There is a well-known pithy saying in Africa that “when two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled.” The terse expression reminds us of the piercing situations of Adorers of the Adoration Ministry Enugu, after the Spiritual Director of the ministry, Rev. Fr. Ejike Camillus Mbaka berated Mr Peter Obi for his parsimonious and stingy lifestyle. It was a needless provocation that evoked unprecedented reactions dotted with thorny contempt. Splotched with lack of reverence and embarrassment, the bishop of Enugu Diocese, Bishop Callistus Valentine Onaga, on 18th June 2022, gave a pastoral injunction on attendance to Catholic Adoration Ministry Chaplaincy Enugu. In essence, he prohibited “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.”
Sentiment apart, although Fr. Mbaka has apologized to Obi, his pricking political statement against him has no worthy rationale. Mbaka’s action is contrary to Canon 220 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law which prohibits anyone from legitimately harming the good name of a person.” Added to this fact is Bishop Onaga’s disclosure that Fr. Mbaka persistently violated pastoral directives and guidelines for the Adoration Ministry Chaplaincy, “after several fraternal corrections and admonitions.” This goes to justify the action of the Enugu Diocese, which is canonical.
However, the continued closure of the Adoration Ministry is doing more harm than good to the Church and believers. Bishop Onaga should not feign ignorance of that. It is not about the righteousness of his action but the consequences of it. The closure of the ministry is disproportionate to the alleged offence Mbaka committed. It is a whirlwind that would blow no one any good. What of the poor in our midst that depended majorly on the spiritual healings and corporal works of mercy that Adoration Ministry has championed? If the pendulum is allowed to dangle without circumspection, the result may be unfair to the laity. Bishop Onaga should not only act on what the canon law says but also on how the lay people feel. Some are passing through psychological torture because Adoration Ministry is their last hope. Your reopening of the Adoration Ministry can renew their hopes, which are day-by-day fading away.
This action may even cost Obi political fortune considering that a large number of Adorers are Nigerian voters. They may, out of smouldering passion acrimony and revenge cast protest votes against Obi. The truth is that many Adorers have been alienated from the spiritual succour that was readily available in the ministry. For this reason, there is a need to make hay while the sun shines.
Fr. Mbaka, more than any priest in the Enugu Diocese has propagated and converted many pagans and Christians to the Catholic Church. This achievement has been attested to by many religious observers. Until his ministry was closed, Mbaka was the centre of attraction for the masses seeking spiritual nourishment, especially those in inexplicable difficulty. Fr. Mbaka bu ebebe ndi Enugu, the pride of Enugu people.
Through his charity foundation, Muti-life Saver, Fr. Mbaka has helped the helpless, motherless, indigents, and paid medical fees and scholarships. According to Vanguard news on 4th March 2020, shortly following the presentation of N18.8 million to the management of Annunciation Specialist Hospital, Emene, Enugu on behalf of his foundation for the needy, Mbaka said: “We are basically here to continue the relationship that this wonderful health facility has with our charity organisation and Adoration Ministry, Enugu.
“We presented a bank draft worth N18.8 million to them to cover the accumulated bills of indigent patients they had treated at our instance, plus a deposit for other indigent patients that would come here in future.
“We do this every day and it is on record that there is no month that I don’t spend at least $2 million silently, on charity. So, this visit is just one out of several charity outings that we undertake without any publicity.
“I represent the ministry here, as the chief servant. What we are doing is physical but I am also here, on behalf of the supernatural part of the exercise.
“This programme is purely inter-religious, inter-tribal and interdenominational. Among the beneficiaries are Catholics, Pentecostals, and Muslims, among others.”
The charismatic and generous priest has maintained that priesthood work is a call to serve God and assist mankind. According to him, “I never wanted to be a priest. Heaven dragged me into this priesthood when I was running away from it. So, no mortal can force me out of it. And since I was ordained a priest, I have never experienced greater joy. I have been a happy man all through. Whatever one prays is what is granted him. My own prayer was that I shall be a magnet of souls. I only think about your goodness.”
Meanwhile, the travail of Fr. Mbaka has touched the heart of Evangelist Ebuka Anozie Obi who is the founder of Zion Prayer Movement Outreach (ZPMO), a non-denominational prayer ministry, located at Ago-Okota, Lagos, Nigeria. In one of the Wednesday prayer programmes, Evangelist Ebuka broke his silence and appealed to Bishop Onaga to forgive Fr. Mbaka and reopen the Adoration Ministry for the sake and welfare of the Adorers. He reminded the congregations at the Zion prayer ground how Fr. Mbaka almost turned Enugu into a state free from mad people, by paying the medical bills of 90% of psychiatric patients. He noted with humility how Fr. Mbaka spent more than fifty million naira to save Nigerians languishing in South African prisons. He reechoed the spiritual healing power of Fr. Mbaka and wondered who would be curing the spiritual afflictions and sickness of the needy since the Adoration Ministry has been closed indefinitely. He was concerned that most of the Adorers that converted to Catholicism could relapse back to their old faith. He avered that even if Fr. Mbaka should be punished that suspending his ministry is a reproach taken too far. He said that the good works of the priest should have been the ultimate consideration before penalizing him. He referred to the priest as an institution and stressed that stopping Fr. Mbaka is like stopping an institution.
Evangelist Ebuka Obi said that what happened to Fr. Mbaka could be a result of an old grudge considering that prior to the closure of his ministry that the church allegedly restricted him from conducting baptizing and weddings in the ministry. He appealed to Bishop Onaga not to be influenced by the precipitating antagonism against Fr. Mbaka so that his name would be written positively in history. He reminded him of the stigma associated with Pontus Pilates whenever the killing of Jesus Christ is mentioned. He finally appealed to Mr. Peter Obi to plead to Bishop Onaga and intercede on behalf of one of the most talked-about priests in Nigeria.
Since the unfortunate incident, Fr. Mbaka has shown brilliant obedience and loyalty to the church. It is an exemplary mark worthy of note and emulation. No wonder when some of the angry Adorers protested against the Adoration Ministry’s closure, Fr. Mbaka hesitated no less in admonishing those using contemptible names against Bishop Onaga. In his words, “my attention has been drawn to activities that took place in the Adoration ground on Sunday. I am not in any way involved in such activity. We received with obedience the directive issued by my Bishop, His Excellency, Most Rev CVV Onaga on June 17, 2022”. He retorted: “May I, therefore, appeal to the faithful, in particular members of Adoration Ministry Enugu, Nigeria, to remain calm and united with the body of Christ in the Diocese and also refrain from any measure of violence either in action or by abusive utterances.” Fr. Mbaka warn that “those who take to attacking or insulting my dear Bishop should desist from such. The Bishop is the Shepherd of the Church in the Diocese and we remain his flock who in every way and at all times is expected to be respectful, obedient, and willing to respond favourably to his apostolic directives.” There is no doubt that he has heard his bishop’s instructions clearly.
By demonstrating obedience and loyalty, Fr. Mbaka, has shown that he is a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. Notwithstanding some of his human weaknesses, Fr. Mbaka has taken Catholicism to the apogee. Since late Bishop Michael Ugwuja Eneja ordained him a priest of the Roman Catholic Church on 29th July 1995, Fr. Mbaka, just like Saint Paul in the Scriptures, has vulcanized the propagation of Catholicism in the world – in words and in deeds.
Despite human efforts, man is fallible – Fr. Mbaka is not an exception. “To err is human, to forgive is divine,” says Alexander Pope – an 18th-century English poet. Fr. Mbaka was born uniquely with a golden heart of spirituality and generosity. He loses nothing if the Church denies him permission to restart the Adoration Ministry. It is the masses that depended on his spiritual surgery and energization that will wallow in anguish and bear the burden of misery. For these reasons, we humbly appeal to Bishop Onaga, as the father of Catholicism in the Enugu Diocese, to stretch out his pastoral staff and release joy to the Adorers by approving the opening of Fr. Mbaka’s Adoration Ministry.
Photo credit: guardian.ng