By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor

Jesus was with some close aides some months preceding His appointment with death when some pretentious stakeholders in the Jewish revival belonging to the club of Pharisees tried to nudge Him from proceeding to Jerusalem. Their reason was that President Herod, the Rome appointed ruler widely despised by many Jews would kill him.

Responding, Jesus had told them, “Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.”

The description of Herod as a fox was perhaps a reflection of the widely held assertion at that time that the king was a cunning and crafty stooge of the colonial power that at that time held the Jews in captivity. That was in contrast to a strong animal like the lion which utilises awesome powers to subjugate his kingdom.

Father Ejike Mbaka, the fiery Roman Catholic priest adored by many faithful of the church was perhaps trudging along the same line when last Sunday he fiercely denounced President Goodluck Jonathan in words beyond political damage.

 

Destiny of Nigeria

“I’m not saying that Goodluck is a bad man. He is a good man. But he cannot lead Nigeria. As things stand right now, from the oracle of the Holy Spirit, Jonathan should honourably resign quietly and let Nigeria be,” Mbaka had said.

“The destiny of Nigeria is greater than Goodluck Jonathan. The Goodluck in Jonathan has become a bad luck to Nigerians. Whatever brought him in should send him back and let Nigeria be.”

Mbaka had before that point given a rundown of what he perceived as the rot in the society citing unemployment, burgeoning insecurity, corruption among other things for his assertion.

Summarising the failures of the administration to failure to deal with corruption and insecurity and his almost unequivocal endorsement of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC,   Mbaka had said: “There was a time there was an argument about pension fund – such billions. Who is talking about it now? Billions and we were hearing it… from excess crude oil money, where is the impact of the excess crude oil money? Now from oil boom, it has met a bad luck; it’s now oil doom. If my father will be my leader and my siblings will all die, let a stranger be my leader and let my family be. All I’m trying to tell you is that we have not entered into any covenant with anybody.”

His assertions were indeed worrying especially for purveyors of the Jonathan second term project given the claim that the Southeast remains the strongest base of the president.

But given Mbaka’s wide following in the region it was not surprising that Buhari’s supporters were in ecstasy as the tape and comments of Father Mbaka went viral.

Mbaka is highly respected among adherents of the Roman Catholic Church for his miracles and seeming bold confrontations with some of the country’s past and present political powers.

He had in the past severally challenged political powers including former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State and his successor, Sullivan Chime. None of them got any advantages from their brushes from him.

Just weeks before the Senate primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the deputy president of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu even though not a Roman Catholic, had publicly sought Mbaka’s blessings and received it. Few days later the political grounds melted under his main adversary, Chime who subsequently faded away from the political scene.

It was perhaps in that light that Senator Ekweremadu also took the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan to Mbaka’s Adoration Ground few weeks ago.

In a pronunciation that has since been taken against him, Mbaka had at that time assured the First Lady that her husband would win the election.

Recalling that event last Sunday, Mbaka had said: “Last time, the First Lady came here. We are not partisan; we welcomed her. We did a spiritual drama here. Lifted four birds to fly up, the main one that should fly up refused to go. I did everything possible and that one is the healthiest of them all but refused to fly and the spirit of God said, don’t disturb him.”

“When God rejected Saul, David took over. Let me tell you, in the history of Nigeria, we have never experienced bloodshed as we have in the time of Goodluck. If Goodluck means bloodshed for Nigerians are you waiting until your own blood is shed? (shouts of No from the congregation).”

The initial message of support given by Mbaka during the visit of the first lady is now being used as a basis to challenge last Sunday’s contrary message.

Barrister Andrew Oru, a chieftain of the PDP and himself a Roman Catholic was vehement in his denunciation of the priest in an interview with Vanguard.

“One or two weeks before he made this latest push, he was there praying for Mrs. Jonathan that they should have a second term only for him to turn around and do a volte face and begin to castigate Jonathan.

Mental problem

Only somebody who has a mental problem has the capacity to say yes and no almost at the same time. Father Mbaka, I am a catholic but Father Mbaka is not the Catholic priest that we know and what he is doing, he is doing on behalf of a ministry and not on behalf of the Catholic Church,” Oru said.

“Unfortunately, people around there are gullible. Father Mbaka is not a man of God that he professes to be, himself and Bakare are the president and vice-president of the pulpit wing of APC,” Oru said as he called for discipline against him.

Remarkably, Mbaka is not the only Christian cleric that has come out in denunciation of the Jonathan second term project.

Pastor Tunde Bakare who was Buhari’s running mate in the 2011 presidential election in which he was pitched against Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo has also flayed Jonathan.

Bakare had almost consistently attacked the Jonathan administration and was at one time quoted as saying that he would not allow the president into his Later Rain Assembly.

If Mbaka and Bakare are personally offended by a second term for the president, Pastor Elijah Babatunde, founder of the INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church has taken his own crusade even to the president’s party, the PDP.

While predicting the defeat of the president, in his own New Year message, Babatunde had said that the PDP would itself be unable to produce another president for the country in the foreseeable future.

“President Goodluck Jonathan will be the last PDP president to rule Nigeria,” Mr. Babatunde, who is the church’s Primate, declared in an interview with a national daily, Daily Independent.

The opposition of the above clerics, however, fades when compared with the immense support the president has received from the hierarchy of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN.

CAN president Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor had come to be referred to as a member of the PDP given his staunch defence of the president on many issues causing friction between him and some other more moderate members.

In 2011 the emergence of Pastor Tunde Bakare as Buhari’s running mate was of little consequence to many in the Christian community who stood in solidarity with Jonathan.

Based on that Buhari had said that for him choosing a Christian clergy or even an ordinary Christian could be of little consequence.

Game changer

However, the choice of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, a senior pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God may have become a game changer for many in the Christian community.

Unlike Bakare who was dogged with controversies arising from his past political preachings and prophesies including the famous claim that President-Elect Olusegun Obasanjo would not be sworn in, Osinbajo is of a calmer but seemingly more cutting hue.

Since his emergence, Osinbajo has been firing from all cylinders putting the PDP in an uncomfortable position of hitting at a senior and respectable Christian cleric.

The involvement of clerics in the political arena is not limited to leaders of the Christian faith.

The respected Islamic cleric, Sheik Ahmad Gumi had last October written two separate open letters to President Jonathan and Buhari advising the two of them not to contest the presidential election on the fact of what he claimed was the tendency that their involvement could spur violence.

His action was widely misunderstood in some circles especially as he was seen as being against Buhari.

Responding to the misunderstanding against his assertion, Gumi had to issue a press statement in which he clearly affirmed that he did not have a bias towards any of the two candidates as he insisted that his intervention was simply to save the polity.

“For the records, I am not a politician and I don’t have sympathy for any of the political parties. My commitment for those that are fair and following what I do is always to ensure that the rule of law prevails in the conduct of all politicians and for the major stakeholders to avoid overheating our already saturated polity.

“If some of my comments, which some considered nasty and against their political interest and pursuit, will ultimately alert our largely unenlightened youths and subsequently prevent the looming bloodshed I foresaw, then the abuses and allegations of compromise against my person will be my own sacrifice to this nation”, he said.

Responding to the claim in some circles that he was against Buhari, he had said: “I have not said, as reported during the groups visit to me, that General Buhari is also corrupt as purported and erroneously disseminated. In any case, it is not my duty to determine whether anybody is corrupt or not or to even pass a damning verdict on him.

“May I state, however, that the content of my recent posting as clear as it is was publicized by some media outfits to deliberately mislead the public about my position, many viewed it as against Buhari or an indirect endorsement for Jonathan.

“The records too are very clear. There is no Nigerian leader I persistently criticize and censor like Jonathan because of the deficiency in his leadership to address many serious national issues today, in some part of the country .

“Criticizing Buhari will inevitably be seen as an act of blasphemy in the eyes of his supporters. They see anyone that speaks against what they believe in as a Jonathan man. This pathetic situation has to be reversed because the moment someone presents himself for leadership he is liable to criticism and answerable to people before God.

“The fact that there is religion in politics and politics in religion is the reason why I believe it is a duty for me to be consistent in addressing issues of public interest and to ensure that no human blood drops for the sake of anybody’s ambition, including the ambition of Jonathan and Buhari.

The intervention of clerics in the political arena irrespective of Gumi’s assertion remains a controversial issue.

The repeated visits of President Jonathan to the Holy Ghost convention of the Redeemed Christian Church of God has been flayed in some circles as an opportunity for him to extract sympathy from the members of that congregation reputed to be the largest Pentecostal congregation in the country.

Remarkably, a senior pastor of the church, Prof. Yemisi Osinbajo is now the running mate to Buhari putting a dilemma for those who had in the past championed Jonathan as the Christian candidate.

 

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