By Ikem Okuhu
It is obvious that the Catholic Church in Nigeria has lost the fight to rein in one of their most vocal evangelists in the South-East, who has carved a niche for himself as the champion in the very profitable area of prophetic political evangelism. I do not know just yet how this failure will impact the largest Christian denomination, whose strongest demand for its priests is unquestioning obedience, but it does not look good, considering how the fiery, often controversial sermons of Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, has negated the letters and precepts of the Catholic faith and the core of the message of Christ, the greatest prophet Himself.
Fr. Mbaka is currently not the only priest tearing up the seams of the Catholic fabric practice with flagrant impunity. Somewhere in Anambra State stands another priest, Rev. Fr. Chibuzo Emmanuel Obimma, popularly called, Fr. Ebube Muo Nso (translated to mean “the Glory of the Holy Spirit), whose adoration ministry draws desperately sick and poor pilgrims from all over the country and beyond. Only recently, Fr. Ebube Muo Nso was subject of media confrontation with Anambra State Governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo over the management of waste and the challenge of criminals, otherwise known as Unknown Gunmen, in the state. Somewhere in Nsukka Diocese is also another Priest, Rev. Fr. Paul Obayi, popularly called, Fr. Okunerere (the consuming fire), who has made a name for himself among priests in the Nsukka Diocese for rebelling against the Bishop, and, among his kinsmen in Nguru, for his now futile efforts to take ownership of community lands.
In Benue State, it was also heard of a priest, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, who was suspended by his Bishop for opting to vie for the office of the governor of the state, without the permission of his Bishop.
While these very sad examples present disconcerting signs of a church that is increasingly losing control of those it anointed to carry on its messages around the world, my focus on this intervention is on the tempestuous outbursts of the owner of the Adoration Ministry of the Holy Spirit, Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, whose latest sermon on the pulpit should not just worry the Catholic faith around the world, but should also present a serious challenge to the tenets of Christianity as a whole.
Mbaka, I can recall, became very famous during the regime of Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani as governor of Enugu State. The frequent confrontations with the powers that be at the time, spread his name to the ends of the country. If Governor Nnamani became unpopular among many people in the state at the time, his fight with Mbaka contributed well over 50 percent of the vibes that tarred the medical doctor-turned politician. This might be the reason why successive administrations, including the present one of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi made it a mater of state policy to court and cultivate the friendship of the fearless priest, whose sermons, for or against any political leader, reverberates far and near and contributes in no small way to how public opinion are formed about whoever makes it as the subject of his praise or upbraid.
He grandstands as the voice of the multitude of poor people in the state, and through this and sundry other methods, has turned his Adoration Ministry into a multi-billion naira enterprise. His table water brand, Aqua Rapha, is taken the number one selling in the South-East, and contributed in no small measure to the closure of Coca-Cola bottling plant in Enugu.
Mbaka will always say the money he makes goes to the poor, and that he grants scholarships to the indigent and even provides food. No one who is not an insider can question this, but the breathing squalor you could sense among his adherents does not suggest the billions he rakes in from his many businesses do go round equitably.
I give it to him, some of his political prophesies have come to pass. The most important of these was the triumph of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and 2019. In fact, he called Buhari the “Messiah” that was coming to save Nigeria. I do not know how “messianic” President Buhari has been in the past seven years, but Mbaka was correct here. He was also spot on when Hope Uzodinma was contesting for the governorship of Imo State. On the log of ballots cast during that election, Uzodinma was a distant 4th, but a controversial ruling of the Nigerian Supreme Court propelled him from the bottom to the victor’s stand.
But has he always been right? Last year, Mbaka was widely reported to have predicted the failure of Prof Charles Soludo to win Anambra governorship elections. But here we are! Soludo did not just win, but has been sworn in as the Governor of Anambra State.
Now, the subject of Fr. Mbaka’s prophetic mercantilism has become Dr peter Obi, presidential flag bearer of the Labour party for the 2023 elections in Nigeria. True to type, Mbaka’s words were direct, caustic and, permit me, very un-catholic!
Mbaka has been widely reported in the media to have proclaimed that Peter Obi will not win the presidential elections, for the queer reason of his alleged stingy nature.
Hear the priest: “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? … we want somebody that is serious. Unless Peter comes here to kneel, if he becomes President, he will close down this ministry. What we are doing is spiritual.”
Recall an extremely embarrassing previous incident at the hallowed Adoration grounds of Fr. Mbaka, where the priest employed all manner of persuasion, cajoling and threats all crafted to make Dr. Obi to make a donation to the priest and his church, to no avail. The latest outburst, from all indications, is a direct, vindictive follow-up to that failed attempt for this astute businessman to handover money to Mbaka.
I doubt if it is necessary to query this priest on his idea of a stingy person. On the contrary, I am interested in differentiating prudence from being stingy. I also do not know whether the God that Christians worship has ever prescribed donations to churches as the earth-moving equipment that clears the narrow pathway to Heaven. And this is why I strongly hold that Mbaka has become unacceptably un-catholic and unchristian in his approach to evangelism.
From the portion of his sermon that I shared in this article, Mbaka is increasingly manifesting traits of a relentless narcissist. For him, it is all about Mbaka and not really about even sacrificial giving. For him to have advised Peter Obi to come to his adoration and “kneel down” suggests a man to has long progressed in error into self-deification. He is the god, and his god has to be appeased, same way the pagan gods that Christianity claim to have dislodged demand blood and other forms of placatory sacrifices for their needs and prayers to be answered.
It is a shame that the Catholic church has failed to contain the loose canon that Mbaka has become. I have heard that this reluctance has been driven by fear: fear that should he be sanctioned as his offences demand, he might leave the Church along with his teeming supporters. Does this also mean the Catholic faith has also caught the mammonism trap and does condone excessive behaviours that run contrary to the foundations of the faith because of fear of financial losses?
Let us even assume that, like Fr. Mbaka suggested, Dr. Peter Obi is a stingy person, shouldn’t that be the sterling quality that Nigeria needs during this period when profligate politicians have freely and recklessly been helping themselves to the lean contents of our commonwealth to the detriment of the common good? This country has been in sustained moral and economic meltdown because those entrusted with leadership have been unduly generous with our national wealth. What we need at this time is a prudent manager of resources, a fair allocator of values and a thinking economic-minded leader whose DNA speaks to creation and multiplication of abundance.
Peter Obi is a proven resource manager, a clever and wise investor and one who believes in the rewards of real work. Religious houses and clerics should pray for a leader who is not thrilled by the vanishing garlands and empty applauses given at launching ceremonies. Why Mbaka loves those who will come before him to announce billions of naira that he does not care how they were earned is evidence of the moral captivity many suspect have invaded the collective Christian conscience.
It is frightening to also observe that the very characteristics that Christ condemned among the Pharisees and Sadducees of old is what Mbaka has reintroduced to Christendom and I doubt if it bodes well for the enduring evangelical life of the faith. When Christ was here, he left only one rule of conduct, which he squeezed into one positive four-letter word, LOVE.
In his only Commandment, he implored His followers to “love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12) and to “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:39).
Expanding this Paul, the Apostle wrote in 1Corinthians 13:4-8 that “Love is patient and kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
If Fr. Mbaka’s priesthood is anchored on this eternal command, why would he publicly say that he had “cursed” Peter Obi? Is he even in the position to curse Obi or anyone? If indeed Obi had done something against him that requires forgiveness, and I doubt if refusing to bribe him with donations constitutes any offence, religious or statutory), doesn’t the command of Christ presuppose forgiveness from him?
I did mention somewhere in an earlier portion of this article that, contrary to Mbaka’s uneducated perception, there is a world of difference between being stingy and profligate. And I have not seen anywhere in the liturgical literatures I have read, where it is said being stingy is sinful. And Peter Obi is not STINGY. He is just a very principled and prudent person and if these are the reasons Mbaka does not want him to lead this country, then it is extremely unfortunate.
I am from Nsukka in Enugu State. The biggest hospital in our town, Bishop Shanahan Hospital, was built by missionaries that were working at the St. Teresa’s Catholic Church, now the Diocesan headquarters of the Church. This hospital has been facing infrastructural challenges for some years and it was this stingy peter Obi that donated N100 million towards the upgrade of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at this location. I do not know if Mbaka is aware of the mind-boggling infant mortality rate in some parts of this country, but someone should inform him of what this N100 million could do to solve stem this tide.
Obi has made donations of hundreds of millions of naira to schools, hospitals and institutions that solve problems for the ordinary people, and that, for me, is true evangelism. I have not read anywhere that he was said to have given donations directly to churches. His donations are usually targeted at making life better for the vulnerable and not to swell the prophetic egos of priests and pastors.
In this election cycle, my support is for Peter Obi. I have thrown my hat in the ring for this purpose, not because I am sure he will win. The Nigerian political establishment, to which Mbaka has shown his alliance, will fight to ensure this renewed hope for a new Nigeria is thwarted. But I am not bothered. I want to count myself as one of those who stood up when the opportunity to rescue this country arose. If he wins, I will join the millions of Nigerians currently rooting for him to celebrate the new opportunity to rebuild this battered nation. If he fails, it would not be that I did not try. And more importantly, it will not be because Mbaka’s fear-mongering dissuaded me from trying.