Not Involved in “disgraceful petition to Pope”: Political Party on Nigerian Archbishop

Archbishop Valerian Maduka Okeke of Nigeria's Onitsha Archdiocese. Credit: Onitsha Archdiocese

The leadership of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has distanced the Nigerian political party from claims that some of its members petitioned the Holy Father to dismiss Archbishop Valerian Okeke for engaging in partisan politics in favor of the West African country’s Labour Party (LP).

In a petition dated March 19, Catholic members of the APGA allegedly accused Archbishop Okeke of encouraging Priests under his administration to ditch their primary apostolate of preaching the gospel to engaging in public campaign for LP.

In an article published March 21 under the headline, “APGA Catholics Petitions Vatican, Accuse Archbishop of Working for LP”, Catholic members of the Nigerian political party are quoted as saying, “Priests disregarded competence and merit by taking advantage of their presiding positions on the altar to abuse the minds of their flock to vote for only candidates of the LP without recourse to capable Catholic candidates and non-Catholics in other Political parties.”

The petitioners are said to have urged the Holy Father to “urgently intervene to safeguard the integrity of the church” following what they termed “the insensitivity and gross wickedness unleashed on the candidates of other parties (many who were Catholics,) by Priests of the Onitsha Archdiocese.” 

In a March 22 report, the leadership of APGA describe the alleged claims of the petition against Archbishop Okeke as “tendentious, provocative, and malicious… maligning and disparaging the exalted personality and office of the Metropolitan See of Onitsha.”


APGA officials distance themselves from the publication, saying, “We wish to state unequivocally that neither APGA nor the Governor of Anambra State, Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo was involved in the so-called disgraceful and shameful petition to the Pope against our beloved Archbishop Okeke.”

“As far as our party is concerned, the church has not done anything whatsoever to warrant such a needless petition against the Archbishop of Onitsha, whose leadership qualities and mature dispositions have combined to sustain the developmental initiative Anambra State has witnessed under APGA,” they say.

APGA officials further say that the collaboration between the church and Anambra State has contributed to the peaceful coexistence, security of life, and protection of property in the Nigerian State over the years.

They argue that the fact that the petitioners drag the name of the party and the governor-elect of Anambra State “into their devious and clandestine plot” indicates that their motive is to “destroy the beautiful relationship the party, the government and the church have enjoyed over the years.”

In the March 22 report, APGA leadership accuses the presidential candidate for LP, Mr. Peter Obi, who became third in the February 25 disputed presidential election, of commissioning the petition.

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“We are aware that Peter Obi and his cohorts were disappointed with the outcome of the March 18, 2023, House of Assembly election, especially in Anambra State, and has vowed to pull down APGA by activating his Plan B in his nefarious plot to conquer Anambra State for the LP,” APGA officials say.

They add, “It is most unfortunate that Peter Obi, hiding under the guise of faceless and nondescript petitioners, is working hard to destroy the peace in Anambra State by sowing the seed of discord and fanning the embers of hate.”

APGA officials further say that they are determined to unmask all the individuals involved in the “wicked publication”, and add, “We will not hesitate to seek legal redress once all the people involved in this show of shame have been exposed.”

They continue, “We wish to reassure His Grace, Archbishop Okeke, of the reverence, love, support, and understanding of our party in his unremitting effort to foster mutual coexistence and ecumenism between the church and political parties, the government, and the people.”

Media reports have indicated a “deluge” of fake news on social media forums following Nigeria’s recently concluded general elections with experts and activists crediting political actors for expanding “the scope of misinformation”.


For instance, Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Sokoto has, in a recent disclaimed, dismissed reports that Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah found Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Nigeria’s president-elect, as the most qualified person to rule the West African country.

In the disclaimer shared with ACI Africa on March 21, the Director of the Diocese of Sokoto’s Directorate of Social Communications said that Bishop Kukah’s interview with Nigera’s Channels Television had been “doctored” by those he said were desperate.

In the interview that Channels Television uploaded on February 22, Bishop Kukah said that Nigeria has had a tendency of electing leaders who are never prepared when they ascend to the throne.

“You can go all the way down in Nigeria, you’re not going to find one single person who has been president or head of state in Nigeria that came prepared for the job,” Bishop Kukah said.

The report that an online platform, NIGERIAN NOTCH, published March 19, however, described Bishop Kukah as “controversial”, adding that it is only Tinubu that the Bishop found well prepared for the presidency.

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In the Sokoto Diocese disclaimed, Fr. Christopher Omotosho, the Social Communications Director, said, “In the last few days, certain desperate individuals have been circulating fake stories purported to be the result of an interview that our Bishop granted to Channels television.”

“It is claimed in the doctored and slanted text that the Bishop said that neither Alhaji Abubakar Atiku nor Peter Obi qualifies to be President and that only Asiwaju Bola Tinubu best qualifies,” Fr. Omotosho added.

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.