by Azubuike Azikiwe
Catholic clerics have distanced themselves from the New Year day’s sermon of Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka, who implored his flock and Nigerians to vote out President Goodluck Jonathan in the general election.
The head of Adoration Ministry in Enugu State, while addressing his congregation, had told them that the President does not merit a second term, going by his performance in the past 6-years.
His sermon would draw widespread criticism from his colleagues in the Catholic communion, with many of them saying he lacks the authority to endorse any candidate, while others have called for him to be disciplined by the leadership of the Catholic church.
Leading clerics of the Catholic church in Nigeria, have reacted to the Mbaka’s outburst, with each giving their opinion on the matter:
According to the Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan: “Mbaka will take responsibilities for his own actions. I do not believe in my mind that the way things are in Nigeria, any Catholic priest has the mandate to decide which of the political contestants should be voted for. What most of us will do is to tell people to vote according to their conscience and then, we tell the authorities to allow people to vote freely and fairly.”
“Mbaka is a priest of his own type. If he was in my archdioceses, I would have sanctioned him long ago for the kind of things and utterances that he makes. But, he is not under my diocese; he has a bishop to handle that if there is any need. I hope that people are not thinking that we are sending Mbaka to talk rubbish?” Onaiyekan added.
The Bishop of the Diocese of Ekiti, Most Rev. Felix Femi Ajakaye, says Mbaka’s comments are inconsequential, as he is not a national officer of the Catholic church.
He said: “A Catholic Church’s priest’s role in this regard is to pray and to promote good governance sincerely and purposefully, though he needs to be wary in his utterances and actions to avoid unnecessary and embarrassing controversies.”
“Fr. Mbaka is not a national officer of the Church. He is a priest of Enugu Diocese, and neither his Diocese nor the Catholic Church in Nigeria mandated him to speak on their behalf, both at his first presentation when he endorsed President Goodluck Jonathan and the second one when he changed his mind and condemned, promoting Gen. Mohammadu Buhari.”
Meanwhile, Monsignor Gabriel Osu, Director of Social Communication, Archdiocese of Lagos, says churches are not meant to be campaign grounds, and as such, it is wrong for a pastor or priest to turn his church to a campaign rally.
“I don’t need to strike my nose to keep my face. Being a fellow priest, I believe I should weigh my words. Whatever he said was his personal opinion; that is his stand, not the stand of the Catholic priests in Nigeria. As priests, we are not supposed to be partisan; we are to be father to all. We are sorry of the impression created is that he is supporting a particular party. As to whether he should be sanctioned or not, I cannot decide that. Those who feel he should be disciplined have also expressed their own views. It is left for his bishop to decide whether or not to discipline him.”
Rev. Father George Ehusani, a former Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, says the church does not view Mbaka as a serious person.
He said: “Whatever Father Mbaka said in his sermon is of no consequence to me. He is a priest in the village and has no position in the national structure for me to take his words serious. His statement means nothing to me. We do not take him serious. But, if people now decide to fly with what he has said, then it shows how ignorant they are.”