CAN asks National Assembly to elect a Christian as Senate President or House Speaker

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has urged the newly-elected lawmakers of the National Assembly to elect a Christian as the President of the Senate or Speaker of the House of Representatives.

In a statement signed by Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, the Special Assistant on Media and Communications to CAN president, Reverend (Dr.) Samson Ayokunle, the religious organisation said electing a Christian as a principal officer in the legislature will provide religious balance to the nation’s leadership.

CAN president, Rev. Samson Ayokunle [Premium Times]
CAN president, Rev. Samson Ayokunle [Premium Times]

The organisation noted that President Muhammadu , the head of the executive arm of government, and acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammed, who’s the head of the judiciary arm, are both Muslims.

The statement said electing a capable Christian as a principal officer in the legislature will give all Nigerians a sense of belonging and reflect the country’s federal character.

The statement read, “As you prepare for your inauguration, CAN urges you to balance the appointments of your principal officers across religious divides to avoid domination and marginalisation of any kind in the interest of equity, justice, and fair play as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“We, from the Christian Association of Nigeria, recognise the importance of the National Assembly to the stability and growth of our polity. It is in this regard that we call for ethnic and religious balance with depth in picking the leadership of that great institution of democracy. To ensure that this happens is to remove any apprehension and suspicion harbored towards the leadership of this country.

“Although both the Senate and the House of Representatives have several principal officers, our focus here are the Senate President, the Deputy Senate President, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker. As it has been the practice since 1999, whenever the Senate President is a Christian, the Speaker of the House has always been a Muslim and vice- versa. And the same thing happens to their deputies.

“Our quest becomes imperative due to the existing order in the two other arms of the government. Today, both the President and the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria are Muslims and our appeal is to let either the Senate President or the Speaker be a Christian to address the religious dichotomy. 

“This will give all Nigerians a sense of belonging irrespective of their religious affiliations. And a critical study of Chapter 14 (13 and 14) of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended) underscores this truth. The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few state or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”

House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, is the favourite to be elected the next Speaker of the House of Representatives (Newsroom)
House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, is the favourite to be elected the next Speaker of the House of Representatives (Newsroom)

CAN also called on President and the leadership of his ruling All Progressives Congress () to support its position so as to achieve lasting peace, unity and development.

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“Doing this will go a long way in fixing some of the problems confronting our country today that are rooted in religious, tribal suspicion, domination and marginalisation at every level of the government.

“In as much as we agree that merit should not be sacrificed in every appointment, there are Christians, who are equally credible and capable of running the affairs of the National Assembly and other key positions in the government if given the opportunity. Those who had and still serving in one office or the other are our living proofs,” the statement read.

Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, is the favourite to be replace Bukola Saraki as Senate President when the Ninth Senate resumes in June, while House Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, is the favourite to be elected new Speaker. Both men are Muslims.

President Buhari held a closed door meeting with the leadership of CAN on Friday, March 29 and promised peaceful co-existence among Nigerians of different religious beliefs.

“We will continue to strive for peaceful co-existence among all Nigerians irrespective of their religious beliefs,” he said.

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