Why I Was Reluctant To Contest For CAN Presidency – Ayokunle | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Faith, LIFE

Why I Was Reluctant To Contest For CAN Presidency – Ayokunle

Posted: Aug 21, 2016 at 3:11 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Having served as the immediate vice president of the Christian Association Of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Dr. Olasupo Ayokunle who is now the president of CAN had an interactive session with some journalists, where he shared how he foresaw his victory and how his wife told him to forget about CAN presidency as well as other issues bordering on the Christian body and the nation. CHINYERE ABIAZIEM presents the excerpts:

How does it feel like being the president of CAN?

By the grace of God, it is a privilege and also a divine mandate. The Christian Association of Nigeria is not the only organisation which the Nigerian Baptist belongs. I’m just back from the Central Working Committee meeting of the world council of churches in Norway, from there I moved to Vancouver in Canada where we had the annual congress of the Baptist World Alliance. However, for the Baptist, for the past almost 177 years of our existence here in Nigeria, none of our leaders has been given the privilege of serving at this level. We have served at state levels, as general secretary of Christian council of Nigeria which of course came on board before the Christian Association of Nigeria. But at this level, we have never served. Though I have also served as the National Vice President of Christian Association of Nigeria, this is a different ball game all together. I say it is a privilege for all Christians to be able to agree on one person to serve; and also a divine mandate because I did not just plunge into it. I think the whole thing started in October last year. I was in Houston, Texas with my wife to rest from all the troubles, then I saw a vision. I saw CAN election going on. I saw a bloc (I will not mention their name) voting en-masse for me. And I was asking one of their leaders why they were voting for me when I am not from that bloc, and then I woke up. Then I woke my wife up and told her what I saw. My wife said I should just forget about CAN presidency, that I will never participate and it will never be because she does not want trouble for me. It was almost a fight. I told her I did not know I would dream, I was only sharing what I saw. She said I should just forget about it that she and her prayer team have prayed it off. I told her if it was human desire, you can pray it off, but if it is God communicating His mind to us ahead of time, you cannot pray it off. I told her not to be emotional about it. She was not convinced, but she was convinced that we must pray. So we set up a prayer team and we really prayed over it but I decided that I will not help the situation that I was just going to see how it will come to pass. So we went to a meeting and they announced the submission of names. I did not take any action. I have an ecumenical officer here in the office who had been troubling me saying even if I was not going for presidency; I was qualified to run for a second term as vice president, he said I should submit my name. I said I was praying about it. When he saw that I was using delay tactics and the closing date was around, he went ahead and wrote the application and put my name. He showed it to one of my lieutenants here that the vice president financed it. They did not tell me they submitted it because they feared that I might stop them from submitting it so that if they had submitted and it had been accepted over there, it would be beyond me. So it was after they accepted it at Christian Council and Christian Council forwarded it to CAN that he came to ask me if I was not still going to apply again and I told him I was still praying about it and he said they have submitted my name. That was another thing that was causing feud between me and him. So I said if he wanted to kill me that was how he was going to go about it without me knowing. And he said no, this was not about killing but they are convinced that I have something to offer but I was reluctant. So we started praying and I was looking for how it was going to come to pass. And the rest is history now. So as I said, it’s a privilege given to me by God’s people and it is also a divine mandate. I know God has something in mind for all Christians and all Nigerians by deciding to use me for this.

Should we call you a reluctant CAN president?
I fear failure, so it’s better not to start at all than to fail. You know I have a big assignment here. The Nigerian Baptist Convention is a monster organisation. We are in several media and we have over 15,000 churches which I now pastor. For me, we have 10 seminaries, which I am a visitor; we have a University which I am a visitor. We have a press which is a registered company, we have a bookstore. When I see the combination of all these, for me to supervise as well as CAN I felt it was intimidating. So the reluctance was out of the fear of failure. When you have too many things in your mouth to chew, you will end up spewing everything out. If you go back memory lane, men that God Has used were reluctant ministers. Moses argued with God to the extent that when God gave him conviction for all what he was asking, he concluded by telling God to send another person. I know you can do all what you have said but not with me, send another person. Anyone that knows that opportunity calls for responsibility will fear just to be rushing to taking positions. It is not about occupying positions; it is about functioning properly in that position.

It is believed that the major challenge the past president faced was from within. How are you going to tackle this?

Before now, I have travelled far and wide within the nation seeing people that mattered within CAN, mending fences, otherwise the inauguration wouldn’t have been possible. We met with the ex-presidents of CAN, the angry people presented their position, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor presented the position of CAN, and when they listened, they were convinced that election passed through due process. CAN is a body of Christ and anyone that is aggrieved is so maybe because he is losing out in one way or the other. So we should not allow the sun to go down upon their anger. I may not be able to say much about that because of the court but people in court and people outside court, we are meeting them. The reconciliation is on-going even before the inauguration. And it was that reconciliation process that made the inauguration possible otherwise it might have not been possible. We need all of them. A house divided against itself cannot stand. So what we are saying is that the enemies we have outside are more for us to face, they are so many than for us to still be having enemies within. Especially the onslaught that appears to be coming from other religions in this nation, see how almost on weekly basis Christians are being slaughtered and it appears that nobody is caring. Our consternation is the attitude of the authorities to it, no real specific statement to reassure. And as I said in my acceptance speech, they swore to the constitution to make sure that they defend us, they give us freedom to practice our religion, so if it is happening, the place we can call the center of civilisation now in Nigeria is Abuja; if somebody doing evangelism can just be killed like that, I don’t think we have heard much of a statement from the president of the country over it. If only he cried out and said for what reason would that happen and ordered the inspector general of police to get the person or people responsible, it will be reassuring. But for silence, that is very dangerous, that silence is not golden at that time. Speaking out, saying something will be reassuring. As I said, CAN is not anti-government and government should not be anti-CAN, but when we are seeing that we are threatened, our lives are threatened and those who should defend us are not speaking out, it leaves much to desire. So it’s a trying time. It’s a very tough time but we are going to confront it headlong in the most lawful way; not confrontational, but we are not going to shirk our responsibilities to make all of you, whether Christian or Muslim, to be able to enjoy your lifetime. It’s very important.