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Mbaka: The Priest, his controversies & the Cathedral

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Spiritual Director of Adoration Ministry, Enugu Nigeria, (AMEN), Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka is a fiery Catholic priest who stirs controversy the way flies are attracted to a dung. Since his ferocious criticism of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration which he had ‘prophesied’ and supported its emergence in 2015, the preacher who, yet remains unfazed as a critic who leaves no turn unstoned has been at the centre of controversies. 

First, he was reported ‘missing’ four days after he lashed out at Buhari, later, he resurfaced following protests by his numerous worshippers. Now, he says he has been invited for interrogation by the Department of State Security. Correspondent, MILICENT ONAGA takes a look at how the priest has taken on his many battles with his Bishop and the Catholic Church. Excerpts!

Attack on Buhari’s Presidency: Fr. Mbaka travelling a familiar route…

Call him a spiritual, or even political gadfly, you may not be wrong. What is incontestable is the fact that Rev. Fr. Mbaka is not a man who will not bare his mind and fangs on whoever he feels dissatisfied with his conducts in public office. In the buildup to the 2015 election, Mbaka stunned the world when he publicly condemned the then Goodluck Jonathan administration in his new year eve message, asking Nigerians to vote out the PDP and support the opposition, APC.

Shortly thereafter, the popular Adoration Ministries coordinator had alleged his life was being threatened by the Jonathan administration, noting that his support for Jonathan in the last six years did not attract death threats or condemnation from opposition politicians. He also used the opportunity to address allegations that he received some money from Mrs. Jonathan during her visit to his church. Fr. Mbaka had disclosed that Mr. Jonathan dropped money for him through Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, but that he left the money with Ekweremadu and his wife, claiming further that the money Mrs. Jonathan gave as offering at the church’s offertory was equally returned to her.

It is on record that he was one of the firsts to be hosted behind closed doors by President Buhari in Aso rock who publicly acknowledged and commended him as a bold and courageous preacher. Six years down the line, things have fallen apart between the duo and not only can the falcon no longer hold the falconer, his mother church, the Catholic community seems polarized over a ban placed on him by the Bishop of Enugu Dioceses to stop commenting, or showing open support to politicians.

Mbaka: How the cookies came crumbling…

With a cult-like followership, Father Mbaka’s adoration ministry is often a pilgrimage every Fridays when he hosts his Ministry’s worshippers to a mixture of the word of God, worship, praise and of course, contemporaneous political or social developments which necessarily often go with his reactions and personal views.

However, days after his scathing criticism of Buhari’s administration in May, things were not expected to remain the same. Therefore, his sudden ‘disappearance’ which caused his followers to go on rampage in search for their priest up to the Bishop’s house which was his last known address as he was reportedly invited by Bishop Onaga. The desperate search for a ‘missing’ Mbaka led to the vandalization of the Bishop’s house by the protesters who could not hide their joy when he eventually resurfaced.

Initially, the priest had also earlier been declared ‘missing’ by Ohanaeze Ndigbo youth council Worldwide who raised the alarm that all efforts made to reach him on the phone had proven abortive and that his whereabouts could not be ascertained.

Upon resurfacing, Mbaka told his followers; “A lot of issues were presented against me after which the Church leadership, led by Bishop Calistus Onaga told me that i would remain indoors for one month, a period that would allow me pray and meditate over my activities”

The priest said he requested to be allowed the opportunity to come and address his parishioners after which he would shut down, “but they said No! Allow me to and celebrate mass for my people just for today, I won’t even tell them that I am being punished, they said, No. I will just tell my members that I’m going for 30 days prayer, that after 30 days, we will come back and everybody will obey, they said, No!

“I also begged them to appoint another priest to come and celebrate mass for me today, they also said No! They didn’t treat me in a pastoral way. I was asking; ‘am I being punished for what’? They said it was a meeting, but even before I reached the Bishop’s house, conclusion has already been made. What happened to me was like the day I was shot on the road”, he said, while blaming Bishop,  Onaga, for the vandalization of the Bishop’s court.11

Insecurity: Mbaka’s call for Buhari’s impeachment, support for Kanu; the crux of the vexation

It could be recalled that the cleric criticized Buhari and called for his impeachment over the growing insecurity in the country. Barely four days after, reports emerged that Father Mbaka was missing. Following  his being declared ‘missing’, it was only natural for his followers to reason that the Federal  Government’s security  agencies such as the DSS was the first to be suspected, then followed  by the authority  of the catholic church Bishop Calistus Onaga, who had summoned him.

And it could also be recalled that days before he was declared missing, he had blessed and showered praises on the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu saying; “I want to tell you something, wherever he (Kanu) is, May God bless him because if somebody has risen to shout (that) his brothers are suffering, may the Lord bless his courage,” Mbaka said, adding; “Although I don’t know him and haven’t met Nnamdi Kanu before, but wherever  he is, may God bless him.” 

The cleric commended him for his courage, stating further that it is not wrong for someone to stand up for his people who are being maltreated.

Even though the priest is not given to pretenses, many have argued that Mbaka’s sudden support for IPOB and Nnamdi Kanu may only be to attract sympathy and the support of his large religious followers.  

… And the Priest made a u-turn, begs Bishop Onaga

In what was rather a surprise to many, Fr. Mbaka during a church service at Adoration Ministry Ground, Umuchigbo in Enugu East Local Government Area remorsefully apologized to the Catholic Church and Bishop Onaga for the ‘unruly behaviour’ of his adherents in Enugu following rumours of his ‘disappearance’.

He went on his knees and apologized to Bishop Onaga, the Catholic church in Enugu and world-wide for all the damage his followers had done at the bishop’s house at Igbo Eze Street, Independence Layout Enugu, and Holy Ghost Cathedral, Ogui Enugu.

The priest had explained that no one was sent to destroy the property of the Bishop and the church, while warning his followers to be faithful to the church at all times. He maintained that he neither had issues with Bishop Onaga nor the church, but alleged that some persons wanted to pit him against the church. 

He, however, declared that he would obey the church as a priest. “My bishop and I are not arguing, there is no dispute between us. A lot of people want to put conflict between us, but what’s inside of me won’t allow it to succeed,” Mbaka stated.

He had continued that, “I do not fight the Catholic Church. It cannot happen. All I have is the church. I have worked in the church for more than 25 years. Why should I start fighting it?”

“I go on my knees and apologize to the Catholic Church for everything that happened. If I have said something wrong, please forgive me.”

He further instructed his followers to join him in a one week prayer and fasting ordered by the Bishop to seek God’s forgiveness for the desecration of the holy altar at Holy Ghost Cathedral, Enugu. 

Then fell the Catholic Bishop’s sledge hammer… 

Some days after the summon by the catholic Bishop, Fr. Mbaka went on to announce a one-month shutdown of his Adoration Ministry. It was said that his decision is not unconnected to the order given to him by the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Bishop Calistus Onaga.

The ministry had sent out a message alerting members that Fr. Mbaka was proceeding on a one-month private prayer retreat. It read: “Our Spiritual Director, Rev Fr Ejike Mbaka wishes to inform his beloved adorers that he has embarked on a private prayer retreat that will end on 10th June 2021.

“Consequently, no ministry activities shall be held in the ministry ground pending his return. He directs that members of the ministry are to observe this period of his retreat as they used to do during the usual January breaks of the ministry, by praying at their homes, being charitable and fasting according to their ability”, it read.

 Similarly, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Bishop Callistus Onaga after the incident declared a one week of prayer over the invasion of the diocesan’s central place of worship in Holy ghost prayer ground.

The Bishop, had called on all Catholic Parishes, Chaplaincies and Religious Houses in the Catholic Diocese of Enugu to embark on prayer of Atonement and Reparation over the incident.

“Therefore, I hereby declare and call for a one week union of prayer in reparation and atonement for this heinous act against our central place of worship and the sanctity of the church.

“The prayer begins from Friday May 7 to Friday May 14 and every parish, chaplaincy and religious community in the diocese is obliged to participate in this holy activity. I enjoin you to remain sober and keep the dioceses in prayer”, it stated.

Further to the above, the Bishop had declared that following the recent controversy between the priest and the bishop, leading to the worshipers in the Adoration ground to destruction of the properties at the Holy Ghost Cathedral and the Bishop’s court in Enugu, on the 5th day of May, 2021, a new directive be given to the extent that Mbaka’s Adoration ministry should henceforth be administered and ran as a chaplaincy under the Catholic church.

The bishop’s statement had read in part; “In order to safeguard the integrity of the church and forestall future abuses in the Adoration Ministry, as the necessary condition for the existence of the ministry, I here by decree that henceforth, The Adoration Ministry Enugu shall be administered and organized as a chaplaincy. Canonically, a chaplaincy is a special group of Christ’s faithful entrusted to a priest in a stable manner who is their chaplain in accordance with universal law

“Adoration Ministry Enugu is to be re-organized as a chaplaincy in the Catholic Diocese of Enugu under the leadership of Rev. Fr. Camellus Ejike Mbaka. As a Catholic outfit of the diocese, it shall enjoy all the pastoral privileges and is to be under pastoral and managerial obligation of the same diocese. The diocesan bishop has the right prerogative to appoint chaplain and the assistant chaplain to the Adoration Ministry Enugu Nigeria” he said

And Mbaka defied Bishop Onaga’s order, holds mass…

In sharp contrast to the order of the Bishop, Fr. Mbaka resumed his adoration Ministry on Sunday the 6th of June, 30 days after it was shut down. Our correspondent observed that despite a directive from the head of his Diocese, Bishop Onaga, for Adoration Ministry to be changed into a Chaplaincy, with a caution that he should stay away from politics 

Mbaka, however, mounted the pulpit and again, delved into political matters where he lambasted the present government at the centre.

“Did they tell me to shut up and start saying that the country is good? The country is not good. God will fight for this country. The country is not well. Woe betide a prophet of God who will be silent in time of evil, that person is not a prophet, no matter the threat, no matter the attack, a prophet is a prophet at all times,” he declared.

What are we talking about? In a time like this when the whole country men cannot find a solution in the government, people will find a solution in the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

The body and blood of Jesus is the solution to what you are passing through, it is the supernatural solution to what Nigeria is passing through; in a time like this when the youths are passing through the corridors of unemployment, when the youths are crying, when there is banditry, when a lot of terrorist activities are going on, we need the power of the Holy Ghost for holistic solution”, the fiery priest continued.

He said, “Anybody by any means who will stop people from worshipping here will regret it. We must discern when God is working and when the devil is working. Let those who are inviting me to Abuja and elsewhere…they don’t understand history, this is the same Fr. Mbaka that spoke against Abacha and co, this is the same Fr. Mbaka under Eneja, who went to Minna and spoke to Babangida face to face about what was wrong with his government. This is the same Fr. Mbaka under Bishop Gbuji, who went to Obasanjo in Aso Rock, face to face and spoke to him. I perform under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, I don’t do anything to get money but save souls. Under Bishop Gbuji I ministered to the late Yar’Adua.

“If they are attacking me here and there, even from those who should save me, no wahala, I heard the security man did not receive the letter, he could have received it, he told them that Fr. is coming on Sunday to celebrate mass, that they can come to give him the letter. If they know that the anointing flowing from this ground is too hot for them, let them change. If you are the one sent to cow Fr. Mbaka down, it is a stupid assignment because you cannot achieve it. Those who are dreaming that Fr. Mbaka will soon be quiet, you are wasting your time”, he warned.

Mbaka became even more ferocious when he said, “The body and blood of Jesus is the solution to what you are passing through, it is the supernatural solution to what Nigeria is passing through; in a time like this when the youths are passing through the corridors of unemployment, when the youths are crying, when there is banditry, when a lot of terrorist activities are going on, we need the power of the Holy Ghost for holistic solution. What are we talking about? In a time like this when the whole country men cannot find a solution in the government, people will find a solution in the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”

Apparently condemning the role of his Bishop, he said a retired Bishop Eneja of the Diocese “will not be happy wherever he is hearing that Fr. Mbaka is dumb in a time like “Was it not on Wednesday that I came back to my house after 30 days? I came back on Wednesday, I celebrated mass with some of the leaders of the ministry. By Thursday morning, I got a call from where I was that DSS people from Abuja came to the gate, and they came with a letter of invitation to Abuja, over what? Listen.

“What I cannot understand is that the mother Church in Nigeria should be cowed down to a level of Lilliputian, all these are attempts to dumbfound the priest of God, all the priests could be dumbfounded but no prophet could be dumbfounded. It is our duty to protect the sheep in this time when there is killing everywhere, bloodshed everywhere, hunger everywhere.

Mbaka’s defiance and DSS’ back and forth… 

Earlier on when the charismatic priest was declared missing, the DSS was number one place his followers suspected. The reason was clear: Mbaka had earlier lashed out at the President Buhari’s administration and had blessed Nnamdi Kanu of the outlawed IPOB for his courage to stand for his people being massacred by herdsmen. But the DSS wasted no time in exonerating itself through a press statement where the State’s security service stated clearly that it didn’t arrest Mbaka.

 It was again, gathered that the DSS visited the Enugu Adoration ministry to deliver a letter of invitation. However, they didn’t meet the cleric at the church premises.

etails of why the intelligence unit summoned the priest were not clear yet but it might not be unconnected with Mbaka’s criticism of the Buhari government in recent times.

The priest recently said, “God had rejected the President and unhappy with his leadership. Was it not on Wednesday that I came back to my house after 30 days? I came back on Wednesday, I celebrated mass with some of the leaders of the ministry. By Thursday morning, I got a call from where I was that DSS people from Abuja came to the gate, and they came with a letter of invitation to Abuja, over what”

Which way, Adoration worshippers…? 

Worshippers in Mbaka’s Adoration ministry, popularly hailed as ‘Umu ikuku’-(like the children of the ‘holy -ghost’) are not happy with what their beloved priest is going through even though the road is a very familiar one. They are not happy that their services have also been disrupted by these distractions even though their Man of God remain unfazed. 

Some worshipers of Adoration Ministry who spoke to our correspondent on conditions of anonymity said the letter of invitation by the DSS coming after the cleric has finished his one month ban from celebration of mass and holding Adoration programes by bishop Onaga is suspicious. 

“The letter of invitation by the DSS coming after the cleric has finished his one month ban from celebration of mass and holding Adoration programmes as directed by the Bishop of Enugu Catholic Diocese, Callistus Onaga is very suspicious.

“Why did the DSS have to wait until Bishop Callistus Onaga was done with his own punishment? It is more than a month Mbaka last made a public appearance. Why are they just ‘arresting’ him now? Maybe the DSS invitation letter was ready, and waiting for Onaga to handover”, the worshipper claimed. 

Some others however frowned at the behaviour of Fr. Mbaka saying, if he is the only reverend father in Enugu, why should it be only him that disturbs and disobeys his mother-catholic authority? Is father Mbaka bigger than Catholic Church? If he cannot subject himself to the authority of the Church, he should resign and establish his own Church”, the source said. Many watch with hands akimbo to know how the battle would end!

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