Fact-Check: Is it true that CAN has Never Had a Northern Christian as its President Since 1976?
Claim: There was a claim that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has never elected a Northern Christian as President since its inception in 1976.
Full text: Lately, a text went viral on social media platforms, especially Facebook and WhatsApp where a whole list of CAN Presidents since its inception to date was provided and that none of them was from the Northern region.
The post captioned; “Trajectory of CAN Elected Presidents from inception to date – Dominic Cardinal” mentioned the Presidents to include:
Ekandem (late) from 1976 till 1986; Anthony Cardinal Okogie from 1988 till 1995 and Prelate Sunday Mbang from 1994 till 2003.
Others were Primate Jasper Akinola from 2003 till 2007; Archbishop John Onaiyekan from 2007 till 2010 and Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor from 2010 till 2016.
The current president is Reverend (Dr) Samson Ayokunle, who was elected in 2016.
The post continued to read as follows;
“Does it mean CAN as a body of Christ did not see any Northern Christian qualified to be the Association’s President since 1976 to date?
“Why the predominance of Southern Christians….?
“Does this imply that the northern Christians are less Christians or is it because they are in the minority in northern Nigeria?
“Are they also a minority in the Christian family in Nigeria?
“This is amazing as Equity, justice and fairness is not playing in CAN….”
Ever since the announcement of Senator Kashim Shettima as running mate to Ahmed Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s polity has been fraught with all sorts of hate speeches and fake news deliberately for misinformation and disinformation targeted at unsuspecting audiences.
There are several narratives and counter-narratives from different camps of Muslims and Christian faithfuls all in an attempt to discredit or justify the APC’s decision to field Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates of the same faith in the contest for the 2023 general elections.
An online check by PRNigeria revealed that, contrary to the claim made in the post, the 5th CAN President, Archbishop John Cardinal Olorunfemi Onaiyekan who served from 2007-2010 was actually an indigene of Kogi, a North-central state in Nigeria.
The details of his biography was available on the website of Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace (COFP), which is a Non-Governmental Organisation founded by His Eminence John Onaiyekan.
His biography, as culled from the website reads in part:
“His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan was born on January 29th, 1944, in Kabba, Kogi State of Nigeria. Intelligent right from his tender age, he began his Primary School education from 1949-56 at his home town Kabba. His academic prowess heightened at Mount St.Michaels Secondary School, Aliade, Benue State Nigeria between 1957-62 where he had distinctions in his SSCE; a record no one has yet broken in that school.
His priestly formation commenced in Jan. 1963 – June 1965 with Studies of Philosophy at the prestigious SS.
Peter and Paul Major Seminary Bodija, Ibadan Nigeria and from Sept. 1965 – June 1969 studied Theology at the Pontifical Urban College of Propaganda Fide, Rome.
Cardinal Onaiyekans early priestly life began with his ordination to the Catholic Priesthood at his home town Kabba, on 3rd August, 1969…….”
Verdict/Conclusion: PRNigeria categorically states that the claim that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has never elected a Northern Christian as President since its inception in 1976 is FALSE. This is based on findings by PRNigeria that the 5th President of CAN Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan hails from the North Central State of Kogi.