“Man has an incurable habit of not fulfilling the prophecies of his fellow men.”-Alistair Cooke
Had he read this quote from Alistair Cooke, a British American journalist, Rev. Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka would have been circumspect about his “I saw it coming” winning predictions for Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and Hope Uzodinma in 2020. Circumspection would have saved the popular priest the national embarrassment he is facing over his right to comment on the President’s poor performance in office.
If you are a current affairs commenter and something concerning your faith crops up and is trending, you need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to attend to it judiciously to avoid bias or poor judgment. Politicians may not care about taking unpopular positions on issues so long as their political interests are served. Not so for the writer who is conscious of the demands of public interest and his duty to speak truth to power in the public space.
In various ways, Father Mbaka of the Adoration Ministry, Enugu, Nigeria (AMEN), has taken the Catholic Church to its high and low points. Easily, his ministry is the most popular. He has also dragged the church into needless political controversies. If you are expecting me to tongue-lash Father Mbaka for allegedly soliciting contracts from the government he had helped to install, so to say, you will be sorely disappointed. As a Nigerian, Fr. Mbaka has not done anything unexpected or unusual trying to reap where he sowed.
No crime committed even before God who, so the Bible says, has ordained seed sowing and harvest time for as long the earth remains. Even the Canon law is not against that. The people who denied him compensation for his support of Buhari should have issues with their conscience. Much of the restiveness across the country today is traceable to the useand- dump practice in our polity which Buhari took to the next level.
If with all his encumbrances, Sheikh Isa Ali Pantami, who contributed little compared to Mbaka in making Buhari President in 2015, is a full cabinet minister, what is wrong with Father Mbaka getting a contract? If Mbaka had come from the North or been connected to the Caliphs and took such a high risk to support a President his followers didn’t want, he would have been asked to nominate ministers and others for appointments. The Presidency even had to plead for the forgiveness of Pantami ignoring the advisory that is suited for his likes from Syed Ata Husain, an Indian General, that “forgiving a terrorist is left to God, but fixing the appointment with God is the soldier’s responsibility.”
Buhari and his henchmen knew of the massive collateral loss suffered by Mbaka for the President’s sake. Besides threatening his priesthood, Mbaka’s open declaration for Buhari in an enclave that denied him 97 percent vote cost the cleric a flourishing business.
Soon after declaring his Buhari support, Aqua Rapha that was the prime table water in the market in the South East and beyond suffered unprecedented rejection from consumers. It’s people like Mbaka who deserve to be given FG contracts. He would have delivered contract jobs and gone further to use the proceeds to feed the thousands of poor people on his payroll, as a scholarship and other acts of charity.
He is one of the biggest single employers of labour in Enugu State, the base of AMENl. He just conand secrated a church he single handedly built in his village. Mbaka and his Adoration Ministry can afford more than one private jet but he is not even eyeing one because he is on the side of the poor. He is easily the most hard-working Catholic priest in the South-East if not Nigeria.
It is worthy of note that Fr Mbaka does not deserve any accolade for going the wrong way outside his very successful mission in the priesthood. One had expected him to openly apologize to his followers for supporting Buhari and for dragging the name of the Holy Spirit around as his guide.
He should just have withdrawn his support for Buhari, going further to ask him to resign or be impeached was politicking which was bound to attract reprisals from the President’s attack dogs. He should have seen it coming. A Wada Nas of Abacha era would have done worse than Garba Shehu. Why the Catholic Church advises priests to refrain from partisan politics is because of the impracticability of serving God and mammon at the same time without getting bruised. When a child is restive and attracted to fire and breaks its mother’s restraint, it may be necessary to allow the child to have a brief feel of burning fire. If seeing is not believing, feeling is it.
Mbaka knows better today. In 1992, the Rev. Fr. Moses Adasu of the blessed memory emerged as a gubernatorial candidate of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) and even won the election as governor in Benue State against the advisory of the Catholic Church. Like Fr. Mbaka, Adasu got the feel of dining with the devil and realized that even a long spoon was not enough safeguard.
People who are furious about Fr. Mbaka’s botched political outing with Buhari have even suggested his defrocking from the priesthood. But such people do not understand the Catholic Church. Nobody, not even the Church’s alter-ego, the Pope, can by his attitude affect the Catholic Church fundamentally to warrant a rash action to satisfy the often sentimental public.
When Jesus tells Peter, “On this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it,” the Catholic Church symbolizes it with Pope Francis as the 266th in the papal seat of St Peter. Also, when Gamaliel told Jewish leaders trying to halt the initial Apostles to leave them alone that if what they do is not of God it will crumble like the others in history they heeded his advisory and it worked.
When Fr Mbaka’s controversial prophecy on Buhari and Hope Uzodinma was generating heat, Nigerians wanted the Church to act on him but it would not, believing that if it’s not of God, the truth will come out. Where are we today? The same Mbaka, a Buhari and Uzodinma protagonist yesterday, is today among the growing club of their antagonists the extent that his behind-the-scenes deal with the ‘devil’ is being exposed!
What makes the Catholic Church tick is the priesthood, when you are trained and found worthy of priesthood in the line of Melchizedek, you must have been set aside. And that is what Fr. Mbaka is in a very special way and may remain so until the end of his time. During his political battle with once dreaded Governor Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State, Mbaka said the bible in his car wedged the bullet aimed at him by the reigning dragons of the time and nobody doubted him. Even his traducers are still in shock. Though a Catholic, I am not a fan of Fr. Mbaka, but I cannot allow him to pass by me without blessing me because I know who is an anointed man of God.
A number of my relatives are his buffs. They call themselves ‘umu ikuku’, Igbo for ‘children of the wind who cannot be caught by an evil spirit’. You cannot enter into an argument with Fr. Mbaka Adoration member (umu ikuku) concerning their idol and win.
He is their special Daddy on earth. Imagine the commotion in Enugu yesterday when they could not find their Daddy at the Adoration ground, the Bishop was forced to release him from the so called ‘protective custody’ On a very solemn note, my senior sister Caroline Abonyi passed on in an accident in 2013 while rushing to travel to Enugu from the village for Fr. Mbaka’s adoration. Those who came to console the family when she died said to us that her spirit must have gone to that adoration ground from where it was lifted to heaven and now resting with the angels.
Who am I to doubt as a Catholic and believer in the resurrection, especially knowing the kind of selfless life she lived while on earth. The fundamental thing in all the Fr. Mbaka brouhaha is the evidently poor performance of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, especially as it relates to insecurity in the nation.
If Buhari was doing well in the delivery of democracy dividends which securing life and property are key as enshrined in Section 14, subsection 2b, of the constitution, “the welfare and security of the citizens shall be the primary purpose of government”, Fr. Mbaka may not have made his U-turn. Nobody wants to be inside a sinking ship if he can jump out and that was what the fiery priest did. The issue of a contract is intended as a distraction. Fr. Mbaka’s goodwill may have been diminished for being where he shouldn’t be but the image of the church is intact. Huge lesson for all not to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
God, help us.