DC Okoh and the leadership of CAN

By PAUL ODILI

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A cheerful event occurred recently with the emergence of Dr. Daniel C. Okoh as the new President of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN. CAN, the umbrella body of Christian denominations in Nigeria, organised an unprecedented transition of power from the former leadership led by its 7th President, His Eminence Olasupo Ayokunle to Dr. Okoh. This election was remarkable in many respects and is a lesson in democratic leadership and in democratic transition. 

On July 27, 2022 at its General Assembly, the formal inauguration of the new leadership of CAN took place at the Ecumenical Centre, thus ushering in Rev. Okoh and ending the tenure of His Eminence, Ayokunle. The inauguration was colourful and attracted a large number of people, including a cornucopia of prominent Church leaders, the laity, Christian political leadership and admirers of CAN. On this day, the Ecumenical Centre, Abuja was a carnival of festivities and celebration.

For the CAN leaders, it was a collective sigh of relief with the smooth handover and the impressive turnout of personalities. Some of those who came to witness this epoch event were political leaders like Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, former Governor Peter Obi, Senator Elisha Abbo, Secretary to Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, amongst so many other dignitaries and personages. In all respect, it was an event that elevated the body of Christ.

CAN was founded in August 1976 by Christian leaders who thought that it was important to organise the Christian denominations into an ecumenical force for Christians who will be united in one voice on issues that affect Christians in Nigeria. This initiative was received enthusiastically, thus encouraging other Christian denominations that were not part of the formation to enlist.

Today, CAN has become even more formidable and a body to be reckonedwith in the multi-religious community of Nigeria. There are five blocks that constitute the leadership and membership of CAN and these are: the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria; Christian Council of Nigeria, CCN; Christian Pentecostal Fellowship, PFN; Organisation of African Instituted Churches, OAIC; TEKAN and ECWA fellowship. These groupings, as separate entities, have large fellowship in Nigeria. 

What is remarkable is that since its founding, the CAN presidency has been dominated by the big blocks to the exclusion of the others, and as any keen observer knows, the internal rumblings within CAN had often happened because of this skewed arrangement. What does this say? It says that CAN, like any human organisation, has its shibboleth that is undermining its cohesiveness which therefore requires a leadership with courage and sincerity of will to review for the stability of the group. And this is where the erstwhile leadership of CAN under Ayokunle should be commended for looking closely at this lack of inclusiveness and having the boldness to resolve it equitably. 

By amending the Constitution of CAN and adopting a rotational arrangement, the Ayokunle leadership erased the frustration and despair the excluded in CAN had long kicked against. It is also to be remarked that the overwhelming endorsement of this proposal by all the blocks show how important this one issue is and the desire to have it settled once and for all. In political terms, where there is a sincerity of purpose and a willingness to do justice, the solution is often there, even if it is by a consensus arrangement. However, the Nigeria political class driven by selfishness, greed to appropriate and dominate power without reflecting on the broader impact on society would use every stratagem in their tool box to sabotage any equitable arrangement. 

This is where CAN showed the way. By adopting the rotational arrangement, it was not difficult for it to invite the Organisation of African Instituted Churches, OAIC, to present Dr. Okoh as a candidate for the top office. And this is because of the five blocks OAIC belongs to the block of the excluded. This is clearly the hand of God. The new CAN president, Dr. Okoh, is a child of promise—destined for great things, a true leader of men, ordained by God to be His servant. He is a theologian and a man of very high intellect. 

He is a courageous leader and a consensus builder.  CAN with him as President will have a leader who loves God, loves truth, hate injustice and is not motivated by hunger to accumulate power and material things. He is a man given to speaking truth to power. God has used him to lead his church, Christ Holy Church, to do great things and to be a blessing—spiritually and materially—to society. With Dr. Okoh as CAN President, the Christian community is assured that they have a leader who is articulate and with an unshakable belief in standing for justice and truth, and who genuinely believes that strengthening CAN as an ecumenical force is good for Nigeria and Africa.

Okoh has the experienced to lead CAN having held positions such as international chairman of OAIC; member, Nigeria inter-Religious Council, NIREC; former National Vice President of CAN (2007-2013), member of the board of African Council of Religious leaders etc. 

In truth this is the beginning of a new dawn in the Christian faith. A wise decision has been made by the CAN leadership and they all deserve commendation for rallying round to support Dr. Okoh. For lovers of truth, justice and fairness a Solomon has come to judgement.  

  • Odili, a public commentator wrote from Abuja
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