Ejike Mbaka, a priest of the Catholic Church’s recent double speak on President Goodluck Jonathan and the 2015 elections has elicited a beam into his life as to the kind of man of God he is and his business empire
| By Maureen Chigbo | Jan. 19, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
HE is not new to controversy. And he 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 have actually been investigated by the police to prove its authenticity. Suffice it to state that Mbaka who is renown 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 present claims of threat to his life started with his sermon on December 31, where he said that the reelection 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, 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 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 has 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, 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 fueled his vituperation on the President and made him switch his support to Buhari. A glimpsed 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 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 reelection 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.
This happenstance begs the question of how much weight Mbaka’s word have among his worshippers. Will his stance that the roads built by Buhari and Babaginda during the military regime have not been maintained by the present administration affect the fortunes of Jonathan’s reelection campaign?
The facts on ground does not suggest so. Worshippers at the Adoration ground numbering about 5000 are not all from Enugu state as the troup 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. What he said is his personal opinion based on the true situation of poor infrastructure in the South East. As Bishop Adewale Martins of Lagos Dioceses said on Channel’s television, Mbaka is not speaking for the Church but on his own accord.
Similarly, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, said given the rules of the church, Mbaka ought to be sanctioned for his recent comments on Jonathan. The Kogi-born cardinal who dissociated the Catholic Church from Mbaka’s statement, 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 ruffled Jonathan’s feathers and his sermon resonates with most people in the south east who feel betrayed by a president who appears not to give much to a geopolitical zone that gave him block vote and has remained his most ardent supporter. But is this enough for anybody to threaten the life of the cleric?
Igbonekwu Ogazimorah, former commissioner of information in Enugu State, says no, adding: “I agree with him on what he said. But that does not mean anybody is after his life.
Who is this controversial Catholic cleric who warned that Nigeria needed change and if Jonathan is reelected “the next four years will be hell for the country. People are crying of hunger but then you will see what is hunger.” Mbaka, an average statured slim man in his middle age, 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 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 will not work and that she will recover fully.
The cleric, who hails from Ituku 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 (which is under construction). 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.
This must explain why people view his remarks against Jonathan with mixed feelings. Some residents in Enugu think Mbaka’s opinion may not have much impact on the electorate while some think it will have a negative impact. A third group could remain neutral about the remarks.
Ogazimorah is of the view that Mbaka’s cant will have little influence on the electorate. “The truth is that his (Mbaka) statement is resonating with the social media which is making it have a national outlook for someone who is localized. What he said about Jonathan and the South East is true. Mbaka was right that Jonathan has neglected the south east. In fact, it looks to me that Jonathan is disdainful of the South East. That said, how much weight does Mbaka’s campaign against Jonathan carry. From all indication, it is not much judging by a similar campaign he waged against Nnamani for years in Enugu State but it did not truncate Nnamani’s second term ambition,” Ogazimorah said.
Another reason Mbaka’s remarks may not work the way he intended is because many of his worshippers who are majorly the masses may not be able to resist the Peoples Democratic Party’s, PDP, stomach infrastructure politics which it effectively deployed in Ekiti State to win the election.
However, Simon Okechukwu, a politician and member Catholic Knight of St. John International, defended Mbaka when he opined that the cleric said President Jonathan should step down because of what is happening in the country now which he could handle. Okechukwu recalled that Mbaka prayed and blessed Mr. President in November ahead of the presidential primaries. “As a politician, it is obvious that the message would affect the voting pattern during the elections mostly in Enugu and south-east where Mbaka has large followers. But it will only affect Catholics not everybody. As a man of God, it is not wrong for Mbaka to call the president to order when he sees something going wrong. As a man of God, you have to speak out. He was pushed by the holy spirit to speak out.”
On the other hand, Basil Okagu, manager, Bamaiyi Petroleum limited, in Effium- Ezzangbo road, Ebonyi state, thinks the message will affect the voting pattern only if Mbaka is allowed to continue preaching against the President. He noted that already the Catholic Secretariat has called on the Bishop of Enugu diocese to call him to order. “I think the pattern of his preaching now is not wise. What he should be doing is to strike a balance. He is not supposed to be biased at all. The revelation of the Holy Spirit is welcomed if truly he received it. But the presentation is capable of undermining the voting pattern of the south east electorate because the Catholic community is a large entity in the region. What he is supposed to be saying now is how to tackle terrorism. Terrorism should go. The politics of this country is not a regional affair, or family affair. It has to be balanced and we cannot succumb because of terrorism.”
Reported by Anayo Ezugwu