“He who guards his mouth and tongue keeps himself out of trouble” — Proverbs 21:23
Controversial Catholic priest and Spiritual Director of Adoration Ministry, Enugu, Reverend Fr. Ejike Mbaka has run into stormy weather again.
The fiery-speaking Mbaka had, in a recent ministration at the Adoration Ministry, stated that unless the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 presidential election, Peter Obi, seeks God’s forgiveness he cannot be the president of Nigeria.
The popular priest further said “it is better to have an old man as Nigeria’s next president, than a stingy man”. Mbaka further said that except God ceases to exist, Obi will never smell the seat of the presidency.
“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. You want to die of hunger? Are you people insane? Where is the Holy Spirit?”, Mbaka asked rhetorically.
The priest’s comment about the former Anambra State governor, Obi, has continued to elicit reaction from the Catholic Church as well as other members of the public. Perhaps, one of the earliest to react was wife of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the late Biafran warlord, Bianca Ojukwu.
Bianca Ojukwu, in trying to defend Peter Obi, drew a distinction between being prudent and being stingy. In a Facebook post titled: “NO APOLOGIES, PLEASE On Peter Obi’s supposed ‘Stinginess'”, Mrs Ojukwu recounted how Peter Obi, as governor of Anambra, had visited Dallas, Texas in the United States in 2009, to deliver a get-well message from Dr Goodluck Jonathan, to her husband, who was then recuperating. Obi was equally billed to attend a black tie event and needed to get a smart black suit since he only came with two casual dresses so Bianca offered to take him to a shop where he would get a good suit.
Continuing, Bianca said they saw a Tom Ford suit that matched him perfectly well. It had a price tag of $3,985. The then governor refused to buy the suit after he did a mental conversion of what the suit costs in naira. He then asked Bianca, “Do you know how many students this would train in Nigeria?’. He later settled for a modest suit of $220.
Bianca said while seeing him off to the airport to board a flight back to Nigeria, Peter Obi handed her an envelope containing crisp dollar bills. He told her, “this is the balance of the money I would have paid for the ‘Ford’ suit. I have deducted the amount we paid for that suit we eventually bought. Please use this balance for your charity foundation to help those in actual need”. The import of Bianca’s story is that if Obi were stingy he would not have given her the money to use for her charity work and secondly the man was more interested in the welfare of his people than his personal comfort.
Reacting to Fr. Mbaka’s comment, the Catholic Diocese of Enugu did not only condemn the “stingy man” comment but also dissociated itself from the inflammatory political utterances by Mbaka. The Bishop of Enugu, Rev Ernest Obodo, in a statement on Thursday, June 16, said Mbaka’s inflammatory political utterances were divisive and a contravention of canon 220 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law which prohibits anyone from illegitimately harming the good name of another person.
Obodo further explained that the views expressed by Mbaka are personal to him and in no way represent the position of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu. The Bishop warned Mbaka to refrain from making further provocative prophecies or utterances capable of heating up the polity.
Also reacting, the Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, Ignatius Kaigama, condemned in very strong terms, the comments of Mbaka. He said Catholic priests should use their position of respect among followers to promote unity, peace, and love among Nigerians.
While delivering his Sunday homily at St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Abuja, the Archbishop said: “Priests should not allow the Mass to become an occasion for drama, exaggerated inculturation or utterances that are purely political or mundane. People come to Jesus at Mass to get spiritually nourished by the word and the bread of life, and refreshed for the long, rough and tough journey to heaven. To this end, approved Catholic ‘adoration centres’ in Nigeria should really be for adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, not where to intimidate, manipulate and extort people or where a priest attempts to create a personality cult by careless and insensitive utterances and drama”.
Following the public outrage that trailed his attack on the person of Peter Obi, Rev Fr. Mbaka has since apologised for his unguarded outburst. Incidentally, Peter Obi has accepted Fr Mbaka’s apology, stating that Mbaka still remains his friend and priest. In spite of his apology, there is no guarantee that Mbaka would not do it again as this is not the first time something like this is happening.
In April 2021, the same Fr Mbaka, who was a staunch supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari during the 2015 election, had called on the president to resign for his inability to stem the escalating insecurity in the country. He did not stop there. He called on the National Assembly to impeach the president if he failed to resign.
Mbaka’s attack on President Buhari attracted a lot of reaction. In his reaction, Reno Omokri, former media aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan roundly tongue-lashed Mbaka for calling for Buhari’s resignation. Omokri equally called on the Catholic Church to defrock the priest, pointing out that if they do not, he will rubbish the name of the church.
In a post he shared on his Instagram page, Omokri said: ”Reverend Father Mbaka is an author of confusion. Today, he is calling on General @MuhammaduBuhari to resign or be impeached.
“In 2015, this same man told Nigerians that God told him Buhari was Nigeria’s saviour. If the @Catholicchurch does not defrock this man, he will rubbish their name”.
In its reaction, the Catholic Church barred Mbaka from making political statements. This was contained in a letter addressed to Mbaka and signed by the Bishop of Enugu Diocese of the Catholic Church, Callistus Onoga.
It is in spite of the admonition that he should refrain from making political statements that Mbaka launched his recent attack on Obi, stating that he can never be president of Nigeria. Mbaka may have apologised to Peter Obi but what is the guarantee that sooner than later, he would not be attacking another person again.
Rev Fr Ejike Mbaka is better advised, as a man of God, to keep a tight rein on his tongue, tread softly and keep out of controversy.