Being a nation of faith, Nigeria and Nigerians are known to accord great respect to their priests and priestesses. In whatever form they come, as bishops, reverend fathers, pastors, canons and venerables, general overseers, prophets, Imams, babalawos, eze muo, etc, they have a special place in the social life of the nation.
One of Nigeria’s known clergymen, Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, the Spiritual Director of Adoration Ministries Enugu Nigeria (AMEN), recently, stirred the hornet’s nest when he picked up Mr. Peter Obi, a presidential hopeful and former governor of Anambra State, for gossip on a church forum. Fr. Mbaka had attacked the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, describing him as stingy, and that a stingy man can never be the president of Nigeria. According to reports, Mbaka stated that if Obi becomes president, he would quit his ministry.
Mbaka, actually, did not say anything different from what has been said about Obi since he popped up his head for the apex position in this country. The difference, however, is that a revered and respected man of God was echoing it this time, giving it so much weight, so much semblance of credibility.
Although he has been reported as having tendered apologies for the outburst against Obi, it must be observed that the man of God strayed rather too far into the murky waters of politics. Unfortunately, fans of Obi who happen to be real faith people, especially Christians of the Catholic denomination, had a hell of a time deciding how best to handle the statement, whether to join issues with the reverend father or not, in view of the biblical injunction that quotes God as saying “touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm.”
However, some picked up courage to tell him that he had erred. The highly incensed ones called for the sack of Mbaka as a priest. The dust is yet to settle over those comments as it led to a shutdown of the Adoration ministries, prompting an uprising against the Catholic Bishop of Enugu, who, it must also be noted, is one of the anointed prophets of God that must not be touched.
But, is Obi really stingy? Someone stingy can also be seen as miserly, mean, penny-pinching, and tight-fisted. Obi, as governor of Anambra State, steered the ship of his state for two terms and actually berthed the ship safely ashore. He later handed over to his successor, and up till tomorrow, beats his chest, unchallenged, about his astute management of the state’s resources. The money he left behind, according to records, was enough to help in building an airport in the state.
At a time it was fashionable among governors not to pay salaries and pensions let alone gratuities Obi has always asserted that he owed no one when he left office, not workers, not pensioners, not even contractors. His secret was that he was not extravagant with state funds. He flew economy class and lodged in the cheapest hotels whenever he was on a state visit outside Anambra. His retinue was a size that was necessary and manageable. He made investments for Anambra and plunged their money where it mattered. Education got chunks in schools rehabilitation, and by the time he left, Anambra, which earlier took a distant thirty something position in the school certificate examinations, came to the first position in all states of the nation.
There have been more stories of prudence told about the government of Obi in Anambra State, going to tell us that Obi’s traducers must have had a problem with vocabulary. They were unable to tell financial prudence against stinginess. These traducers, most likely, come from the tribe of disappointed persons who revel in profligacy in government and flock around those profligate public officers looking for crumbs from their table.
Essentially, Mbaka’s statement exposes the sour point of our underdevelopment, which lies in the prevalent psyche of dependence on an identified financial iroko in a community by the rest of the people in the community. Some call it the “ranka dede” system, where almajiris and all members of the community gather every morning to eat in the house of the “iroko” and shower praises on him thereafter.
The ruling class understands this and so, the rulers have no scruples when they go to the public purse, steal as much as they can and distribute a fraction to the begging masses, taking glory as philanthropists.
If Obi had been stingy in his private life, how would we know, assuming he has been keeping faith with the injunction given by Jesus Christ himself that while we are engaging in acts of philanthropy or charity, we should not let the right hand know what the left is doing? Of course, Fr. Mbaka understands that should Obi go about broadcasting his philanthropy, he would be like the Pharisees that Christ said would be receiving their rewards and glory on earth while forfeiting the heavenly recognition.
Apparently, the man of God is given to the surge of emotions and anyone familiar with his encounter with Obi before the last elections would suspect that his latest “prophecy” on Obi issued from that encounter. At a forum on the Adoration ground, Fr. Mbaka had pushed in vain to get Obi to commit himself to a stated amount of money as donation to his ministry. He was so visibly angry that he expressed a wish, which he usually calls prophesy, that Obi, who was then standing as Atiku’s running mate would not fly in the 2019 elections.
The root of this can be traced to the feudal system predominant in the northern part of the country and most likely the writers of Nigeria’s present constitution as well as the structure of the nation’s public wealth distribution that goes from top to bottom were influenced by that system. For that reason, nothing works, necessitating the calls for true federalism and total restructuring.
Obi understands that the principles of enterprise are in prudent management of resources. That has largely governed his way to the top, in his private and public life. Perhaps some of people who listen to him feel he lies, that it is impossible to achieve what he claims in modern Nigeria. He knows it and readily tells them to verify.
There has to be a reversal of concepts, a restructuring in the line of true federalism so that federating units can grow along their different trajectories unhindered. As for Fr. Mbaka, it would be nice for the congregation not to see him differently, other than the prophet they know him as. It is worrying to note that he says his personal wishes and opinion and labels them prophecies. Some of his prophecies are known not to have happened the way he handed them down. When he says it and it does not happen, the temptation is strong for people to see him as a false prophet. To his congregation who go wild in defence of him, they must understand that the Catholic Church is not a cult and does not permit personality cult following. It’s not spiritually okay and negates Christ’s teachings.