In pursuit of a more united and peaceful society, Christian groups and leaders of faith in Nigeria must preach fairness and equity at all times and be relentless advocates of freedom of worship, justice, and the rule of law, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, (SAN).
Prof. Osinbajo, who was honoured on Saturday evening in Abuja with the Christian Association of Nigeria’s Award of Excellence at a Dinner and Awards night organized to mark the 45th anniversary of the association, also delivered President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government’s felicitations to the foremost Christian body on the milestone.
Also, in his remarks after receiving the award, alongside other honourees, the VP noted that “fairness, equity and respect for the rights of others are fundamental to peace and security,” hence Christian leaders at all levels must strive to promote those virtues despite the challenges.
“We must continue to let the important truth be known that Christ did not come to establish a religion or to condemn men, but to show all men that his own righteousness, not our righteousness or performance, is the qualification for eternal life.
“That the gospel commands consideration for the views of others, treating them as we would wish to be treated; non-violent communication, that our words must be words of grace seasoned with salt.
“We must, as an organisation and as individuals remain constant and relentless advocates of freedom of worship, respect for human rights, fairness, justice, and the rule of law,” special media aide, Laolu Akande, quoted his principal as saying.
Commending the works of current and past leadership of CAN in promoting religious tolerance, Prof. Osinbajo said “CAN has not only been continually faithful to its founding vision, but it has also become a veritable force for peace, unity and social justice.”
According to him, “pursuant to the gospel, CAN has consistently spoken up on behalf of the “least of these” in our society.
“Importantly, the current and past leadership of CAN have acted in full realization and recognition of their roles as pivotal stakeholders alongside the Government, private sector in nation-building.
“We are proud of the role of the moral compass of society and interlocutor for peace among the different faiths that CAN has played and continues to play in our nation.”
Continuing, the VP noted that “we are also proud of the enormous work that the current executive of CAN, ably led by His Eminence, Rev. Supo Ayokunle, has done.
“I am aware of your collaboration with the leadership of the Islamic and other faiths, to reconcile where there are conflicts, to pacify where there has been offence, and to reprimand where there have been misdeeds. Well done and congratulations.”
Speaking on dousing religious and ethnic tensions in the society, the VP said “as we have seen in the past few years not just in Nigeria but all over the world, there is a growing religious and ethnic chauvinism.
“An almost intemperate, vehement and often violent dismissal of the views of people of other persuasions without adequate consideration. At the same time there is the rise of identity and cultural politics. Brethren, the answer to hate, intolerance and conflict is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
On the call by CAN for the renovation of the National Christian Centre, Prof. Osinbajo gave a short presentation on renovation plans for the Centre, assuring that Christian groups and individuals would be mobilized to provide resources and complete the project.
Responding personally and also on behalf of other award recipients, Prof. Osinbajo said “I accept the award with great humility, being mindful that we are not necessarily the most deserving of Christians to be given any recognition. But that because of the special grace of God, by which we have been chosen to serve in the high capacities that we serve, we are in the advantageous position that our contributions will be more easily noticed.”
The VP dedicated the award to “the many who, daily, in different locations, distant and near, propagate this message of the love and reconciliation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in sometimes difficult, even life-threatening situations. And to the many who have suffered deprivation, and the families of those who have lost their lives by reason of their belief.”
Presenting the Award of Excellence to the VP, CAN President, Rev. Supo Ayokunle, said the honour was in recognition of Prof. Osinbajo’s outstanding performance in public service over the past years, both at state and national levels.
He said: “This Award of Excellence is conferred on you today in recognition of your invaluable contributions as an ideal Christian in the Nigerian political space and governance.”
Other award recipients include former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo; former Imo State Governor, Sen. Rochas Okorocha; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara; several State governors; faith leaders, including past Presidents and General Secretary of CAN.
The Imam that saved the lives of over 200 Christians in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State, Abdullahi Abubakar, also received a special CAN recognition. It would be recalled that the VP had received the Imam at the Presidential Villa in May 2019 and praised him severally in public for his acts of courage, sacrifice, and tolerance when he stuck out his neck to protect Christians who were being pursued to be attacked during a conflict situation in Barkin Ladi on June 23, 2018.
Earlier on Saturday morning, the Vice President participated virtually in the 6th edition finals of the SimmonsCooper Advocacy Development (SCAD) Programme organized by SimmonsCooper Partners (SCP).
Speaking briefly during the event which was held live in Lagos, the VP congratulated the finalists of the SCAD competition as being among the best in Nigeria and anywhere in the world.
“Knowledge is so critical, and today, it is almost as if a completely new vista of knowledge has been opened, especially with technology and all of its various implications,” he said.
The event was attended by members of the Nigerian Bar Association, students of law and other disciplines from Nigerian universities, members of the Nigerian business community, among others.