By Rotimi Fasan
REPORTS of Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka’s New Year’s Eve sermon had for a short while been generating excited responses in the media before I looked to know what it was all about. I didn’t think it worth my while to pay attention to yet another religious leader making one of their increasingly forgettable remarks on Nigerian politics and the February elections. I could see that the Rev. Father was supposed to have made what appeared to be this explosive remark at one Adoration Ground.
The last time I heard of an Adoration Ground was after scores of worshippers were trampled to death in Uke, Idemili North Local Council, in Anambra State. This was after the visit of some politicians out to canvass votes for the last governorship election. None of the politicians mentioned in that grisly episode took responsibility for what happened. And even though former governor of Anambra, Peter Obi, set up a commission of inquiry, nothing has been heard of that since that time.
But it appears there are many Adoration Grounds in the south-east, as Father Mbaka’s Adoration Ground appeared different from where scores met their untimely death last year. This latest Adoration Ground is in Enugu State. In the meantime, bits and pieces of news trickling in indicated Father Mbaka had until lately been a supporter of President Jonathan’s re-election bid. He suddenly and unexplainably changed course. Which reinforced my view that I was right not to have paid any attention earlier when news of his attack of the President surfaced. Nothing remains the same these days: politicians defect and so-called social critics ditch long-held views without warning. This was the case until I came upon a recorded television transmission of Mrs. Patience Jonathan’s visit to Father Mbaka’s Adoration Ground on NTA. I stopped to see what was going on and watched on to the end.
There on the screen was Mrs. Jonathan on her knees as this man, Father Mbaka, in a priestly robe went on and on in a monotonous tone, oscillating between verbalised prayerful wishes and talking. This certainly was no serious worship. To cut a long story short, his remarks were wholehearted if spiritually arrogant assertions of President Jonathan’s victory in the forthcoming February polls. He assured Mrs. Jonathan whom he severally called Maama, as she clasped her hands solemnly across her chest that she was God’s anointed to be the country’s First Lady. He warned other women aspiring to Mrs. Jonathan’s office to steer clear and wait for their turn. The entire episode pointed to what religious leaders and their places of worship have become: cheap figures and centres of religious manipulation and blackmail. It was clear that Father Mbaka’s speech was not spiritually inspired. He could not have been speaking from ‘the spirit’, because his words were heavy with stains of current political issues and the politic
s surrounding them. He would shortly anoint Mrs. Jonathan’s head with oil/ash. The highlight of this religious mumbo-jumbo was the release of some birds.
Since Father Mbaka recanted and rained imprecations on President Jonathan and his political ambition, he has said that the most agile of the birds he released refused to fly. This for him was a sign that signified the rejection of Jonathan by God. He, however, waited several weeks to make God’s position known to his august visitors, his captive congregants who cheered as he praised the Jonathans and the rest of Nigerians who followed all that transpired from the media.
In the light of Father Mbaka’s New Year sermon, President Goodluck Jonathan is bad luck personified. He contaminates everything he touches with bad luck and pretends to be a friend of the Igbo, calling himself Ebele Azikiwe when it is convenient. He said nothing that any clear-eyed Nigerian had not known about the Jonathan Administration. The intriguing thing was the vehemence with which he said it considering his previous support. What happened between the time of Mrs. Jonathan’s visit and the 31st of December 2014? There have been all kinds of speculations, conspiracy theories including allegations of bribery. None of this does Father Mbaka any good. Nor does it do many of his critics and supporters of President Jonathan including members of the Catholic Bishop Conference any good. The Catholic priests and their followers now criticising Mbaka for being political need to tell Nigerians one thing. Which was more political: Father Mbaka’s political mass to endorse President Jonathan and his wife or his New Ye
ar’s Eve denunciation of the President? Where had they been since the earlier drama of Mrs. Patience Jonathan’s visit?
Although I have yet to see the recorded sermon of Father Mbaka’s New Year sermon but I have read the transcript, and it sounds more inspired than his staged endorsement of the Jonathans. I have no way of determining how more authentic this is than his special and elaborate mass to endorse President Jonathan. But one thing I’m certain of is that the more responsibility Nigerians take for their beliefs and action the better for our polity and the politics of this country.
For however the matter is viewed, there seems to be a clear factor that unites the ruling class of this country be it political, religious or whatever we chose to call it. This factor revolves solely around the sustenance of their hegemony. In other words, the different strands of this country’s leadership are united in their goal of maintaining the status quo. For them nothing must change. And in a classical Gramscian sense, Nigerians are complicit in their own subjection. Or how else does one explain the fact that the same crowd that cheered Father Mbaka as he endorsed Mrs. Jonathan and her husband, that very congregation that struggled to catch a glimpse of this woman and take photographs of her, was the same that cheered as the same Father Ejike Mbaka cursed the Jonathan administration.
Isn’t it clear now why politicians looking for votes make a quick beeline to the nearest church or mosque rather than to potential voters at the campaign grounds as is the case worldwide? Our politicians have reinvented political campaign. Having immiserated the majority of our people and driven them into the waiting hands of religious entrepreneurs in their desperate search for miracles and wonders from the hell of their daily existence, our politicians follow them into these spiritual homes where those not trampled to death in mindless stampedes are handed back to the same prey they were running away from.
Any wonder the pulpit stinks no less than the soap box?