The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has kicked against the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) endorsement of two Muslims as leaders of both chambers of the National Assembly.
In an open letter to newly elected lawmakers, CAN president, Samson Ayokunle, urged in the interest of equity, justice and fair play that either the Senate President or the Speaker should be a Christian.
APC is said to have endorsed Majority Leader of the Senate and his counterpart at the House of Representatives, Ahmed Lawan, and Femi Gbajabiamila, who are both Muslims, to become Senate President and Speaker respectively, for the incoming 9th National Assembly.
But in a statement on Monday, Ayokunle asked the lawmakers-elect to ensure balance in the appointments of principal officers as they get ready for inauguration.
The balance he said should be across religious divides to avoid domination and marginalisation of any kind as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“We, from the Christian Association of Nigeria, recognize the importance of the National Assembly to the stability and growth of our polity. It is in this regard that we call for ethnic and religious balance with depth in picking the leadership of that great institution of democracy.
“To ensure that this happens is to remove any apprehension and suspicion harboured towards the leadership of this country.
“Although both the Senate and the House of Representatives have several principal officers but our focus here are the Senate President, the Deputy Senate President, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker.
“As it has been the practice since 1999, whenever the Senate President is a Christian, the Speaker of the House has always been a Muslim and vice- versa. And the same thing happens to their deputies.
“Our quest becomes imperative due to the existing order in the two other arms of the government. Today, both the President and the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria are Muslims and our appeal is to let either the Senate President or the Speaker be a Christian to address the religious dichotomy. This will give all Nigerians a sense of belonging irrespective of their religious affiliations.
“CAN calls on the 9th National Assembly members to address both the religious and the North and South dichotomies in the interest of equity, justice and fair play. We assure our lawmakers of our prayers as they make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation.
“We also urge both the Presidency and the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to support the position of the Association in its quest to find an enduring peace, unity and development for our Fatherland.
“Doing this will go a long way in fixing some of the problems confronting our country today that are rooted in religious, tribal suspicion, domination and marginalisation at every level of the government.
“In as much as we agree that merit should not be sacrificed in every appointment, but there are Christians who are equally credible and capable of running the affairs of the National Assembly and other key positions in the government if given the opportunity. Those who had and still serving in one office or the other are our living proofs,” the statement read.