My first reaction when I listened to the condemnation of President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Hope Uzodinma by Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka, was to say to nobody, in particular, “the Priest has started again”. He is in his familiar territory. He did it to the Jonathans in 2019. Before them, he did it to thbe cerebral former Governor of Enugu State, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani, now a Senator. The then Governor ignored him, and put a lie to his negative prediction.
Mbaka had sworn that Nnamani would never get a second term in office over a stampede at his Adoration Ground which took the lives of people.
Ordinarily, the organisers of that crusade ought to have been prosecuted for poor crowd management. The Government let it ride. But to, excuse this cliche, add insult to injury, Mbaka turned around, laid the blame on the Government, and swore Nnamani would never get a second term in office.
If he did, Mbaka swore, he would remove his Priestly Cassock.
Well, as you know, Nnamani got his second term. Yet, Mbaka is wearing his Cassock, and doing what he knows best: political predictions, and invoking doom upon anybody who crosses his path, or doubts some of those predictions.
Let me, then, confess that the above title was not my first choice. I had two in mind: Fr. Mbaka, We ‘Don Tire’ or The Priest As A Drama King, you know, the male version of a Drama Queen.
But when Garba Shehu, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, hit Mbaka below the belt, I hit the roof.
My first questions were: Why does Shehu think he is entitled to be rewarded for working for the President’s success in 2015 and 2019, and Mbaka is not entitled to it? Or is it because Mbaka is wearing a Cassock? Not likely, because the Priest’s Cassock drips of politics. So, he is entitled to the same reward. Like Shehu, he worked for Buhari.
But, thereafter, my anger boiled over at what an otherwise gifted Roman Catholic Priest has reduced himself to. I wanted to slam Mbaka to assuage my embarrassment over Shehu’s unnecessary below the belt attack. And I wanted to do that using a strong title.
That was until I listened to an arguement between a number of mutual friends. Their consensus was that between Shehu and Mbaka, there is no difference. One of them said it was like the kettle calling the pot black. Another said it was like looking for the difference between 12 and a dozen. I picked that. So, the title above
Their story is simple. It is the story of two people who did same job, different ways, but now quarrelling over patronage. One is enjoying the spoils of office. The other is very upset at being short-changed and so, revolted. For the purpose of this write-up, a little digression is necessary.
Rev. Fr. Mbaka, a Roman Catholic Priest, is the Founder and Spiritual Director of the Adoration Ministry. He holds sway in Enugu State. He says he is gifted. His multitude of followers agree. He says he is a Seer, a Dreamer, the equivalent of the Biblical Joseph. They agree with him. He says he is a Prophet. They also agree with him. Whatever the Holy Spirit tells him, he makes public. A couple of days ago, he disclosed he could not be held responsible over his predictions. On the Buhari and Uzodinma victory predictions, for example, he said he only made public what the Holy Priest told him.cases, But he never quite explained what happened in the Nnamani case, why he failed.
In fairness to Fr. Mbaka, a few of his predictions had come to pass. That has attracted, to him, a very large congregation.
Between him and the man at the Synagogue, Ikotun, Lagos, T. B. Joshua, I don’t know who attracts a larger congregation than the other. But like Joshua, Fr. Mbaka’s clout goes beyond Enugu State.
Because of his predictions he is like a rock star. He has a cult-like followership.
Politicians flood his Church. They rely on him for political miracles. They cling to him, particularly, close to elections.
Their journey does not end with his prayers and “endorsement.” You must donate. If you don’t do so voluntarily, he asks for it by pointing out the projects his Ministry has at hand. If you still don’t get it, you face the humiliation of your life. Ask Peter Obi, the 2019 Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP. For Obi’s well-celebrated stinginess, Mbaka humiliated him before the congregation and Obi’s entourage.
Fr. Mbaka is not just rich, he is, reportedly, richer than the Roman Catholic Diocese of Enugu. He confirms, not in too many words.
This other day, the Rev. Father said 23,000 people are directly in his employ. He pays them every month, he emphasised. He feeds them too. There are some he pays every two weeks, he added. And he picks the bills of several students. Probably a billionaire, he makes money for the Catholic Church too.
No wonder, many say his colleague-Priests hold him in awe, and are afraid of him. Even his Bishop, they insist. For his wealth and popularity, they say Mbaka thinks he is untouchable. Perhaps.
Here’s one example.
The Headquarters of his Adoration Ministry was in the capital city of Enugu State. He was the lord of the manor. But, one day, a couple of years ago, his Bishop dared. He transferred Fr. Mbaka out of Enugu, to a suburb Emene. It was a routine posting. No Priest stays in a Parish forever. So, no big deal. But for Mbaka, it was a big deal. He made it a media war, almost, against the Bishop. He said he was being peresecuted.
So, how did a Priest with so much influence, so much clout, so popular, descend to the level of exchanging below the belt blows with Politicians?
Fr. Mbaka is not, officially, known to be a card carrying member of any political party. Of course, Priests should have an interest in the candidates that offer themselves for election. But normally, they should be neutral, and pray that the best candidate wins. Not Fr. Mbaka.
He plays more politics than politicians. He looks at his crystal ball, gauges the mood of people at that particular time, and pitches his net.
In 2015, he suddenly pitched his net for Buhari against President Goodluck Jonathan when he noticed that the APC had not only overwhelmed the PDP with propaganda, but some PDP big shots in the North, including a considerable number of Governors, not to forget former President Olusegun Obasanjo, were hell bent on a Jonathan ouster. See, it was easy for Mbaka to queue in, and jump ship.
In 2019, the same game played out. Mbaka saw the writing on the wall. An incumbent, a former Army General, Mbaka knew that Buhari, having become President after failing three times, was not likely to give it away, on a platter of gold. Only a Jonathan could have done that.
Mbaka is smart.
He is in the habit of being close to the powers- that- be. But mid-way, it goes awry. The question is: why? Does he put too much pressure on them for patronage? He says not true. But events and his actions point to the contrary. I begin with President Goodluck Jonathan.
Mbaka was close to him and his wife, former First Lady, Patience. On the day Mrs Jonathan and her entourage went to his Church to worship, he heaped praises and prayers on her husband, the President. He said they were the best, and would be in office for eight years. In his usual manner, he cursed those who would work against the couple’s success in the Villa . Everybody chorused Amen. But a few months later, Mbaka made a u-turn. Why?
He put the blame on Mrs Jonathan.
The Fr. said Mrs Jonathan never took his calls. He said he asked for her private phone number, but one “cheeky” aide played a fast one on him. The number he gave him turned out not to be the First Lady’s private number. Some aides do that, atimes, not to their Principal’s knowledge. “I never got to speak to her”, Mbaka lamented. Each time I called, an aide would pick, and never passed the phone to her.”
So, Mbaka fell out with them. He said God had taken the glory from them. Seeing the mood of the nation as noted earlier, especially, with the sad incident of Chibok Girls, Mbaka backed Buhari. He campaigned for him more than APC card-carrying members. He predicted Buhari’s victory. Buhari won.
And Mbaka’s profile went a notch higher than before.
In the first five years, Mbaka kept referring to Buhari as Nigeria’s ultimate messiah. In 2019, during his Church’s money-spinning Annual Harvest, Buhari sent a delegation which included, among others, then Governorship Candidate, Senator Hope Uzodinma, and Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje. It was the day Mbaka shook the faith of many discerning Christians in what he preaches.
Peter Obi, a staunch Roman Catholic, and then Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP, had gone to worship in Mbaka’s Church. But Mbaka, put Obi down over non- donation to his Church. He cajoled Obi, using every tactics which, almost, boiled down to blackmail, to donate money to his Church, or adopt a project. When Obi wouldn’t budge, Mbaka called him stingy, and told him he and the Presidential candidate, Abubakar Atiku, would fail, unless ….
It was an embarrassing scene. But it got worse minutes later when the Presidential delegation arrived. Mbaka told them how he disgraced Obi because of Buhari. He also told them he was being peresecuted because of his support for the President. I don’t know who was persecuting him, and why.
But Mbaka should know that he was not the only Cleric who prayed for President Buhari’s victory. Most Clerics pray for politicians. It is like gambling. If it clicks, fine. If it does not, no big deal.
A Cleric in Ilupeju, Lagos, once predicted Chief Arthur Nzeribe’s victory over Shehu Shagari, and later, over Olusegun Obasanjo. But I digress.
Before the Presidential delegation, Mbaka turned a beggar. He told them that the President had done nothing for him or his Church for all the support he gave him. He went on and on. Same day, and this was before the elections, he told Uzodinma that he would be Governor. Everybody cheered.
The vision he did not see is that he was not the only Cleric who told Uzodinma of his possible victory at the polls, even though they knew not how. Two high profile Catholic Priests, superior to Mbaka in rank – one, a Cardinal, the other, an Archbishop, gave Uzodinma quite some hope. For months, they prayed along with him. But none of them, till date, made a song and a dance of it.
That day, the Presidential delegation donated to his Ministry some money and promised to build a hospital for the Church, a project he drew their attention to. The congregation cheered.
Buhari won. And so did Uzodinma, at the Supreme Court. And Mbaka’s profile rose some more.
He revelled in Buhari’s victory. For five years and counting, he never said a word against Buhari. He saw no evil, heard no evil, and condemned no evil. He never mentioned Lear Sharibu. He never condemned rogue Fulani Herdsmen wreaking havoc across the country, including in the South- east, even in Enugu State where he lives. He never condemned the rising insecurity in the country. The kidnappings. The killings. The raping of women. The abduction of students. Nothing.
Mbaka never condemned the proscription of IPOB, and its labelling as a terrorist organisation. Or the incident at Afara- Ukwu which led to the forced exile of its leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. He never asked why rogue Fulani herdsmen have not been branded terrorists by the FG. Or, why his Muslim counterpart, Sheik Abubakar Gumi, would be sitting with AK-47 -carrying Bandits, dialoguing with them? He never asked why nobody is dialoguing with IPOB members or asking them: “How market? He never encouraged the FG and SE leaders to dialogue with IPOB to avoid the accusations and conter- accusations which have followed the unprecedented violence and killings in the once most peaceful zone in the country. He saw none. And condemned none. And pleaded for none.
Well, until last week.
When l first heard of Mbaka’s condemnation of Buhari and Uzodinma, I couldn’t stop laughing. The Priest is, atimes, “a drama king.”
Forget the reasons he gave for abandoning Buhari. The main reason is that they cut him off. They did not fulfill the promises made to him – the hospital project, for instance They stopped taking his calls. It was the same thing with Mrs Jonathan. Father Mbaka should ask himself why he suffers that fate.
He had two things against Uzodinma – not taking his calls, and not coming to his Church for Thanksgiving. In the case of the President, he didn’t quite say, except that as many are saying, Mbaka just woke up to realities. But it was left for Garba Shehu to tell us why.
In an ill-advised response to Mbaka’s call on the National Assembly to impeach Buhari if he does not resign, Shehu, his tongue as acidic as ever, told us it was because Buhari refused to award contracts to Mbaka.
That was cheap. Shehu did not need to descend to that level.
Shehu worked for the success of the President, as did Mbaka. Shehu was rewarded with the position of a Presidential aide. What was Mbaka’s reward? What is good for the goose, it is said, is also good for the gander. The pot should not call the kettle black.
That Mbaka asked for contracts is really, not a big deal, except that it is morally wrong. But he is not alone. A number of Clerics, from the South to the North, Christians and Muslims, are contractors, directly or indirectly. Shehu should know.
Nor is Mbaka the only contractor-Cleric who has criticised the President recently. It is how many of them survive. “Country hard.”
Fr. Mbaka is not quite different from the others. It depends on the method. I have listened to him ask for money. He did that in his Church in 2019, plastic basket in hand, from Obi. He knew he was not going to support Obi’s candidacy, yet, he asked him for money. That was not nice. I heard him ask for support from the President’s representatives led by Ganduje and Uzodinma. Both cases, his method was obscene.
But back to his dumping of the President. The smart Priest has gauged the mood of not a few Nigerians, especially in the South-east, where he resides, and had no choice but to do a a u-turn. A few months ago, he was still on the side of the President. He still insisted President Buhari would solve our problems.
So, what changed? Why for instance, did he suddenly remember Mazi Nnamdi Kalu? On that, here is what is playing out:
In this altercation with his friends ”before-before”, he needs the support of, especially, Kanu and IPOB.
Having lost his prime place in the hearts of Villa big boys, his public support for Kanu comes in handy for him. He knows Kanu would defend him, thinking Shehu lashed out at him because he is Igbo.
Having said that, I disagree with those who say he should resign as a Priest. Or that the Pope should penalise him. Perhaps, a short refresher course in Rome would do. I also think Shehu embarked on an over-kill. I believe Mbaka has some gifts. And I really acknowledge and appreciate, very much, the charity work he is doing.So my suggestions:
He should repackage himself. He should concentrate on his job as a Priest. He should delve less into partisan politics. He should stop asking those he prayed for to come for Thanksgiving in his Church, like in Uzodinma’s case. It is not by force. Leave such people to God. Afterall, it is God they are thanking, not you. You were just one of the many vessels through which they succeeded.
You are already blessed.
Obi is the Editor-in-Chief/CEO of The Source (Magazine)
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