It is not true that the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) invited the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to its General Church Council (GCC), an angry insider has told Everyday.ng.
He said on Wednesday night that though it is true that top politicians of ECWA extraction were invited by “some of our top people to the GCC, those invited were the ones who gave the deliberate, wrong impression that they came there representing their principal, as if he was officially invited. Let them produce that invitation signed by the appropriately designated official to Atiku. They lied and deceived the media.
“Why would we invite Atiku Abubakar to our GCC? In what capacity? It is pure politics. They are trying to counter what happened in other prominent churches where a presidential candidate received loud ovation, and they think using ECWA, easily the most prominent church north of the Niger, will help them gain traction. They are mistaken, because members will vote who they want, it is their decision, not the council,” the highly placed official said.
He suggested that the leadership of the church contemplated inviting another presidential candidate, but the idea was jettisoned so as not to send the signal that it had taken a position. “That fear was what led to what happened. They went behind to invite these people to muddy the water.,” he added.
His comments come as the Church itself issued an official statement which drew a response from prominent Atiku backers.
In its refutal statement titled “Re: ECWA President: Church will announce Presidential Choice Soon”, the church’s spokesman, Rev. Romanus Ebenwokodi, said: “In course of its Extraordinary General Church Council which started on 17th January 2023; the attention of the ECWA General Church Council has been drawn to mischievous and malicious publications by certain sections of the media … “ECWA President: Church Will Announce Presidential Choice Soon” and … “Church to take decision soon – ECWA President”, 18th day of January 2023 on their banner headlines.
“The General Church Council wishes to state that at no time did it make the alluded resolution, neither did the President at any time during the proceedings of the Council make the statement credited to him by the newspapers in question.
“ECWA as a denomination has its members across all political parties and the leadership of ECWA respects that. Therefore, we need the teaming members of ECWA, the Church in Nigeria, and the general public to understand that the said publications are ABSOLUTE FALSEHOOD that have never been contemplated, and are meant to cause unnecessary tension that is capable of dragging the good name of ECWA to the mud.
“ECWA therefore, strongly demands … newspapers to herewith publicly withdraw the said publications and tender public apologies to ECWA within twenty -four (24) hours beginning 12:00 noon, 18th January 2023.”
What the ECWA spokesman did not say was that the newspapers drew their headlines from a statement issued by the Atiku group.
Curiously, and inexplicably, it was not the newspapers that reacted to the ECWA statement – it was a PDP stalwart and former member of House of Representatives, Hon. Golu Timothy.
Timothy said as spokesperson of the delegation led by former Speaker Yakubu Dogara, its attention was drawn to part of the ECWA statement denying part of the remarks of the ECWA President regarding what members may do ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“I want to say with absolute respect to ECWA President, Rev. Dr Stephen Baba Panya and the entire leadership that no statement written was mischievous and malicious and intended to create unnecessary tension. At no point did the statement said the church has endorsed and named its own Presidential candidate.
“What the ECWA President said was that they will ponder and pray for guidance of the Holy Ghost as they make their decision. The decision of course, will be those of its members who belong to different political parties to choose from the many candidates.
“All members of the delegation who represented the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar are hopeful that majority of such individual decisions will favour us as a party.
“We believe that there is nothing wrong with the statement as reported, as the same remarks can be said to all the Presidential candidates who are seeking for votes from members of the church.
“We believe that the pressure from fellow politicians of other political parties who felt outsmarted must have created and prompted the press statement from the church.
“We are aware that politicians who failed to honour such a distinguished gathering will naturally feel jealous of the hospitable reception accorded the Rt. Hon Yakubu Dogara and his delegation on behalf of Atiku and can raise the stakes to seek to fill the vacuum created by their deliberate absence.
“We urge the church not to be worried by the antics of other politicians who would go to any extent to pile pressure and sometimes seek to blackmail to score cheap political gains. Let them also visit the church to pass their message to the people instead of assuming negative analysis of what others said.
“As Christians, we have no reason to cast aspersions or create stories for any political objective. It is what we understood from the brief remarks of the ECWA president that we communicated the media.
“We want to restate our high respect to His Lordship the President of ECWA, Rev Dr Stephen Baba Panya ,the distinguished GCC and the entire membership of the church and will never ever contemplate any form of disrespect. Some members of the delegation are also members of ECWA,” the former lawmaker said.
Recall that in a statement on Tuesday, Dogara, claiming to speak for Atiku, assured christians that they are very safe under his watch if elected President come next month. Dogara said Atiku, as a born unifier, believes in the integration of humanity at all levels and would do everything to promote unity in diversity.”
The statement from the Atiku group said he was speaking in Jos while gracing the 2023 extra-ordinary GCC through the former Speaker, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara.
He said God did not make any mistake in creating people and allowing them to belong to different tribal, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.
According to him, “a divided Nigeria can not achieve the purpose of God for us as a people. A divided country will only keep us in darkness and chains. All through my lifetime, I have lived and worked harmoniously with people of other faiths and ethnic affiliations with ease because of mutual understanding and respect. My business and political partners come from different backgrounds with zero expressions of religious or ethnic sentiments. I have never contemplated same faith ticket throughout my political career because it will result in unmitigated disaster for all Nigerians. No Statesman at the incipient adopts a position that cleary excludes nearly half the Country and still hope to do the work Nigria is in dire need of. No matter how hard and skilful one dresses the same faith ticket, it is an open invitation to anarchy and a clear statement that not everyone will be carried along in government.”
He continued, “as Governor- elect of Adamawa State, in 1999, I gave my full backing, against all odds, to Boni Haruna to take over when I was nominated Vice President. Boni governed Adamawa for eight uninterrupted years. Also, in Taraba State, Rev. Jolly Nyame was encouraged to contest the governorship in 1999 with my full backing. We have and are still working together with many Christians across the nation, and the Church should have confidence in my capacity, experience, and ability to deliver credible leadership that unites our people and empower Nigerinas of all creed to live together in peace and harmony.”
Atiku appreciates Christians all over the nation for their prayers and commitment to the nation and assured that he will not relent in cementing a cordial relationship between Christians and Muslims at all times.
“The church stands to get a lot under my watch as President of this nation if elected. I will do everything possible if elected to rid Nigeria of conflict entrepreneurs and profiteers in order to lay a solid foundation for Nigeria’s advancement. This must be the case if we ever hope to realise our full potentilas as a nation. No society in history has ever remained disunited and still kept its civilisation. Politics is not enough reason to keep us divided. A divided Nigeria can not take any of us anywhere. If Nigeria is divided, both Christians and Muslims will suffer. I am proud to say that I have a strong partner in Governor Okowa, who is not only a Christian but a man of abiding faith in Nigeria and our people. I am cinvinced beyond doubt that, together with Gov Ifeanyi Okowa as Vice President, we will take Nigeria to the desired greater heights.”
He commended ECWA for sustaining the annual extra- ordinary GCC Council meeting where progress and developments are reviewed and new working strategies are adopted. He prayed for wisdom and strength for the ECWA leadership to continue to provide good leadership for the church.
Speaking for himself, Dogara admonished Christians to take stock of what each presidential candidate has done for Northern Christians and meditate on it. Quoting copiously from the Bible, Dogara likened Atiku to the popular centurion in the Bible, whose faith was acknowledged by Jesus and of whom the Jews spoke glowingly to Jesus about his love for the jews and the fact that he even built a synogogue for them. He queried why the present Church is not attracting centurions anymore and urged the clergy to reflect hard and long on that. Citing Governors Bony Haruna and Rev Jolly Nyame, he said those two represent two solid synagogues Atiku had built for the Church and challenged Christians to examine other candidates and if they have done what Atiku has done, then they can vote for them. He also warned that the presidency does not change the president in a way that he will start doing what he is not known for overnight. The presidency can only reveal who the president is. None of them will start doing the good work they haven’t done for the Church in the past just because they have been elected president.
He said that on their part, they settled for Atiku following a scientific analysis of the various candidates, which was transparently carried out. “Do not waste your votes by casting them elsewhere so that we won’t lament like Job in the Bible who said, “the things I greatly feared have come upon me.” No believer should waste his vote because the God we serve does not tolerate waste. We believe very strongly in the coming together and living together of Nigerians of all creed in order for us to make progress, hence our rejection of the same faith ticket.”
According to Dogara, Christianity is serving the God of justice, and justice is indivisible. He said for those querying why should a Muslim succeed another Muslim, let them not forget that from 1999 to date Christians in President’s Obasanjo and Jonathan have ruled Nigeria for 14 years while Muslims in Presidents Yar’adua and Buhari have ruled for 10 years. He said he sees himself in Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan and no Christian who stands for the truth will say otherwise and we must acknowledge that between Christians and Muslims, it ll take another 4 years before we level up. Any one that denies this denies the truth, and anyone who denies the truth is not of Christ because the devil is the father of all lies.
Dogara apologised for the absence of Atiku and Okowa at the occasion, saying that it was not out of disrespect for the Church but because they were both in Ekiti for the nationwide presidential rally.
The Atiku group’s statement proceeded to ascribe comments to Ithe President of ECWA, Rev Dr. Stephen Baba Panya, who it said appreciated Atiku for finding time to give attention to what the church is doing and for sending eminent political leaders to grace the church’s GCC meeting. He particularly commended Atiku for sending Dogara to represent him because the latter has excellent standing with the Church even before joining politics. He concluded that the church is watching, monitoring, and listening to all the candidates and will take a decision according to its convictions soon.