From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Barely 24 hours after taking over the mantle of leadership, the new President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Most Rev Daniel Okoh, has unpacked few of the things we would do for the Association and Christian faithful in the next five years of administration.
Okoh who spoke to journalists shortly after taking over the leadership of CAN in Abuja, on Friday, said he will start his administration with the expansion of opportunities for more people, pastors and professionals, to participate in the activities of CAN.
He said: “These people have knowledge, experience and contacts which they would use to help us galvanize and pool resources to enable us enhance and enrich the contributions of CAN towards nation building.
“It’s important that we open up the space for increased participation of people in the activities of CAN. I will, equally, use my experience as CAN President and someone with 20 years experience in CAN to do to that and ensure that things work as expected.
“Secondly, my administration will work assiduously to project the dignity of CAN, and make its voice strong, valid and recognized by all whenever we speak, and I can assure Christians in Nigeria that we would always speak with one voice in defence of Christian faith.
“Thirdly, we have a commitment to uphold the culture of dialogue. We constantly need religious dialogue with people of other faith in Nigeria. I have been in the Nigeria Inter-religious Council (NIREC) for 15 years, and had worked in various committees of NIREC. So, I have vast experience and know the importance of dialogue.
“We would leverage on our friendship with members of Muslim community to continue to enrich our dialogue. In Nigeria today, we don’t have a choice but continue to talk and dialogue among ourselves. Even if we quarrel and fight, we would still come back to dialogue table. So, it’s better we dialogue among ourselves to avoid misunderstanding that could lead to unrest. When we dialogue, we increases mutual understanding and respect for each other. In the end, Nigeria and its people would be much better.”
On Thursday, 259 delegate-members from all the five blocs of CAN, at the General Assembly meeting in Abuja, ratified the choice of Most Rev. Okoh, of the Christ Holy Church also known as Nation’s Builders (Odozi-Obodo) as the new CAN President for a five year tenure.
The delegates also ratified the choice of candidates who would serve as Vice Presidents of the Association for the next five years in line with the amended constitution of CAN.
The new CAN President, in his acceptance speech, appreciated CAN leaders for the confidence reposed in him by entrusting him with the great mandate of leading CAN for the next five years.
He said: “I am particularly delighted that my emergence was through a process that further demonstrated our understanding of the aims and objectives of CAN. By divine providence, my involvement in the leadership of CAN started at state level many years ago when church leaders in Anambra State would gather to plan for the yearly prayer for Christian unity.
“In the year 1999, i was invited to represent the Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) in the planning committee where I was unanimously chosen as the Secretary. Later that year, my bloc nominated me as one of the delegates to National Executive Committee (NEC) of CAN. Since then, I have been a member of the NEC of CAN till date.
“My emergence as the substantive CAN President from OAIC bloc that never had a shot at the Presidency, attests to the commitment of the organization to pool resources from various traditions of the Church of Christ in Nigeria for a more effective participation in Nation building. This is best described as equity in providence.
“As i assume the leadership of this ecumenical organization, I am aware of the need to build on the foundation laid already by the past leaders of CAN. I am also aware of the need for CAN to respond appropriately to national issues and to continue to participate actively and effectively in Nation Building.
“We came in at the time that Christian faith believe that some section of political leaders are not sensitive to the diverse nature of our population when certain decisions are being made. Many Christians have genuine fear that there is a deliberate plan to remove the Christian faith from the scheme of things and make us second-class citizens in our own country.
“This fear is genuine and was borne out of the recent happenings in our polity especially the issue of same faith ticket in one of the major political parties in Nigeria despite the caution raised by CAN since two years ago.
“Whatever happens, no matter how many times our sensibilities are insulted, we must resolve to continue to make positive impact on the political, economic and social systems of our dear nation,” he said.
The immediate-past President, Dr. Samson Ayokunle Olasupo, in his remarks, expressed confidence in the ability and capacity of the new leadership of CAN to sustain the successes achieved by CAN leaders in recent years.
He reminded him that leadership is tough and not a jamboree, hence leadership requires a man of character and courage to be able to succeed.
He said: “The new CAN President is not a novice in activities and leadership of CAN. He has been vice president of CAN twice. In addition to that, he has been the head of his denomination for the past 29 years. So, he is well experienced in human and church management, and we are confident that he will succeed.”