By Prisca Sam-Duru

It’s been an activity-filled week as Nigerians kept themselves busy through various media platforms, making commentaries on the sudden outburst of Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, the Catholic priest and Spiritual Director of Adoration Ministry, Enugu, Nigeria (AMEN), against former Anambra State Governor, Mr Peter Obi. 

The reaction of Fr. Mbaka’s devotees on the Catholic Church authority’s directive to shut down the ministry, also elicited various opinions and condemnations. It was a no holds barred situation as people disregarded the Biblical injunction not to judge, especially God’s servants, and bared their minds on the issue.

Rev. Ejike Mbaka had during his ministration, accused the presidential candidate of Labour Party, Peter Obi, of being “stingy” and, because he had cursed him, he won’t win the 2023 presidential election. That statement has brought nothing but shame and disgrace to the Church, was supposedly borne out of what transpired between Fr. Mbaka and Peter Obi in the past. In a viral video, during the AMEN bazaar, the fiery Priest is seen, cajoling Obi to donate money to the Church but the former Anambra State Governor, in his usual manner, requested for a church project which he would work and finish. 

This did not go down well with Fr. Mbaka who wanted cash. That incident gave rise to some declarations against Obi’s aspiration to become VP in the 2019 general elections. It didn’t end there, he openly voiced his support for President Buhari for obvious reasons. Recall that after Rev. Mbaka’s resumption to church activities of AMEN which was suspended following his devotees violent attack on the Bishop Court and diocesan cathedral, he was banned from commenting on partisan politics. 

His recent outburst against Peter Obi apparently indicates he has not learned lessons from the past. 

 The sad thing about the whole rancour is that Mr Peter Obi is from the South East just like Fr. Mbaka; a zone which many people have been supporting to produce the next Nigeria president. So, why such decrees against his brother’s aspiration? Also both are Catholics; Obi, having been born in a fundamental Catholic home- his elder sister is an ordained Catholic Sister and the younger brother, an ordained Catholic Priest. As a devoted Catholic, in 2013, Obi was awarded Papal Knight of the Order of St Sylvester by the Supreme Pontiff, His Holiness, Pope Francis. 

He is one of the few to be recognised by the Pope and one of the first sets to be so recognised by Pope Francis. Papal Knight is not easy to come by and Obi was the first person to merit it through using the instrument of governance to serve God and humanity. Now you understand why people are miffed because Fr. Mbaka’s negative utterance against Obi was because, according to him, he (Obi) is ‘stingy’. 

“That’s not stinginess”,  Tundun Abiola said on Arise TV Show adding that, “Stingy people have an unhealthy relationship with money and cannot bear to part with it. Obi’s sort of ethos is about what he spends the money on and I think he’s really frugal with public funds but generous with his own personal funds. People like Peter Obi feel there’s enough for everybody’s need but not for everybody’s greed and that’s commendable”. 

Well, Rev. Mbaka has backtracked and apologised to the presidential candidate of the Labour Party in 2023 elections, Peter Obi, and his supporters for the unguided comment. But, it appears, apparently fed up with his controversial comments, people would not hear of it.

 On same Arise TV show, Rufai Oseni has a message to the Cleric. “My special announcement to Rev. Mbaka; please Fr. listen, he no dey give shi shi! Obi no dey give shi shi and he will not give. Why should we have a society where men of God are acting this way and we can’t call them out? This man, should we go through his retinue of false prophesies? This was the same man that endorsed president Muhammadu Buhari.

“This was the same man that said the eagle – the bird has flown away from the administration of Goodluck Jonathan. I’ve said this before, men of God have no business dabbling into politics in such a way that they now start to prophesy and force people because they don’t give them money. 

This is very bad and smells of hypocrisy. Its people like this that try to bring down the name of the house of God. As a man of God, you’re in a lane where people respect you, why don’t you just stay there. But because you want to grab and, what are you going to do with the money but for your own personal selfish means”. 

Good to know that the Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, raised his voice against what he called ‘personality cult’ rearing its ugly head in the Catholic Church. 

“Catholic Church in Nigeria will resist any attempt by any of its priests to engage in “personality cult” in the name of adoration”, he said. In his Sunday homily at St. Aloysius Catholic Church, Mpape, Abuja, Archbishop Kaigama, encouraged Catholic priests to seize advantage of the ‘loyalty and respect’ they command among devotees to strengthen unity, peace and love among the people and communities instead of otherwise. His words: “Priests should not allow the Mass to become an occasion for drama, exaggerated inculturation or utterances that are purely political or mundane. People come to Jesus at Mass to get spiritually nourished by the word and the bread of life, and refreshed for the long, rough and tough journey to heaven.

“To this end, approved Catholic ‘adoration centres’ in Nigeria should really be for adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, not where to intimidate, manipulate and extort people or where a priest attempts to create a personality cult by careless and insensitive utterances and drama”.

Oseni corroborates this admonition by Bishop Kaigama. “I saw a picture of this same Peter Obi giving 100 million naira to a Church. Like Tundun said, he has priority for his money. This is sad and we have come to a point where we say enough of all this by so-called men of God. They should not use God to bamboozle us.

“God is not this way. God is pure, kind, and good. But what you are doing is putting God in a bad light. 

This is heretic, against the gospel of Christ our freedom, against dying on the cross of Calvary. It’s an aberration to the Body of Christ. It’s not about the diocese just reacting and saying…they must take a tough first start. I’m not in position to judge him, God please forgive me for judging. This makes people make mockery of Christianity and men of God”.

Oseni’s testimony about Peter Obi’s prudence is just one out of many. Nigeria’s beauty queen, Bianca Odumegwu-Ojukwu has testified in that regard, citing an encounter with Obi while abroad. On Bianca Ojukwu’s testimony, Dr Reuben Abati who was on same Arise TV programme, said, “That is the kind of virtue that we need in a presidential aspirant or candidate in Nigeria.  I think the Catholic Church has tolerated him (Fr. Mbaka) far too long. Why does his Bishop allow this kind of conduct to continue?

As if in response to calls for sanction against the controversial priest, the Bishop of Enugu Catholic Diocese, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga, in a pastoral injunction, imposed a ban on AMEN. 

He instructed Catholic faithful not to go there for any activity until due canonical process initiated by the Diocese is concluded. 

Quoting from the statement issued by the Enugu Catholic Diocese, Dr Abati, explained that “Fr. Mbaka in this instance, has violated two Canons of the 1983 Canon code called Canon 220 and Canon 287. Under Canon 220, they are not allowed to harm a person’s name which he did by calling Peter Obi a stingy man. And under Canon 287, you are not allowed to engage in partisan politics in the manner in which he does. Bishop Onaga  said Canonical process would be followed.

“You’d recall the other time when the bishop tried to discipline him, he alleged that he had been abducted. We hope that he’ll minimise his penchant for drama”.

A good number of people believe that the ban was long overdue owing to some other incidences in which Fr. Mbaka delved into political controversies or made scathing remarks against some individuals. Recall last year, during one of his sermons at the adoration ground, he said that God is angry with President Buhari because of his inaction on the spate of killings across the country. He asked him to resign or the National Assembly should impeach him.

 This was the same Buhari whom he campaigned for in 2015 and 2019 as the ‘awaiting messiah’ for Nigeria. As its ‘natural’ for the APC-led government to fight back, Fr. Mbaka’s friendship with President Buhari went soar. And in a war of words, he was tagged a contractor. The presidency accused him of turning against Buhari’s government because he was not given contracts. The clash was a disappointing one, an embarrassment to the church.  

Honestly, the aftermath of Bishop Onaga’s directive that AMEN be closed till further notice, puts the Christianity of Mbaka’s devotees to question.

 Punch in one of its reports on the matter, observed that in “less than 24 hours after the ban, some Mbaka’s followers thronged the Adoration Ground on Sunday in disobedience to the Bishop’s ban and protested against Onaga, calling him unprintable names”. This speaks eloquently of the cult following Bishop Kaigama mentioned in his statement on the unfortunate development. It is the height of disobedience and frontal challenge of the Catholic authority in Enugu State. 

The idea of protesting in the streets against a Bishop or Catholic hierarchy for taking decisions on matters of grave concern is novel. It presents the Church in bad light. Usually, a petition is written to higher authority when there’s disagreement or an issue; and the matter is resolved. The actions of the Adoration Ministry congregation negate the precepts of Christendom. They seem to be worshiping their leader (the creature), more than the creator (God), as warned in the Holy Bible in Romans 1v 25. Imagine watching them in viral videos, screaming; ‘no more Bishop’, ‘no more Bishop’, ‘Bishop Onaga must go’, etc. This is absurd! As followers of Christ who should have been nurtured into disciples of Jesus Christ with respect for authority, the worst they should have done would be to go to the nearest Catholic Church or any other Church for that matter, and worship; while they wait for the Church to reopen.

 In any case, thank God they only protested because the first time these people rioted they destroyed things without caution. This time, the Adoration Ministry leader quickly disassociated himself from the protests on Sunday against the ban imposed by Most Rev Onaga. Good a thing Fr Mbaka quickly called his followers to order, cautioning them to desist from disrespecting the revered Bishop. This intervention averted a repeat of the violence his followers unleashed on the Church last year.

Then, reports said “followers of the fiery priest poured into the streets after they declared him “missing”. They marched from the Adoration Ground in Emene to the Bishop’s Court at Independence Layout, where they destroyed some parts of the building. From the Bishop’s house, they moved to the Holy Ghost Cathedral and destroyed window louvers, doors, the bishop’s office, a bookshop, guesthouse, two buildings, four big water tanks and other facilities. Some workers at the Cathedral sustained injuries during the attack. When Mbaka later appeared, he told his followers that he would have been kept incommunicado by the bishop for 30 days, but for their protest”, The Guardian reported. 

In a statement, Bishop Onaga confirms the Guardian report: “On May 5, 2021, the followers of Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka of the Adoration Ministry Enugu, Nigeria, violently broke into the diocesan cathedral and desecrated the holy altar of sacrifice. Over and above this, they brutally vandalised the diocesan bishop’s residence, the cathedral parish house and the secretariat building complex”.

Remember that after that incident, Rev. Mbaka and his followers were accused by the Catholic Church in Enugu State of desecrating the holy altar. The Church called for prayer of atonement and reparation on those that undertook the action. 

 Concerning the protest on Sunday 19, 2022, Mbaka in a statement, disowned the protesters and warned them to stop the protest. He said he “received with obedience the directive of the Bishop” and warned his followers against any measure of violence either in action or by abusive utterances. “May I, therefore, appeal to the faithful, in particular, members of Adoration Ministry Enugu, Nigeria, to remain calm and united with the Body of Christ in the Diocese and also refrain from any measure of violence either in action or by abusive utterances.”

Those who take to attacking or insulting my dear Bishop, should desist from such.”

As mentioned above, people don’t seem satisfied with the apology of the Cleric and his acceptance of Bishop Onaga’s decision. They wish to see a lasting solution to the persistent embarrassment his inconsistent predictions and statements have brought upon the Body of Christ. 

According to Dr Abati, “in 2018/2019, he did a similar thing to Peter Obi and Obi was saying, show me a Church project and I will support; he wanted Obi to donate money. So, is his adoration Ministry a money collection ministry or a place where he’s supposed to preach? He needs to be called to order”.

In 2014 before his sweltering New Year eve attack on President Jonathan, in which he demanded that  he resigned or be voted out due to Nigeria’s growing insecurity and level of corruption, Fr. Mbaka had a month earlier praised Jonathan for “doing well”, despite not rescuing the abducted Chibok girls. 

As documented by the media, during a November 2014 ministration, Fr. Mbaka told the visiting wife of the president, Dame Patience Jonathan, that her husband had “done well”, and deserved a second term, adding that he could have done more if not for “distractions”.

“Jonathan is not a kidnapper,” he defended. Whatever happened between him and former president Jonathan, one cannot say but few weeks later, the priest did a U-turn and urged Dr. Jonathan to “quietly resign” for failing to stem corruption and insecurity, and failing to provide jobs for Nigerian youth. He also endorsed and canvassed for support for Dr. Jonathan’s main challenger in the presidential election, Muhammadu Buhari. “…Im 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. The destiny of Nigeria is greater than Goodluck Jonathan”, Mbaka was quoted as saying.

Another instance was his meddling with politics in Imo State. According to media reports, Fr Ejike Mbaka, had during  the 2019 crossover Mass, asked Ihedioha who was then governor for few months, to prepare to leave office, saying that Holy Spirit had rejected him, and that new hope, with a new flag, will take over the government of Imo state.”Those who are attacking the message are just casting Pearl before swine, the Holy Spirit has said it, and that is final.

“I don’t know how it will happen, but the only thing is that I see hope, joy, and a new government coming in Imo state”. Is this true about present Imo State?

“Even though Ihedioha has won in a tribunal and at the Appeal Court, that doesn’t mean that he will triumph in Supreme Court enough of all this brouhaha!

“Ihedioha and co should go and relax. This is not unprecedented, it happened to Jonathan, Atiku and Peter Obi and after everything, my prophecy came through. You must not be the Governor of Imo state, and you are not better than Hope Uzodinma,” Mbaka was again quoted as saying. The people of Imo State are in a better position to say if life now better or not.  

The entire scenario to say the least, is disappointing and shameful. And to avert future occurrence, it is believed that Fr. Mbaka would abide by whatever further decision his spiritual father, or the Catholic Church authority takes, for the good of not just the Catholic Church but the entire Christendom.

Also, Christians irrespective of denomination must understand the importance of being knowledgeable, by studying the Scriptures and allowing the Holy Spirit to do the interpretation for them. This way, they’ll not fall prey to antics of false prophets or those simply out to make merchandise of them.

 In addition, enough knowledge will make them obey and respect authorities rather than revere any man or woman of God above the head of the Church; Christ Himself.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.