Speaking to THISDAY in an exclusive interview, the Catholic Bishop of Abuja Metropolitan See, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, said given the rules of the church, Fr. Mbaka ought to be sanctioned. This came as Onaiyekan cautioned the PDP and opposition, All Progressives Congress (APC) to desist from campaigns of calumny. He stated that prophecies of doom ahead of 2015 elections notwithstanding, “PDP and APC have no right to disorganise Nigeria.”
Onaiyekan, commenting on Fr Mbaka, said the priest went overboard in his statement insinuating that President Jonathan’s administration has been plagued with ‘bad luck’ and poor performance. Onaiyekan distanced the Catholic Church from Mbaka’s statement, stating that, “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. “I wouldn’t be surprised if most people are not happy with the statement he made. From my reactions, you should see that I do not agree with him. I don’t believe a priest should be doing that.
“But, like I said, Mbaka is a priest of his own type. If he was in my archdioceses, I will 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,” the Cardinal observed. Onaiyekan, rather maintained that Mbaka had earlier made insinuations that President Jonathan’s wife, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, will continue in office. “I hope that people are not thinking that we are sending Mbaka to talk rubbish, how can they think that? If you want to hear anything even not official but at least, authoritative, then, you listen to the bishops. Rather than him and I don’t see any bishop talking that way.”
Meanwhile, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, said Nigerians should avoid hasty generalisation, as the statement of one Catholic priest cannot be taken to represent the voices of more than 30 million Catholics in Nigeria. Kaigama told THISDAY that though Mbaka could not have been speaking for the Nigerian Catholic Church, Nigerians should avoid making unguided statements and hasty generalisation on national issues like the 2015 general election. “There are more than 30 million Catholics in Nigeria, Fr Mbaka is just one Catholic, if he makes a statement, it cannot be the voices of more than 30 million Nigerian Catholics speaking. “So Nigerians should avoid hasty generalisation. Mbaka cannot speak for the church, only the CBCN can speak for the church. Those who are complaining, should go to Fr Mbaka and find out why he is saying what he is saying,” Kaigama said.
The CBCN President informed THISDAY that it is completely out of place for a Catholic priest to be partisan. “I tell you, even the Canon Law forbid a priest to engage in partisan politics,” Kaigama told THISDAY. Asked if there would be punitive measures meted out to Mbaka, Kaigama said: “If the law has been abused, we will ensure that we enforce the law. In this case, it is not the Catholic church; the church did not send him to say those things.
“Mbaka belongs to a diocese, so if the Bishop finds out that he has fallen out of line, the Bishop can call him to order,” he said. “Mbaka is just expressing his opinion, if we want to make a political statement, we know how to do it. That we keep quiet and we are marginalised, does not mean we don’t have strength. With more than 30 million Catholics, we have the strength,” Kaigama submitted.
The Archbishop of Jos argued that there was no public uproar when the same Mbaka assured the first lady of continuity. Fr. Mbaka has come under intense condemnation following his sermon last week, lampooning Jonathan’s administration for poor performance. His comment had elicited public outcry, especially, among the teeming Catholic population in South-east and South-south parts of the country where President Jonathan has a strong support base.