The kind of relationship that existed between the Federal Government under Muhammadu Buhari and Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka in the last six years could best be described as a sizzling romance between the cassock and the soapbox. Interestingly, the romance went sour a few months ago.
Recently, Garba Shehu, the spokesman of the president, issued a statement attempting to discredit Reverend Fr. Ejike Mbaka over his criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.
Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said the clergy was angry with the president for allegedly refusing to circumvent contract award procedures in his favour.
Mbaka, according to the president’s spokesman, had requested an audience with the president but to the chagrin of presidential aides, he came with three contractors, demanding compensation for his support with contracts to his friends.
In a rejoinder, Mbaka, who is the Spiritual Director of Adoration Ministry, Enugu, demanded immediate apologies from Garba Shehu.
The cleric in his statement explained that he presented the security experts to the government as a mark of concern over the country’s security challenges and it was left for the government to decipher how they can benefit from the experts. He pointed out that fallacy cannot terrorise his courage:
“We are working under the law. They have never given me any contract but I want to reassure you that even if 100 oil blocks are offered to me, that cannot bastardise my prophetic anointing.
“With enormous joy, I am happy that the truth is heating them hard. No amount of money can merchandise the Holy Ghost anointing in me. Father Mbaka cannot be bribed. Even if they come and build the highest university here, they cannot bribe me.
“I represent the poor, the less privileged. I represent the nobodies. I represent the unemployed. I represent the sick. I represent the dehumanised. All the downtrodden in this country, I am their father. So, when my children are crying I cannot be silent.”
It was not very clear from the clergy’s disjointed blusters who in government was trying to bribe him but one thing is obvious – Mbaka and Aso Rock have fallen apart.
In various ways, Mbaka, in his relationship with the government, has dragged the Catholic Church into many needless political controversies. From antecedents, Mbaka is not a man who dances around controversies. He swims inside it. His persistent confrontation with the former Governor of Enugu State, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani brought him to the limelight. His faceoff with former President Goodluck Jonathan and concomitant support for Buhari threw him on the national radar.
His prophecy on the Imo State Governorship position was the icing on the cake. Now his sudden change of mind and attack on Buhari and Gov. Uzodinma can best be described as bombshells from the pulpit. It is also a reflection of Mbaka’s penchant to rush in where other preachers would fear to tread.
Looking back six years ago, the catholic priest, who has to his credit something any politician would cherish so much — a huge following in the Southeast — had thrown his weight behind Buhari. This was clearly against the popular view of the majority of the Igbos in the Southeastern region.
He was criticised by many politicians and electorate from the Southeast who had adopted Jonathan as an honorary president who must be returned to the Villa. The priest was even condemned by the larger body of the Catholic Church and redeployed from his base in Enugu to a suburb called Emene. But he stubbornly held on to his views. He tongue-lashed the then-President Goodluck Jonathan for his failings before publicly endorsing Buhari’s presidential bid.
He made the endorsement in style, encapsulating it with an earth-shaking declaration that he has a prophecy for Nigeria that Muhammadu Buhari will lead Nigeria to the promised land. He urged the public to vote the incumbent president as the change Nigerians have been longing for.
In the last few months, the fiery priest started to spit fire again, but this time the venom was directed at the man he had endorsed in very glowing terms in 2015.
With the same boldness he attacked former President Jonathan, Mbaka is demanding that President Muhammadu Buhari resigns as the current killings in the country do not call for his silence but a strong show of leadership.
Analysts say that Buhari and his henchmen should have known the massive collateral losses 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 per cent vote almost cost the cleric his “flourishing business.”
Probably, the clergy was demanding compensations commensurate with the risk he took in the past: endorsing Buhari when no one in the Southeast wanted to touch him.
Mbaka’s feud with the presidency made the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese in Enugu State, Callistus Onaga, intervene swiftly by asking the cleric to remain indoors and meditate for thirty days.
Meanwhile, most people are already uncomfortable with the strength of the ministry. Every Friday, over 30,000 converge at his Adoration Ground or link up with the ministry virtually.
Some commentators blame the catholic diocesan Bishop for allowing him the latitude of growing wings within the church. They have consistently urged the Bishop of Enugu Diocese to go ahead and close down the Adoration Ground. They equally feel Mbaka be defrocked and laicised if he became rebellious.
At some point, the situation led to a protest in Enugu where Mbaka’s admirers were practically seen destroying the Bishop’s court. The Bishop only responded in a very conciliatory manner by calling on the congregants to fast and pray for seven days in order to atone for what he called “the desecration of the Holy Altar by Mbaka’s followers”.
Conversely, in his conflict with the Bishop, Fr. Ejike Mbaka should have availed himself of the 1998 classical book written by Robert Greene, titled, “The 48 Laws of Power”. The very first law in the book states: “Never outshine the master”.
How Mbaka felt he could get away with wrestling with his Bishop in a set-up as regimented as the Catholic priesthood order is somewhat foolhardy. Probably, except he is trying to move from the system.
Presently, Mbaka is on a one-month “suspension” where he is expected to fast, pray, and seek new direction from God. His adoration ministry will remain closed within that period. Will Mbaka remerge to swim in controversies again?
It will most likely depend on the “spiritual direction” he receives within this one month retreat. For now, his adherent and supporters are waiting with the hope that their spiritual hero will soon emerge from his spiritual enclave, probably to dazzle them with more controversial prophecies.