From Magnus Eze, Geoffrey Anayanwu, Jude Chinedu (Enugu), Felix Ikem (Nsukka) and Chijioke Agwu (Abakaliki)
The Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Calistus Onaga, has shutdown Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka’s Adoration Ministry of Enugu, Nigeria (AMEN) over the Spiritual Director’s recent outburst against the Labour Party presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi.
Fr. Mbaka had upbraided Obi, calling him a stingy politician and prophesying that he would never win the presidency in 2023.
As the dust raised by the Mbaka outburst is yet to settle, Bishop Onaga shutdown his Adoration Ministry in Enugu.
Opinions are, however, divided over the bishop’s action with many hailing him while others said the charismatic priest had not committed any offence.
In a letter addressed to ‘All the Clergy, Religious and Lay faithful in the Catholic Diocese of Enugu’, the bishop banned Catholic faithful from having anything to do with the Adoration Ministry.
He said in the letter that Mbaka having refused to heed to the Church’s persistent directives, “and in fulfillment of my pastoral duties as the Chief Shepherd, 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.”
Noting that his decision was based on the fact that Mbaka’s teaching and utterances were not consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church, the bishop enjoined all Christian faithful to keep praying for the embattled priest.
Mbaka had in his midweek sermon made provocative remarks about Obi and his presidential aspiration.
This was not the first time that the fiery priest would attack the ex-Anambra governor as he had in the build up to the 2019 general election embarrassed Obi at the Adoration Ground.
Mbaka tendered an apology although he later said that he was forced by the bishop to do so.
The diocese described Mbaka’s diatribe on Obi as not only inflammatory, but an injury to the reputation of the former governor.
While some adorers criticized the ban, Obi’s supporters hailed it, insisting that the ban was long overdue.
One of the respondents, Chris Ifechukwu said that though he respects Fr. Mbaka, the ban would help him retrace his steps.
“I respect Father Mbaka a lot. I hope he retraces his step. Nobody is above the rules and regulations guiding the mother church. It should be strictly adhered to.
“The wise will always swallow pride and take corrections. His die-hard supporters that were defending his action should as well apologize. Never allow religion to becloud your sense of reasoning,” he counselled.
Commenting on the ban, Ofo Daniels cautioned that “antichrist members may likely hide under the guise as Peter Obi’s supporters to destroy the Adoration Ministry facilities or possibly take human lives. Fr Mbaka remains God-chosen servant.”
For Igwe Alexander, the bishop has shown that he can bite, but urged him to also tamper justice with mercy as, according to him, the bishop should remember that “if you beat a child with one hand, you should bring him back with another.”
However, James Ajayi, an ardent follower of Mbaka, said that the charismatic priest’s prophecy was true and it will only take time for them to manifest.
“I think Mbaka will soon become the chief cornerstone because what he said about Peter Obi is a known fact no matter the critics. A governor for eight years without structure, he cannot go far in politics no matter the grammar. Let me ask, who are his followers in the North? How many people that matter from the East are with him? Let us put sentiment apart,” Ajayi said.
Another faithful, Chidi Nnamani said that nobody would tell them where to worship, urging that Fr. Mbaka should be left alone. He said: “Peter Obi is a betrayer to us; Ndigbo. They can’t use him to stop Biafra.”
Also, his colleague, John Chuks said that the bishop lacks the power to decide where anybody worships, noting that the “Church belongs to the Holy Spirit and never to Onaga or his cohorts!”
But another of the congregants, Mrs Edna Nwoye described the development as unfortunate, wishing the matter would be resolved soonest.
She also begged the bishop not to throw away the baby with the bath water, especially as the Adoration Ministry had done a lot in assisting people both spiritually and materially.
“I sincerely feel bad about the whole thing and I think that Daddy (Mbaka) this time did not do it right, but we must not throw away the baby with the dirty water. Again Father Mbaka has apologized to all about what he said against Peter Obi,” Nwoye said.
A resident of New Haven, Enugu, Eugene Agụ, who said he had followed Father Mbaka for a long time and had supported all his prophecies and statements stated that he was uncomfortable with the current diatribe on Obi.
On the ban placed on the ministry, he said: “I am a Catholic and will always abide by the orders of the church declared by Bishop Onaga. But I want to plead with the church to keep the Adoration Ministry alive, I am sure that Daddy Mbaka has learnt some lessons with this. The ministry should steer clear of politics.”
For some other followers of Mbaka like George Odo, a bus driver, their spiritual director should be left alone, after all, the things he said about former President Goodluck Jonathan and President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State had all come to fruition.
In his reaction, Christopher Nnadi said that calling Mbaka to order was timely because there “is already political tension in the land and I believe this is to calm the situation.
“As a Catholic and member of Adoration family, it is not easy for me and other members, but we equally believe whatever our spiritual head says stands. The ban is from our bishop and we are bound to abide by it.
“However, let us not forget that it is not only Catholic members from Enugu Diocese that attend the Adoration Ministry, non-Catholics and people from different parts of Nigeria and outside the country, even from Europe, Asia and other parts of the world are members.
“We should also know that Mbaka should not be insulated for talking about Nigeria politics and politicians because politics controls the society, and as an ordained priest and a prophet, he is expected to talk and comment on day-to-day happenings in our society.”
Another adoration worshiper, Mrs Grace Ugwuanyi, a trader at Ogige Main Market, Nsukka said that she received the ban of Catholic faithful from Mbaka’s Adoration Ministry with shock and disbelief.
Ugwuanyi who said she had prepared to go for last Friday’s adoration prayers only to be informed by one of their members also said that every Catholic faithful was under obligation to obey and carry out all instructions by the church leaders even when it is against their wish.
Like Mrs Ugwuanyi, a Catechist at St. Peter’s Parish Uwell-Owerre/Amokwe, Nsukka Catholic Diocese, Charles Odo, said that as the leader of the church, Bishop Onaga has every right to sanction and discipline any priests under him that were found wanting in their pastoral duties.
He described what was happening to Mbaka as normal within the Catholic Church.
In Ebonyi State, adoration worshippers there appealed to the Bishop of Enugu Diocese to forgive their spiritual director and reopen the adoration ground to worshippers.
Chinenye Ogbaga, told our correspondent in Abakaliki that the priest was not above mistakes.
She said: “Mbaka is a respected servant of God whose prophecies hardly fail. His comment on Peter Obi, I don’t know it as a prophecy or a personal comment. I just want the authorities concerned to forgive him and reopen the adoration ground.”
But her counterpart, Esther Ndubuisi, said that Satan was fighting back to reclaim lost souls by using his agents to attack Fr. Mbaka.
“If they are not agent of Satan why targeting the adoration ground? Mbaka said his mind or divine revelation; why didn’t they say their own or ignore him and continue with their lives? By targeting the adoration ground, it is clear who they are serving,” she said.
But another Catholic in Abakaliki, Agbo Clement, regretted that the fiery priest was fond of controversy, saying that “the Catholic Church must act now before Mbaka rubbishes its image.”
By and large, another ardent Catholic and vociferous fan of Obi in Ebonyi State, Nonso Ezeaka, urged people to pray for Mbaka, hoping that he emerged stronger after the ongoing canonical process of the Church.
“What we owe Rev. Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka right now is prayers. The prayer point should be that he may remain obedient, strong and faithful till the end of the canonical process already in progress.
“My thoughts and prayers are with him. Surely, he’ll come out stronger and a better Catholic priest in the mind of Christ Jesus,” Ezeaka enthused.