The Catholic Church has remained one of the most outspoken Christian denominations in Nigeria. The Church and its leaders have over time spoken on the poor situation of things in Nigeria especially in relation to leadership and corruption. Even within the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella body of all Christians in Nigeria, the Catholic block has at several occasions disagreed with the leaders of the body.
Catholic leaders have consistently attacked ‘prosperity preachers’ in the country and successive presidents in Nigeria have always had a feel of the level of activism from the Catholic Church. The tenure of the former President of CAN, Pastor Ayo Oristsejafor was a little bit turbulent at the latter end when his private jet was involved in a cash for arms deal which went awry between Nigeria and South African Government.
This singular act among others made the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria pull out of the Christian body. According to them, Oristsejafor’s closeness to the President, Goodluck Jonathan was too close for comfort. Catholic leaders in Nigeria like Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah and Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka have been vocal in speaking against widespread corruption in Nigeria and how the Church should help in fighting corruption.
However, the recent occurrence in Benue where former Senate President, David Mark, a man currently under probe by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) donated a 3000-seater auditorium to his local Catholic Church is worrisome. This worry is because the church received the ‘gift’ with open arms, which is against what it preaches.
The Church itself has been at the forefront of the campaign against corruption and it is ironical that an individual like Cardinal John Onaiyekan was part of the individuals invited to the commissioning. The Church cannot claim ignorance of David Mark being under probe by the EFCC. The failure of the Church to query the source of Mark’s wealth nor wait for him to clear his name before accepting such donation at a time like this is suspect.
If the former Senate President is finally convicted for corruption and it is discovered that the auditorium was built from proceeds of corruption, it will surely dent the image of the Catholic Church in Nigeria.