Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) President Ayo Oritsejafor has spoken of how Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega snubbed him.
“Some people have told me that I am too small to meet with him (Jega),” Pastor Oritsejafor said.
The CAN chief spoke at a one-day interactive session of key stakeholders in the Nigerian project, comprising religious, political organisations and security agencies, organised by Think Nigeria Christian-Muslim Movement, with the theme: “Towards a peaceful and purposeful political transition in 2015”.
Pastor Oritsejafor said: “The General Secretary of CAN has the INEC Chairman’s number. He text him, saying the CAN President wants to meet with you on some days. The INEC chairman text back, saying those days were not good. So, Jega gave us two days to choose from and we chose one and he (Jega) accepted. I do not live in Abuja; I live in Warri, and so I had to make my plans to come here. All my plans were made and just as I was ready to come to Abuja, my General Secretary contacted me again that the INEC chairman (Jega) said he cannot meet with us, that he is too busy. When I asked him then what date did he give? He said no date was given.
“Till today, I, the leaders of all Christians in Nigeria, don’t have access to the INEC Chairman. I could not meet this man to have a discussion with him. Some of the things bordering us we wanted to share with him. We want to give him some solutions, suggestions, but that was it. No new date for us to meet with him. So, this is a problem that is why I am saying this now publicly. This happened a little less than two months ago. That disturbed me. The little people are begging him to look at our suggestions and act on them.
But Chief Press Secretary to Prof. Jega, Mr. Kayode Idowu, said he was unaware of any request by the CAN chief to see Jega which was turned down. “I’m not aware. I have a fair knowledge of the chairman’s scheduled,” Idowu said.
Dr. Oritsejafor added: “INEC is a necessary organisation that every nation must have. I am concerned about two things. One is on the issue of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs). I have had it said several times that there are many Nigerians who are refusing to collect their PVCs. I beg to disagree on this because I sample this and the church I pastor in Warri with about 35,000 people and I asked them to show me their PVCs and I was shocked. I tell you and I lie not, probably close to half of my congregation do not have their PVCs.
“I sent my pastors, over 100 of them, out to meet them and find out why and I discovered that I felt insulted that anybody would say that they registered and do not want to go and take their PVC. Some of them said the truth is, many of those cards don’t belong to the people in that location. So the people in that location could not find their cards. And the owners of the cards are also searching for their cards elsewhere.
“I think one of the things INEC can do is to publish the PVCs that they have quickly, so that Nigerians can easily locate them or pass information on it to each other, so that one can go there to collect it. I am not saying this will solve all the problems, but it will go a long way to solve the problem. We charge INEC to please make sure that those Card Readers work. They should work, they must work, and they were bought with money.”
Pastor Oritsejafor said for the election to be successful, Christian and Muslim leaders must sign a peace pact ensuring that Christians and Muslims are safe before, during and after the general elections.
Besides, in his view, for a successful election, there must be confidence building. And one of the things that will build confidence is that Christians and Muslims must resolve that we will protect each other.
“Christians who live in predominantly Muslim areas should not be afraid to remain there. Many are running away. They shouldn’t. After all, they are Nigerians. And our Muslim brothers must make a commitment to say Christians will not be killed in predominantly Muslims areas while Christians should also say Muslims who live in their area will not be killed.
“We must make that commitment to each other. And we must make it publicly. Let the nation know that nobody is going to be victimized based on his or her religion. Everyone must and should be free to go out and vote freely, believing that who they are voting for will help them. That is what democracy is all about. Many of us here today are preachers; some are politicians and other aspects of life. But the most important ones are the preachers because if you are politicians you will either go to the church or the mosque.
“The preachers here must also make a commitment to go to the churches and to the mosques to begin to preach that Christians are save everywhere and Muslims are save everywhere and we must begin to teach our people to believe in Nigeria. We must begin to emphasise to our people that we are all Nigerians.”
He advised leaders of both religions: “We must begin to tell our leaders, our followers to begin to think Nigeria. Nobody is superior to the other.”
The CAN leader also urged all to encourage the military for their fight against Boko Haram.
The President General of the Supreme Council of Islamic Preachers in Nigeria (SCIPIN), Sheikh Muhammed Nourayn Bn-Ahmad, said the two major problems “currently threatening the corporate existence of the Nigerian nation are that of religious extremism/intolerance, as well as subterranean forces working to breakup Nigeria into those previous pieces and ethnicities that were amalgamated in the past 100 years.”
A minute silent was observed for Boko Haram victims.