Bishop Callistus Onaga, Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese has finally axed Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka for his unprovoked invective against Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party; forbids all Catholics, including the clergy from attending his Catholic Adoration Ministry now closed
By Maureen Chigbo
IT was long expected. But the Catholic Church, known for not acting in a haste, had continued to tarry, instead of nipping in the bud, the many sinful attitudes of one of its clerics, who has threatened the faith of believers. Perhaps, having gotten away with a mere pat on the back to go and sin no more on previous occasions, when he dabbled into political controversy that grievously upset the fold, Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka may not have expected what hit him bam on the face on June 17. Callistus Onaga, Bishop of Enugu Diocese, welded the big stick and hammered “pastoral injunction on attendance to Catholic Adoration Ministry Chaplaincy Enugu” managed by Mbaka. Mbaka spluttered to retract the vituperation he poured on Peter Obi, which triggered the Bishop’s action. He apologised to Obi for calling him stingy and among other things, saying the presidential candidate of the Labour Party should come and kneel in his Adoration Ministry and would never win the presidency. He even prayed for his erstwhile game. But alas, the damage he has done to both himself and the Mother Church could not be repaired. Shortly after Mbaka’s apology has gone viral, Bishop Onaga came with a joker to asphyxiate Mbaka’s unprovoked rant against Obi, which angered Nigerian youths and members of the Catholic faith.
According to the Bishop, “In the light of happenings in the Catholic Adoration Ministry Chaplaincy, Enugu; capable of undermining the Catholic faith and teachings; and after several fraternal corrections and admonitions to Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka, the Chaplain of the Ministry; and after having given him pastoral directives and guidelines for the Ministry Chaplaincy, which he persistently violated; and in fulfilment of my pastoral duties as the Chief Shepherd with the obligation to promote and safeguard the Catholic faith and morals in Enugu Diocese, I hereby prohibit all Catholics (clergy, religious and lay faithful) henceforth from attending all religious and liturgical activities of the Catholic Adoration Ministry until the due canonical process initiated by the Diocese is concluded.”
Bishop Onaga said his “decision is based on the fact that some of the teachings and utterances of Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka at the Catholic Adoration Ministry are not consistent with the teachings and fairy of the Catholic Church.
“I enjoined all the Christian Faithful to keep praying for Fr. Mbaka and the Catholic Diocese of Enugu as I entrust him and the Diocese to the maternal care and protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
The Bishop’s action was triggered by Mbaka’s invective against Obi, also the former Anambra State governor, stressing that it would be impossible for Obi to become Nigeria’s president; that an old man president is better than a ‘stingy young man’.
Mbaka said: “A stingy man, that cannot give people his money, with this hunger ravaging the land, and you are saying he is the one you want. You want to die of hunger? Are you people insane? Where is the Holy Spirit? It is now that Atiku is seriously contesting for President; now that he is contesting without Peter Obi; it is now that he is serious.
“We want somebody that is serious. Unless Peter comes here to kneel, if he becomes president, he will close down this ministry. Listen, a good old man is better than a young wicked man; Peter Obi is going nowhere as far as God lives. If Igbos want a representative, it is not someone like Peter Obi. I should not have talked, but I saw my video going round everywhere as if Fr. Mbaka wholeheartedly came out and apologised. No, I didn’t apologise wholeheartedly, it was out of duress. I had to obey my Bishop. In obedience I had to; it is not of my volition. I did it because I am a Catholic priest, my Bishop said, do it, my own is ‘Yes my Lord’.
“I did not say he (Obi) is a bad man; I said he is a stingy man. A hungry man wants someone that is generous; the man has so much money… But that money will not be useful to him. I am very happy now that I have spoken out. That apology is a poisonous curse against Peter Obi. If he is wise he should have come here after that apology to say he is sorry but he waited. Anybody supporting him is wasting his money, he is going nowhere,” Mbaka said.
Realnews reports that there was an immediate backlash against Mbaka as Nigerians, especially youths, who are rooting for Obi roundly thrashed him on Twitter, urging him to be apolitical. For instance, one of the Twitter warriors for Obi is Aji Busu @AfamDeluxo who said: “On the 07/09/2021 His Excellency, Peter Obi donated ₦100m to Bishop Shanahan Hospital of Nursing and Midwifery, Nsukka. Enugu State. Yet Fr. Mbaka has the effrontery to tag Peter Obi stingy simply coz Peter Obi refused to be emotionally blackmailed in 2018/2019 in his church.”
Perhaps, the Bianca Ojukwu, Nigeria’s former ambassador and wife of late Emeka Ojukwu, anecdote on Obi summarises the views of many Nigerians of how wrong Mbaka was. According to Bianca, “Sometime in 2009, ‘Mr’ (as he preferred to be addressed) Peter Obi, Governor Of Anambra State at the time, visited Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and myself at Dallas, Texas. He came to deliver a get well message from Dr Goodluck Jonathan and was billed to attend a black tie event at the Dallas Marriot.
“Curiously, he flew into Dallas Airport with one small carry-on luggage, which he insisted on wheeling around himself, and on getting to our residence requested to freshen up. He opened his carry on, filled with files and paperwork and a few toiletries and an extra shirt, when the Ikemba and I asked if he was expecting another item of luggage, and he said no. ‘Then, what will you be wearing to the event tonight?’, we inquired. It was at that point that it struck him that he couldn’t show up in his casuals at such a ceremony.
“I insisted on taking him to the luxury men’s emporium at Nieman Marcus to buy a smart black suit. When we got there, he was busy doing the Dollar to Naira currency conversions. The suit that was a perfect match for him was a dapper Tom Ford suit with a price tag of 3,985 dollars plus tax. He did the calculations and told me ‘Do you know how many students this amount of money can train in Nigeria?’ I reminded him that he was the governor as well as the special guest, and for the caliber of guests expected at that evening’s occasion, including the mayor, senators and captains of conglomerates amongst others, he needed to be dressed in top form.
“To cut the story short, he refused to pay what he termed ’that outrageous price’ for the Tom Ford suit and that was how we ended up at Steinmart where he agreed to pay a more acceptable price of 220 dollars, tax inclusive, for a basic men’s suit which he was happy to wear to that evening’s event.
“What struck me, was that as we were on the way to the airport to see him off for his return flight back to Nigeria, he reached for his pocket where he brought out an envelope of crisp hundred dollar bills. The amount in the envelope was 3,800 dollars. He said ‘Anyanwu, this is the balance of the money I would have paid for the ‘Ford’ suit. If the label on the suit was ‘Peter Obi’, I am wondering if anybody in America will pay that amount for it. I have deducted the amount we paid for that suit we eventually bought. Please use this balance for your Charity foundation to help those in actual need. I trust you will do so’. We all laughed heartily. Vintage Peter Obi!
“The eventual beneficiaries of that Largesse were Madam Theresa Agbo, a yam seller, who became penniless and displaced when her yam shed was gutted by fire, Callistus Egbe, who was bedridden due to illness, and needed help with the school fees of his young children, and the Mgbemena family of six, who were thrown out of their one room accommodation (which we subsequently doubled to two rooms) because their breadwinner fell upon hard times and could no longer afford the rent.
“In Life, you either live by your creed or you desecrate the mould by which the Almighty created you. Any progressive nation measures an individual by his values, not his vaults. If this way of life is what is derided as ‘stinginess’ on the part of Peter Obi, then we all need to adopt this mould for a more sustainable and more humane environment,” the former ambassador said.
It appears that Mbaka with his current malfeasance against Obi, has finally boxed himself into a pit he has been digging for himself since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999. He began attacking Obi after the later refused to publicly announce a donation in his church when he honoured an invitation to the Bazaar in 2018/2019. Obi had asked him to show him a project to do for the Church, but he insisted on announcing his donation.
Realnews in 2015 in its cover story entitled the “Other Side of Father Mbaka: His Business Empire, Miracles” noted that the cleric does not shy away from dabbling into political issues instead of solely saving souls for God, which he had sworn to do many years ago during his priestly ordination. Each time Ejike Mbaka, a Catholic cleric and founder of the Enugu-based Adoration Ministry, makes caustic political statements against politicians, it not only reverberates across the nation, generating applause and odium, depending on the side of the divide one belongs. It also makes him to start shadow boxing albeit crying out that people are after his life, saying he will not be deterred by such threats. Never mind that none of the threats in the past had actually been investigated by the police to prove its authenticity. Suffice it to state that Mbaka, who is renowned for his miraculous performances will heavily rely on divine protection to shield him from the present real or imagined threat from his foes.
Mbaka’s claims of threat to his life then started with his sermon on December 31, 2014, where he said that the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan spells disaster for the country, calling on him to resign quietly. According to Mbaka, he has been receiving threat messages following his New Year eve message entitled “From Good Luck to Bad Luck”. During the sermon at the Christ the King Catholic Parish, GRA, Enugu, Sunday, January 4, 2014, Mbaka said if such threats could move him, he would not even be standing before the congregation that morning. “Tell them I am not afraid of them. I have said what I was asked to say. The only word I have for them is Isaiah 54:15,17: “Surely they shall gather, but because the gathering is not of God they shall scatter. No weapon fashioned against me shall prosper. They said Buhari gave me money, but I have never met with Buhari. I don’t know him in person. I only delivered the message I was given and I stand by that message because the future of this country is bleak with Jonathan on the saddle,” he said.
Mbaka claims that he had delivered the message he had been given raises the question of who gave him the message in the first place. Is the message from the living, dead or the Spirit? He was silent on the name of the person, implying that it was divinely given which begs the question of whether the same divine spirit also inspired the message he publicly gave in November 2014 to Patience Jonathan, wife of the president, when she visited his church barely a month to his current utterances. Mbaka had told Patience that her husband had done well and deserved a second term. He said Jonathan could have done more if not for “distractions”, clearly alluding to security challenges the administration grappled with for years while faulting those blaming the president for not rescuing more than 200 schoolgirls abducted from Chibok by Boko Haram militants nine months ago. “Jonathan is not a kidnapper,” Mbaka said at a mass service also attended by deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, and thousands of worshippers.
At the time Mbaka supported Jonathan for a second term, the Enugu-Onitsha has been dilapidated for years. Why didn’t he tell Patience about the bad road then and counsel that Igbos are becoming increasingly frustrated because they have got nothing for the massive support they gave to Jonathan before and after his election as president? Given that he must have had the First Lady’s ear for even a moment while she was in his enclave, why didn’t Mbaka tell Patience the home truth only to suddenly turnaround with a vociferous criticism of the husband’s first term tenure?
Realnews investigation showed that the cleric’s frustration to reach Patience on the telephone must have fuelled his vituperation on the President and made him switch his support to Buhari. A glimpse from Mbaka’s statement on Sunday, January 4, supports this view. “When she came here, I told her to give me her number so that I could give her messages, but thrice she refused. It was later she told one of the pastors with her to give me his number. So, before that message, I had called the number for two weeks but it was always the personal assistant to the pastor that picked the calls,” Mbaka told his congregation.
If it is true that Patience shunned him, is it possible that Mbaka, a man of God could be acting out of spite? Those who had brushes in the past with the cleric are convinced it could be so. Former officials of the Enugu State government during the administration of Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, who wish anonymity, recollected that the governor had a similar encounter with Mbaka. The officials recalled that Nnamani’s problem started with the cleric after Mbaka took him to the monastery and prayed for his success in the 1999 election. After his successful election, Nnamani allegedly failed to meet the persistent demands of Mbaka, which strained their relations since 2000. This culminated in Mbaka roundly accusing Nnamani of being responsible for the stampede that happened at the Adoration ground during which 12 people died in the tragic incident in 2002.
In a nationwide circulated video broadcast, he rained curses on the governor over what Mbaka perceived to be his misdemeanors mainly based on bad governance. He campaigned against the re-election of the governor in the 2003 gubernatorial election. Although this ugly tale is now history, suffice it to state that despite Mbaka’s injunction to his congregation not to vote for Chimaroke, the governor went ahead to win his second term reelection bid. Since leaving office as governor, Chimaroke has been a two-time senator and is currently vying for a third term.
This happenstance begs the question of how much weight Mbaka’s word have among his worshippers. Although Jonathan did not win in 2015 and President Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected in 2019. Seven years after Mbaka’s prediction of President Buhari as Nigeria’s messiah, the reality on ground now is that the present administration has been marked by innate corruption. There is abject poverty and massive insecurity never before seen in the country and no Eldorado in sight for Nigerians. Could Mbaka’s vengeful preachment on Obi materialize in 2023?
The facts on ground does not suggest so. Worshippers at the Adoration ground numbering about 5000 are not all from Enugu state as they troop in from neighbouring states, including Anambra and Ebonyi and they return home to their various parishes where their parish priests are more likely to have influence on them. Secondly, Mbaka’s position is not the position of the Catholic Church, which has banned him from holding his Adoration Ministry. What he said during Jonathan’s and now Obi’s case, is his personal opinion. As many Catholic clerics have denounced it and Bishop Onaga has prohibited his ministry in Enugu Diocese. Also, Bishop Adewale Martins of Lagos Dioceses had once said on Channel’s television, Mbaka is not speaking for the Church, but on his own accord.
Similarly, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, former Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, had said that given the rules of the church, Mbaka ought to be sanctioned when he attacked Jonathan. The Kogi-born cardinal, who dissociated the Catholic Church from Mbaka’s statement on Jonathan, was quoted by ThisDay as saying: “Mbaka will take responsibilities for his own actions. I do not believe in my mind that the way things are in Nigeria, any Catholic priest has the mandate to decide which of the political contestants should be voted for. What most of us will do is to tell people to vote according to their conscience and then, we tell the authorities to allow people to vote freely and fairly.”
Nonetheless, the fact remains that Mbaka has once again ruffled feathers like he did during Jonathan’s administration. Like in 2015, Nigerians are disenchanted with the Buhari administration. Many Nigerians, especially the youth have adopted Obi because of his puritan politics and constructive message of turning Nigeria into a productive from a consumption nation.
Nigerians will wait till 2023 to see how Obi fairs politically.
As for Mbaka, an average statured slim man in his middle age, whose limbo just started, has a charisma that draws people to him. Years back, Realnews spotted him at the Enugu airport and observed the way youths were falling upon themselves to greet him on arrival. Mbaka opened his bag and threw wads of Naira notes to them and they fell over themselves in their scramble for the money, while he slithered into a waiting vehicle.
Mbaka is running the Adoration ministry, which debuted in the late 1980s in the GRA area of the coal city. Residents in the quiet highbrow neigbourhood complained intensely about the problem he was causing them because of his activities in the area anytime he holds his programme. But no one listened to their complaints over the years as the popular belief is that he is working miracles. The residents of the GRA where the cleric began his healing ministry heaved a sigh of relief only in 2013, when the cleric relocated to the permanent site of the adoration ground in Umuchigbo, Emene, Enugu State which still attracts crowd of worshippers made up of miracle seekers, the healthy and the infirm..
Many of his followers confirmed that he had worked miracles in their lives, testifying to their being healed of their ailments, and receiving fruit of the womb after his prayer sessions and after they have listened to his Christian music. One of such people, who wishes anonymity, told Realnews that the man of God’s prophesy for her family came true and that the cleric revealed that the cause of her sickness was traceable to someone close to them in the family. Even though Mbaka did not tell them the name of the person, he assured them that the evil plans of their enemy would not work and that she would recover fully.
The cleric, who hails from Ipuku in Enugu, is also a big time business man, who has commercialised his religious activities. He is making very good use of advent of mobile telephony in the country to minister to his followers, who had to purchase a customised recharge card at different rates through which they call him for prayers and counselling.
Apart from being a Gospel singer, who has released many albums, which has touched souls, Mbaka’s business empire stretches from manufacturing companies to schools. His companies under the parent name of Aquarapha produces consumables such as sachet water, bottle water, vegetable oil, yoghurt and olive oil. He also owns a recycling plant, Adoration Ministry Enugu Nigeria, AMEN and produces Exercise Books, AMEN stickers, AMEN recharge cards and AMEN prayer books. With his array of companies, Mbaka provides employment for more than 1000 Nigerians.
The Catholic Church must find a way to strike a balance in the punitive measures against him to ensure that they do not play into the hands of those with hidden agenda, who want to halt the spread of the faith in the region by goading the unsuspecting and recalcitrant Mbaka, whose ministry in a way, has been drawing youths, who could otherwise fall prey to a different violent religion, to his Golgotha. Should that happen, both the Church, Mbaka and South East are the losers.
First published – June 18, 2022 @ 19:07 GMT | C.E