“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.
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.
Usman Okai Austin CNA, The Courageous and Fearless Voice In Kogi State by Oruma Paul
In The words of Elton Mayo, Courage is simply the willingness and boldness to confront any form of agony, pain molestation, intimidation, oppression, exploitation, victimization danger and unjust treatment melted on the masses by someone or those at the helm of affairs.
The above assertion is demonstrated over time by Usman Okai Austin CNA.
One of the reasons for the dwelling of our economy and infrastructural deficit today is because we do not have a strong institution or opposition that will stand firmly to check and confront excessive or immoderate of our political leaders.
Ever since Governor Yahaya Bello took over the mantle of leadership, the conditions of people living in Kogi state has been characterised with abject poverty, unemployment, unquantifiable underdevelopment and pandemic suffering.
In fact, the situation of people living in Kogi state is pathetically bad like an orphan abandoned by the whole world, we have been left to wallow in abject poverty.
The so call political bulldozer in PDP and other political party who ought to serve as a strong institution or opposition to challenge the maladministration of this present government become close mouthed because of fear of the unknown.
But here is a man who completely remain unruffled even at the height of unwarranted intimidation and provocation.
Here is a man who remain the voice of the voiceless even in the face of intimidation and torture.
In view of this I want to personally thank you Usman Austin for your doggedness and ability to stand firmly for the people even in a stormy weather as I urge you to come out and contest for any political position in kogi state come 2023 for I will personally take to street and campaign for you.
Thanks and God bless.
Oruma Paul Writes in From Abejukolo,
Omala Local Government, Kogi state.
Growing hunger in the land
As of April 2021, the inflation rate was the highest in four years.
Talk is cheap. But walking that talk is what truly matters for effective leadership. For instance, Nigerians have over the recent years discovered that some of our top political leaders are far removed from the harsh economic realities on the ground. They make fanciful promises during electioneering campaigns only to disregard or jettison them soon after mounting the pedestal of political power.
It is most painful therefore, that some 22 years after the return of democratic governance Nigerians have found themselves enmeshed in the quagmire of escalating insecurity, dire unemployment situation and massive job losses. Yet, those entrusted with the destiny of millions of the citizen wear other shoes than that of the people they claim to lead and cannot feel where they pinch them!
It is disheartening that contrary to the recent claim by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari during his Speech on Democracy Day that: “In the last two years we lifted 10.5 million people out of poverty – farmers, small-scale traders, artisans, market women and the like” the World Bank has refuted his statement with empirical evidences. That was barely three days after he made that speech.
In fact, a research carried out by yours truly over the past week has revealed astronomical jump in the cost price of raw food items compared to what they were as at 2015. That was when former President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration handed over the baton of leadership to Buhari and his acolytes. For instance, while a plastic paint bucket of garri cost N250 then it now goes for N1,200. A 50 kg of the same garri that sold for N4,000 now sells for N35,000. In a similar vein, a 50kg of rice has since moved fromN7,000 to N25,000.A basket of tomato that cost between N2,000 to N3,000 back in 2015 now sells for N28,000. Yes, you read that correctly. Meanwhile, the price of a small basket pepper has leapfrogged fromN4, 500 to N17,000 over the past six years. Similarly, a 50kg of beans that took N12,000 from the home maker’s purse now sells forN17,000.And a 50 kg of onion bulbs that sold for N5,000 now go for N35,000. And perhaps, if you are still in the dark a tuber of yam has jumped in price from N250 to N2,500 even as they are being cut into pieces since the average housewife cannot afford a tuber. Four pieces of sliced yam sell for N200! In fact, while listening to a related issue being discussed on Cool FM on Thursday the 17th of June, 2021 several family heads confessed that the hunger has become so real that they are compelled to remove some items such as chicken, turkey, even rice from their daily meals. That is the excruciating economic mess Nigerians have found themselves caught in. Yet, our government is more worried about gagging free speech under a democratic dispensation than doing all it could to rein in the hyenas and jackals of insurgency, banditry and kidnapping for ransom!
Not a few farmers in Zamfara, Niger, Bornu, Benue, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu states and even Katsina, the president’s home state are unable to access their farmlands due to all manners of insecurity ravaging their lands. So, we do not need rocket science to tell us that food prices and related inflation will continue to haunt Nigerians for some time. This is well captured with regards to the World Bank Report that gave a GDP growth forecast for Nigeria of 1.9% in 2021 and 2.1% in 2022, compared with 3.4% this year and 4.0% next year for sub-Saharan Africa. It also warned that in 2020 the Nigerian economy experienced a shallower contraction of -1.8% than had been projected at the beginning of the pandemic (-3.2%). Earlier in February, a World Bank report had projected that an additional 20 million Nigerians could be impoverished by 2022. Gloria Joseph-Raji, a senior economist at the Washington-based financial institution, predicts an astronomical surge by about 15 to 20 million people by 2022 from the about 83 million people in 2019 according to Ms. Joseph-Raji. This remains a timely warning signal to be taken seriously.What with agricultural imports exceeding exports by about N503bn in Q1 of 2021.
So, whether the president likes to hear this or not, the bitter truth is that we are currently confronted not only with hunger but the critical issues of extreme poverty and food/ nutrition insecurity. The national poverty line has increased from 69 million in 2004 to 112 in 2010, equivalent to 69% of the population. In the same period, the number of millionaires increased by approximately 44%. Income inequality, as measured by the Gini Index, grew from 40% in 2003 to 43% in 2009.
So, what is the way out of the wood? The federal government should be more decisive in confronting insecurity. It should proscribe the fully armed Fulani herdsmen that kill, rape and maim innocent indigenes across the states; to clip their wings in their ill-fated land-grabbing, malevolent mission. Since the president says that the state governors should play their part, he should allow for retooling of the 1999 constitution as the APC promised Nigerians in 2015. Doing so means giving ample room for the states to control their resources through a holistic restructuring, with true fiscal federalism. And of course, have their police as the chief security officers of their states. These will certainly boost local production of raw food items as the defunct Northern Region boasted of cotton, groundnut, hides and skin in the ‘60s. Back then the Western Region survived with revenues from cocoa and coffee and the East of rubber, fish and the root crops. The other significant issue is that of bridging the rich-poor gap that has worsened over the years. The Nigerian Living Standards Survey (NLSS) is the official survey that is the basis for measuring poverty and living standards in the country and is used to estimate a wide range of socio-economic indicators including benchmarking of the Sustainable Development Goals.
According to Oxfam’s calculations, lifting all Nigerian people living below the extreme poverty line of $1.90 out of poverty for one year will cost about $24 billion. This amount of money is just lower than the total wealth owned overall by the five richest Nigerians in 2016, which was equal to $29.9 billion.
Similarly, the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) should drastically reduce the huge pay package of political appointees and place them on equivalent civil salary scale in tandem with the tough economic situation as at this day. The time to act is now!
Baje writes from Lagos
Between Zulum’s capital projects and GYB’s celeb gimmicks
Every citizen is entitled to enjoy the dividends of democracy and it is important to note that, a responsible government will always strive to jettison antics aimed at depriving the masses of these privileges.
As a keen observant of the present administrations of Prof Babagana Zulum of Borno and Alh. Yahaya Bello of Kogi, I stand to be corrected that there is glaring vacuum between the duo in terms of their approach to what makes good governance visible in the minds of the people. For Governor Zulum, good governance is far beyond playing political gimmicks to the detriment of the masses who elected him into office. This is the man who the President, Muhammadu Buhari recently graced his state to commission seven out of 556 capital projects delivered by him.
“I am highly impressed by the very dynamic leadership that His Excellency Governor Babagana Umaru Zulum has been providing in Borno State in the last two years. He is very selfless and has been taking a lot of personal risks in order to guarantee the safety and welfare of his people.
I wish that every other person who has responsibility for the people at various levels will emulate Governor Zulum, instead of squandering so much time on unhelpful buck-passing and blame games. I have gone round to commission some of the capital projects executed by the Zulum Administration in two years. I am very happy with what I saw,” Buhari said during the commissioning.
Among the projects commissioned by Mr. President are: completion of the senate building, construction of two large hostels with 150 rooms for 1,200 students; construction of 34 units of duplexes and bungalows for Professors, senior and intermediate staff; and construction of seven kilometres of road and drainage network and undertook landscaping works across the University.
The President also commissioned two mega-size Government Day Technical Secondary Schools in Njimtilo and Goni Kachallari and a higher Islamic School, near the Shehu’s palace, all of which have 60 air-conditioned classrooms for at least 2,400 students; vocational workshops, laboratories for sciences and ICT, auditoriums and sporting facilities.
He also commissioned roads and drainages constructed in Jiddari Polo and first phase of 10,000 resettlement houses he had approved for Borno State from which 4,000 have been completed, among others.
The Yahaya Bello-led administration otherwise known as ‘New Direction Government’ on the other hand, has been in the news following its pronounced publicity stunt, especially using celebrities as political tools to gain goodwill in recent times. White Lion as fondly called by his supporters has received not less than 10 celebrities in the last two months in the state, with most of the visitors either ‘eating their cakes’ (without minding the backlashes at stake) or turning themselves to ‘praise singers’ in a bid to endorse the former ahead of the 2023 presidential election. What a great campaign strategy!
Recently, Super Eagles forward Kelechi Iheanacho aka ‘Senior man’ and ex-Super Eagles captain Mikel Obi respectively visited Yahaya Bello at the Lugard House in Lokoja, the state capital city. The two visits many Nigerians described as ‘shameful’ and ‘unnecessary’ considering the caliber of persons involved. But for Yahaya Bello, this is the time for ‘serious business’ and whatever the critics say is no way in match with his future ambition. The youth governor is ever-ready to sacrifice all to get public support for his presidential bid that he has decided to keep mum about pending the time he’ll deem fit to let the cat out of the bag.
Since its inception in 2016, The New Direction Government has always been criticised for neglecting the Kogites in terms of provision of basic amenities among other social welfare services, and this has been the major strategy for the opposition party to capitalise on. Where are the projects in the state if truly the governor claims to be working? Does it mean the governor is planning a surprise package to shock his accusers when the set time comes? Why has Buhari not visited the state to commission these ghost projects if truly they exist? These among many others form critical questions in the minds of the opposition party in the state.
According to reports, the governor seems to place more emphasis on political gimmicks rather than human capital development as against what his counterpart is doing in Borno. A vivid example is the publicity stunt of the governor where celebrities have now become regular visitors in the state with little or no positive thinking on how to improve livelihood of the masses who ought to have been enjoying the dividends of democracy as against the ‘iberiberism’ in place.
One fundamental question Yahaya Bello must answer is, why is the New Direction Government reluctant to commission its project in the state if truly they’re visible as claimed? The Governor must wake up from playing the hide and seek game if it must achieve optimal success in its administration. Imagine a state that is pronounced as the safest in the country still have records of banditry among other criminal activities that will never be mentioned in the news to avoid discrediting its proven track records on security. I don’t see sense in telling the world Kogi is the safest state in Nigeria when we all know that no state in the country is 100% safe as compared to what people in other developed climes are enjoying in terms of internal security.
It’s high time our leaders stopped politicising state affairs by majoring in the minority and vise-versa. Good governance is far beyond political gimmicks that has no positive influence on the electorates but rather makes the polity dirtier and more dangerous for the players. From Zulum’s policy, it has become clearer that we need progressive and productive leadership to make Nigerian states edifice of good governance irrespective of the ruling party on board. We’ve had enough of rhetorics, conspiracy theories and propagandas. Now is the time to choose between Zulum’s capital projects and GYB’s celeb gimmicks. But I advise we follow the right path.
By Arogbonlo Israel, journalist and good governance advocate, writes from Lagos
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