According to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, 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 in order to achieve a more united and peaceful society.
Prof. Osinbajo, who received the Christian Association of Nigeria‘s Award of Excellence on Saturday evening in Abuja at a Dinner and Awards night to commemorate the association’s 45th anniversary, also conveyed President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government’s congratulations to the foremost Christian body on the occasion.
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In his remarks after receiving the award, the VP noted that “fairness, equity, and respect for the rights of others are fundamental to peace and security,” and that Christian leaders at all levels must strive to promote those virtues despite the challenges.
“We must continue to make known the important truth 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,” he says.
“That the gospel commands respect for the opinions of others, treating them as we would like to be treated; nonviolent communication, and that our words must be seasoned with grace.
“As an organization and as individuals, we must remain constant and relentless advocates of religious freedom, human rights respect, fairness, justice, and the rule of law.”
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Prof. Osinbajo praised the work of CAN’s current and past leadership in promoting religious tolerance, saying, “CAN has not only been consistently faithful to its founding vision, but it has become a veritable force for peace, unity, and social justice.”
According to him, “in accordance with the gospel, CAN has consistently spoken out on behalf of our society’s “least of these.”
“Most importantly, the current and past leadership of CAN have acted in full realization and recognition of their roles as pivotal stakeholders in nation-building alongside the government and private sector.
“We are proud of the role that CAN has played and continues to play in our nation as a moral compass and interlocutor for peace among the various faiths.”
The VP went on to say, “We are also proud of the enormous work that the current executive of CAN, ably led by His Eminence, Rev. Supo Ayokunle, has done.”
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“I am aware of your collaboration with Islamic and other faith leaders to reconcile where there are conflicts, pacify where there has been offence, and reprimand where there has been wrongdoing. Congratulations and well done.”
Speaking about reducing religious and ethnic tensions in society, the VP stated, “as we have seen in recent years not only in Nigeria but all over the world, there is a growing religious and ethnic chauvinism.”
“An almost intemperate, vehement, and often violent dismissal of opposing viewpoints without adequate consideration. At the same time, identity and cultural politics are on the rise. The gospel of Jesus Christ, brethren, is the answer to hatred, intolerance, and conflict.”
Prof. Osinbajo responded to CAN’s call for the renovation of the National Christian Centre with a brief presentation on the renovation plan for the Centre, assuring that Christian groups and individuals would be mobilized to provide resources and complete the project.
Prof. Osinbajo responded personally and on behalf of the other award recipients, saying, “I accept the award with great humility, mindful that we are not necessarily the most deserving of Christians to be given any recognition.” However, because of God’s special grace in choosing us to serve in the high capacities that we do, we are in a position where our contributions will be more easily noticed.”
The VP dedicated the award to “the many who, on a daily basis, in various locations, distant and near, spread the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ’s love and reconciliation in sometimes difficult, even life-threatening situations.” And to the many who have suffered deprivation, as well as the families of those who have died as a result of their faith.”
CAN President, Rev. Supo Ayokunle, presented Prof. Osinbajo with the Award of Excellence, stating that the honor was in recognition of Prof. Osinbajo’s outstanding performance in public service over the past years, both at the state and national levels.
“This Award of Excellence is conferred on you today in recognition of your invaluable contributions as an ideal Christian in Nigerian political space and governance,” he said.
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, are among the other award recipients.
Abdullahi Abubakar, the Imam who saved the lives of over 200 Christians in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State, was also honored by CAN. It should be noted that the Vice President received the Imam at the Presidential Villa in May 2019 and publicly praised him for his acts of courage, sacrifice, and tolerance on June 23, 2018, when he risked his life to protect Christians who were being pursued and attacked during a conflict situation in Barkin Ladi.
Earlier in the day on Saturday, the Vice President virtually competed in the 6th edition finals of the SimmonsCooper Advocacy Development (SCAD) Programme, which was organized by SimmonsCooper Partners (SCP).
Speaking briefly during the live event in Lagos, the VP congratulated the SCAD competition finalists on being among the best in Nigeria and anywhere in the world.
“Knowledge is so important, and it’s almost as if a completely new vista of knowledge has opened up today, especially with technology and all of its various implications,” he said.
Members of the Nigerian Bar Association, students of law and other disciplines from Nigerian universities, and members of the Nigerian business community, among others, attended the event.