, 10 January, 2020 / 9:43 AM
A Nigerian Archbishop has termed as “surprising” and “embarrassing” claims that a Catholic priest in the West African country is partisan in the country’s politics, having expressed explicit support for a State Governor.
“It’s utterly Surprising that Fr. Mbaka would go so far as to name one person as governor against another,” Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins of Nigeria’s Lagos Archdiocese said in a “BBC” video clip availed to ACI Africa in reference to Fr. Ejike Mbaka of Enugu Diocese in Nigeria.
“It is embarrassing when you hear of priests, people in position authority, making statements that are clearly partisan as far as politics is concerned,” Archbishop Adewale added.
“The priest has been causing plenty political and other havoc for years,” a source within a Nigeria-based academic institution told ACI Africa Thursday, January 9 and added, “I got the video clip on our platform yesterday.”
“The issue has been in the dailies this week,” the Nigerian source confirmed to ACI Africa and referencing Archbishop Adewale’s video clip, the source said, “It was forwarded to our Academic Staff Platform. It's going viral on other platforms.”
In an interview with ACI Africa Friday, January 10, the Director of Social Communications in Nigeria’s Issele Uku Diocese, Fr. Charles Uganwa provided the context of the controversy, beginning from Gubernatorial elections in Nigeria’s Imo State.
Emeka Ihedioha of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was declared winner of the elections of Imo State and was sworn in as Governor in May 2019, Fr. Uganwa said.
“Hope Uzodinma who was a candidate of the ruling party in Nigeria’s federal government contested the election but lost. He went to tribunal and lost at first instance,” Fr. Uganwa explained and added, “The case is now in Supreme Court which is the apex court and judgement will be given any moment from now.”
“During his New Year message, Fr. Mbaka prophesized that Hope Uzodinma would win take over the state,” Nigerian Fr. Uganwa who is also the Editor-in-Chief of Catholic Beacon newspaper told ACI Africa.
In the video clip, Archbishop Adewale is seen stating, “The position of the Catholic Church on matters that have to do with politics is not to be partisan in the statements that are made.”
He acknowledged the need to be abreast with current affairs saying, “We as Church cannot be oblivious to the political events and happenings in the country or in the world at large.”
However, Archbishop Adewale clarifies, “We cannot be oblivious and therefore we have to speak from the point of view of principles, principles that should guide for instance elections that we are talking about. Principles that should guide political actors, principles that should guide relationship between government and people.”
In a Facebook post labeled Legion of Mary In Nigeria Institutions, Fr. Mbaka is presented as “the Parish Priest of Christ the King Parish GRA Enugu and the founder and Spiritual Director of Adoration Ministries Enugu Nigeria.”
Believed to have “the gift of prophecy,” Archbishop Adewale observes in the video clip, Fr. Mbaka is expected “to test whatever has been told to him in the light of the scriptures, in the light of the teachings of the Church and in terms of the authority given to leaders in the Church.”
“This kind of prophesy of visions that Fr. Mbaka is talking about is certainly not the kind we expect of priests in the Catholic Church,” the 60-year-old Archbishop decries.
“Every priest who is a diocesan priest in this country or anywhere else is directly under the authority of the Bishop of the diocese to which he belongs,” the Archbishop says and adds, “Fr. Mbaka falls under the authority of the Bishop of Enugu diocese and therefore he has a responsibility of calling him to order.”
“I can imagine that this must be giving the Bishop some challenges,” Archbishop Adewale thinks aloud and adds that Fr. Mbaka must be giving his Local Ordinary “a bit of a headache and I feel sorry for him and I hope that he finds some way of dealing with this matter that has been recurring from time to time.”
Hinting to possible punitive measures against Fr. Mbaka, including suspension from his active ministry as priest, the concerned Archbishop says in the video clip, “What could be done in the end is either to say okay you receive the sanction of being stopped from public ministry that’s a possibility. If it is not done, there must be a reason which I do not know.”
Born the only son of his parents, Fr. Mbaka hails from a “noble family” of a late Chief in Nigeria’s Enugu State, with kinspersons “renowned for their special talent in palm wine tapping in the community.”
As a youth, it is documented, Fr. Mbaka was involved in organizing rosary recitation sessions and “was also deeply involved in the rejuvenation of Charismatic group in St. Anthony’s Parish Ituku,” his native parish church.
When he announced his desire to become a Catholic priest, he faced resistance from his relations. “His kinsmen not only opposed the idea but also persecuted their little boy and made life one miserable experience for him,” the Facebook post indicates.
Following his ordination to priesthood in July 1995, Fr. Mbaka “was posted to the Holy Ghost Cathedral, the headquarters of Catholic Church in Enugu Diocese as the Assistant Diocesan Administration,” reads in part the Facebook post on the account “Legion Of Mary in Nigeria Institutions,” which has a narrative of Fr. Mbaka’s auto-biography.
Sr. Jecinter Okoth contributed to the writing of this story
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa