Since the spark of political prophecies in Nigeria, the ever-flowing reverence showered on the Church is gradually waning because of the unbecoming utterances of some charismatic pastors that claimed to have been endowed with divine revelation. If such is not nipped in the bud it may be too late for the Church to curtail the excesses of the political prophets.
Since Thursday, the political space in Nigeria has been simmering with contemptible attacks on respected and charismatic Catholic priest, Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka, the founder and Spiritual Director of Adoration Ministry, Enugu, after he allegedly denigrated and maligned Mr. Peter Obi, who is the presidential candidate of Labour Party, during his Wednesday Adoration prayer on 15th June 2022. To date, many observers are still pondering on what could have led one of the most loved clergymen in Nigeria to swim blindly in anger and hit below the belt. It was odious utterances filled with unforgiveness and revenge. The Holy Scriptures were very clear on the consequences of unforgiving spirits – see Matthew 18:23-35, Colossians 3:13, 1 John 1:9, Leviticus 19:17-18, Mark 11:25, Ephesians 4:31, and so on.
Fr. Mbaka, while referring to Peter Obi’s thrifty lifestyle reverberated: “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. Do you want to die of hunger? Are you people insane? Where is the Holy Spirit?” According to The Whistler, as quoted in BBC Igbo, Fr. Mbaka thundered: “Listen, a good old man is better than a young wicked man; Peter Obi is going nowhere as far as God lives. If Igbos want a representative, it is not someone like Peter Obi.
“I should not have talked but I saw my video going around everywhere as if Fr. Mbaka wholeheartedly came out and apologized. No, I didn’t apologize wholeheartedly, it was out of duress. I had to obey my Bishop, in obedience I had to, it is not of my volition. I did it because I am a Catholic Priest, my Bishop said, do it, my own is ‘Yes my Lord’.
“I did not say he is a bad man; I said he is a stingy man. A hungry man wants someone that is generous; the man has so much money, but he is ‘I, me, myself’. But that money will not be useful to him. I am very happy now that I have spoken out. That apology is a poisonous curse against Peter Obi.
“If he is wise he should have come here after that apology to say he is sorry but he waited. Anybody supporting him is wasting his money, he is going nowhere.”
It appears that Fr. Mbaka’s resentment and animosity hinged on what he considered Obi’s tightfistedness and inability to show valued appreciation for his prayer ministry that had assisted him. Thus, he said, “Ask Peter since then what he used to reward Adoration. If you like Peter Obi, tell him to come and ask for forgiveness. Let him come and redo what he did. There is an altar of God he blasphemed; he defiled an altar of God, the Holy Spirit.” The question is: is it theological to assert that someone refusing to make an open donation during a church bazaar amount to defilement of the altar of God? Whatever may be the answer, what calls to mind is Johann Tetzel, a German Dominican preacher and a controversial indulgence-seller, who was alleged to have said: “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, another soul to heaven springs.” Unfortunately for the Inquisitor in the 16th century, his merchant of Indulgence on behalf of the Church occurred during the era of spiritual awakening, which spurred a professor of Theology and an Augustinian friar/priest, Martin Luther, to protest against the sale of Indulgence – Indulgence is “a way to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins.” (See Peters, Edward (2008). A Modern Guide to Indulgences: Rediscovering This Often Misinterpreted Teaching. p. 13).
Nevertheless, the Catholic Diocese of Enugu has admonished Mbaka and absolved itself from the embarrassment. In a letter titled ‘Re: Inflammatory Political Utterances by Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka’ dated 16th June 2022, the diocese noted that Fr. Mbaka who “made fun of the Labour Party” and “attacked the good reputation of Mr. Peter Obi, the Labour Party Presidential Candidate, describing him as “a stingy man” and as “a joker”,” has acted “contrary to Canon 220 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law which prohibits anyone from illegitimately harming the good name of a person.” The diocese also noted that Mbaka’s action “is a clear violation of the provisions of canon 287 (2) which forbids priests from engaging in partisan politics.” The diocese went further to state:
“The Catholic Diocese of Enugu hereby condemns and dissociates herself from such unbecoming and divisive utterances from Fr. Mbaka.
“We notify the general public that Fr. Mbaka’s views on the matter are entirely personal to him and do not represent the position of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu.”
Like a bolt from the blue, the revered priest was sprinkled with waves of abuse by his antagonists. The malicious attacks were unprecedented. It was evident that Mbaka underestimated the popularity of Peter Obi, especially among the
youths. Bruised by pressure, Mbaka tendered a public apology to Obi. In his words, “I am a servant of God and my intention is not to malign His Excellency, Peter Obi’s image, but to pray for him. May God’s will be done in his life. I pray to God whom I serve to give our beloved people good and excellent leaders who will take care of them and lead them to the promised land. Anyone who God wishes to make our Leader is my choice. In this vein, I give my blessings to His Excellency Peter Obi and his supporters, I also give my blessings to the other candidates and their supporters whose intention is also to give Nigeria good leaders. In any way, the supporters of Mr. Peter Obi feel offended by my utterances, or however I was misunderstood by them, I ask for their understanding and forgiveness. As a servant of the Most High God, I pray that it shall be well with my people. I am an ardent supporter of Good Governance, Justice, Equity, Love, and Godliness.”
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Callistus Valentine Onaga, in his power as the Chief Shepherd of the diocese, has barred “all the Clergy, Religious and Lay Faithful in the Catholic Diocese of Enugu” from attending Adoration Prayer Ministry till further notice. In his pastoral decree titled “PASTORAL INJUNCTION ON ATTENDANCE TO CATHOLIC ADORATION MINISTRY CHAPLAINCY ENUGU”, dated 18th June 2022, he stated: “In the light of the happenings in the Catholic Adoration Ministry Chaplaincy Enugu; capable of undermining the Catholic faith and teachings; and after several fraternal corrections and admonitions to Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka, the Chaplain of the Ministry; and after having given him pastoral directives and guidelines for the Ministry Chaplaincy, which he persistently violated; and in fulfillment of my pastoral duties as the Chief Shepherd with the obligation to promote and safeguard the Catholic faith and morals in Enugu Diocese, I hereby prohibit all Catholics (clergy, religious and lay faithful) henceforth from attending all religious and liturgical activities of the Catholic Adoration Ministry until the due canonical process initiated by the Diocese is concluded.
“My decision is based on the fact that some of the teachings and utterances of Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka at the Catholic Adoration Ministry are not consistent with the teachings and faith of the Catholic Church.
“I enjoin all the Christian Faithful to keep praying for Fr. Mbaka and the Catholic Diocese of Enugu as I entrust him and the Diocese to the maternal care and protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles.”
One should remember that the feud between Fr. Mbaka and Obi began in 2018, when the latter, who was the PDP presidential running mate of Atiku Abubakar refused to mention publicly his financial support for the Adoration ministry bazaar. The Vanguard News of 8th December 2018 clearly depicted what transpired.
“[Mbaka]: We are begging God to protect our brother, Peter Obi, if Atiku (Abubakar) comes, we could bless him but (turning to Obi) tell him that it is not with these measured steps that the cow will use to get to Umuahi; that we are telling him if he continues like this before December 31st, because 31st is still far for prophecy, the way he is going about it now, he has already failed. Tell him not to wait till 31st, that if he continues this way, 31st is very far. For you (parting Obi), Amen! My brother Governor (former) let us not play tricks to God, say before these children of God what you will do for God (tried to hand the microphone to Obi) or does it mean you don’t want to do anything for God? This is a pure trick.
“Obi: Father, what I said is straight oh, I said I will come and you show me the project so that we’ll discuss it, that’s what I said.
“Mbaka: Okay, let me fearfully agree but this is a political statement.
“Obi: (grabs the microphone) Father knows I don’t make political statements. Anybody from Anambra state present here knows that Peter Obi has never promised anything and failed. I am a fundamental catholic, whatever I say in the church, I fulfill it. Father, you know that.
“Mbaka: Praise the Lord! The guinea fowl said it is the man he ate his yam that he brought the chicken for (proverb). You may be promising and fulfilling promises in Anambra, in your capacity and in what God has done for you Governor (Obi), it is better you listen to me than these things you are saying here. God hates stinginess, I am not saying this to entice you, I am saying it because it will help you in life otherwise you and Atiku will fail! If there is anywhere words should be painted for you it will not be on Mbaka’s altar.
“Listen! If there is anybody that gives you genuine advise it can save your political destiny. In 2019 you people will not even know when the election will be conducted. You people will not even understand how it went. Praise the living God. How can my brother and my friend come to bazaar without even breaking a kolanut (donation in this sense). You people should listen because I know what I am saying (Obi starts protesting). Listen even if you break kolanut, you do that anonymously.”
The provocative political preaching is not limited to Mbaka, some other pastors have become part of that. Just recently, the governor of Anambra State berated Reverend Fr. Emmanuel Obimma popularly known as Ebube Muonso for “prophesying about ‘Fulani herdsmen’ with tribal marks invading government house Awka and having me [him] running out in pool of blood as well as loudly complaining about the waste disposal.” Firing back, Soludo allegedly wrote:
“1) As an orthodox Catholic, I was brought up not to join issues with any man of God. I have been in the public arena for two decades and I appreciate comments and criticisms from the citizens including the men of God. I welcome your comments, advice and even criticisms. Such help us to do better— as we are certainly not perfect! This would be the first time I am responding to any comments from a man of God. And I do so with utmost respect and good faith. Certainly, as a priest, you have monopoly power of the pulpit but I also believe that such a monopoly demands a responsibility on your part to exercise caution and maturity in how you use such power.
“2) I am writing you, in the exercise of my duty (as a member of your Laity) to also advise you—- but not publicly on the pulpit as you chose to do.
“3) On your prophecy, you are certainly entitled to claim that you “saw” anything, and to call for prayers. I need all the prayers in the world and I believe that thousands of people of goodwill are praying for us and for Anambra. I am convinced that the God I worship who has sent me on this mission will lead us to finish it to His glory! My life is in His hands and He already knows how many more days or years He has for me. No man has a say regarding His plan for my life. I don’t believe these political or phantom “prophecies” designed to play to the gallery. That’s not my upbringing and faith as a Catholic. You have my contact and assuming that anything was “revealed” to you as a threat to my life, do you really believe that the best way to communicate it is on your pulpit??? By the way, God didn’t “reveal” to you the attack by unknown gunmen on me last year at a rally, killing three policemen; nor has He “revealed” to you any of the dozens of the attacks on innocent people this year so that the people may take caution or pray?? Funny enough these “pulpit prophecies” are always about high public officials. I have lived my life to this age without needing or relying on “prophecies”, and it is too late now to change. My prayer is simply: “Let your will be done”. So please, if you have further “revelations” just pray about them or keep them to yourself— I don’t want to know because the God in heaven that I serve is totally in charge of my life!
“4) Your comments about waste in the streets are welcome and we are equally sad about it. That’s why since inauguration we have set out cleaning the streets and now putting in place (for the first time in the state) a medium-term sustainable strategy. However, we find your comments to be in bad faith because you failed to acknowledge that we met a far worse situation nor acknowledge the ongoing efforts— which many acknowledge. I personally flagged off the cleaning of Onitsha and Okpoko and photos of me on top of refuse dump that closed Ochanga and as high as the traffic light adorned the social media… Most places had not been cleaned in over 6 months before I assumed office. Of course, with no equipment and strategy in place, we have adopted “emergency response” approach while working out details of a sustainable strategy… Surprisingly you didn’t complain on the pulpit then!
“5) Your comments on insecurity are fair but again failed to acknowledge the humongous efforts being made to confront the monster — which many Ndi Anambra do. No candidate could campaign freely in the entire south senatorial zone last year with the zone totally taken over by unknown gunmen. No one heard your voice. I was almost a victim. No one heard your voice. In my inaugural address, I devoted paragraphs to address the issue. And Ndi Anambra from all over the world are calling in solidarity and offering support. I wish God will also “reveal” to you the identity of the criminals so that we take them out. I know that you are a man of God and I deeply respect all of God’s anointed but making incendiary and wild claims about security under the cover of the pulpit should be moderated. In your “revelations” you “saw” Fulani herdsmen “with tribal marks”—- Fulani with tribal marks??? Funny! In the next second, they are “unknown gunmen” and another second “Fulani with tribal marks”??
“Father I expect you to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. We admire you and the thousands of your followers deserve leadership and direction. Matters of security should not be part of the drama! We expect you to encourage your supporters to report criminals and to be part of the solution. Or, if you don’t know the full ramifications of the security challenge, to call or request to be briefed. The society and the Church are facing existential threats and this is not the time for theatrics with the matter of security.
“6) I have been in office for two months. Yes, two months father, and you expect Anambra to have been “Dubai-rized” according to you. Doesn’t it sound funny? If I may ask, what was the motive of the entire drama? Let me assure you father that the God who sent me at this time knows why and He will perfect all things. We are determined and focused and despite the humongous challenges we met, Anambra will win! I have God’s promise on this.”
Such confrontations have become an embarrassment to Church, especially when the ordained men are expected to be apolitical and non-partisan.
The Pentecostal pastors also indulge in political prophecies. Still fresh in mind is a Serving Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church, Nigeria, Pastor Tunde Bakare, who prophecized that he would succeed President Muhammadu Buhari as the president of Nigeria. In one of his sermons before the election, Bakare allegedly prophecied: “I will succeed Buhari as President of Nigeria, nothing can change it. I am number 16, Buhari is number 15. I never said it to you before. I am saying it now and nothing can change it. In the name of Jesus, he (Buhari) is number 15. I am number 16. To this end was I born and for this purpose came I into the world. I have prepared you for this for more than 30 years”. Like a drama, his congregation believed in him and supported him. A whopping 100 million naira Presidential Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms of APC was expended. Surprisingly, during the All Progressives Party (APC) 2023 presidential primary election held on 7th and 8th June 2022, after the result was announced, the prophetic pastor got zero vote from the delegates. Such an amount of money should have been useful for the welfare of some of his poor church members.
Before him, a controversial pastor, Reverend Chris Okotie of the Household of God Church, who had contested the presidential election since 2003, claimed that his political aspiration is a divine instruction to rescue Nigeria from relegation. It was alleged that in 2018 he coerced 68 political parties to adopt him as a consensus candidate, claiming it was divinely authorized.
Mr. Azu Ishiekwene, in his article titled “Okotie as God’s Political Missionary” dated 20th July, 2018, quoted Okotie as saying: “I am fully persuaded that Nigeria needs a man who is credible, dependable and trustworthy; a God-fearing man who will be readily embroidered with compassion and love for country, who will be readily accepted as a symbol of national unity.
“I believe that the benevolent grace of God has telescoped these virtues into my person, to prepare me for such a time as this.” Interestingly, his mesmerized church members believed in him. Yet, for more than 3 times he contested as a presidential candidate of various parties he failed woefully. Where is the divine intervention?
What is still more? In 2015, Okotie allegedly blamed the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for deceiving the former president of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to seek reelection in the 2015 presidential election.
In Okotie’s words during a church sermon on 25th October 2015: “Pastor Oritsejafor deceived Jonathan with a false prophecy from God that he ( Goodluck Jonathan) would win the election convincingly. The man became convinced to contest after Oritsejafor had told him, using CAN’s name, that God had ordained him the winner of the 2015 presidential election.
“While I continued to write and speak that Jonathan was not the man, those of them who knew the truth in what I was saying chose to keep quiet out of fear. I told CAN and PFN that Jonathan was not of God; that whosoever would win would be one that had built a tabernacle in the presence of God. I told CAN and PFN that Jonathan did not belong to the House of David and that since he did not belong to the household, his winning would bring more sorrow to Nigeria.”
It is not wrong for a priest or pastor to preach for the goodness of his country’s political systems, institutions, and leaders. What is wrong is becoming partisan and political, or hoodwinking believers to believe that personal opinion or aspiration is prophetic. For example, Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, was known for his fierce criticism of strangulating government policies. He didn’t claim that it was divine instructions. Added to that, the Catholic bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah has been an antagonist of the government’s bad policies. Before he became a bishop, it was on record that, between 1999 and 2001 served as a member of the Nigerian Investigation Commission of Human Rights Violations (Oputa Panel) and the National Political Reform Conference in 2005. In all these involvements he was apolitical. Even, in El Salvador, South America, one thinks back to the story of Archbishop Óscar Romero of the Catholic Diocese of San Salvador, who was assassinated on 24th March 1980 while celebrating holy mass. Romero is internationally celebrated for his fearlessness and fight against violence, human rights abuses, and socio-political injustice in his country. His activism was without partisanship or engaging in political prophecies.
Meanwhile, last Sunday (19th June) the sympathizers of Fr. Mbaka congregated and protested at the Adoration prayer ground for the closure of the prayer ministry. Mbaka is not infallible but like any other person, subject to err. Unfortunately, like a burning furnace, the unforgiveness of Peter Obi has made him enter into a trap he should have avoided. If forgiveness is divine it becomes surprising why Mbaka would hold grudge against Peter Obi since 2019, and be bold to say that his bishop coerced him into making an insincere apology at the altar of God. No matter the depth of embarrassment, it is important for the bishop of the Enugu diocese to consider the plight of those that depended on Adoration ministry for economic survival and spiritual upliftment. Fr. should be forgiven for his sheep not going astray. His good works far outweigh his human weaknesses.
This is time for the prophetic priests of God to refrain from utterances that could put prophecy as divinely revealed in contempt and ridicule. They should be circumspective in separating their personal opinions from divine instructions in order to enjoy abundantly the reverence associated with their pastoral works. In doing this, the ceaseless “prophetic accidents” occurring on the Nigerian political terrain will become a thing of the past.
Picture credit: cfrmagazine.com