Tag Archives: John Onaiyekan


“We have no Bishop yet”: Increased tension in Imo as youth lock out newly consecrated Bishop


by Akan Ido

The consecration of Monsignor Peter Okpalaeke as the new Bishop of Ahiara Catholic Diocese has continued to attract protests as youths locked up the Catholic Cathedral in Ahiara community in Ahaiazu Council Area of Imo State.

Okpalaeke was appointed Bishop-elect of the diocese by former Pope Benedict XVI in December last year after the death of the pioneer bishop, Victor Chikwe.

Read the Sun Newspapers report:

The appointment of Okpalaeke was vehemently rejected by Priests and Catholic faithful from the Ahiara Diocese, who insisted on a native of Mbaise to be elected as bishop of the diocese. The youths who were mainly from the community locked up the entrance gate to the cathedral where the newly ordained bishop was to begin his ten-year tenure as the bishop of Ahiara Diocese.

The aggrieved youths disrupted vehicular and human movement in the area, vowing never to allow the bishop access into the Cathedral. They insisted that the Diocese would remain without a bishop for the 10 years that Okpalaeke’s tenure was expected to last. One of the protesting priests told Daily Sun that, “as far as we are concerned we don’t have a bishop yet. The one they have just consecrated is not our bishop and we are prepared to continue without one. He added that the people had resolved to resist any imposition from any quarters.

“So the bishop they ordained today is the bishop for Archbishop Obinna, Cardinal Arinze and the Papal Nuncio.” However, in apparent disregard to the threat of the youths and priests from the community, the Catholic authority yesterday went ahead to consecrate Monsignor Okpalaeke as the new bishop of Ahiara Catholic Diocese, amidst tight security at the Seat of Wisdom Major Seminary in Ulakwo in Owerri North Council Area. The ordination, held several miles away from the diocese for security reasons attracted Catholic faithful and other dignitaries across the country and beyond. They included John Cardinal Onaiyekan, the Archbishop of Abuja.

In his sermon, the Catholic Bishop of Umuahia Archdiocese, Lucius Ugorji, stated that it was only the Pope who had the final say in the appointment of bishops, adding that the law of the Church did not have provisions for quota system in the appointment of bishops. He added: “The acceptance of the Papal’s appointment is a respect for the Pope, while the outright rejection and inflammatory statements and protests are spiteful and disrespectful of the Papal’s authority.”


Confessions of an ex-Oritsejafor voltron

by Mark Amaza

I have a confession to make: My name is Mark Amaza and I used to be a rabid voltron for Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).

I would vigorously endorse all his statements and actions; in my eyes, Papa Ayo could do no wrong. Before you start judging me, let me say I have what I believe to be a very logical explanation for it.

Being a Northern Christian, born and bred in the predominantly Muslim North, I had almost gotten used to having my life under physical threat and being denied opportunities because of my faith. In between growing up in Maiduguri and schooling in Bauchi, I can count at least 6 religious crises which I witnessed; and in each of them, I knew people who lost their lives. I’ve also witnessed how so many people are denied school admissions, employments and promotions because they are Christians.

This is not entirely new to Nigeria. We live in a country where nationhood is defined more by ethnicity, religious faith or place of origin. The pervasive scarcity mind-set makes us corner all the opportunities for ‘ourselves’ so that the ‘others’ would not deprive us of it. This causes a lot of tension to simmer just beneath the surface, and in cases where the tension breaks out into open confrontation, lives and properties are lost. The side with more numbers or that is better organized then ‘wins’.

The great disadvantage Northern Christians had and still have is their lack of being politically organized, their docility and their inability to stand up and challenge injustice where it is done. It was made even worse by the fact that at the national level, the Christian Association of Nigeria rarely ever made any attempts to exert pressure so that the status quo in the North will change.

As far as I remember, the tenure of His Eminence, Reverend Sunday Mbang, Prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, as CAN President, went by without any voice raised against the threat to the existence of Christianity in the North.

While Archbishop John Onaiyekan (now John Cardinal Onaiyekan) of the Catholic Diocese of Abuja was CAN President, the status quo didn’t change.

I remember when during the first clash between the Boko Haram terrorist group and government forces in July 2009, my church, the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nijeriya (EYN) in Maiduguri was destroyed by the terrorists. Cardinal Onaiyekan came on national TV and announced that no church had been destroyed. We were aghast by such declaration while we were mourning the destruction of our home church. It was the same line that most of our media, especially those with extensive Northern coverage such as Daily Trust Newspapers toed.

It took an article by my elder brother that was published on Facebook and other sites that somehow got into the Archbishop’s hand for him to be in the knowledge of what had actually transpired. This is despite the fact that like every other state, Borno State has a local chapter of CAN. To my knowledge, Onaiyekan did not come out publicly to correct himself.

Then came July 2010 and Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor was elected as the CAN President, even though he was also the President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN then too. I remember how even while he was still only the PFN president, he made a statement at a service that no religion had a monopoly of violence, and Christians in the North would no longer allow themselves to be sheep for the slaughter. That made me stand up and take note of this man of the cloth who was bold enough to say such.

After he became CAN president, Pastor Oritsejafor endeared himself to me by constantly speaking up about what Christians were going through no matter where in Nigeria. He spoke about Christians in a remote village of Yobe State who were once under attack; he was on the ground in Wukari, Taraba State after a religious crisis in 2012. Finally, there was a CAN president who wasn’t ignorant of what we were going through in the North. This mattered like everything to me. For me, my white knight in shining armour had come riding on his horse. In me, a voltron had been born.

I consistently defended Papa Ayo at every turn. When he said ‘Christians should defend themselves in attacks”, I was not in the lack of how to explain the context in which he made the statement. When he consistently threatened the Northern Muslim establishment to rein in Boko Haram, I remained mum even though inside me, my opinion was at variance with his. The man breathed fire from his nostrils and that was enough to make whoever made life for my people and I a living hell to think twice before doing anything.

I also felt that hopefully, that would be the push we would need as Northern Christians to learn how to be vocal when things were not done right towards us because of our faith; how to organize ourselves and make ourselves to be relevant and not just numbers.

Of course, Papa Ayo’s views were not the type to go away without leaving controversy in its wake. Whenever he spoke, it became the subject of many newspaper articles and analysis. He was severally accused of ‘overheating the polity’, and was criticized of not being a ‘peacemaker’ like his predecessors. I brushed away all such criticism; to me, it was the talk of people afflicted by guilt and fear by his words. As for the comparisons with his predecessors, they were pacifists to a fault and I felt we needed some brawns and a hand showing force for once.

However, of recent, I’ve found myself second-guessing my blind faith in the leadership of Papa Ayo. No, it has nothing to do with the private jet he was given as an anniversary gift recently. It’s about his bellicose nature and the volatile statements he throws around which I used to admire. I began to ask myself, “What is he trying to achieve?”

I kept examining his statements such as the recent ones threatening violence for violence if Boko Haram doesn’t stop attacking Christians or the ones previously saying that no religion has monopoly of violence, implying Christians in the North would retaliate if attacked. I had to come to the sad conclusion that Papa Ayo has been missing it.

Inasmuch as I would admit that many times, Christianity in the North is under physical threat, threatening violence in return would do nothing to make us more secure. This is because if, God forbid, an all-out religious war should break out in the North, Northern Christians would find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

On one side, they will be facing an ‘enemy’ which exceeds them in numbers and political organization. In majority of the states most prone to religious violence, Christians are minorities and they are not as organized as Muslims.

On the other side, they would not have support from Christians in the South, mainly because most Southerners are of the belief that the North is entirely Muslim, and all the victims of religious crises on the Christian side are from the South.

I have lost count of the number of times that after meeting someone from the South, introducing myself as ‘Mark’, even discussed the Bible, that I am asked my faith simply because I mention my state of origin as Borno State.

So whenever I remember Pastor Oritsejafor’s talk of returning violence with violence, I ask myself ‘who will be on our side?’ Surely, not his flock, the bulk of whom are from the South and are prone to the misconception that there are Northern Christians; neither can all Northern Christians uproot themselves and move to the South.

Our best shot at building inter-religious harmony and peaceful co-existence in the North is about not only speaking up at each and every wrong done against a religious faith, but also lies in building bridges of dialogue and understanding. Flexing muscles at all times would only serve to widen the rift and make achieving such peace harder, or even a mirage.

Pastor Oritsejafor can do well to learn from his fellow clergymen, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto and Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon of the Anglican Diocese of Kaduna who have mostly devoted their work to building those bridges of understanding and dialogue between Christianity and Islam, while yet speaking truth even in difficult times. As a result, they have built for themselves enormous respect on both sides of the aisle.

Even more, he should learn from his opposite number, the Sultan of Sokoto and spiritual leader of Nigerian Muslims, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, who has distinguished himself as a maker of peace between the two dominant faiths.

Besides being criticized as being too close to government which makes CAN look like their appendage, Pastor Oritsejafor should also be made aware of the fact that his leadership of the organization over the past 2 and a half years has created more bad blood between Christians and Muslims instead of working to bring the two sides together.

The peace we need is not one that would be gotten by threatening violence at each and every turn.



Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.


“They are an appendage of PDP and PDP themselves” – CAN fires back at Catholic Church [DETAILS]

by Isi Esene

The crisis brewing within the Christian Association of Nigeria does not seem to be abating with the association giving the Catholic Church the go-ahead to pull out of the religious group.

The Catholic Church recently decided to pull out of CAN noting that it no longer stood for what it was initially set up to do.

In a letter signed by the Administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Abeokuta, Monsignor Christopher Ajala, on Tuesday, the Catholic Church alleged that CAN had become an arm of government.

“The Catholic Church took their stand before the purchase or the aircraft was donated to him. But what the Catholic Bishops Conference is complaining about is about the way they are running the national CAN now that is not meeting the objectives and the goals of CAN and the forefathers of CAN.

“CAN is now being run as part of the government and we said no.

“Because they (government) will dictate to us what to do and they will not take our advice seriously. The Catholic Church decided to withdraw from the activities of CAN at national level; we are still part of the state. We made our stand clear in November, last year, and by December, the man bought a jet. I don’t know how he got it but the president was there on that day the jet was delivered to him.

“So, what we are saying is that our religious leaders should be honest, upright and they should also be the conscience of this nation.

“If you are bought, the masses of this country are finished. If you can use money to buy our religious leaders, then there is no hope for the common man. That is the Catholic Church’s stand. We are supposed to speak for the people to correct the wrongs in the society and assist every government to know the will of God for them and we still stand by that.”

But in its reaction to the allegations made against it by the Catholic Church, the leadership of CAN attributed the problem to the inability of a Catholic Church candidate to wrest power from the current CAN president, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor.

According to the Public Relations Officer of the 19 Northern States of CAN and Abuja, Sunny Oibe, “There are some certain elements in the leadership of CAN led by Cardinal John Onaiyekan because he lost CAN Presidency to Oritsejafor who has a lot of achievements.”

Oibe whio spoke with reporters in Abuja on Wednesday continued saying, “There is no need for anybody to lose sleep over the threat by Catholics to pull out of CAN because without them CAN will still continue. The constitution of CAN makes provision that membership can be terminated by any group that is misbehaving or any group can also terminate their membership.

“Why is it that when Catholics were in the leadership of CAN, every bloc supported them, but now because power has changed hands, they are threatening to pull out and causing confusion?

“They have been agitating that the Presidency of CAN must come from the South. They are an appendage of PDP and PDP themselves. They are known for double standards. A man of God should not be double speaking.”

Oibe reportedly continued saying, “The Catholics are claiming that the current CAN leadership has deviated from the vision of the founding fathers when they don’t even know how CAN came about.

“Catholics have accused the present CAN leadership, led by Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor of being pro-government. But if you look at the whole scenario, you will be able to find out who between Oritsejafor and Onaiyekan is closer to government.”

“The problem of Catholics is that they always display arrogance in knowledge. They don’t want to be under anybody but they want everybody to be under them. It doesn’t work like that because there is no seniority in CAN,” Oibe said.

Gov. Suntai

Report: Governor Danbaba Suntai suffered brain-damage in plane crash

by Akan Ido

There are indications that the Taraba State governor, Danbaba Suntai, who was involved in a plane crash in Adamawa State recently might have suffered a brain damage.

An online news portal is reporting that Suntai failed to recognise any member of a presidential delegation which paid him a visit in a medical facility he is presently receiving treatment in Hanover, Germany.

The delegation which was said to have been in the Vatican, Italy to attend the consecration of Archbishop John Onaiyekan as a Cardinal of the Catholic Church made a quick detour to Germany to visit the hospitalized governor.

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According to reports, the delegation was made up of Senate president, David Mark; Governor Ibrahim Yakowa of Kaduna State; President Goodluck Jonathan’s chief of staff, Mike Oghiadomhe; John Kennedy Opara, the secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC), and the Chaplain of the Presidential Villa Chapel, Venerable Obioma Onwuzurumba.

A source said, “His condition was so bad that they could not publicly disclose his condition after they returned to Nigeria.”

After the unfortunate plane crash which happened a few minutes from the Yola Airport, Suntai was transferred to the National Hospital in Abuja before being airlifted to Germany after President Jonathan visited him.

Sources within the Taraba State government, however, maintain that the governor is making a remarkable recovery with the expectation that he will get back to his duty as governor of the state soon.

We wish the governor speedy recovery.

TICKER: Pope appoints Matthew Kukah to Vatican’s Pontifical Council

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Sokoto, as a member of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Vatican City.

The 13-member Council is the highest decision and policy-making body for the Council for the Holy Father.

Kukah’s appointment follows on the heels of the appointment of His Grace Archbishop John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja as a Cardinal.

Fr. Sixtus Onuh, Chancellor, Diocese of Sokoto, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that Kukah’s new appointment was an addition to others already bagged by him.

In May, the President of the Conference of Bishops of English and French speaking West Africa announced Kukah’s appointment as the Chairman of the Commission on Culture, Inter-religious Dialogue and Ecumenism.

In February, he was elected Chairman of the Commission on Inter-religious Dialogue for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria.

Bishop Kukah had earlier served the Council in five-year tenure when His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze served as the President of the Council.

He was a delegate at the just-concluded Synod of Bishops for the New Evangelisation in the Vatican, Fr. Onuh said.

Vanguard Newspapers