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Government & Politics

Father Mbaka: Priest Or Political Soldier?

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In from Timothy Enietan-Matthews . . .
These, indeed, are interesting times when Nigerians are treated to different forms of absurdities on daily basis. A lot of things that happen, no matter how odd or insane it may be have come to be viewed as normal in Nigeria.

One of such incidence is the transfer of a priest, Rev Father Ejike Mbaka by the leadership of the Catholic Church. An exercise which should have been a normal internal administrative process, soon became a national discourse, with the priest and a section of Nigerians, even a political party accusing the Church of having an ulterior motive.
Father Mbaka loves controversy and the attendant media attention and hype it gives him. He courts controversy in a rather unusual manner for a priest, especially of the Catholic Church, which is usually viewed as being conservative

His utterances before the 2015 general elections, where he publicly declared support for the candidature of the President Muhammadu Buhari gave him out as a highly partisan clergyman.

Aside taking sides, he at several times publicly spoke against former President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Patience to the consternation of people of good conscience who still believe priests and the church should be neutral in matters of politics.

It would also be recalled that after Buhari became President, Father Mbaka was received at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where the President praised him to high heavens, describing him as a very courageous man. This praises he received at the Villa must have prompted the controversial cleric to declare, moments later, that some people are planning to kill the President.

Father Mbaka loves controversy and the attendant media attention and hype it gives him. He courts controversy in a rather unusual manner for a priest, especially of the Catholic Church, which is usually viewed as being conservative

And when his posting came, an otherwise normal action in the Catholic Church, Mbaka’s reaction was a clear indication that he has other things on his mind asides priestly work. It also shows his level of loyalty and commitment to the Catholic Church, given that the Adoration Ministry under which he makes most of his pronouncements is his private ministry, and does not belong to the Catholic Church.

The priest, who was posted to Our Lady Parish, Emene from Christ the King Parish, GRA, Enugu, had busted out, in what was seen as a betrayal of his true motives, saying his transfer was meant to make him suffer.

“I know we are going to suffer within now and few months to come. I am going to suffer and suffer; I know that. I’m going to suffer because I have no place to put my head. I am going to suffer because I have no place to keep the Adoration Ministry’s assets. I know I’m going to suffer,” the priest said.

What the priest means by “I am going to suffer and suffer” remains to be understood. Does it mean that the parish he was sent to oversee does not have a mission when he said I have no place to put my head? What does it take to keep the assets of the Adoration Ministry? And in any case, should Mbaka’s private businesses be the headache of the Catholic Church, which has actually been liberal by allowing his personal ministry overshadow his primary duties as a catholic priest?

In yet another display of oddity, the South East zone of the All Progressives Congress, APC, joined Mbaka in attacking the church over the legitimate exercise of its administrative process.

And in any case, should Mbaka’s private businesses be the headache of the Catholic Church, which has actually been liberal by allowing his personal ministry overshadow his primary duties as a catholic priest?

The party, in a statement, accused Bishop Callistus Onaga, Mbaka’s boss of being manipulated by external forces to transfer him.
“As a party, we have watched with concern and trepidation the criticism, the attack, assault and unpleasant comments hurled against Fr. Mbaka since he providentially prophesied that President Buhari would win the 2015 election.

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“Even the church did not spare him; he was called unprintable names, yet his prophecy came true”, Osita Okechukwu, the zone’s APC spokesman said.

The APC statement clearly gave out the priest and the party, exposing potentially, what many Nigerian may not know about the pact between the two parties. Or in what way does location affect the efficacy of prophesy? When did administrative process of the Catholic Church become a political issue, requiring the intervention of the APC?
Reacting to Mbaka and APC’s allegations, the Catholic Church, simply clarified that nobody is out to punish anybody but that the priest is being sent to where he can be more useful to the church, in the exercise of the legitimate powers of the Bishop.

Reverend Father Ralph Madu, General Secretary of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, in an interview, described transfer of priests as a normal procedure in the church.
“Mbaka’s own is not an exception. The Bishop has the right to post any priest wherever he feels his service would be more useful to the church.

In what way does location affect the efficacy of prophesy? When did administrative process of the Catholic Church become a political issue, requiring the intervention of the APC?

“His posting should have been a privilege, not a punishment – which the Bishop can do because he has the power.
“If he (Mbaka) says it’s a punishment, then it’s open for further investigation. Posting is a regular thing, a priest can be transferred after two, three, four, or more years, it depends on the discretion of the Bishop.

“That ministry (Adoration Ministry) is his private ministry, it does not belong to the church. Overseeing a parish is a full time job. Overseeing a ministry is a bigger task. If the church decides to take him somewhere where he’ll have more time to carry out his ministry, how is it punitive? That should not be the language.

“He is supposed to be a missionary. What if the Bishop had closed down the ministry‎, which is within his power to do? Sometimes, transfers can be for the good of the priest as something can be going wrong which he might not be aware of. The Bishop is free to move any priest at any time, it is his prerogative.”

Those who know will readily testify that the priesthood environment is a regimented one that those who cannot cope have the option of opting out! Father Mbaka has the option of toeing the path of honour by throwing in the towel and leaving the Catholic Church instead of running foul of the rules and bringing the church to disrepute over unnecessary controversies. With this, he can concentrate of his Adoration Ministry and also be resident in a city of his choice without anybody taking ‘punitive’ actions against him because of his political views, or inclination.

RipplesNigeria …without borders, without fears


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