By Agba Philip
The Cross River State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has distanced itself from the visit of Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to the state to meet the Christian fold.
Mr. Osinbao visited Calabar earlier today (Tuesday) to meet with the Christian fold in Cross River State.
And, CAN after a meeting held at its secretariat at Lemna road said that the Niger Delta Affairs minister, Pastor Usani Usani had met the CAN leadership informing them that the itinerary will include a visit by Mr. Osinbajo to the CAN leadership after his arrival before proceeding to the Calabar International Convention Center to meet with Christian fold; an agreement they said he reneged on the very last minute without communicating to them.
“He (Usani) came and requested that CAN be present in the event that is now holding at the International Conference Center and that he invited the Vice President. And we said since you have come to CAN and the vice president; it is natural that he pays a courtesy call on the head of the Christian family in Cross River State.
“He did not object it; even after the meeting, the chairman called him on phone and he confirmed that he will bring the vice president here to have a brief discussion and we pray for him here as the vice president of Nigeria before we go with him to the International Conference Center. Based on that we had mobilized our people and informed our churches and our people have come here this morning since 9:30 and some are even at the International Conference Center,” said Reverend Okon Ekpenyong, the vice chairman of CAN.
He continued: “We want to state categorically clear now that we are aware that the minister for Niger Delta has led the vice president to the international conference center thereby violating the agreement we had with him; whatever he is going to there with the pastors he had invited do not represent CAN and whatever they say will not be the voice of CAN.
“This is a very clear sleight on CAN as the umbrella of the Christian family here and a very big sleight also because CAN is a neutral body that does not belong to any political party and it is our duty to pray for the state and work with the state in order to have a very peaceful governance system..”
The body had waited till about midday and following information that Mr. Osinbajo had gone to the convention center without seeing them, the state chairman and Archbishop emeritus of the Calabar metropolitan archdiocese, Most Reverend Shedrach Ukpo had earlier in his remarks said that whatever Mr. Osinbajo was doing in the name of meeting with the Christian fold in the state does not hold water as the people whom he is supposed to meet are still waiting for him.
Ukpo who said the CAN leadership had kept to the adage of the patient dog eating the fattest bone while replying to a question by his predecessor, Archbishop Archibong Archibong on whether they were still expecting the vice president, said that: “The news is that the vice president has landed in our airport in Calabar, and has moved to the conference center. It seems that He doesn’t want to call here before going to the conference center. To this extent, the people he has invited; he had invited CAN and CAN is waiting for him, it seems he does not want to see CAN again.
“He has gone to the conference center to see other Christians to which does not really hold water. CAN is the head of the Christian churches in Nigeria and the Cross River State chapter is the group that wants to receive him. I don’t know why he will not come to see them.”
Lending a voice to this, Archbishop Archibong averred that: “I believe that a stranger who comes to any man’s house must first of all pay a visit call to the master of the house. And, we who are gathered here this morning are the stakeholders of Christians in this state,”
Archibong who said that “I believe that who he (Vice President Osinbajo) has gone to meet; they are not the representative of CAN in this state” also added that: “Those who misled him to that area have done wrong to Christians in Cross River State.”
Mr. Osinbajo had arrived Calabar alongside Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade. And, his aide on religious matters, Reverend Father Bob Etta in his remarks did not speak directly on the issue but said the state respects and will continue to work with CAN.
“Governor Ben Ayade understands the importance of CAN. And, he has again and again tried to keep the good synergy between the government of Cross River State, the department of religious matters and CAN.
“In respect to that relationship and in solidarity with CAN Cross River State, we have come together to support CAN in doing what she does best. But, I want to renew the commitment, the love and the goodwill of the governor of Cross River State to CAN. He respects CAN, he wants to work with CAN and he will continue to work with CAN for the growth of the state and for the good of the people of Cross River State,” he said.
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