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A Dangerous Awakening

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Iheanyi M. Enwerem

Chapter Four

The Organization, Structure, and Politics of the Christian Association of Nigeria

Texte intégral

Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle towards my hand? ...
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
(Macbeth, Act II, Scene i)

  • 1 . C.O. Williams, General Secretarys Report, In: Religion in a Secular State: Proceedings of the Sec (...)
  • 2 . David E. Apter, Choice and tbe Politics of Allocation: A development theory (New Haven: Yale Univ (...)

1Twelve years after the birth of CAN in 1976, its General Secretary reported on its astronomical growth. It now ‘embraces almost every church or church organization which professes to follow Christ.’1 Within this period, the association had been so politicized that it acquired the national status, to all intents and purposes, of the unofficial opposition to the government — a development that will be examined in the next chapter. With this in mind, the operational character of CAN should be examined against its capacity to effect political change in Nigeria. Following David Apter,2 we will examine six features of the association: (1) membership in CAN, (2) its structure and flow of authority and leadership, (3) the source and extent of its financial and human resources, (4) its political strategies, (5) its style of politics, and (6) the human agency behind CAN.

Membership in CAN

  • 3 . Okogie interview, December 10, 1990.

2The thirteen denominations which participated in the foundation of CAN represented two major Christian blocs, namely, the Catholics and the Protestants. The Protestants were divided into two: the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) and the group described simply as Others. CCN was an ecumenical union of mainline Protestant churches (see appendix 4). As for the Others, it comprised those denominations like the Northern Christian Association (NCA) which belonged neither to the Catholic Church nor to CCN.3 There were still other churches not originally associated with CAN, although there was a desire for new members such as the African Instituted Churches.

  • 4 . Interview with Rev. Fr. K. Akagha, Owerri, March 25, 1991.
  • 5 . See Dominic Cardinal Ekandem, Presidential Address: That all may be one, In: Makozi and Ojo (eds. (...)
  • 6 . Williams interview, April 26, 1991.
  • 7 . ibid.

3Not until those Christian bodies, hitherto outside its fold, began to apply for admission, was membership in CAN put to the test. For instance, there was the case in Owerri, Imo State, of an attempt made to deny admission to the pentecostal church groups. These churches were ‘mad to the point of threatening to go to court if possible for not being admitted into CAN.’4 The case became more serious when these church groups ‘proceed[ed] to form another rival national Christian body’, called ‘the Nigeria Association of Christian Churches’, and sought government recognition.5 Although this rival group soon faded away, it forced CAN to re-examine its membership policy, more so as the group called Others protested its identity as ‘others’.6 After long deliberations over the issue, three groups emerged out of Others,7 thus bringing the membership of CAN from its initial three groups to the following five:

  • The Catholic Church
  • The Christian Council of Nigeria
  • 3- The Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC)
  • The TEKAN/ECWA8 Fellowship
  • The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria.9
  • 10 . The rationale for the formation of this group arose out of the 1987 religious riots. Christians a (...)
  • 11 . See CAN's 1988 Constitution, Art. VII, p. 2.

4Except by way of affiliate membership — as with the Youth Wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (YOWICAN)10 and the Women's Wing, both of which began in the North and are now recognized11 — it seems that there is a foreclosure on new members. For, we are told, CAN's leadership now feels that:

  • 12 . Williams interview, April 26, 1991.

... with these five groups [the Association] would have covered almost 90% of the Christians in the country. A Christian should fall into one group or the other, and it is not [CAN's leadership's] intention to have any more groups after these five groups.12

5This intention may have resulted from CAN's leadership's determination to discourage further schisms within the churches. Understandable as this may be, especially given the fact that the proliferation of churches makes CAN's work more difficult, we are inclined to believe that the attempts at foreclosure on pentecostal groups reflect the animosity between the established and unorthodox churches.

  • 13 . See the Constitution of the Northern Christian Association, Art. IX (B).

6A clearer identification of the three new member bodies is appropriate at this juncture. The Others group had included the African Instituted Churches and the Northern Christian Association (NCA). Although the NCA is an association ‘of Christian individuals and not one of churches or groups of churches’,13 its representation was in the form of church groups like ECWA, COCIN (Church of Christ in Nigeria) or in Hausa, Hadaddiyar Ekkelesiyar Kristi a Nijeriya (HEKAN) and the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria. In the reorganization, the Others group emerged as the Organization of Indigenous African Churches (OIAC) and the TEKAN/ECWA Fellowship.

  • 14 . M.Y. Nabofa, Christianity in Nigeria: Its role in nation-building, In: Nigeria Since Independence (...)

7The OIAC includes the United African Methodist Church, which was represented at the inception of CAN, and the ninety-five indigenous churches that, in 1960, formed the Nigerian Association of Aladura Churches.14 The Aladura churches, as their name suggests, are characterized by their commitment to prayer as well as the indigenization of the Christian faith to African religious idiosyncrasies. Prominent in this group is the Celestial Church of Christ.

  • 15 . See E.P.T. Crampton, Christianity in Northern Nigeria (Zaria: Gaskiya Corporation, 1975), p. 150.
  • 16 . ibid., pp. 146-147.

8The TEKAN/ECWA is a grouping of all those churches that trace their genealogy to either the Canadian-based Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) or the largely British-based Sudan United Mission (SUM). Theologically, the TEKAN and the ECWA churches are committed to biblically-rooted evangelism. Historically and geographically, they are located in the northern parts of Nigeria. While ECWA grew out of SIM,15 TEKAN used to be TEKAS — the Tarraya Ekkelesiyoyin Krista a Sudan (Fellowship of Churches of Christ in the Sudan) — and grew out of the SUM (Sudan United Mission).16 The TEKAN churches include COCIN, Church of Christ in Nigeria or Hadaddiyar Ekkelesiyar Kristi a Nijeriya (HEKAN), in Hausa, and the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria.

9The last group in CAN is the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. This comprises the pentecostal churches, including William Folorunso Kumuyi's Deeper Life Ministry and Idahosa's Church of God Mission — groups whose history will be discussed in the next chapter. These pentecostal churches were founded in the 1970s and have been characterized by their fundamentalism.

10The admission of new groups into CAN reflects its flexibility. According to the Anglican Bishop of Kaduna:

  • 17 . Ogbonyomi interview, November 20, 1990.

... all Christian denominations are welcomed into CAN. Churches are registered with the State branches of the Association while denominations are registered in Lagos (that is, at the National Headquarters].17

11Samuel Salifu, zonal Secretary for CAN's eleven northern states, points out the cost of registration in CAN and the benefits which members enjoy when they belong to CAN. According to him, using Kaduna as an example:

  • 18 . Samuel Salifu, interview in Nigeria's Christian Digest, Vol. 2, No. 10, September 1990, p. 19.

... those who want to register especially in Kaduna ... the registration fee is N50.00 land] they can register with the state branch of CAN. What they get by registering of course is general protection. If they run into trouble as registered members, CAN then takes it up, whether it is legal or whatever ... to do with land or anything that has to do with government. That is where CAN comes in ... 18

  • 19 . See the Inaugural (pre-1988) Constitution of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Art. 4b, (...)

12In short, CAN is an association of churches and not of individuals, and people become members of CAN in so far as they belong to any of the churches that are members of CAN. The criteria for membership, according to its constitution, require that the church denomination seeking admission be committed to the teachings of the Bible, especially to the worship of ‘one God in the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’.19 A case in point is non-admission of the Jehovah's Witnesses and Olumba Olumba Obu's group on the grounds that:

  • 20 . Ogbonyomi interview, November 20, 1990.

... both groups do not believe in the Trinity. The Olumba group would even go further to believe that their Jesus [that is, their founder, Olumba Olumba Obu] is already here now. As far as they are concerned, the man Jesus who has come is the man who leads them.20

  • 21 . See CAN'S 1988 Constitution, Art. III.

13Let us consider the normative values which underpin CAN'S existence. The ‘preamble’ to the Constitution and the ‘definition’ given therein of CAN describe CAN as ‘a fellowship of churches, working together to promote the glory of God’.21 There is deliberate flexibility here, as ‘fellowship’ and ‘working together’ imply. The preamble acknowledges CAN as:

  • 22 . ibid., Art. II.

... an Association of Christian Churches with distinct identity, recognizable church structures, and a system of worship of one God in the Trinity ... which make Christ the centre of all their pastoral life and works.22

  • 23 . Nigeria's Christian Digest, Vol. 2, No. 10, September 1990, p. 29.
  • 24 . ibid.

14In other words, ‘CAN is a voluntary association’ where member bodies are allowed their doctrinal autonomy except in those things that go ‘contrary to Christianity as a whole’23 Two normative values are easily recognizable here, namely, diversity and unity. Both values merge into and are epitomized'by CAN's biblically-based motto: ‘That they all may be one’ (John 17:21).24 It is this prayer for unity in diversity which forms and informs the modus operandi of CAN.

15The following commentary by His Eminence, Dominic Cardinal Ekandem not only supports, but also highlights, the importance the CAN leadership attaches to the criteria for membership. According to the Cardinal:

  • 25 . Dominic Cardinal Ekandem, In: Makozi and Ojo (eds.), op. cit., p. 5.

[That all may be one] is Christ's prayer for his disciples. So Jesus expects unity or oneness among his followers. [Yet in] their relations with God, people have their own beliefs, or, as we say, their creed. Similarly, they have their own code of conduct... Lastly, people have their own form of worship or their cult. [These notwithstanding in] our association, we certainly should be praying and working for such unity and should not abandon or reject it as futile.25

16The implication then is this: to desire to join CAN without a corresponding belief in the reality of the Trinity is to erode the very basis — the transcendent foundation — on which CAN builds its life as a religious body. In sum, what the foregoing discussion reveals of CAN is its flexibility and capacity to implement change without sacrificing its more permanent spiritual character. In other words, CAN is committed both to spiritual and material goals, and its normative values must demonstrate a balance between these goals.

CAN's structure: Authority and leadership

  • 26 . See CANs 1988 Constitution, Art. X.
  • 27 . ibid.
  • 28 . ibid.

17CAN has a double-sided but inter-related organizational structure which, in practice, is exercised through national and northern zonal norms (see figures 5 and 6). Both organizational norms, however, are characterized by a hierarchically structured authority and leadership, both of which are exercised through a consultative approach. The national norm has, in descending order, three layers of authority: (a) The Assembly, (b) the National Executive Committee (NEC), and (c) the States' Standing Committee (SSC).26 While supreme authority on major issues concerning CAN and the spiritual and moral welfare of Nigeria resides with the Assembly, which is the highest organ of the Association, NEC is the association's executive body.27 The SSC, whose existence may appear redundant, is composed of two representatives from each of the states of the federation, including Abuja, and is directly under the command of NEC.28 Thus, authority in CAN flows from its Assembly to NEC and from there to the SSC which, in its capacity as CAN's representative in the states, ensures that this authority reaches the grassroots.

Figure 6. CAN’S Organizational Chart (National norm)

Figure 7. CAN'S Organizational Chart (Northern zone in practice)

  • 29 . This is a group of former members of the university-based and CCN-affiliated Student Christian Mo (...)
  • 30 . See the SCM Senior Friends Group's letter, The survival of the Church in Nigeria: Urgent effectiv (...)
  • 31 . See CANs 1988 Constitution, Art. X

18The national flow of authority is not without input from the bottom. Ideas, feelings, and reactions from the grassroots are passed on to the state branches which then pass them on to the national bodies through the SSC. But in practice, of course, nothing stops those at the grassroots level from passing on their views or feelings directly to any of the national bodies. For instance, the Ibadan Branch of the ‘SCM Senior Friends Group’29 once wrote to the ‘Heads of Churches, Church/Christian Leaders’ to register, among other things, their disapproval of what they perceived as an ineffective approach adopted by church leaders to confront what the group saw as a ‘step-by-step decision to turn Nigeria into an Islamic country.’30 In recognition of the importance of the input from the grassroots in the decision-making process of CAN, a constitutional requirement is made for the representation of SSC, with voting rights, at both NEC and Assembly meetings.31

19The emergence of CAN Youth and the Women's Wing also reflects the importance of grassroots participation. There has been some controversy over their relevance within the national organizational structure, a matter discussed in chapter seven. In view of this, and since hardly anything has been written on them, it is worth enquiring into their set-up. As Salifu pointed out, CAN Youth:

  • 32 . Salifu interview, March 17, 1991.

... has a little different structure from the parent body, CAN. It has two or three national executive members: the president and the national Adviser. Youth CAN is in four zones, namely: (1) the Far North zone comprising Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Bauchi, and Borno States, (2) the Middle Belters' zone comprising Niger, Kaduna, Benue, Gongola and Plateau, Abuja, and Kwara States, (3) the Eastern zone comprising of all the States in what used to be the Eastern Region, and (4) the Western zone which is comprised of all the States in what used to be the Western and the Mid-Western Regions, including Lagos. Each of the zones has a zonal director or zonal chairman and these zonal chairmen meet once in a while to look into the affairs of the Youth CAN on the national basis before they hold their national conferences or meetings three times a year, of course to discuss issues concerning the Church and the Nation. This is unlike the mother-CAN that holds its National Conference [the Assembly] once in three years.32

20As for the Women's Wing of CAN, Salifu continued:

  • 33 . ibid.

They have just held their first national meeting. This was at Makurdi, Benue State, sometime in February 1987. They are still trying to form their own structure properly. At the national meetings of CAN, their representatives are invited from all the States of the Federation.33

  • 34 . See CANs 1988 Constitution, Art. XV.
  • 35 . In fact, strictly speaking, before the President and his executive Council take a decision, all t (...)
  • 36 . See CAN'S 1988 Constitution, Art. XV

21CAN's leadership structure is not as clear as the location of its authority. There are national officers of the association, namely, the President, the Vice-President, the Treasurer, the General Secretary, and the Assistant General Secretary.34 As a body, these officials carry out the day-to-day business of CAN at the national level with the President as the most nationally visible representative of the association. To follow CAN's Constitution strictly, however, the office of president is not an executive one. Instead, it is a presiding one or, at best, a consultative presidency. Nothing in the Constitution gives the President the power to make decisions on behalf of the Association;35 the incumbent simply presides over (a) The Assembly and (b) the meetings of the National Executive Committee of CAN.36 It would seem then that the President is supposed to bring the various views of the members to a consensus. This consensus may then be announced to the general public, usually as a communique, or sent to the government as a memorandum.

22In practice, since there is no constitutional provision for a spokesperson for CAN, individual church leaders or groups speak for CAN. This is particularly true with reference to the Catholic Bishops' Episcopal Conference or to the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos who, even before he became the current National President of CAN, had been vocal on major national issues including those touching on the welfare of Christians. Asked whether this loose structure, especially with regard to making public statements for CAN, is deliberate — perhaps CAN's unwritten organizational strategy — the prelate answered in the affirmative. Accordingly he used his own context to explain:

  • 37 . The Torch, No. 94 (Enugu: Bigard Memorial Seminary, April-June, 1990), p. 15 (hereafter cited as (...)

I happen to be in the centre [that is, Lagos], that's why people hear me. Anything I say they say oh, it is said by Okogie.... [M]ost of the things I say are ideas from my [colleagues]. Because they know that ‘look, you are the one in the centre, therefore you deliver the goods’.
If it is well said the glory goes to the Church. ... If it is badly said, well, when we meet [they will ask] Why did you say that, Archbishop? That is not what we asked you to say'. That's the way we move. But people don't understand it that way.37

23The national President of CAN, more officially than any other person, speaks on behalf of the Association. Overall, therefore, while authority and leadership in CAN are strictly structured hierarchically, in practice, they are exercised in a consultative manner. Perhaps that was what Okogie had in mind, speaking in response to a question put to him about his style of leadership, when he said:

  • 38 . ibid.

Because in the Church, remember, in anything pertaining to faith and morals, every bishop is bound to (act). And once you see things like that, the first thing is, you consult, as I will always do-1 can phone maybe to [Archbishop! Jatau [if it is something about the North] or to my brother Bishop in Ibadan, to anybody. And they too are free to phone me.38

  • 39 . Okogie interview, December 10, 1990; and the pre-1988 Constitution of Christian Association of Ni (...)

24The structures of authority and leadership within CAN are not unconnected with the issue of representation in the Association. As a matter of fact, almost since the inception of CAN, issues pertaining to representation have caused tensions across the different levels of CAN's leadership, and have also, at times, encouraged innovations. At the inception of CAN, the Catholics and the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) — the backbone of the new Association — were said to have insisted on and constitutionally succeeded in each getting a forty per cent representation, with twenty per cent for the Others group at the CAN meetings.39 But soon a crisis emerged which was instrumental in an increase of membership in CAN. Archbishop A.O. Okogie tells us how and why this happened.

  • 40 . Okogie interview, December 10, 1990.

As time went on when [CAN] began to develop, we discovered that other members started coming in who are neither CCN nor Catholics ... So they now wanted equal share in the ratio [of representation], going as far as even claiming to have more numerical strength than [the Catholics and the CCN]. So the first plenary session [that is, the Assembly] which was held in Ibadan was not too good. Members that were not invited came in. For, instance Pa Oshoffa, the founder of the Celestial Church of Christ, came in with a large retinue; so we found it difficult to drive him away. And then there was a little bit of pandemonium and finally there was nothing good achieved. But at the second plenary session, held in Kaduna in 1988, the then President [Dominic Cardinal Ekandem] ... was against the ratio — because [it] came up again at this session — just as the Catholics were very, very, much against [the ratio themselves]. The Catholics looked at it from another angle, that is: what if there was a deadlock and then all the other bodies were to team together and defeat [the Catholics]? And so, you see, the human element started playing on everybody because the Church, as you know, is both divine and material. So the Catholics were arguing very seriously, saying: ‘Look, there is nothing to do, we must have forty percent, the CCN forty percent, and Others twenty percent’. So the Others, anyway, split their group into three. And that is how we came out of that meeting with the five different membership groups [that now make up CAN].40

  • 41 . It is important to note that this Constitution — the 1988 version — was approved for just one yea (...)
  • 42 . See CANs 1988 Constitution, Art. X

25The Catholics had their way; CAN's current but tentative Constitution41 is arranged as they demanded, thus ensuring that they, together with the CCN, retain about eighty per cent of the representation in CAN meetings.42

26There is no official explanation for basing CAN's representation on the 40-40-20 ratio. Nevertheless, a number of explanations could be advanced. First, it was easy for the Catholics and the CCN to share a common position on most issues in CAN. This is because they have carried out, between them, a number of ecumenical projects, as noted in chapter three. Second, a close check of the list of church leaders present at the meetings that gave birth to CAN, shows that the Catholics and the CCN had a numerical superiority and must have used this to their advantage over the less orthodox churches. Third, since Catholics and the CCN could not, in good conscience, use their numerical strength to foreclose on the admission of unorthodox Christian groups in CAN, and were yet mindful of their -fundamentalist tendencies, the Catholics and the CCN went into a strategic alliance to forestall these new members from determining the direction CAN wOuld follow. It must not be forgotten that the bulk of the national financial and administrative burdens of CAN have been carried by the Catholics and the CCN. Aware of the political stature which the Catholics and the CCN have acquired over the years, and knowing that CAN without them would have little political clout in the country, the Others group had to accept the 40-40-20 ratio of representation.

  • 43 . See Onaiyekan interview, April 22, 1991.
  • 44 . ibid.

27But this ratio does not seem to be applicable at the state level; there, representation seems to be based on the numerical strength of the member groups. For instance, in Kwara State where the numerical strength of the Catholics is less than that of the Protestants, the former have twenty per cent representation.43 By the same token, it is expected that in predominantly Catholic areas such as Imo and Anambra states, Catholic representation ought to be more than the forty per cent that obtains at the national level.44 Consequently, recalling the biblical saying that ‘of him to whom more is given more is expected’, the expectation is that representation should be commensurate with the member bodies' share of obligations to CAN, be it at the national or the state levels. But nowhere is this reflected in the organizational structure of CAN at the national level.

  • 45 . Interview with Samuel Salifu, Kaduna, March 17, 1991.

28We have mentioned the existence of an organizational norm in the North. This is the apparently nebulous but strategically necessary set-up called the ‘Christian Association of Nigeria: Eleven Northern States’ (hereafter called NORTH-CAN for short) with its Secretariat in Kaduna. It was constituted as an arm of the national CAN by the church leaders in the North to coordinate CAN's activities.45 While its constitution, Salifu tells us, is ‘a little different from that of CAN's National Constitution’, NORTH-CAN fits well into the overall structure of the national CAN. As Salifu explains it:

  • 46 . Asked about the criteria on which the ‘leading church elders’ are chosen, Salifu replied that the (...)
  • 47 . For instance, where there are reported cases of anti-Christian policies or actions, members of on (...)
  • 48 . Salifu interview, March 17, 1991.

Because of the peculiar situation in the North, INORTH-CAN's constitution], among other things, has two broad organs, namely, the General Assembly and the Executive Committee. The General Assembly, which meets three times a year, is comprised of the President (currently Most Rev. Peter Jatau, the Catholic Archbishop of Kaduna), the Coordinator (currently CAN's National Vice-President, Jolly Tanko Yusuf), the zonal Secretary, and the Chairmen, Secretaries, and Treasurers of each of the Northern States, including Abuja, the new Federal Capital. As for the Executive Committee, it is composed of the bishops, the zonal Secretary, the Coordinator, and a few other leading Church elders.46 There is also what we call ‘the Working Force’ or ‘the Task Force’, which comprises the legal, research, church relations, finance, and women's affairs Committees.47 The leaders of each of these standing committees are duly considered part of the Executive Committee.48

  • 49 . Interview with Dan Ochala, Kaduna, January 11, 1991.
  • 50 . See Yusuf interview, January 11, 1991.
  • 51 . Probably this stems from the fact that, so far, since the birth of CAN, its national Vice-Preside (...)

29According to Dan Ochala, NORTH-CAN's general assembly is the zonal equivalent of CAN's National Assembly. It is followed by the Executive Committee and then the officials of NORTH-CAN which, hierarchically, comprises the President, the Coordinator, the zonal Secretary, and the fieldworkers.49 As J.T. Yusuf explains, the formal leadership lies with the President who is expected to be one of the bishops, given their biblical role as chief shepherds of the flock;50 the informal leadership in the zone rests with the Coordinator.51

30But on a day-to-day basis, the activities of NORTH-CAN are centralized in the office of its Secretary. While the incumbent is under the authority of the Coordinator, the Secretary is given a free hand to initiate activities for the advancement of CAN, especially in Kaduna, the hot spot of Nigerian politics. Thus, the Secretary serves as CAN's organizing secretary for the North. In this capacity, the duties of the incumbent include making regular contacts with member churches, state branches, and local task force committees. To facilitate the secretary's work, the fieldworkers perform security-related duties.

  • 52 . Salifu interview, March 17, 1991.

31To counteract any impression that NORTH-CAN is a rival of the national CAN, Salifu emphasized that, as it was and still is constituted, NORTH-CAN does not claim to be a Northern representation of CAN at the national level. Hence, each state in the North, like its counterparts in the rest of the Federation, is still represented at the meetings of CAN's national bodies.52 Yet, the CAN most people seem to know about in the North is the NORTH-CAN, apparently because it does in the North what the former should be doing nationally.

The source and extent of human and financial resources

  • 53 . Williams' letter to I. Enwerem, March 2, 1992.
  • 54 . Williams interview, April 26, 1991.
  • 55 . CO. Williams, in Makozi & Ojo (eds.), op. cit., p. 10.
  • 56 . ibid., p. 11.

32Given CAN's current stature and activities, one can conclude that it must have a strong resource base. But the opposite is largely the case, especially with regard to its financial background. As CAN's General Secretary reported: ‘Right now, CAN is not being financed! Just after its inauguration, it was financed, somewhat, by the CSN, the CCN, and some “Other churches”’.53 Thus, despite CAN's national posture, as the General Secretary indicated earlier, it so far has neither ‘a National Office nor a full-fledged, comprehensive and competent staff of its own’.54 In fact, at the national level, CAN has relied on voluntary services by individual Christians or institutions, like the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) and the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN).55 The only paid staff member at CAN's national office is ‘a clerk who sits at the Catholic Secretariat to accept letters and other important documents for prompt delivery to the Association's voluntary General Secretary’,56 at the CCN Secretariat from where he performs his duties for CAN.

  • 57 . Williams' letter to I. Enwerem, March 2, 1992.

33The preceding observations, therefore, could give the impression that CAN's organizational structure is devoid of arrangements necessary to raise funds for its operations. The truth is that CAN has a constitutional provision for generating its revenue. This responsibility falls under the National Executive Committee (NEC), whose other duties include the annual approval and supervision of CAN's budget and expenditure. The Association receives ‘no support from overseas and has never applied overseas for aid.’57

  • 58 . See CANs 1988 Constitution, Art. XIX.
  • 59 . Here we recall, for instance, the Government of President Shehu Shagari's ten million naira (N10m (...)

34CAN's financial resources are discernible from CAN's Constitution. These are: (1) levies on member bodies in proportion to their representation, (2) a flat-rate levy across the board on the states and affiliated bodies, and (3) donations solicited from wealthy Christians, institutions, and organizations, especially during fund-raising activities.58 Besides the sources noted above, CAN may receive funding from the Federal Government, depending on the prevailing political circumstances. This kind of funding comes either by way of compensation for church property destroyed during religious riots or by way of the government's support for religious projects which it deems to be of national importance.59

  • 60 . Williams' letter to I. Enwerem, March 2, 1992.
  • 61 . ibid.

35CAN's constitutional avenues for funding, however, have failed to yield the desired result. According to CO. Williams, 'most of the state CANs themselves do not find it easy to collect funds from their members.60 As for funds from the government, they are normally for specific purposes — as in the case of compensation which, by right, goes to the individual church or churches concerned — and therefore cannot be used by CAN. In any case, funding from the government is ad hoc. In the light of CAN's precarious financial condition, ‘draft proposals are in the process of being formulated by which the five constituent members will be called upon to finance the Association, using as criteria the ratio of representation of the members at CAN meetings’.61 In the last analysis, pending the outcome of the draft proposals, national CAN has to continue its heavy dependence on the Catholic and the CCN groups, the two largest and dominant individual member bodies of the Association. Otherwise, CAN's activities would have perhaps ground to a halt.

CAN'S political strategies

  • 62 . Salifu interview, March 17, 1991.

36Our concern here is to see how CAN develops widespread acceptance of its politics among its constituents and still stimulates a range of responses to its message among Nigerians. Administratively, CAN is organized at two broad levels: the national and the state, with the latter subdivided into local branches. We observed that at the national level CAN is the recognized voice of Christians in the country. But it is at the state level that CAN's presence and activity is best articulated. This is why, as pointed out earlier, there is constitutional provision for the states' standing committee — a committee whose representatives are largely drawn from pastors, priests, and lay workers. Undoubtedly, these are the people in the field for CAN who are close to the grassroots. As such, it is through their leadership at the state level, according to S. Salifu, that most of CAN's underground work at the grassroots level is done. The results of this work are reported later to its national body.62

  • 63 . The Verdict, June 1990, p. 3.

37Specifically, there are three main resources which CAN uses to reach the public at large, especially its constituents across the nation. First, there is the media; then the workshops/study groups either in institutions of learning or in Christian homes; and, finally, the churches and church-related social groups. With reference to the media, CAN primarily relies on Church-owned media networks. Prominent here are the older Church-owned newspapers or magazines such as The Leader, The Independent, Today's Challenge, Catholic Life, Nigeria's Christian Digest, and more recently, The Message, Zumunci, and The Verdict, to name a few. One would find, in recent times, at least one article devoted to either the issue of religion and politics or the need for Christian unity in the face of a perceived Islamic threat to Christianity. For instance, The Verdict is designed for the unity of all the believers in Christ in order to please God.63 CAN as an Association does not own these resources; but given the level of consciousness which, with time, it has managed to generate among Christians across the country, individual owners of these resources are only too happy to use them for promoting the aspirations and interests of CAN. While one may rightly observe that CAN's target in the use of these resources is the Christian audience, CAN is not oblivious of the need to reach a wider audience. Hence, it uses the local and national secular press, especially by way of paid advertisements, to get the Association's message or position across to the entire nation.

38Another avenue for politicization by CAN is the study group. This is largely carried out in the guise of prayer meetings, often held in people's homes. There is one such group which meets in the home of a prominent Christian leader in the North. Admission to this particular study group, for instance, is restricted to a number of prominent Christians, CAN activists, and invited guests. Highly confidential matters pertaining to CAN's welfare are discussed and executionary strategies are mapped out for action at such meetings which has led, consequently, to the group having the political functions of an organizing cadre. A similar but more intellectually oriented and not so restricted meeting takes place in Ibadan in the South under the auspices of the Senior Friends Group of the Student Christian Movement of Nigeria. These meetings, which are held rotationally in members' homes, usually begin with songs from a variety of Christian hymns like ‘Glory, glory, ... His Truth is marching on’, ‘Soldiers of Christ Arise and put your Armour On’, and ‘Stand up, stand up for Jesus’. As the titles of these songs indicate, they are meant to arouse sentiments of militancy for the Christian faith among the participants. The singing session is followed by a period of prayer directed at national issues that touch on Christian presence or witness in the country. Then there is a prepared talk, often CAN-related or which focuses on some socio-political and economic issues in the country. The talk is followed by a discussion which is aimed at reaching insights that, if necessary, could be forwarded to the CAN's state or national leadership.

  • 64 . See Minutes of the SCM of Nigeria, Senior Friends Group, Ibadan, for a meeting held on May 1, 198 (...)

39For instance, in one such Ibadan study group meeting during the period of the 1988 constitutional debate, the prayer session was devoted to the current crisis and the economic problems in the country, the poor, the Constituent Assembly (especially its Christian members) and its assignment, and the desirability of Christians in Nigeria being knowledgeable about things happening around them and being faithful to the faith they profess.64 A talk which focused on the ‘Limits to Secularization in Law’ followed and was discussed, generating questions and answers such as this:

  • 65 . ibid., p. 4.

Q. Are Islamic laws subject to review, and if so, who recommends the review?
A. Islamic laws are static and their operators are very dogmatic. We cannot talk of review of Islamic laws since they are based on the Qu'ran.65

40During the business session:

  • 66 . ibid.

... members were briefed on [a CAN-sponsored] workshop on ‘Politics in Nigeria: the Christians’ Attitude', which took place April 29-30,1988, at the Institute of Church and Society, and on the formation of a Committee on Political Affairs. [One] Mr. Elushade expressed interest in participating in the activities of the [committee].66

  • 67 . See this as cited in West Africa, July 12, 1987, p. 2380.

41But it is the churches that offer the most effective avenue for educating and disseminating information and general awareness about CAN to the grassroots. The strategy here is to use the already existing organizational networks and facilities within the churches, especially through the work of clerics and lay workers. Liturgical occasions, especially while delivering homilies from the pulpit, are noteworthy. For instance, a bishop in the North now concludes religious services in his cathedral with the request: ‘Vote for the person who will respect your religion’. He attributed this statement to Sheikh A.M. Gumi, the Muslim cleric, who, we may recall, believed that ‘we have to divide the country’ in the event that a Muslim is not elected President.67 The prelate above defends his own stand by attributing it to the Government's failure, according to him, to reprimand the Sheikh for such an utterance.

42In addition to promoting CAN within the context of religious celebrations, more formal promotion takes place outside such contexts. Churches, for instance, have committees which are organized at the diocesan and parish levels, since CAN is administratively structured on a state rather than on a diocesan level. Members of these committees are drawn from those belonging to such church-related social groups as the Women's Movement, the Youth, and the Justice and Peace groups — taking the Catholic archdiocese of Kaduna as an example. Meetings with these committees are regularly held, and during them, the aims and objectives of CAN or specific instructions and information from its leaders are passed on to Christians. In addition, political education is carefully woven into the business of the meetings. For instance, a few weeks before the December 8, 1990, local government elections, the Catholic community of the archdiocese was called to a meeting during which the Archbishop briefed his flock on the importance of political participation and finally responded to the questions the audience had about CAN. Overall, the purpose of these meetings is to develop cadres of lay men and women imbued with a knowledge of CAN's aims and objectives and committed to finding adequate strategies to carry out these goals in whatever they do. Herein lies one of the major reasons for the origin and promotion of groups like Youth-CAN and the Women's Wing of CAN.

  • 68 . I recall the delays I experienced before I could hold an interview with Jolly Tanko Yusuf, CANs c (...)

43CAN has other structures and organizational resources that act as carriers for its message. There is a group of fieldworkers, especially in the northern zone, whose main work is to deliver highly confidential instructions or messages to and from CAN's activists in the rural areas. Obviously, since CAN is suspicious of the close monitoring of its activities and correspondence by a government that would be only too happy to know its lines of communication,68 the importance of this group of workers is self-explanatory, especially in the North where CAN's activities are more pronounced — a point we shall return to shortly. Asked in what form these messages are sent, S. Salifu, without going into details, could only say this much:

  • 69 . Salifu interview, Kaduna, November 27, 1990.

We don't send our confidential messages in written form. We simply send our fieldworkers with an introductory letter that just says: listen and hear what the bearer has to say'. This protects the message and the person from unnecessary harassment.69

  • 70 . The Bigard Torch, p. 15.

44According to Archbishop Okogie, when the Church leaders phone each other in consultation over a matter concerning the welfare of Christians: ‘We can use some code in talking which you cannot understand. We may use a “he” for a “she”’.70 The foregoing discussion now brings us to examine CAN's political practice.

CAN'S style of politics

  • 71 . Here, for instance, we note the alleged erection of mosques in Gongola State's Government House, (...)
  • 72 . Here we note the publicity which CAN gave to its ‘confirmed reports’ about the unusual degree of (...)

45The interest here is not so much to know whether, and why, Christians have become politicized — an interest which will be discussed in the next chapter — as to examine the style of politics which CAN has adopted to achieve its proclaimed goals. Organizationally, CAN's political activities in its politicization strategy discussed above, are pursued' at three levels; the national, the state, and the NORTH-CAN levels. Specifically on all three levels, CAN's politics are based on the necessity to maintain the constitutional secularity of the country as well as to ensure that the allocation of resources and appointments in the Federation are equitably distributed with respect to the country's contending religious and ethnic groups. In pursuit of these goals and on behalf of Christian interests across the country, the National CAN mainly deals with the Federal Government. State branches of CAN concern themselves strictly with matters affecting Christian welfare in the states.71 Sometimes, however, CAN's national office may take up state issues and elevate them to national attention, especially in those states where Christians are weak numerically and, are therefore, denied the avenues to make themselves known or heard.72

46Two broad methodological approaches seem to characterize CAN's politics over the years, at the national, NORTH-CAN, or state levels. The first is what could be described as the ‘politics of quiet diplomacy’ or the ‘politics of persuasion’ — a continuation, more or less, of the pre-CAN approach to the government by the churches. This involves collective and/or individual actions like sending delegations or writing letters and memoranda to the government, aimed at persuading it to grant the churches their particular request. This approach implies, however, that church leaders should, as far as possible, avoid making public statements regarding the particular interest they are pursuing; and, should such statements be necessary, they should not project the government in a bad light. The leadership of His Eminence, Dominic Cardinal Ekandem, CAN's first National President, epitomized this method.

  • 73 . Okogie interview, December 10, 1990.
  • 74 . ibid.
  • 75 . See M.A. Adewole et al. (eds.), 25 Years of Stewardship: The SilverJubilee of the Priestly Ordina (...)
  • 76 . Ganaka interview, November 11, 1990; and ibid.

47The second broad method adopted by CAN is what could be described as ‘militant polities’. It has largely come into use since 1987, but more especially since 1988 when the more fiery Archbishop Okogie took over the leadership of CAN. In his judgment, the first method ‘has been tried and we saw that it did not work; probably we got about, say, between 20-30 per cent success’.73 There was, therefore, the need to try another method, the prelate concluded. Grounded on a confrontational spirit and an openness to a diplomatic route, the second method was executed in three inter-related ways. The first, according to Okogie was ‘to go to the Press’. Here, he continued, ‘we make sure that as many papers as possible carry whatever we say’.74 This aspect of CAN's method, as we shall see later in the chapter, appeared to have achieved a greater success than the earlier one. Yet some church leaders, in preference for the quiet diplomacy approach,75 denounced the current militancy as ‘a barking through the Press’.76 In so doing, they revealed one of the major problems within CAN.

  • 77 . Okogie interview, December 10, 1990.
  • 78 . ibid.
  • 79 . ibid.
  • 80 . ibid.

48Okogie highlights the second aspect of CAN's militant method. In executing this method, the approach is to work through individuals; and, according to him, this is the method ‘that is really working’.77 By ‘individuals’, Okogie means the ‘members of the military Council, either the members of the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) or the Federal Ministers and members of the Federal Cabinet because’, according to him, ‘most of them do listen, especially from a diplomatic point of view’.78 In this connection, Okogie claims to utilize his contacts with people he calls 'my little friends' — Christians and Muslims alike — in the army to get certain information or to get things done for him or CAN.79 To buttress his point, he recalled how a number of military officers, like one he said was appointed Military Governor in one of the predominantly Muslim states in the North, came to him for his blessing before taking up their appointments.80

49Thirdly, CAN's militant politics involved the use of the courts. While the results of this approach could be unpredictable, given the nature of the legal system, CAN, nevertheless, uses it mainly because of the national or local publicity it brings to the Association. In addition, such an approach is CAN's dramatic way of educating its constituents on the need to fight for their rights when such rights have been trampled upon by those in power.

50We now turn our attention to how these forms of militancy have been put into practice by CAN. In doing so, we shall take note of what we consider to be the two major factors which shaped these approaches to politics by CAN. These are: (1) the Northern or, to be more precise, the Kaduna factor, and (2) the emergence of a militant leadership.

  • 81 . The others, according to CAN'S National Secretary, are ‘Lagos and old Kwara States’ (see Williams (...)

51As is discernible from its constitution, especially with regard to its aim to mobilize its constituents, CAN's major activities ought to be at the state level. In practice, however, these activities happen mostly in CAN's Lagos office and in the northern states. Nowhere is this epitomized more than in Kaduna State — thanks to the Kaduna-based NORTH-CAN Secretariat. In close collaboration with the Kaduna State CAN where it is currently housed, the Secretariat has made Kaduna, CAN's most dynamic centre in the country. A number of reasons, most of which depend on its location and experiences, explain the uniqueness of CAN's presence in Kaduna. First, Kaduna is one of the very few states with a full-fledged CAN secretariat with paid staff.81 Second, Kaduna, in comparison with other cities in the country, is the home of a high proportion of important personalities with strong connections with the government. Dan Ochala explains the reason for Kaduna State CAN's uniqueness:

  • 82 . Interview with Dan Ochala, Kaduna, January 11, 1991.

Kaduna State CAN's uniqueness is rooted in the fact that it is located right at the 'battle front' and therefore naturally receives the bullet, so to speak. This is besides the fact of its experience of persecution, quite unlike other States. Civen Kaduna State's unique position in Nigerian politics — for, as it is generally believed, the one who controls Kaduna controls Lagos, so to speak — CAN's Kaduna State branch, in very close working relationship with the Secretariat for the eleven Northern States, has to play a vanguard role not only for the eleven Northern States but also for the entire nation. Thus, oftentimes, problems from other States are brought to CAN's zonal Office in Kaduna for advice. Kaduna State CANs vitality and dynamism are thé envy of other State branches of CAN, so much so that at one Benue State CAN meeting, the Secretary there prayed that what happened in Kaduna may happen in Benue State so that Christians there may wake up to the threat of Islam.82

  • 83 . Nigeria's Sunday Tribune, October 4, 1987.
  • 84 . See Nigeria's daily Tribune, Friday, December 4, 1987.
  • 85 . Salifu interview, November 27, 1990. He was unable, however, to tell me the amount of money CAN r (...)

52Three cases, each of which generated a great impact on the country, are indicative of the militancy with which NORTH-CAN is associated. The first case was the October 10, 1987, ‘launching of a sixty million (N60 million) naira church Rehabilitation and Development Fund’ by the zone.83 This was followed by a well-publicized five million naira litigation which the zone took against the northern-based and pro-Islamic newspaper, the New Nigerian, for failing to honour its contract with the Association to advertise the launching.84 Despite the newspaper's action, the launching was reported to have been successful.85 What is of interest to us is not so much the outcome of the launching, or even of the litigation against the New Nigerian, but to uncover the deep level of political action that CAN was engaged in.

53Both the launching and the subsequent litigation were effective utilization of the media for political exposure. Following the country's entry into the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) in 1986, and the acrimonious debate it generated, culminating in the March and June religious riots of that same year, CAN wanted publicity in order to promote its mission. Besides, it used the opportunity to remind Nigerians of the government's inability to rid the nation of various forms of injustice. Hence, the advertisement for the launching read:

  • 86 . Nigeria's Sunday Tribune, October 4, 1987.

[Members of CAN] are happy to announce to our nation that the FIRE that burnt our churches has also WELDED us together for good. Hopefully we shall be more useful, to ourselves, to our neighbours, to our nation, and to our God. We delight in joining hands with our Governments in fighting the good fight — replacing wrong with right, evil with good, ungodliness with righteousness, religious sentiments with TRUTH, injustice with justice, and 'hate' with love! We shall survive.86

54This statement ended on a note resonant of the song, ‘We shall overcome’ — reminding Christians of the victory that lies ahead if they, like the members of the American Civil Rights Movement, could remain ‘welded’ together irrespective of their differences. For, although the launching was supposed to be a NORTH-CAN affair, the invitees were an array of Christians within the corridors of power across the country. The failure of the New Nigerian newspapers to honour their contract with CAN gave the latter an opportunity to attract even more attention. Besides, CAN also used the opportunity to demonstrate to Christians the need to fight for their rights and to alert them to the consequences of a divided Christianity.

  • 87 . The Bigard Torch, p. 14.
  • 88 . Salifu interview, November 27, 1990.
  • 89 . The Bigard Torch, p. 14.

55The next example of the militant posture of the Kaduna-based CAN-was its January 11,1990 protest demonstration. It followed Babangida's December 1989 reshuffling of the Federal Government Cabinet. It was alleged by CAN's National President that ‘about 80% of the [then] present cabinet [were] Muslims. The other 20% [were] just the insignificant ones’.87 Salifu was more specific. According to him, of the total number of thirty-five ministers, twenty-seven were Muslims, only five Christians and three Others.88 National CAN denounced the government in unequivocal terms and instructed that ‘everybody should go out and do something, and at the same time’.89 But nothing happened except in the North — in Gongola, Plateau, Benue, and, more especially, Kaduna States.

  • 90 . The same Christianity that encourages non-violence in accordance with its founder's (Jesus') dire (...)
  • 91 . The Bigrad Torch, p. 14.
  • 92 . ibid.

56A number of reasons can be given for the failure of the demonstration to go as initially anticipated, especially in the predominantly Christian South. Recall that the Christian attitude to revolutionary action is, at best, ambivalent.90 Thus, it was not surprising that even some church leaders soon developed some doubts over the plan and some, in doing so, even gave out ‘the date, [which] was supposed to be something secret’.91 What is of particular interest to us here is not so much the failure of a nation-wide demonstration92 as to bow it was methodologically carried out, especially in Kaduna, and how it ushered in a new dimension to CAN's political practice.

  • 93 . ibid.
  • 94 . ibid., p. 13.
  • 95 . It appears that the strategy of non-violent demonstration by Christians has dawned on the country (...)

57Apparently the whole idea of doing something, that is, having a public demonstration, and not just saying something against the government's decision initially came from NORTH-CAN's Kaduna-based Secretariat. As it turned out, the demonstration achieved some success because, according to Okogie, it showed ‘people that this northern hemisphere is not (as people were made to believe) all Muslim’.93 The impact of this success was felt all over the country and beyond — even the BBC and the Voice of America carried the news.94 But on a more important note, the peaceful demonstration became the first inter-state, ecumenically-based, and clergy-led mass protest in the history of the country. More specifically, the demonstration revealed a new dimension in CAN's growth in political awareness and engagement, albeit through non-violent means.95 Given the high degree of its success, especially in Kaduna, it is worth citing at some length the details of the whole operation from Salifu who claimed to have engineered it. According to him:

  • 96 . This statement was left hanging, uncompleted. The obvious conclusion is left to the reader's imag (...)
  • 97 . Salifu interview, November 27, 1990.

I came up with the idea that we must do something. I discussed it with and got a go-ahead from Ambassador Jolly Tanko Yusuf who requested that I keep him informed of the final arrangement. In preparation for the event, we had to do the following: (1) train a Militant Youth group, (2) pass on the information and instruction about the event to all the churches through our usual way of passing on such sensitive and confidential messages to our members, and (3) commit the success of the event to prayer. Initially, the date was meant to be January 4, 1990, but it was postponed till January 11, 1990, at the request of some churches which wanted a further week of preparation. On the day itself, a general instruction was given to the demonstrators, beginning with an explanation of the reason for and the aim of the demonstration, which was simply to get the Government to know the feelings of Christians about the President's reshuffle of his Cabinet. It was aimed to be, and remained, a peaceful procession with total silence all through the procession [except for singing allowed only when coming back].
On arriving at the Governor's residence, we were simply to deliver to him the letter to the President for onward delivery to him. Should we happen not to be allowed to see the Governor, we must not get violent; we just deliver the message. The procedure was the following: (1) A gathering of the participants in church for prayers, (2) CAN's Youth Wing militants (about 100) to be in front clearing the way and, if possible, ... 96
The procession was led by someone carrying a Crucifix, then followed by someone who carried the largest Bible we could find. Then the bishops, led by the Catholic Archbishop of Kaduna, Peter Jatau [Chairman of CAN's eleven Northern States], followed behind the person carrying the Bible. The clergy in their religious garb followed the bishops. Next were the women who were immediately followed by the men. Finally, the Youth Wing covered the rear.97

  • 98 . Nigeria's Christian Digest, Vol. 2, No. 10, September 1990, p. 12.
  • 99 . ibid., pp. 11-12.

58The success of the peaceful demonstration and the wide exposure it brought to CAN encouraged its planners to more militant activities. Thus, not long after the successful demonstration, it then occurred to NORTH-CAN's leadership, according to Salifu, that there were retired military personnel (ex-servicemen) among the members of the Christian churches in the North.98 Efforts were therefore made towards the formation of an ‘Ex-servicemen's Christian Fellowship’ with the primary purpose of mobilizing these retired soldiers in ‘a permanent arrangement’ for the training of the Christian Youth on how to resist future attacks on Christians and their churches by Muslim fanatics.99

  • 100 . CAN, Leadership in Nigeria.
  • 101 . Incidentally it was, in the history of the country, the first coup ever to be unequivocally and o (...)
  • 102 . See Nigeria's Christian Digest, Vol. 2, No. 8, June 1990, p. 7, where the Chief of General Staff, (...)
  • 103 . Nigeria's Christian Digest, Vol. 2, No. 10, September, 1990, p. 10.
  • 104 . ibid., p. 13.
  • 105 . ibid., pp. 10-11.

59These developments apparently frightened Babangida, especially following the bloody and abortive coup of April 22, 1990, which nearly brought down his government. Given that most of the issues raised by the coup planners were similar to those raised by CAN in its earlier publications against Babangida's December, 1989, Cabinet reshuffle,100 many people across the nation, especially Muslims in the North, believed the coup must have been inspired and masterminded by CAN.101 Although the government took time to deny this belief,102 it, nevertheless, arrested and detained ‘for 53 days’103 about 59 Christians across the country.104 Prominent among these were some CAN leaders in Kaduna, like S. Salifu and Jolly Tanko Yusuf, whose detention was apparently based on the government's perception of a close relationship between the activities and statements of the coup plotters and those of CAN, prior to and after the January 11, 1990 non-violent demonstration.105

The human agency behind CAN's current status

  • 106 . We must make it clear that our choice of these people does not pretend to exhaust the list of the (...)

60Two individuals, namely, His Grace, Most Rev. A.O. Okogie in Lagos, and Samuel Salifu in Kaduna — one a cleric, the other a layman — show the kind of individuals who have been responsible for CAN's current direction.106 The premise here is that the quality of the activities of any social movement is largely dependent on the kind of vision shared by its human agents, its leadership.

61Samuel Salifu is the fiery Secretary of NORTH-CAN's Kaduna-based Secretariat. Fondly addressed as ‘the Secretary’ by his admirers, he is married to Alice Hassana with whom he has had seven children. By regional identity, he comes from Benue State — perhaps, the most anti-Islamic section of the Middle Belt. By profession, he is a mechanical engineer, and as at 1991, had put in eighteen years of teaching service at the Kaduna Polytechnic.

  • 107 . E.P.T. Crampton, op. cit., p. 110.
  • 108 . Mr. Salifu shared with me this information and his acceptance of the decision during my second in (...)

62As a Christian, Salifu belongs to the TEKAN Church denomination whose strict evangelical stand was noted earlier in this chapter. Most of the Protestant schools in the North were staffed by TEKAN missionaries.107 It is not surprising that Salifu was raised in a strict evangelical mould. He has been able to combine his secular job with his spiritual work as CAN'S zonal Secretary. He is known to bring to his work a religious zeal that inspires others around him. So true is this that he may be described as the engine behind — if not the embodiment of — CAN's militant and grassroots politics in the North. It was not surprising when, around March, 1991, he was asked, according to him, by ‘our dear boss’, meaning Archbishop Jatau, NORTH-CAN's President — to resign from the Polytechnic so as to give his full-time attention to work for CAN in the North.108

63Salifu's zeal, besides its evangelical foundation, is born out of a belief in a divine inspiration of the Bible. His utterances easily betray this belief. For instance, while speaking on the lesson his 1990 detention taught him, he said:

  • 109 . S. Salifu, My experiences in detention, Today's Challenge, No. 1, 1991, p. 10 (author's emphasis)

The experience has taught me several things. The very first one is that we should take the Bible as the divine word of Cod ... The second thing is that Christians must learn to see every single verse in the Bible as divinely inspired, our constitution ... The third ... is that, after all is said and done, it is truth that pays ... When I say truth, I mean the biblical truth.109

64Such utterances, he acknowledged, have made some see him as a fanatic. In response he would say:

  • 110 . See interview with S. Salifu in National Impression, March 15, 1990, p. 29.

... Yes, I am a fanatic. I like and enjoy it. If [speaking out for truth and justice] is fanaticism then I [want] to be a fanatic. If justice is fanaticism, yes.110

  • 111 . ibid., p. 28.
  • 112 . For a clear description of these kinds of fundamentalism, see Philip St. Roman, How to Get Along (...)
  • 113 . ibid.
  • 114 . See Nigeria's Christian Digest, Vol. 2, No. 10, September 1990, p. 14.

65The issue at stake here is neither Salifu's understanding of fanaticism nor his speaking out for truth and justice. The issue is that in speaking out for truth and justice one needs to do so in a spirit devoid of fundamentalism. For, when Salifu says things like ‘So we [and the Muslims] are not serving the same God at all!’111 — not to speak of his literal understanding of the Bible as noted above — he certainly leaves himself open to being called a fundamentalist. Yet, it must be pointed out, Salifu's fundamentalism is not of ‘the lunatic fringe’ or the sophisticated bigotry that is the hallmark of the Jimmy Swaggarts of American tele-evangelism fame.112 Salifu's fundamentalism is of ‘the informed moderate’ kind.113 This is because he is generally respectful of people of other beliefs, including Muslims, and would be prepared even to work with them for common interests, while maintaining his doctrinal differences.114

  • 115 . ibid., p. 11.
  • 116 . Even Okogie, in a lighter mood, is known sometimes to call himself ‘olo Lafiaji’ (son of Lafiaji)
  • 117 . African Concord, June 11, 1990, p. 30.

66Archbishop Okogie, with whom Salifu has a close working relationship,115 is by ethnic identification an Ishan — a minority language group in Edo (formerly Bendel) State of Nigeria. But his cultural antecedents are Yoruba, having been raised and schooled in Lagos and Ibadan respectively. With the exception of his days in the Urban University in Rome, and his days in military service — which we shall discuss shortly — Okogie has spent almost all of his life within the Yoruba cultural milieu. He grew up in the Lafiaji area of Lagos whose youths are known for their stubbornness and rebellious character.116 Lafiaji is where, as the Nigerian political musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, would say, the common people live, in contrast with Ikoyi where the rich live. It would seem his early upbringing in Lafiaji among the common people has left its imprint on him as he is said today to ‘symbolise a struggle and a statement on behalf of the masses of the Nigerian people’.117

  • 118 . ibid., p. 31.

67Besides his vocation as a minister of religion, he has had an experience in another calling. That was the military profession. He served as a chaplain on the federal side in the Nigerian Civil War. His war time experience as an active soldier, we are told, ‘was to redefine, rather profoundly, his understanding of life, and, consequently, sharpened his patriotic sentiments’ so much so that he soon arrived at the conclusion, himself, ‘of what priestly work should look like. It is not just sitting down and saying Mass’.118 It also involves and should involve political engagement in so far as there should be no dichotomy between religious and political activism. As he himself would say:

  • 119 . Okogie interview, December 10, 1990.

When you talk of dichotomy between religion and politics I don't think there is anything like that. It is just like ... You see, any good Christian will do exactly what the Muslims are doing because that is what we are made for. Man is a composite being made up of body and soul. Now, how do you want me to say ‘Soul, soul, you begin here and you stop there’, or to say ‘Body, you begin there and stop here’. So the same thing is applicable to politics and religion. I personally don't see why there should be a dichotomy. There should be none because it is so clear-cut that both work hand in hand. You cannot just separate them.119

  • 120 . African Concord, June 11, 1990, pp. 30-31.
  • 121 . ibid., p. 31.
  • 122 . It may be recalled that, following Okogie's appointment in 1971 as the Auxiliary Bishop of the Di (...)

68Contrary to the view that his ‘resolve to pitch his tent with the people’ may have been inspired by the ‘concept of Liberation Theology’ or given teeth by the April, 1986, ‘Vatican Instruction on Christian Freedom’,120 we are rather inclined to think differently. In the first place, Okogie had been engaged in political activism long before the 1986 Vatican Instruction just noted. Here, one has only to recall Okogie's well publicized court action in 1981 against the takeover of private schools in Lagos State by the civilian government of Governor Alhaji Lateef K. Jakande. Secondly, Okogie is no liberation theologian; in fact, with due respect to his theological positions, his conservatism on religious issues clearly demonstrates this assertion. This is not to deny his political activism is largely born out of a rebellious character evident in him since his boyhood days.121 Therefore he appears to be destined for controversy — an assertion which is buttressed by the events that, in 1971, followed his first appointment as a bishop.122

  • 123 . Incidentally, among all the church leaders I interviewed in the course of my fieldwork, Archbisho (...)

69A close comparison of Okogie and Salifu reveals many similarities, especially in terms of their residential location, and their professional, religious, and socio-political traits; there are so many similarities that their differences are easily overlooked. To begin with, they are located at the two most strategic centers of contemporary Nigerian politics — Lagos (Okogie) and Kaduna (Salifu). Next, while Okogie is a professional ‘engineer’ of the soul, Salifu is an engineer of the more physical aspect of the profession; both men epitomize CAN's more recent political ingenuity of Christians across the nation. From a religious perspective, Okogie can be seen as the Catholic variant of Salifu's brand of fundamentalism. Undoubtedly, he respects, and is open to work with, people of other faiths. Yet, Okogie's use of religious language is more akin to Catholicism than to a broader and more inclusive Christian language. It is so much so that he could easily leave one with the impression that Christianity is synonymous with Catholicism. In other words, that to be a good Christian is to be a Catholic, and vice versa.123

  • 124 . See Salifu's account of the injustice at the Kaduna Polytechnic in Today's Christian Challenge, N (...)

70Nowhere are Okogie and Salifu more in accord than in their socio-political beliefs and, consequently, in their commitment to CAN and the kind of direction they believe it should be taking. To begin with, each one has a fearlessness and outspokenness born out of a perception of injustice in the country. While the civil war impressed this on Okogie, for Salifu it was his observations at the Kaduna Polytechnic.124 With reference to CAN, it was their common perception of the government's partiality against Christians, and the passivity of Christians, especially those in positions of power, regarding such situations of injustice, that ignited both men into action for CAN. Seeing their involvement in CAN more or less in military parlance, they believe that CAN should pursue its interests in Nigeria through the avenue of militant politics and not just in the tried but less successful politics of persuasion. Thus, in a manner similar to Okogie's militant approach, Salifu suggested:

  • 125 . S. Salifu, ‘The time of separation is coming’, National Impression, March 15, 1990, p. 26.

Because we see clearly the sure and gradual process of Islamization [in the country] ... And, (after) several ... paper presentations and corporate conferences, everything seems to have [been] falling on deaf ears; so we felt that we [had to] do something else. And being Christians we went out on a peaceful protest, but the important thing is that the pain is in the heart.125

  • 126 . See African Concord, June 11, 1990, p. 34.

71It is this ‘pain in the heart’, something akin to Okogie's feelings when he remembers the soldiers who died in the civil war while fighting for Nigerian unity,126 that has largely become the reference point for Okogie and Salifu for the kind of national and local leadership they have brought to CAN.

72This chapter has been an enquiry into those organizational conditions under which CAN's current stature in Nigeria's contemporary political terrain became possible. Basically it can be attributed to two factors: (1) the flexible and ad boc character of the Association, and (2) the emergence of a particular brand of leadership willing to give their time and energy to the Association and for its more radical orientation.

73As was seen in the course of the chapter, CAN lacked finances, had no national office, and depended largely on the voluntary services of individual institutions and individuals. This obvious weakness on the part of the Association was partly its strength too, especially because it helped the leadership to know how far it could go in its political engagements. Hence, CAN's overall political method varies with time and circumstances; no one method was adopted or rejected with absolute finality. Even when CAN took to militancy, it still left itself open to the politics of persuasion in its relationship with government. Herein lies the ingenuity of CAN'S leadership which is epitomized in the likes of Okogie and Salifu.

Notes

1 . C.O. Williams, General Secretarys Report, In: Religion in a Secular State: Proceedings of the Second Assembly of the Christian Association of Nigeria, A.O. Makozi and G.J.A. Ojo (eds.), November 15-17, 1988, p. 11.

2 . David E. Apter, Choice and tbe Politics of Allocation: A development theory (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971).

3 . Okogie interview, December 10, 1990.

4 . Interview with Rev. Fr. K. Akagha, Owerri, March 25, 1991.

5 . See Dominic Cardinal Ekandem, Presidential Address: That all may be one, In: Makozi and Ojo (eds.), op. cit., p. 6.

6 . Williams interview, April 26, 1991.

7 . ibid.

8 . TEKAN (Tarraya Ekklesiyoyin Krista a Nijeriya) is the acronym for the Fellowship of Churches of Christ in Nigeria; and ECWA stands for the Evangelical Churches of West Africa.

9 . See the Constitution of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Art. VII, p. 2 (hereafter Cited as CANs 1988 Constitution).

10 . The rationale for the formation of this group arose out of the 1987 religious riots. Christians alleged that the police and security agents had remained idle and watched Muslims burn down Christian churches. Feeling that the Government, the police, and the security agents had ignored and abandoned the Christians, CAN decided to mobilize and train Christian youths in the North as ‘Youth CAN’ for the protection of Christian interests, making sure in the process that Christians ‘are not taken by surprise.’ (See Nigeria's Christian Digest, Vol. 2, No. 10, September 1990), p. 11.

11 . See CAN's 1988 Constitution, Art. VII, p. 2.

12 . Williams interview, April 26, 1991.

13 . See the Constitution of the Northern Christian Association, Art. IX (B).

14 . M.Y. Nabofa, Christianity in Nigeria: Its role in nation-building, In: Nigeria Since Independence, J.A. Atanda et al. (eds.), (Ibadan: Heinemann, 1989), p. 107.

15 . See E.P.T. Crampton, Christianity in Northern Nigeria (Zaria: Gaskiya Corporation, 1975), p. 150.

16 . ibid., pp. 146-147.

17 . Ogbonyomi interview, November 20, 1990.

18 . Samuel Salifu, interview in Nigeria's Christian Digest, Vol. 2, No. 10, September 1990, p. 19.

19 . See the Inaugural (pre-1988) Constitution of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Art. 4b, p. 2.

20 . Ogbonyomi interview, November 20, 1990.

21 . See CAN'S 1988 Constitution, Art. III.

22 . ibid., Art. II.

23 . Nigeria's Christian Digest, Vol. 2, No. 10, September 1990, p. 29.

24 . ibid.

25 . Dominic Cardinal Ekandem, In: Makozi and Ojo (eds.), op. cit., p. 5.

26 . See CANs 1988 Constitution, Art. X.

27 . ibid.

28 . ibid.

29 . This is a group of former members of the university-based and CCN-affiliated Student Christian Movement, who, after their student days and now as professionals or university teachers, meet in continuation of the aims and ideals of the Movement. It is worth noting that two members of this Ibadan Branch of the group — Mrs. F. Alao and Rev. Dr. S.U. Erivwo — were among the foundation members of CAN, with the latter participating actively in the September 7-8, 1976 meetings at which details for the birth of CAN were worked out.

30 . See the SCM Senior Friends Group's letter, The survival of the Church in Nigeria: Urgent effective action required, to the Heads of Churches, Church/Christian Leaders, January 10, 1989.

31 . See CANs 1988 Constitution, Art. X

32 . Salifu interview, March 17, 1991.

33 . ibid.

34 . See CANs 1988 Constitution, Art. XV.

35 . In fact, strictly speaking, before the President and his executive Council take a decision, all the various representatives from all the states of the federation must be there, although, understandably, in an emergency some issues do not have to wait for everybody to be there before the President and his Council take action on behalf of CAN (see Salifu interview, March 17, 1991).

36 . See CAN'S 1988 Constitution, Art. XV

37 . The Torch, No. 94 (Enugu: Bigard Memorial Seminary, April-June, 1990), p. 15 (hereafter cited as The Bigard Torch).

38 . ibid.

39 . Okogie interview, December 10, 1990; and the pre-1988 Constitution of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Art. 8.

40 . Okogie interview, December 10, 1990.

41 . It is important to note that this Constitution — the 1988 version — was approved for just one year. It is still in use in 1991 and will possibly be re-examined at the next Plenary Session (see ibid).

42 . See CANs 1988 Constitution, Art. X

43 . See Onaiyekan interview, April 22, 1991.

44 . ibid.

45 . Interview with Samuel Salifu, Kaduna, March 17, 1991.

46 . Asked about the criteria on which the ‘leading church elders’ are chosen, Salifu replied that they more or less choose themselves because a lot of them show interest and want to serve CAN.... Yet, it is not just anyone that comes but those who have been tried — those who have been seen to be regular and reliable in church and CAN affairs — are duly admitted as members of the Executive Committee (ibid).

47 . For instance, where there are reported cases of anti-Christian policies or actions, members of one of these task force committees are sent to investigate the case, collect data and report back to the Executive of NORTH-CAN for its considered action, (ibid).

48 . Salifu interview, March 17, 1991.

49 . Interview with Dan Ochala, Kaduna, January 11, 1991.

50 . See Yusuf interview, January 11, 1991.

51 . Probably this stems from the fact that, so far, since the birth of CAN, its national Vice-Presidents have come from the North.

52 . Salifu interview, March 17, 1991.

53 . Williams' letter to I. Enwerem, March 2, 1992.

54 . Williams interview, April 26, 1991.

55 . CO. Williams, in Makozi & Ojo (eds.), op. cit., p. 10.

56 . ibid., p. 11.

57 . Williams' letter to I. Enwerem, March 2, 1992.

58 . See CANs 1988 Constitution, Art. XIX.

59 . Here we recall, for instance, the Government of President Shehu Shagari's ten million naira (N10m) promissory funding, to the Muslims and to CAN for the construction of a National Mosque and a 'National Christian Cathedral', respectively, at the new Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to symbolize the country's religiosity.

60 . Williams' letter to I. Enwerem, March 2, 1992.

61 . ibid.

62 . Salifu interview, March 17, 1991.

63 . The Verdict, June 1990, p. 3.

64 . See Minutes of the SCM of Nigeria, Senior Friends Group, Ibadan, for a meeting held on May 1, 1988, at the residence of Rev. & Mrs. G.B. Sokefun, p. 1.

65 . ibid., p. 4.

66 . ibid.

67 . See this as cited in West Africa, July 12, 1987, p. 2380.

68 . I recall the delays I experienced before I could hold an interview with Jolly Tanko Yusuf, CANs coordinator for the eleven Northern States. This was not because he was not in town or because I could not locate his place myself — since I had, by this time, become quite familiar with the city (Kaduna). Instead, as I was later meant to understand, it was because the CAN office in the city had to authenticate my identity and mission, even though I had an introductory letter from the Catholic Archbishop of Kaduna. On the day of the interview, I was personally escorted to Yusuf s residence and introduced to him by one of the CAN fieldworkers, Mr. Dan Ochala.

69 . Salifu interview, Kaduna, November 27, 1990.

70 . The Bigard Torch, p. 15.

71 . Here, for instance, we note the alleged erection of mosques in Gongola State's Government House, and at a local government headquarters in the State, without an equitable provision for similar facilities to reflect the Christian presence in the State (see Today's Challenge, No. 1,1990, pp. 6-12); the alleged Kwara State Government's bias against Christians in chieftaincy matters, and the Government's restriction on the movement of Christians in Ilorin during the Palm Sunday celebrations — to name a few examples (See Kwara State CAN'S February 8,1990, letter to the Governor, as reported in Catholic Diocese of Jos, Contemporary Islam and Nigeria (Jos: Institute of Pastoral Affairs, 1990), pp. 44-47.

72 . Here we note the publicity which CAN gave to its ‘confirmed reports’ about the unusual degree of discrimination against Christians in Kano, Sokoto, Borno, and Katsina States (see CAN'S Communique on the 2nd General Assembly, held in Kaduna, November 15-17, 1988, p. 3).

73 . Okogie interview, December 10, 1990.

74 . ibid.

75 . See M.A. Adewole et al. (eds.), 25 Years of Stewardship: The SilverJubilee of the Priestly Ordination of His Lordship. Rt. Rev. Dr. G.G. Ganaka (Catholic Bishop of Jos). Selected sermons, speeches and interviews (Jos: Fab Education Books, 1990), pp. 153-154 (hereafter cited as Bishop G.G. Ganaka's Silver Jubilee).

76 . Ganaka interview, November 11, 1990; and ibid.

77 . Okogie interview, December 10, 1990.

78 . ibid.

79 . ibid.

80 . ibid.

81 . The others, according to CAN'S National Secretary, are ‘Lagos and old Kwara States’ (see Williams' letter to I. Enwerem, March 2, 1992). Interesting enough, he did not mention Kaduna at all, not to mention Kano State, which, according to Mr. Ochala, a prominent NORTH-CANs fieldworker, has just one full-time officer.

82 . Interview with Dan Ochala, Kaduna, January 11, 1991.

83 . Nigeria's Sunday Tribune, October 4, 1987.

84 . See Nigeria's daily Tribune, Friday, December 4, 1987.

85 . Salifu interview, November 27, 1990. He was unable, however, to tell me the amount of money CAN realized except to say that ‘the launching was a huge success’.

86 . Nigeria's Sunday Tribune, October 4, 1987.

87 . The Bigard Torch, p. 14.

88 . Salifu interview, November 27, 1990.

89 . The Bigard Torch, p. 14.

90 . The same Christianity that encourages non-violence in accordance with its founder's (Jesus') directive that Christians turn the other cheek when slapped on one (Matt. 5: 38-40) at the same time has Jesus making a whip from cords with which he drove away from the Temple the people he believed were violating and exploiting the place (Jn. 2: 13-16). One recalls, of course, Jesus' scolding of Peter, his deputy, for being violent; that is, when the latter apparently attempted to behead one of those who came to arrest Jesus (Jn. 18: 10-11). Yet the same Jesus did not forbid soldiering and John the Baptist advised those in the profession to be satisfied with their pay, besides the advice, of course, that they should not molest people (Lk. 3:14). If these biblical examples could not justify violence for societal change, then what else could? Here, even Bishop Canaka supports our reasoning, although he seems to contradict himself elsewhere on the same issue. (See M.A. Adewole et al. (eds.), op. cit., pp. 169-170 & 180).

91 . The Bigrad Torch, p. 14.

92 . ibid.

93 . ibid.

94 . ibid., p. 13.

95 . It appears that the strategy of non-violent demonstration by Christians has dawned on the country. Recall the May 1990, peaceful demonstration by some pastors in the North against the detention of the CAN leaders following the April 29, 1990 coup; or the February 1989 clergy-led peaceful demonstration in Gongola State, following the government's arrest of Rev. Wilson Sabiya, CAN'S leader in the State.

96 . This statement was left hanging, uncompleted. The obvious conclusion is left to the reader's imagination!

97 . Salifu interview, November 27, 1990.

98 . Nigeria's Christian Digest, Vol. 2, No. 10, September 1990, p. 12.

99 . ibid., pp. 11-12.

100 . CAN, Leadership in Nigeria.

101 . Incidentally it was, in the history of the country, the first coup ever to be unequivocally and openly associated by its planners with religion.

102 . See Nigeria's Christian Digest, Vol. 2, No. 8, June 1990, p. 7, where the Chief of General Staff, Vice-Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, while speaking to the Catholic Bishops on a sympathy visit to Dodan Barracks in May 1990, was reported to have dissociated Christians from involvement in the aborted coup.

103 . Nigeria's Christian Digest, Vol. 2, No. 10, September, 1990, p. 10.

104 . ibid., p. 13.

105 . ibid., pp. 10-11.

106 . We must make it clear that our choice of these people does not pretend to exhaust the list of the many individuals — known and unknown people like His Eminence, Dominic Cardinal Ekandem and Mr. CO. Williams — who continue to make valuable contributions to CAN.

107 . E.P.T. Crampton, op. cit., p. 110.

108 . Mr. Salifu shared with me this information and his acceptance of the decision during my second interview with him, March 17, 1991.

109 . S. Salifu, My experiences in detention, Today's Challenge, No. 1, 1991, p. 10 (author's emphasis).

110 . See interview with S. Salifu in National Impression, March 15, 1990, p. 29.

111 . ibid., p. 28.

112 . For a clear description of these kinds of fundamentalism, see Philip St. Roman, How to Get Along with a Fundamentalist (Missouri: Liguori Publications, 1988), pp. 11-13.

113 . ibid.

114 . See Nigeria's Christian Digest, Vol. 2, No. 10, September 1990, p. 14.

115 . ibid., p. 11.

116 . Even Okogie, in a lighter mood, is known sometimes to call himself ‘olo Lafiaji’ (son of Lafiaji).

117 . African Concord, June 11, 1990, p. 30.

118 . ibid., p. 31.

119 . Okogie interview, December 10, 1990.

120 . African Concord, June 11, 1990, pp. 30-31.

121 . ibid., p. 31.

122 . It may be recalled that, following Okogie's appointment in 1971 as the Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Oyo, a number of the local clergy of the diocese mobilized opposition to the appointment on the grounds that he was not a son-of-the-soil (that is, not from the area). As destiny would have it, this was in Okogie's favour; the death of the (then) Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Aggey, fourteen months later left the See of the more prestigious Archdiocese of Lagos vacant. This being his home diocese, Okogie was soon appointed to head this most politically visible and powerful archdiocese in the country, where, according to him ‘since then we've been in the battle-field, so to say’ (See ibid., p. 33).

123 . Incidentally, among all the church leaders I interviewed in the course of my fieldwork, Archbishop Okogie was the only one who used the word ‘Catholic’ when it was more appropriate to use ‘Christian’.

124 . See Salifu's account of the injustice at the Kaduna Polytechnic in Today's Christian Challenge, No. 1, 1991, pp. 9-10.

125 . S. Salifu, ‘The time of separation is coming’, National Impression, March 15, 1990, p. 26.

126 . See African Concord, June 11, 1990, p. 34.

Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 6. CAN’S Organizational Chart (National norm)
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Légende Figure 7. CAN'S Organizational Chart (Northern zone in practice)
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