They are to preach and give peace to the “worldly.” They are to exemplify orderliness and live a life worthy of emulation. They are to be meek, mild, humble, honest, loving and project to the world the virtues of godliness.
But to the leaders of the Lagos State chapter of the Christian Association in Nigeria, all these are commissions for Christians other than them. In the last seven years, the association has been embroiled in a crisis of who should be at the wheel of the association’s leadership.
So intense is the struggle that the Lagos State chapter of CAN now has two parallel executives. One is led by Apostle (Dr.) Adedayo Abiola of Aladura International Cherubim & Seraphim Church, and the other by Monsignor B.A. Okodua. According to findings, more than 34 peace initiatives have been brokered without peace in sight. Besides, several court actions have also been involved and yet to no settlement.
To keen followers of the crisis, that the court was involved at all is a slight on what Christianity stands for. In their opinion, Christians are to be ones settling matters for the heathens, as judges and lawyers are considered to be, not the other way round. They would also question the moral justification of men of God who take themselves to court or find it difficult to settle misunderstanding among themselves whereas they stand on the pulpit sermonising on morality, love and other such virtues.
What went wrong? While the Abiola faction claimed that the national leadership of CAN, then headed by Prelate Sunday Mbang, had schemed to prevent him (Abiola) from being the chairman of Lagos State chapter of the association for a second term and instead appointed an unconstitutional Caretaker Committee, which metamorphosed into CAN Lagos Executive headed by Okodua, the Okodua faction accused Abiola of holding on to power after serving his constitutionally approved term. Responding to the claim by the Okodua faction, Abiola said he found it a highest display of dishonesty. He explained that all previous chairmen of the association served two terms. He wondered why his interest to do same would be deemed as perpetuation.
In a situation report to the General Assembly of his faction of Lagos CAN in February this year titled “Case against National CAN and its unconstitutional committee now called CAN Lagos State Chapter (Suit No FHC/L/CS 844/2000),” Apostle Abiola stated: “National CAN (then headed by Prelate Mbang) appointed an unconstitutional Caretaker Committee which metamorphosed to CAN Lagos State EXCO and headed by Revd. Okodua as Chairman, Most Revd. Omodunbi as Vice Chairman and Bishop Amu as Secretary. Some other people were also appointed into certain offices. This was done to prevent Apostle Abiola from being CAN Chairman for a second term.
“This illegal parallel Exco of CAN Lagos State Branch was sued to the Federal High Court, at Ikoyi before it made a new bye-law (Constitution). One of the prayers before the Court was to prevent adoption of a New Constitution as there is one in existence approved in 1995 by National CAN. Moreover, the current approved Constitution provided for procedure for amendment, should it be necessary. The procedure must be complied with.
“Another prayer before the Court was that Apostle Abiola’s Exco, constitutional and properly elected should be allowed to function and that the illegal and unconstitutional Exco headed by Revd. Okodua should be prevented from parading themselves as officers of CAN Lagos State Branch.
“By the time that the Honourable Court listened to the two parties, Revd. Okodua’s Exco, restrained by an Interim Order of Court not to make a new Constitution and also not to conduct any election into offices, had done so. Their new Constitution was declared null and void and their two (2) elections conducted in 2003 and 2007 were also declared null and void. Again, the Honourable Court in a considered Ruling also restrained Revd. Okodua and his officers from parading themselves as Officers of CAN, Lagos State Branch – please get copies of the Court Orders dated 30th August, 2000, 18th June, 2008 and 21st July, 2008 from Chairmen of C.A.N. Local Government Chapters.
“Under Section 17 of the Federal High Court Act, the Judge is empowered to promote reconciliation among parties and Hon. Justice Lambo Akanbi tried his very best to see to It that parties get together to reconcile.
“It is on record that Revd. Okodua’s illegal committee
- wrote to Hon. Justice Jega (now a Court of Appeal Judge) that he should not hear the case because he is a Moslem. In Open Court. Justice Jega admonished that a Moslem who does not believe in and accept Anobi Yisa, (Jesus Christ) is not a Moslem and cannot enter Aljanah.
- lied to the Court in a letter in which it said that we have reconciled and asked that case should be struck out. The Judge, Hon. Justice Lambo Akanbi asked for the terms of the terms of settlement. Revd. Okodua’s Committee could not produce any. This was the way Revd. Okodua’s Committee rubbished the good work of Late Pastor S.S. Jemigbon.
- Revd. Okodua agreed that another attempt at reconciliation should be made; hence Revd. Dr. Wilson Badejo Reconciliation Committee which has done a good job and has led 3-man committee to Abuja – Revd. Dr. Wilson Badejo, Revd. Dr. Dele Asaaju and Sir Adekoya.
“It is also on record that National CAN feigned ignorance of the problem in Lagos State CAN but the General Secretary of National CAN Elder Engineer S.L.S. Salifu cannot deny writing a letter to the Governor of Lagos State that “….This letter is to let you know that….CAN in Lagos State is led by Monsignor B.A. Okodua as Chairman and Bishop George Amu as Secretary….” This letter dated September 4, 2008 was written about 8 years after an Interim Order restraining National CAN and others including Okodua and Amu from dividing CAN in Lagos State.
“On June l8th, 2008 the same Federal High Court set aside the illegal election of October 2003 and that of September, 2007 and the purported amendment of our byelaws (Constitution) in contravention of order of Court made on 20th August, 2000. On July 21, 2008, the Court also ordered Revd. Okodua and Bishop Amu from parading themselves as Caretaker (Officers) of CAN Lagos State Branch.
“The National CAN was a party in the case and was represented by its lawyer. How can the National CAN then say that it is unaware of the situation in Lagos? At any rate, we have now made every important fact known to National CAN who still has to decide whether or not to follow the Rule of Law.
“Honourable Justice Lambo Akanbi made the following important remarks in His Ruling:
‘….the acts of the Defendants (National CAN, Okodua, Amu and others) complained of in the Motion praying for a reversal of the Defendant’s act are in flagrant and reckless disobedience of an existing order of the Court.
‘An Order of Court of competent jurisdiction subsists until it is set aside. I cannot ignore the utter reckless and total disregard for an existing order of this Court carried out by the Defendants in such primitive and condemnable circumstances.
‘It is uncivilised, primitive, arrogant, contemptuous, reprehensible, lawless and a deliberate violation of the positive order of this Court which is capable of impeding the course of justice and eroding the public confidence in the judicial administration of justice. I have no hesitation therefore in condemning same.’
“For every action they have taken in parading themselves as Chairman or Secretary of CAN Lagos State Branch, Revd. B.A. Okodua and Bishop George Amu stand condemned by a Federal High Court of competent jurisdiction as reckless, primitive, condemnable, uncivilized, arrogant, contemptuous, reprehensible, lawless and a violator of the positive Order of a Federal High Court of Justice
“Let us continue to pray for them and those who encourage them to break the law for a spirit of repentance.
“We are ready and are available for reconciliation. We shall also continue to pray for the Reconciliator, Revd. Dr. Wilson Badejo not to be discouraged by the antics of the National CAN Officers who are too anxious to take levies from State Branches of CAN without giving anything in return.
“We thank Governor Raji Babatunde Fashola SAN and Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for their understanding and support especially for their efforts in encouraging “United” CAN. The two gentlemen have behaved as sons of God better than the so-called Apostles, Prelates, Cardinals, Bishops and General Overseers. Their Excellencies, Fashola and Tinubu intervened and encouraged reconciliation while the high Priests were busy sharing filthy lucres. As peacemakers their Excellencies are blessed and they are sons of God – Matt. 5:9.”
But the Okodua faction has a different story to tell. According to Archbishop Magnus Atilade, one time Lagos State CAN chairman and immediate predecessor of Aposle Abiola, he (Abiola) wants to perpetuate himself in office. Atilade claimed that when Abiola presented himself for election for second term, he was voted out but that he refused to relinquish office. He also accused him of enlisting the membership of churches not recognised by national CAN into his faction of Lagos CAN in order to prop his leadership.
Also arguing for Okodua’s faction’s legitimacy, its Secretary, Bishop George Amu, tendered a copy of correspondence to Okodua titled “Re- Reconciliatory Committee Report” from nation CAN which he said recognised their faction as the authentic. Below is the content of the correspondence:
November 10, 2010
Christian Association of Nigeria,
Attention: Rev. Dr. W.A. Badejo
Re – reconciliatory committee report
Greetings in our Great Redeemer’s Precious Name. This report (above) was presented to the National Secretariat in August this year (2010). The issues contained were exhaustively discussed at the last National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of CAN on November 9, 2010. Two crucial decisions were arrived at viz:
- Apostle A.A. Abiola is requested to please withdraw the 10 years old case against CAN from the court immediately. Such actions are not in consonance with our much cherished FAITH. We hope this action will be done within two weeks and the National Secretariat duly informed.
- Monsignor B.A. Okodua should stay action on the proposed election into Lagos State CAN executive positions slated for end of November last year till further notice.
- The present executive shall continue in office until the issues are resolved.
- It is hoped that our brethren will comply with these directives from the CAN Headquarters in the spirit of the unity of the Church.
Engr. S.L. Salifu, General Secretary
CC: Monsignor B.A. Okodua.
This correspondence and the directives contained therein, perhaps, failed to resolve the crisis because of its ambiguity. The ambiguity is that it didn’t clarify which of the two factional executives it directed to ‘continue in office until the issues are resolved’ since both are laying claim to legitimacy. Besides, there was a court judgement that upheld the legitimacy of the Abiola faction and lambasted the Okodua faction for acting against court order.
But to Okodua faction’s favour is the presence within it of established churches like the Catholic, Methodist, Anglican and the rest. However, that these strong ones seemingly appear to be those operating as underdog in the matter is still a puzzle. The Abiola faction is the one operating at the association’s secretariat at Alausa, Ikeja while the Okodua side operates from Hoare’s Memorial Methodist Church, Yaba, Lagos.
Abiola’s faction is illegal – Atilde
In this interview with Archbishop Magnus Atilade, the former Lagos CAN chairman, spoke on the cause of the crisis and what can bring an end to it. Excerpts:
Why does the Lagos State CAN have two executives?
Well, there is only one CAN, the other CAN is illegal. One, the man who took over has completed his own term and the constitution that is binding on us in the CAN stipulated the term of office. But he (Abiola) has hung to office over 15 years ago now. Why is he still holding up to that till now? Is it a life-long appointment? This is what you should go and ask him.
Is it because he’s holding to the post that your faction has to separate? Is it true he has been to court and the court declared his executive to be the authentic one?
Has his term elapsed or not? What is his tenure of office? Even if he had continued for second term, has it not elapsed given the number of years that the problem has been dragging? Is he then angling to be a life-long chairman?
Does it never bother you as a Christian leader that in spite of what Christianity preaches the association’s leadership could afford to allow this kind of ugly affair to reign?
No, we are not. This is why we have been standing up to support legitimacy, to support what is right, to support civility, honesty and especially righteousness. What is good is good and what is bad is bad. If he has a good sense of the word, that his tenure has finished or not shouldn’t have been dragged to this sour point.
If the man decides to leave office today, are you saying both factions will fuse into one again?
Yes, they have to come back. This is where I was in the past and I have endorsed this one (Okodua’s faction) for continuity. I endorsed him (Abiola) when he was here and when his term expired, I endorsed the people who are taking over from him.
If yours is constitutional, why is it that it’s Abiola’s faction that is using the association’s secretariat at Alausa?
Where they are meeting was the land that was given to me as chairman of CAN. I gave him (Abiola) the documents for them to be able to put our secretariat there. He has not handed it over to anybody since then, including all other documents, vehicles and many other properties of the association. He’s still holding to them illegally. So help us to highlight this problem for people to know the truth and enlighten the public. That way, people can now beg, appeal to him, that whatever it is, we should not subject Christianity to ridicule, like what is happening now. Going to court is un-Christian and it is not the wish of this association. We have made a lot of entreaties to him so that this matter can be settled. The elders have appointed a committee when Pa Bamigbon was alive to pave a way and work on the constitution, bye-laws and everything. Let me tell you the reason for the crisis: the national CAN in their wisdom said they will not be joined directly by individual churches since they don’t know which church is which. There are many different types of churches now and one way to check fake churches is to have groupings. And we have five groupings. For any church to be recognised as a legitimate church, it has to join one of those groups. The groups will investigate it to know whether it’s preaching the true word of Jesus or not. Many of them cannot join any of these groups. He (Abiola) was with OIC group and he has been pushed out of OIC. But he still wants to hold on to illegitimacy. He wants to be against every regulation. That is not fair, it’s un-Christian, unrighteous and it is not good. I have nothing personal against him. All I’m doing is to appeal to him and to beg him to please consider the situation. We can’t have a quarrel on earth and go and settle it in heaven. Let us come together to settle this matter once and for all.
Bishop George Amu on why they operate from Yaba and not Alausa:
Apostle Abiola was the one that helped CAN to get the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) of the land (Secretariat) in Ikeja. When he came for election, they voted him out. He refused to accept the result. He seized all documents and that’s why we’re here. The national CAN has intervened but he still refused.
Apostle Abiola on the genesis of the crisis, the current status:
CAN Lagos State started before national CAN. We have CAN in Lagos State. It was the grace of God and former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who called the religious leaders in Lagos State to say that the capital of Nigeria is Lagos, the seat of the Federal Government is in Lagos, the Muslims have their own supreme council, we Christians don’t seem to have any, so why can’t we come together. Each denomination has been doing its own thing. This was also after contributing money for so many years and that there is nothing to show for it at the Ecumenical Centre in Abuja. It was Chief Obasanjo that came to our rescue and also changed the name from Ecumenical Centre to National Church of Nigeria. On the CAN in Lagos State, I took over from the Bishop, now Archbishop, Atilade in 1996 through election. Before then, I was the chairman of Shomolu Local Government Area chapter of CAN. I was to run for three years and in the constitution there is another three years that you can run for, making two terms. The constitution was verified and certified by National CAN in 1995 during the chairmanship of Archbishop Atilade. When I came in, I spent my three years and other heads of churches urged me to go for second term. The reason was simple: all former chairmen spent two terms each and that I’m the only Aladura man who will come in for the first time and that I should spend two terms too. And this was because my group was not sure if it would get to their turn for another long period. Who suggested this? It was His Most Eminence, Baba Aladura Otubu. So I accepted to run a second term. We were to have the election. But before then, the Methodist had said it has never produced a chairman in Lagos State CAN and so His Eminence, Prelate Sunday Mbang, who was then the national president of CAN, worked out his own system and brought out an Archbishop from Ifaki-Ekiti Diocese to come to Lagos. The man came to Lagos and came to me and said they want to take over, that Methodist now wants to be the chairman of CAN and that he has been asked to do so. His name is Omodunbi. I said, to take over from me you must come the right way. You cannot just come to me and say you want to take over. The system is this: we have two levels of membership in CAN. The first is for the groups and there are five groups: the Catholic, the Christian Council of Nigeria, OAIC, PFN-CPFN and ECWA-TECA. The five are still there today. To be part of CAN in Nigeria the Catholic insists that they must be number one group. Two, that if they are not president, they must be vice-president. Three, that they must also hold the purse (that’s the treasury). When I came to CAN, that’s what I met and was confirmed to me. That was when the then His Grace Olubunmi Cardinal Okogie was the national president of CAN. It came to the turn of another group to become the president and we voted Prelate Sunday Mbang, who was from Christian Council of Nigeria. And a large number of us supported him. The next body should have been OAIC. But then the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria has been shouting it loud and clear that they should be reckoned with and that there is no fairness in CAN and that the slot given to them is not equitable. So I told them (Omodunni and others) the right thing to do is to seek representation through CCN that their church belongs to. He became a bit difficult for him because he has to go through CCN to come to CAN in Lagos State. The man in CCN Lagos State was his junior, Reverend Alaran, the Lord Bishop of Ikorodu then. That one stepped down for him. But the other members of CCN refused. They said it is Alaran they voted for and that he must stay there. So he didn’t come in through that way. He told me and I told him: let them just give you a letter and come up for your presentation. There were three other Archbishops but I have to mention Reverend Omodunni because he was the one who pulled that faction out and took them to his office at Methodist Memorial Cathedral. What happened was simple: we were to hold election. The General Secretariat of national CAN at that time was invited to come in and monitor our election. He wrote back that he could not come and advised that we should choose a caretaker committee until things can be sorted out. I as the chairman said there is no caretaker committee in the constitution. If we decide not to hold election now, that’s alright by us but not for you to say we should select a caretaker committee. Lo and behold the next thing he did was to liaise with Mbang and send the copy of the letter to the Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. So, he called me and said what’s happening, what about this caretaker committee? I said there is nothing like it and that C.O. Williams, the secretary of the national CAN, has written. He showed me the letter and I got a copy and I told them that this is the situation. I narrated the story and I explained to them and they said that cannot be done, nothing can be done outside of your constitution. They pulled out and started holding their meetings there. First, their chairman who is Rev. Okodua never attended CAN meetings before in Lagos State branch; Amu never attended a CAN meeting before. He was attending PFN meetings and he was sent to CAN Lagos State for the first time in 1999 as one of three people representing CAN. Who are the three people? His Grace, late Archbishop Adeniran, who died recently; Rev. Dr. Iloh and the Rev. Amu. The other two accepted the situation, kept low but Amu continued and they had to bring in Okodua because of the importance of Catholic. Ask them, they were never elected. But when the matter was going on and they had ceded themselves, we decided that we should put in the newspapers notice of election and a number of people were returned. I was given a second term. We thought it would end there. The next thing, they realised they had no constitution. They then tried to have their own constitution. In the meantime, we were not quarrelling with them and I regard them as my children. But once you are now there to fashion a new constitution, it would have a different dimension and people will not understand and appreciate it. Who can stop them? They were writing all letters to Mbang, Okogie, Adetiloye before he left, who was fully in our support. And when Ademowo came, we also went to see him and he came to see us. We put down the letter. They all know what was going on in CAN Lagos State. Baba Otimu, the Archbishop of First African Church Mission, they were with us, the Archbishop of Anglican Salem, they were also with us and we asked Adeboye and he continued to pay his dues before he stopped after some time. They know what was going on and then we heard that they wanted to have their own constitution. The only thing we could do about this was to go to court, ask for adjudication from the court and that’s what we did. We went to court, we were summoned, we sued the national CAN, we sued Mbang, C.O. Williams, the secretary, then Okoduwa, Omodunbi, Amu and the officers they called their own officers. The long and short of it, we got the court’s pronouncement on their elections. They said the constitution that they used for the elections was null and void. We got the court to nullify the two elections they conducted in 2003 and 2007. We got the court to declare them non-officers of Lagos State CAN and that they should not parade themselves as officers of Lagos State CAN. Today, under the law, there’s no faction of CAN Lagos State other than this authentic CAN in Lagos State.