In over 20 years of publishing Church Arise!, we have never had any cause to attack any man of God personally – except on doctrinal issues. And that came up only with respect to the extremely dangerous doctrine of Once-Saved-Always-Saved (OSAS), that recently sought to ravage the Body of Christ, especially in Southwest Nigeria.
Even when gross moral issues are involved, we hesitate personalizing things, preferring rather to trust the LORD for recovery and restoration of his people. A Pastor’s job is about the most hazardous on the planet, and we believe nobody is given the authority to judge God’s servants. Even though for the sake of common good we might judge their deeds, doctrines, or prophecies (see Gal. 2:11-13, 1 Cor. 14:29, 2 Jhn. 1:10, 3 Jhn. 1:4, etc) when it comes to judging their service, it is “to his own Master he standeth or falleth” (Rom. 14:4). The very few instances we had to personalize moral issues in Pastors happened when attempts were made to develop new doctrines to gloss over such manifestly sinful acts (e.g. see here). Of course, this is what the OSAS-inspired hyper-grace doctrine eventually boils down to.
The above explanation is necessary so no one takes this position paper as an indictment of the incumbent president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for whatever reason. As we have done repeatedly during state elections (see here and here), we believe it is our duty as responsible Watchmen to advise the Church on candidates we believe would best serve the Body of Christ even in church elections also. It is in this context, and based on the understanding of the times the LORD has given us, that we humbly submit that Dr Samson Ayokunle after successfully completing a 3-year term in office as CAN President under tumultuous conditions (not necessarily his making), should gracefully refrain from contesting for a second term. Consequently we hereby express our endorsement of the candidature of the other contestant, Dr Caleb Ahima, as the next national president of the Christian Association of Nigeria come June 2019. Please read on as we explain this position.
The Church: Salt of the Earth, Light of the World
Any discerning Christian would readily understand that the hydra-headed challenges confronting our nation today can be effectively addressed ONLY by the Church. This is an enormous responsibility not to be trifled with. As salt of the earth and light of the world, it is only the Church that can effectively address such issues as drug addiction, pornography, cultism and ritual killings, breakdown of family structure, suicides, kidnapping, ethnic rivalries cum cleansing, and so on.
Further complicating the task for the Church in Nigeria is the unending end-time intrigues of foreign interests which via manipulation, blackmail, or flattery, continually push a vulnerable government to embrace antichrist-inspired policies that could only keep our nation in perpetual darkness. The leadership required of the umbrella body of all Christians can therefore not be any less endowed than the proverbial children of Issachar. Not only must it have a sound understanding of the times, it must also be clear about how to key-in and achieve God’s eternal purpose in our days. (I Chr. 12:32, Eph. 3:10).
Church Arise! has repeatedly submitted that as desirable as it is that Christians should be the ones on the driver’s seat in the nation’s government, this is really not a critical issue. As long as we have democracy in place, government – no matter who is at the helms – will always respond to enlightened and articulate organized mass movements. Furthermore, as long as the heavens and the earth remain, physical decisions will remain driven by spiritual actions. The Church in Nigeria clearly has these two drivers of government policies – numbers and superior spirituality, in her favour. The problem has always been a dearth of visionary inspiring leadership required to translate these assets into real benefits for the Church and ultimately, the nation.
Examples abound to substantiate this principle. We learn from places like Egypt and Malaysia that even a government entirely dominated by moslems will still be compelled to take Christian sensibilities and interests into serious considerations if the Church is articulate and well-organized. Whereas even a government headed by Christian people will be helpless in a situation where Christians themselves have not identified their strategic interests and clear routes to actualizing them. For instance, during the Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure here in Nigeria, critical decisions were taken against the Christian interests, simply because there were no central Christian voices advocating. We can readily cite the shenanigans with the school curriculum on CRK/IRK merger; or the summary removal of the National Population Commission (Census) boss who had vowed to clarify the strange demographics of desert areas being more heavily populated than the sea coast, only in Nigeria! This is of course fundamental to virtually every other major issue in today’s Nigeria, and while the Islamists insisted on the sack of Chief Festus Odimegwu, literally as a matter of life and death, there was hardly a whimper of interest expressed from the organized Christian body on the issue. Government caved in to superior pressure.
So despite our superior number and education, and the superior efficacy of Christian warfare, Christians have virtually been relegated to second class status in Nigeria today. There is no need rehearsing the points here again, some of which are adequately expressed in our position paper released during the last presidential election. Even as we write this piece, the Islamists are openly discussing – with no known Christian counter measure - how every top position in the coming 9th Legislative Assembly will be occupied by Moslems; thus completing the total unconstitutional take-over of all arms and institutions of government in the country!
Back to the point of this article, the new post-2019 CAN needs a leadership that is sufficiently motivated to confront all these gross abnormalities headlong; and inspire the generality of the Body of Christ to arise and cause Nigeria to fulfil the glorious prophecies long-hanging on her head even in these end-times.
The CAN and its unique challenges
The challenges facing the leadership of an amorphous group like the CAN are necessarily numerous and humongous. Ranging from the internal issues of reining-in rogues and charlatans who can claim bona fide membership of the group, to building consensus among internal units that often treat each other as competitors, and finally to the ‘political’ issue of interfacing with other religions and spiritual expressions - while responsibly seeking to build the nation and exemplify the teachings of Jesus Christ. But in 2019 Nigeria, there is even another major challenge: the ongoing brazen push by Islamists to conscript Christianity to the dustbin of history. Checkmating this push, and ending the ongoing carnage among Christians must be the priority task for the incoming CAN leadership.
Dr Samson Ayokunle indeed managed to find time, at the commencement of his campaign for re-election a few weeks ago, to visit the brethren in the eye of the storm – the internally displaced people (IDP); refugees in their own country courtesy of Islamic militants such as Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen. However few people could fail to discern that issues of the IDPs are really not high on Dr Ayokunle’s priority. Indeed, a coalition of Christians in the northern Nigeria were sufficiently piqued to issue a very strongly worded statement, expressing gross disillusionment and disappointment with the Ayokunle-led CAN Exco on this critical point.
Dr Caleb Solomon Ahima is the other candidate who together with Dr Ayokunle has been cleared by the CAN Electoral College to contest the CAN presidency next month. Unlike Dr Ayokunle however, Dr Ahima is a man in the eye of the storm and has a well-established history of passionately routing for Christians under persecutions. This is certainly not unexpected. Coming from Taraba state, Dr Caleb Ahima is the head of the TEKAN (Tarayar Ekklisiyoyin Kristi A Nigeria - Fellowship of the Churches of Christ in Nigeria) – a denomination that has over the years borne the brunt of persecution in the hand of Islamists in the country. For instance, in a statement directed at President Buhari last year, Dr Ahima pointed out that the “TEKAN mourns daily, as it has been burying its members who were violently killed by Fulani herdsmen…”. In other climes, there would be no need for a debate before a qualified candidate from the TEKAN/ECWA bloc is unanimously presented to lead the general body at a time like this. Moreso that that bloc has never had the opportunity to lead the CAN in her 43 years of existence.
The glory of the Church would be that Dr Samson Ayokunle step down his candidacy. Together, he and Dr Ahima as the new President, can then go ahead to build a viable irresistible CAN. The challenges of CAN will not disappear overnight even with a new man at the helms of affairs. Though this is the primary change that would signal the re-birth of the organization, it must be followed with an urgent review of CAN’s structures so that the enormous Christian resources currently under-utilized can be more effectively harnessed.
Groups like the Intercessors for Nigeria, Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship International, Gideons International, down to the Nigeria Christian Corpers Fellowship (each boasting of millions of Nigerian Christians), must have clear access and defined mechanisms to contribute ideas and supports to the CAN. In the same vein, the CAN must be empowered with a considerable war chest to effectively prosecute its businesses and thus reduce to zero any possibility of her key officials being financially induced by the enemies of the Church. For instance, who can contemplate financially inducing the Sultan of Sokoto to work against Islamic interests in Nigeria?
If the Church plays her part well, the ongoing political imbroglio in the country will eventually end up on the Church’s lap for closure and resolution. A Dr Ahima-led CAN Exco, first-hand partakers in the pogrom against the Church in Nigeria would be better placed to handle this discussion than one led by the incumbent, who has actually, in controversial circumstances, gone ahead to congratulate one side in the still-ravaging conflict.
To the delegates at the coming National Assembly of the CAN, we declare that the ball is in your court. This is not just another election. The year 2019 is not just another year, we are in the endtime. The time is short, and from several signs and witnesses all around us, we expect that the Trump will soon sound. Nigeria needs to take her place in these last-minute soul-harvest and conflict for righteousness. This could be the year of our Visitation as a nation, an opportunity not to be trifled with (Luke 19:42-44). Nigeria’s rising to fulfil her destiny is strongly contingent on the body of Christ being adequately positioned and organized to operate effectively. The current Exco should take a deserved rest, and allow fresh hands and ideas to reposition the CAN, leveraging on the enormous sacrifices the Church has had to pay in recent years; and ready to maximize the opportunities we believe the LORD will be presenting the Church in Nigeria soon, as the Jihadists fight themselves to a standstill.
It would be a lovely new day for Christianity in Nigeria if Dr Samson Ayokunle can be persuaded to step down his candidacy and Dr Caleb Ahima is returned unopposed as the head of CAN during the coming NEC election in June. The other offices should likewise be filled with spirit-filled fresh faces, ready to enforce the Lord’s will on earth, in Nigeria, as in heaven.
Ile-Ife, 19th May, 2019