2023: CAN has not endorsed any presidential candidate —Bishop Adegbite

By Gilbert Ekezie

Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lagos State Chapter, Bishop Stephen Adegbite has expressed hope  that there would be peace in the  country during and after the forthcoming general elections. 

Bishop Adegbite disclosed that CAN at the national level agreed that members would be allowed to support any party of their choice without the body taking a common stand.

He also reacted to a recent petitioned against him on his stance on the upcoming election. Excerpts:

Could you look at 2022 in retrospect and what Nigerians should expect in 2023?

The year 2022 was a wonderful year and I take it from what happened in the days of Jesus Christ when there was a raging storm, the disciples were terrified and confused, Christ was sleeping and when he was woken up, he said to the raging storm, ‘peace be still.’ So, by the special grace of God, there will be peace in Nigeria in 2023 because Christ is in control of our nation. Nigeria will never become an abandoned project because God is interested in the nation. We did not choose to be in this nation, but God made it to be so. There is a purpose for it and that purpose will be achieved. Nigeria will be great again and we will amaze the world. What I say to every evil prediction and prophecy against our land is that their prediction will not stand. God is saying that there will be peace and tranquility in our land in 2023. He is asking us to relax as he is in control, he will fight our battle and we will hold our peace. In fact, I am optimistic that, God will melt every stony heart in 2023. The year will be the end of Boko Haram, insurgency, kidnapping, weeping and agony in Nigeria. There is hope for Nigeria which will be restored by God himself. Nigerians should believe and trust in God. Whatever God has entrusted into their hands,  they should do it diligently , and when you do yours and I do mine, we will have a great nation. I remember how I often times drove from Lagos at night to Kaduna, Uyo, and Enugu, but at a point, we could no longer do that again. But I know that Nigeria will be peaceful again and anyone disturbing the peace of Nigeria, God will raise a standard against anyone disturbing the peace in Nigeria. As the New Year begins, many false prophets will arise and begin to prophesy all manner of negativities about Nigeria. Let evil prophets go and sit down and let Nigeria have peace. God is bigger than any prophet and when God has spoken, every other person is a noise maker. God is saying it shall be well with Nigeria and that is what we are holding tenaciously to.

What is your New Year message? 

It is a message of peace be still. This is what God has said to me. That is the theme for the New Year. Nigeria, peace be still. Nigeria will not disintegrate in 2023. There will be peace before, during, and after the election. Not by our power, we rely solely on the power, grace, and sustenance of God and he has never disappointed us. All we are doing is for us not to disappoint God. 

What is your take on the current campaign by presidential candidates on the 2023 election?

What we want is an issue-based campaign, not a personalized one. We want the candidates to treat issues. We have many problems confronting our nation, so we want every candidate to tell us the solution that they are thinking about that will bring joy back to the lives and faces of the people. Whoever that wins the 2023 election will be answerable to Nigerians. I will be in the vanguard of people that will be on the neck of whoever emerges as president to deliver the much-anticipated dividends of democracy to Nigerians. Enough is enough; it is high time to be accountable and responsible. Anyone who is not thinking of being answerable and accountable to Nigerians should not think of contesting for the post of Nigeria’s president. That seat will not be as usual, whoever becomes president must give an account of his stewardship. We will ask questions and he must answer us satisfactorily beyond any reasonable doubt and we will know that it is the truth that he is telling us. Days of lying to Nigerians are over. This time around, every leader in the land, both Christians and Muslims, will work harmoniously to ensure that we have a formidable Nigeria. We will speak with one voice against oppression and anyone who is not doing what is right. Moreover, any people-oriented agenda will be encouraged.

What is the role of religious leaders at ensuring a successful 2023 elections?

We are supporting the politicians and the country with prayers. That is our work and primary duty, and we will not fail in doing that.

Could you evaluate the manifestoes of the different presidential candidates?

What I have seen in their manifestoes is not what they do on their campaign train. If they can marshal the points written in their manifestoes, it would be better for Nigerians, but calling one another names, is not what we need. Anyone wise person discusses issues, but feeble minds discuss personalities and that will get us nowhere. 

We know your stand on the 2023 election and that has led to a call for the national body of CAN to probe you, what is your reaction on that?

The so-called petition is nothing to us and the person who wrote it has apologized. The bloc where the person comes from in CAN has also apologized. I have the evidence to show you. We have five blocs in CAN – which are the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN), Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (CPFN) /Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC), TEKAN and ECWA Fellowship. The petitioner is just from a part of one of the blocs and not representing one of the blocs in CAN. Every leader in Lagos has pledged their support, loyalty, and confidence in the leadership of CAN which is jointly done by all. We work in synergy , with one mind. We live in Lagos and have been part of the government for 22 years. We have been talking to the government about anything that is not good and they listen to God and us and we give all the glory to God. So, for anyone to think that we will be speaking against the government when they have not done anything evil, will be wrong. This is what the CAN in Lagos said to the writer (petitioner). The petitioner has invited me to his church to address God’s people before now. They brought him to my office and I said that anything that will bring peace and joy, we must accept in Lagos. In Lagos, we don’t fight on religion because we are inter-woven and by extension, the entire Southwest, we are inter-related. There is no family that you don’t find a Muslim or a Christian. So, we enjoy peace in the Southwest,  and don’t want anybody to come and cause trouble between families. In Oyo State, my maternal grandmother was a Muslim, and she gave me an Islamic name. When I go to Oyo State, that name is what they will call me , not minding my skull cap. I have been eating Eran Eleyan since I was born. So, how do you expect me to go and be fighting my family? We don’t do that here. It is unfortunate what is happening in the North. If you know what I have done in the North because of peace, it will daze you, I have traveled to 12 northern states out of 19 to give palliatives to IDP camps. I am defending the faith and I will continue to do that till I die,  but there must be peace and justice and all of us must present ourselves together as one.

Could you comment on the Muslim-Muslim ticket?

I believe that it is not Christianity or Islam that will give us good governance, it is the person with the fear of God. Whether you are a Christian or Muslim it does not matter; How many states do we have Christians as governors or deputy governors and what have they achieved?. Even the states where we have Muslims as governors and deputy governors, what have they achieved? What we are saying is that we don’t want the problem in the North to come to the South.  A lot of people have started attacking us back, attacking CAN at the national level. We have said to ourselves, that we are fathers to all. Let us be a father to all and let the will of God be done. You can’t force anybody on anybody. Allow people to vote according to their conscience, whoever wins, we must all support such a person. Once any candidate emerges as the winner, we have a duty from the scriptures to pray for him. 

You are openly supporting Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is that the position of CAN in Lagos?

That is not the position of CAN, the position of CAN is to give everybody a level playing field. Let them tell you what they want to do, from their antecedents, from what they have done in the past, you can now make your decision. You will agree with me that not everybody that is a Christain in Lagos that will vote for Tinubu and not every Muslim in Lagos will vote for him, but because we have lived in Lagos and we belong to the Southwest and have seen what Asiwaju has done. On a personal note now, I have the right to support the candidate of my choice I said this at the national level of CAN and everyone admitted that. What we are saying is that let everyone thread cautiously because only God knows tomorrow. CAN did it in the past and it boomeranged. In 2015, we declared for someone, and at the end of the day, the person did not win and because of that, we were not allowed to enter Aso Rock for two and a half years. That should not happen this year. If some people in CAN belong to PDP, let them stay there and if some belong to Labour Party, let them stay there and if some belong to APC, let them stay in APC, so that anyone who gets to Aso Rock, we don’t lose. We must use our native intelligence. That is what we agreed on at the national level in CAN. We are going to be a father to all. Let Nigerians decide their leaders and whoever emerges is our president. There is no contradiction between Lagos State and the national body of CAN. That is why we have granted all the candidates interviews and interactions at the national level. All the candidates have addressed us and we have told them what we want.

CAN and PFN had initially protested against Muslim-Muslim tickets, what is the stand of CAN today?

For justice, a lot of people believe that we must balance the situation. CAN is not a political party, we are a religious body, we have said our own, and the party has done its own. We can’t force anything on the party and that is why we left it at that level.

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