By Rev Dr. Austin Uchegbu
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Imo State as enshrined in its constitution and duly registered is the umbrella body of the Christian community recognized by the federal government of Nigeria changed with the responsibility (among other things), of relating and mediating with the government on all issues that have to do with the Christian body in the State.
There are five groups, otherwise known as Blocs, that made up of CAN, in the State. They are CSN- Catholic Society of Nigeria, which is Roman Catholic Churches; The CCN- Christian Council of Nigeria, which has a membership of Anglican Churches, Methodist Church of Nigeria, Baptist Convention of Nigeria, Presbyterian Church and any other mainline Evangelical churches; The CPFN/PFN- Christian Pentecostal and Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria with membership drawn from all the Apostolic Churches and all other Pentecostal Churches in the State; The OAIC-Organization of African Instituted Churches, which membership is all white garment churches; and ECWA/Tekan Churches. All these blocs share equal ratio and rights in CAN operations.
In the history of Imo state governance, the Roman Catholics (CSN) and the Anglican Church (CCN) have been fortunate and more favored to produce the Governors of Imo State dating back to Late Dr. Sam Mbakwe. The two Churches and by extension two Blocs have been politically favored to produce the governors of this state, while others have remained so to say “been used”. However, the religious extraction from which the governor of Imo state comes should not be the determinant factor for the sharing formula of the distribution of the social and democratic dividend of the State. Imo State Governor is the governor of all Imolites irrespective of his religious or political inclination.
In recent times, history has it to show that when HE Ikedi Ohakim was the governor, he favored the Anglican Church, where he came from; HE Achike Udenwa also tilted to the Roman Catholic Church, where he was a member; HE Emeka Ihedioha on arrival turned his face towards the Anglicans of which he was a member. Now the seating governor HE Senator Hope Uzodinma who also is from Roman Catholic Church has reflected his interest in his church., and the Anglican Church from where his deputy hails from. It should be remarkably noted that it is only HE Owelle Rochas Okorocha who showed liberality in his governance by showing regard to other blocs in his appointments and distribution of democratic dividends. He played down on the “religious politics and marginalization’ in Imo State. This clandestine religious politics in the state has always informed all political parties in the state to pin the choice who becomes their gubernatorial candidate and deputy around these two churches. While the other four and a Half blocs of CAN are relegated or not considered at all.
I am not writing this to insinuate any war but rather to throw into open the existing disparity which is downplayed. The recent distribution of COVID-19 Palliatives by the State government of HE Senator Hope Uzodinma is a display of the point I am making. The Press Release has it as “In the move, the State Government has donated 4000 bags of 10kg rice, 1000 tubers of yam, 40 cartons of Tomatoes and 40 cartons of Vegetable oil to the Catholic Arch-Diocese of Owerri to assist them in the provision of food items to the poor and vulnerable group of the Arch-Diocese. In a similar vein, the Anglican Arch-Diocese of Owerri and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have also received, donations of the same magnitude from the state government for their members.
The Anglican Arch-Diocese of Owerri has received 2000 bags of 10kg rice, 1000 tubers of yam, 10 cartons of vegetable oil, and 10 cartons of Tomatoes. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) got 100 bags of 25kg rice, 1000 tubers of yam, 10 Cartons of tomatoes, and 10 cartons of vegetable Oil”.
To give CSN, 4000 bags of 10kg rice, 1000 tubers of yam, etc, Anglican Church (CCN), 2000 bags of 10kg rice, 1000 tubers of yam, etc, and CAN (all other Churches inclusive), 100 bags of 25kg rice, 1000 tubers of yam, etc, is an oxymoron. It is a display of religious politics, segregation, and marginalization. It negates the principle of unity of the body, which CAN propagates. It is a way of informing the large populace of the state that these are the churches that the state has a high preference, hence cowardizing the rest of the other blocs. Again this is not to insinuate disunity among the body but a call for redress, both in the reflection of state appointments etc. What is good for the goose is also good to the gander.
Rev Dr. Austin Uchegbu, Secretary CPFN/PFN, Imo State, Deputy Chairman CAN, Imo state, Treasurer, CPFN/PFN, South East.