this would go a long way to remove any apprehension and suspicion harboured towards the leadership of the country.
According to the cleric, “though the Senate and the House of Representatives have several principal officers, our focus here is on the Senate President, the Deputy Senate President, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker.
“As it has been the practice since 1999, whenever the Senate President is a Christian, the Speaker of the House has always been a Muslim and vice-versa. And the same thing happens to their deputies,” he explained.
He said the quest of the association becomes imperative due to the existing order in the two other arms of the government.
“Today, both the President and the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria are Muslims and our appeal is to let either the Senate President or the Speaker be a Christian to address the religious dichotomy.
“This will give all Nigerians a sense of belonging irrespective of their religious affiliations. And a critical study of Chapter 14 (13 and 14) of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended) underscores this truth.
“The composition of Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect federal character of Nigeria.
“Also the need to promote national unity, command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in government or in any of its agencies.
“The composition of the government of a state, local government council, or any of the agencies of such government or council, and conduct of affairs of government or council or such agencies, shall be carried out in such manner as to recognise the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the people,’’ he said.
The CAN president, therefore, called on the 9th National Assembly members to address both the religious, the North and South dichotomies in the interest of equity, justice and fair play.
He assured the lawmakers of the association’s prayers as they make laws for peace, order and good government.
Mr Ayokunle pleaded with both the Presidency and the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), to support the position of the association in its quest to find an enduring peace, unity and development of the nation.
“By so doing, it will go a long way in fixing some of the problems confronting our country today that are rooted in religious, tribal suspicion, domination and marginalisation at every level of government.
“In as much as we agree that merit should not be sacrificed in every appointment, but there are Christians, who are equally credible and capable of running the affairs of the National Assembly and other key positions in the government if given the opportunity.
“Those who had and still serving in one office or the other are our living proofs,” he said. (NAN)