In Nigeria, religion is a rod for many backs. Because the God-factor is such a big force in the country, those whose mastery is in manipulation, whose hands are strongest in hypnosis, know just how to play their cards ‘right’ to elicit mass hysteria among people who are otherwise cool and circumspect.
The gruesome killing of 22-year-old Ms. Deborah Samuel on May 12,2022 in Sokoto State and the equally gruesome murder of 30-year-old Ahmad Usman by Muslim mobs for blasphemy less than a month later were scorching glimpses of the darkest heart of religion. How about those who stand in churches and mosques to cast crowds into hypnosis?
An open wound
In Enugu State Nigeria, the catholic church is nursing an open wound because of the activities of Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, one of its priests. An extra-ministerial program which started as a prayer gathering has quickly turned into a circus where all manner of utterances are made, and ascribed to the prophetic, much to the delight of panting crowds,and the bemusement of many who watch from afar. It has become a thing of scandal both for catholics, writers who are practicing catholics, and the Christian community in Nigeria as a whole. But he is far from alone.
A pulpit and its pandemonium of parrots
In Nigeria, as religion has relegated reality to the background for many, charlatans have mushroomed in churches and mosques where they continue to craft curious messages with which they manipulate the malleable.
With all manner of apocalyptic messages, many of them carefully worded to induce maximum fear in those already reduced to bundles of nerves in a country where anxiety is the ‘A’ in the national DNA, the point is always to pretend to reach into the prophetic so as to get into the pockets of people, many of whom struggle just to get by and sometimes defer family bills just to ‘sow seeds in church.’
To do this, the talk and veiled threats have issued almost non-stop.
Grandiloquence and gullible followers
For Fr. Mbaka, a favourite ‘prophetic’ pastime has been the government of the day. Between 1999 and 2007, the administration of Mr. Chimaraoke Nnamani was at the receiving end of his inciting prophecies which he painted as being in defense of the poor in Enugu State.
After Mr. Chimaraoke left in 2007, he briefly turned his ire on his successor, Mr. Sullivan Chime who enjoyed two terms between 2007 and 2015.Since 2015, Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuayi has been holding the saddle and has largely ignored the catholic priest.
In the build-up to the general elections of 2015, Mbaka perfectly read the national mood which was one of anger and frustration at the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, and predicted that the end was in sight for the Goodluck Jonathan presidency.
When a historic victory followed for the All Progressives Congress in 2015, many of his followers pointed to the precision of his prophecy as a sign that he hears from God.
It matters little to the gathering of the gullible than an administration that Mbaka said would save the fortunes of Nigerians has overseen seven years of insecurity and poverty, which would be eight next year.
Mbaka who received the emissaries of the administration before and during the 2015 elections at his adoration ground has since fallen out with the administration. There was that embarrassing allegation that his teeth were sunk in sour grapes because he was not given some contracts by the presidency. He was to deny those allegations despite admitting that he once visited Aso Rock with two contractors. However, such allegations could only have been made against a priest who had contrived to cast his pearls before swine.
Mbaka`s pugnacious posture since then largely strikes the pose of a bitter priest, used and dumped by an administration that has neither respect for priest nor pauper.
When his undignified altercation with the Federal Government last year caused his diocesan bishop to ask him to proceed on a personal retreat, his gullible followers fed off the lie that he had been abducted and went on a rampage, damaging the diocesan cathedral and even the bishop`s house.
The Imo intervention
In 2019, the good people of Imo State went to the polls and elected Mr. Emeka Ihedioha as the one they preferred to take the mantle from the dubiously divisive Mr. Rochas Okorocha. When after Mr. Ihedioha`s comfortable victory, the Supreme Court somehow found irregularities in the elections and thus plucked Mr. Hope Uzodinma from the ignominy of defeat to the Imo State Government House, Mbaka was at hand to enjoy his i-told-you-so moment with his congregation.
Of course, it conveniently matters only little to Mbaka and his congregation that under Mr. Uzodinma, Imo State has practically ground to a halt.
He also has never had any qualms with the junketing Ebonyi State Governor Mr. Dave Umahi, who routinely abandons his people from time to time to go and listen to Mbaka
s political prophecies. In fact, so impressed was Mbaka by an October 2021 donation of thirty million naira by Mr. Umahi, that he pronounced Ebonyi State Nigerias Dubai much to the chagrin of Ebonyians at home and in the diaspora.
The Obi obstinacy
In 2018, Mbaka held the annual thanksgiving of his ministry in Enugu. Given that the 2019 general elections were at hand and the notoriety he acquired before the 2015 elections, many politicians were at the venue in search of political prophecies. Many of them were prepared to part with millions of stolen public funds.
Also present was Mr. Peter Obi, a two-term former governor of Anambra State, lifelong catholic and then vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party.
When Mbaka decided to tread where even angels fear in trying to pry money out of the stiff palms of the staggeringly wealthy but famously austere economist, he found himself embarrassingly left sprawling on his own turf on banana peels that drew the attention of an entire country, causing catholics to look away in shame. Mbaka was later forced to backtrack and apologize but not before ‘prophesying’ that because of Peter Obi, PDP would lose the 2019 elections.
PDP did lose. But while Mbaka lost a lot of face after the incident, Peter Obi has only grown in stature.
A labour of love and the lure of filthy lucre.
Now, with Nigeria approaching elections poised to be the most crucial since it returned to democracy in 1999, Mr. Peter Obi has emerged as the presidential candidate of the Labour Party. But the astute businessman is more than just that. Like ships to a beacon, many young Nigerians who have seen their hopes battered and bartered by the mercenaries who would sell Nigerians if they could, have been drawn to him, finding in him the man who can stop the plunder of their commonwealth by the many thieves who masquerade as public officers. The fact that he would be on the ballot next year has many rather established politicians nursing irritable bowels.
For Mr. Mbaka, Mr. Obi`s wild popularity has hacked open old wounds.
A mélange of mendacity
Mbaka recently went on a verbal rampage, attacking Mr. Peter Obi and telling his followers of how a `stingy man’ would never become president of the country, and how a good old man is better than a wicked young man. Mbaka also said that unless Mr. Obi came to his adoration ground on bended knees, his presidential ambition was dead on arrival.
In a country where leadership has become synonymous with larceny as 91 million people remain trapped below the poverty line, it beggars belief that a priest and ‘prophet’ would de-market a man whose prudence in handling public resources appears to be just what the doctor ordered for Nigeria.
Of course, Mbaka is entitled to his personal opinion. However, the catholic church in Nigeria should worry at the kind of education some of its members get from him, and the damage he is doing to its image as the most prudent of organizations.
Perhaps, it is time the church culled itself of the mercenaries who pose as its clergy.