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LongRead…Father Mbaka: Shepherd of the flock or modern day ‘sharp guy’?

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LongRead...Father Mbaka: Shepherd of the flock or modern day ‘sharp guy’?

Before the famous (or if you like, infamous) fallout between the Spiritual Director of the Adoration Ministry, Enugu (AMEN), Reverend Father Ejike Camillus Anthony Ebenezer Mbaka, and the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, he was the beautiful bride, the torch bearer and shining light of the Buhari campaign train.

He was the ‘good boy,’ the favoured and pampered son of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who could do no wrong. He was loved and garbed in glorious garments, with the doors of the Presidency opened to him at all hours.

In 2014, when Buhari was campaigning to be president against the then incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, Mbaka’s Adoration Ground became the one-stop point for several visitations by the APC train.

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He played host to top APC members including Buhari himself and his wife, Aisha Buhari, who promised to build a world class hospital at the facility to cater for worshippers, though according to Mbaka, that promise has not been fulfilled till date.

Buhari, the National Leader of the APC and former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, then APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and other top brass of the party made it a point of duty to visit Mbaka to obtain his blessings.

Mbaka, always one to capitalize on such limelight, played his hands well and churned out prophecies to the favour of Buhari and the APC. To him then, Buhari was the Messiah, the anointed Moses who was specially chosen by God to lead Nigerians out of the Egypt that Jonathan had plunged the country into.

Mbaka’s career as a celebrity priest assumed a new flavor at that point. He continued to sell the Buhari Presidency, and even did a better job than Buhari media aides.

In Mbaka’s eyes, Buhari could do no wrong in his eyes. He accused the Jonathans, whom he had earlier accused of plotting to kill him, of creating all the problems that the Buhari administration was confronted with.

When Buhari was running for a second term in 2019, the APC once again cuddled the Catholic priest who, true to type, played his hands well and once again, gave Buhari and the APC his unalloyed support.

But on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, during a service at the Adoration Ground, Fr. Mbaka stirred the hornet’s nest when he announced to his congregation that he had received a new revelation from God about President Buhari to the effect that he (Buhari) must resign or be impeached by the National Assembly as the administration had not been up and doing, with the insecurity raging in the country, the killing of innocent Nigerians in every part of the country, the incessant abductions of students and other hapless Nigerians, and the economic downturn the country has faced.

“Remember there was a time God asked me to support you people (Buhari regime), now God asked me to withdraw and prophesy against you.
“I repeat, is it not shameful that the President of a country will be sick and there is no hospital to treat him, and he will fly out? So if other Nigerians are sick, will they fly away?” Mbaka had fired.

Nigerians were taken aback, wondering, as it were, that such an earth-shattering announcement could actually come from Mbaka who, before then, was well known and self-confessed ‘Buharist’ and an avowed APC apologist who had made lots of enemies because of his unwavering support for the administration.

Mbaka’s revelation was a rude shock to Nigerians and in particular, the Presidency who could not fathom that a staunch supporter of Buhari and the ruling APC in the 2015 and 2019 general elections could turn out to kick against the same government.

This was a man who used his pulpit to openly campaign for the party and opposed Jonathan and the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). How then could he suddenly turn against Buhari and the APC, the Presidency must have wondered.

That was when the brick-bats started flying and what had been kept away from Nigerians surfaced and with the wind blowing wide, hidden secrets were made bare for all to see.

Typical of a Presidency that does not suffer fools gladly, the presidential aides went into overdrive and treated Nigerians to a dance of shame, as the war of words between the Presidency and their one-time star-boy threw the nation into a frenzy.

Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, was the first to fire the salvo when he took on Mbaka alleging that the Catholic priest was not happy with Buhari because he had not felt adequately compensated for the support he had given to the President.

In what seemed like the tantrums of a child whose favourite toys had been snatched from him, Shehu regaled Nigerians with how Mbaka had once visited Aso Villa to see the president with three contractors in tow, asking to be awarded various mouth- watering contracts.

Shehu painted Mbaka as a supporter-for-contract priest whose only interest in aligning with Buhari was for what he stood to gain but simply became a turn-coat when those rewards did not come.

To cap it all, Shehu made a veiled threat that the Presidency had some videos and photographs of Mbaka groveling at the feet of Buhari begging for contracts for himself and his cronies and that if their hands were further pushed, the Presidency would be forced to release those photos and videos.

“Father Mbaka is everything apart from what he claims to be. To an outsider distilling the avalanche of verbiage will be surprised that after supporting the President two times to win the Presidency, Father Mbaka has made a complete U-Turn, preposterously asking President Buhari to resign or be impeached.

“Father Mbaka asked for a meeting and to the shock of Presidential Aides, he came accompanied by three contractors. The President graciously allowed them in, and to everyone’s surprise, Father Mbaka asked for contracts as compensation for his support.

“Inside the Villa, discretion prevailed, that if those pictures and requests were made public, the followers will turn against the religious leader. None of it was released. Now, this is what is eating Father Mbaka,” Shehu said.

The barrage of attacks did not come from the Presidency alone as the Deputy National Secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena, threatened to report Mbaka to the Vatican and the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, for making statements capable of destabilizing the country.

“It is unfortunate for a man of God who is supposed to deploy all known spiritual means of averting crisis but rather threatening a democratically elected government for his benefits while pretending to be speaking for the people.
“Calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to either resign or be impeached because of the current challenges is ungodly. Father Mbaka should not, however, take his luck too far because there is a lot to tell the Vatican and the Pope about his person and his sources of inspiration,” Nabena said.

To fight back, Mbaka countered the allegations leveled against him by the Presidency and practically said they were ‘senseless’ to attack a messenger of God as the wrath of the Almighty would fall on them if they continued.

“I know people will say, Mbaka did you not pray for Buhari; did Samuel not anoint Saul? What are you talking about? Am I the creator of Buhari? God created him, Nigerians trusted him because he had done well sometimes ago but now, how can people just be dying?”Mbaka said as a way of defence.

Tongue in cheek, Mbaka admitted that he actually took three white men who asked for his assistance to gain access to the President, to the Villa and that the men made a presentation on how to get security contracts for themselves, not for him.

“They have shown they don’t have reward mechanism,” he said.

“Buhari government is not giving me money or contract. It is a laughable and childish accusation. It is a shame to whoever is saying that and to the people he is representing.

“The three men Shehu talked about; the contract they asked for was for them, not me. These three men had gadgets, facilities to handle insecurity during the first term of Buhari.

“They said they had a platform to end insecurity in a month. I don’t know these people. They just asked me to help them reach the government and I handed them over to the government.

“These are the three people they rejected their offer. I’m not begging them. Do they know how many people I feed? I don’t have their number.

“Which contract did they deny me of? Do they know how many widows and children I’m taking care of?”

Mbaka also warned the Presidency to stop attacking those who say the truth and tackle insecurity.

“Be careful in your choice of words and be wise. If anybody says the truth, the person is a terrorist. I do my charity without their support. Garba Shehu that is talking, the bandits can kill him too. No amount of security can save them if things get worse. Shehu should be apologising to me.”

How the cookies crumbled

 

As it is with a bad marriage built on a deceitful foundation, the chummy relationship between Father Mbaka and the Nigerian government may have crumbled irreparably as the accusations and counter accusations continue to fly from both ends.

The collapse in the relation was first orchestrated by Mbaka when he openly withdrew his support for the Buhari administration, asking that the President should resign owing to his poor handling of the escalating insecurity in the country and the economic downturn the country is facing.

At one of his sermons at the Adoration Ground, Mbaka had said:

“Let me tell you; if it is in a civilized country, by now, President Buhari would have resigned with what is happening.

“Nigerians are crying because there’s no security in the country, the House of Representatives should impeach the president if he doesn’t want to resign.

“A good coach cannot watch his players defeated when he has players sitting down on the bench. It is either Buhari resigns by himself or he will be impeached.”

Mbaka also said the lawmakers in the country faced a “grim future if they refused to impeach the President.”

“Something worse than what they can ever imagine will happen to the members of the Senate and House of Representatives if the current situation persists,” he said.

Mbaka’s savage bombardment of the President seemed to have woken the bile in the Presidency and they did not take any prisoner with their reply and accused him of all sorts of sins that could be likened to what Judas did when he betrayed Jesus Christ.

He was accused of being a fly-in-pan contract-seeking rabble rouser, among other imaginable sins which effectively soured the once chummy marriage that seemed to have been made in heaven. At that point, the cookies had crumbled and in the words of the late revered Nigerian wordsmith, Chinua Achebe, things had fallen apart and the center could no longer hold.

‘Man of the people’

On Wednesday, May 5, the nation woke up to the news that Father Mbaka had gone missing. His members numbering thousands, had gone to the Adoration Ground for their weekly programme tagged ‘I No Dey,’ when they discovered that their priest was missing and they went berserk and went on a rampageous protest, vandalizing items at the Catholic Bishop’s Court.

They were further incensed by a rumour that Mbaka may have been arrested by the DSS and, who could blame them when the Secret Service had in the past, arrested anyone who had a dissenting voice to what the Presidency wants to hear?

In the wake of the ‘disappearance’ of Mbaka, many Nigerians and groups took up the government and warned that if he was not seen within 24 hours, there would be chaos in the country. The Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide released a statement where it called on the Federal Government to produce the priest within 48 hours or face their wrath.

“We are giving the Federal Government 48 hours to produce the priest, else they should be ready to face Igbo youths.
“They were dining and wining with him all along and now that he told the truth, they are no longer comfortable with him.
“Let nothing happen to Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka. It will not be in anybody’s interest,” the group said in a statement by its president, Mazi Okwu Nnabuike.

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The controversy that trailed the whereabouts of the cleric forced the DSS to come out with a statement, stating emphatically that Mbaka was not in its custody.

“He (Mbaka) is not with the DSS, please,” a spokesperson for DSS, Peter Afunnaya, said in a short statement to clarify its position.

What could have turned out to be an all-out riot was averted in the afternoon of that day when Mbaka suddenly reappeared, sending his church members and supporters into a frenzy.

With shouts of, ‘Father Mbaka, Oh! you are home,” they welcomed their hitherto ‘lost’ shepherd, but the damage they had caused during the protest had already been done.

Shepherd after his flock?

 

But even the as the circumstances of his disappearance was still shrouded in some kind of mystery, Mbaka could not control his cockiness and fiery tongue when he addressed his members later that day and accused the Catholic Diocese of Enugu and the Bishop of the Dioceses, Bishop Calistus Onaga, of trying to confine him for 30 days over his (Mbaka’s) alleged support for renegade leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, whom he had once addressed as his spiritual son.

Mbaka told his congregants that the church leadership, after confronting him with a lot of issues, wanted to keep him in solitary confinement for one month so that he could “pray and meditate over his activities” so as to purge him of his recalcitrant nature.

“I told them, ‘let me go and address my parishioners and I will come back,’ but they said no. I also begged them to allow me send another priest to come and celebrate mass for you today, they said No,” Mbaka explained to his members.

“They said they were not happy I said Nnamdi Kanu is my spiritual son and that I blessed him. It was when they saw the protest and read about what the people were saying that Bishop Onaga allowed me to go.

“Are you the owner of my mouth? You can’t tell me who to bless? If you are not happy that I blessed someone, you have your own mouth, you can curse the person. I cannot hate my brother because of some people who hatred is in their genes,” he added.

Not yet done, Mbaka further stoked the flame of the controversy when he said in an interview shortly after, firing from all cylinders:

“They didn’t treat me in a pastoral way and 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 had already been made. What happened to me was like the day I was shot on the road.

“Unfortunately for them, even before the meeting, a woman was already going around bragging that the Bishop will call me for a meeting, and that I was going to leave my house here for 30 days, and that after the 30 days, I would be sent to Rome, and Adoration Ministry will be closed.

“In a time and cases like this, don’t give me a punishment that will cause troubles for us because I’m not alone.”

For Mbaka, he was clearly being punished by the church for criticizing Buhari and calling for his resignation or impeachment.

Prophecy for sale?

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Many of his critics have accused Father Mbaka of being a mercantilist priest who has a penchant for making political prophecies to suit the highest bidder.

Some others have said that he hawks his prophecies or predictions as a commercial consideration which he greatly benefits from.

An outward show of Mbaka’s tendency towards mercantilism occurred when, in 2018, the Catholic priest took former Governor Peter Obi of Ananbra State to task for failing to publicly announce donations at the ministry’s harvest and bazaar celebration.

Standing side by side on stage, Mbaka asked him to “stay in front of this children of God and tell God what you will do for Him … or what that means is, you don’t want to do anything for God. This is common deceit.”

Obi replied, “Father, what I said is straightforward. You will come and show me the project so that the two of us will talk. That is what I said.”

Mbaka then accused Obi of making “political statement”, to which he responded, “Father knows I don’t make political statements. Anyone here from Anambra state knows Peter Obi has never promised anything and failed. I am a fundamental Catholic. I do whatever I say at the church.”

Mbaka said in response, “In your capacity and what God has done for you as governor … God hates stinginess. What I am saying is not to please you, but what will save your life. Otherwise you and Atiku will fail.

“If there is a place they will coat words for you, it is not at Mbaka’s altar. You can save your political destiny. Or in 2019, you people will not even know how they did the election. What will make my brother to come for bazaar and he won’t even break kola?”

Mbaka went on to tell Obi how governors of Ebonyi and Enugu made donations without announcing at the altar and urged him to do same.

“Your own is taking time,” he said, adding: “The way you and Atiku are moving will end in shame”.
“Let us continue our bazaar. You know since he is not supporting us, the ministry has been moving. If people start arguing like this, their downfall begins,” he said.

Before switching allegiance to Buhari, Mbaka was a staunch supporter of Jonathan and the PDP and had made several favourable predictions when the party was in power.

He was literally ‘in bed’ with the then First Family, Dame Patience Jonathan, and had direct access to the Villa. So close was he to the Jonathans that Dame Patience was a regular visitor to the Adoration Ground and of course, millions exchanged hands in the process.

However, that friendship ended when, in the build up to the 2015 general elections, Mbaka switched allegiance and prophesied doom for the incumbent President and candidate of the PDP, Jonathan, while affirming victory for the candidate of the APC and its candidate, Buhari.

The switch over was effected during the December 31, 2014, Crossover night where Mbaka made a sudden turnaround in his message titled “From good luck to bad luck.”

“I’m not saying that Goodluck is a bad man. He is a good man. But he cannot lead Nigeria. As things stand right now, from the oracle of the Holy Spirit, Jonathan should quietly resign honourably and let Nigeria be.

“The destiny of Nigeria is greater than Goodluck Jonathan. The Goodluck in Jonathan has become a bad luck to Nigerians. Whatever brought him in should send him back and let Nigeria be.

“President Jonathan has failed to stem the tide of insecurity and corruption in the country. In the year 2014, we had a lot of bloodshed in this country. People were dying like rats without anybody asking about them.

“This country suffered a lot of bloody experiences. Many of us witnessed that people were in tears. Just like the ancient world, the year 2014, the 4 in it had the queen in it, which had to do with death. Our leader’s failed us with reckless abandon and nobody asked them question.

“We need change. Whatever it will be, let it be. This is my golden message to my beloved country,” he said.

He then called on Nigerians to support Buhari and the APC change mantra in the 2015 election.

“We need change. Whatever it will be, let it be. This is my golden message to my beloved country. What actually is happening? By the grace of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are announcing spiritually change!

“2015 should not be a year of any hooligan, maneuvering to hijack power. This is our New Year message. Listen, when you go home, tell anybody you see that from the oracle of the Holy Spirit, we are announcing change. Can somebody help me to shout change in Jesus’ holy name?” he was quoted as saying.

Mbaka’s switch of loyalty took many by surprise and was seen as a grand apostasy against a man he had benefitted so much from when he was an ardent supporter of Jonathan.

In fact, some weeks before the melodramatic turnaround, Mbaka had played host to Dame Patience Jonathan and said good things about her husband.

But things went awry when he, by his own account, tried to get Patience’s private phone number and she refused to give it to him.

“When she (Dame Jonathan) came, I told her to give me her mobile phone number so that I could give her messages, but thrice, she refused. It was later she told one of the pastors with her to give me his number.

“So, before that message, I had called the number for two weeks but it was always the Personal Assistant to the pastor that picked the calls.”

Mbaka must have considered this as an affront and an act of insolence and that was the seed for the withdrawal of his support for Jonathan’s second term bid.

Then came 2019, but this time, the predictions on Buhari were not less controversial as they were filled with record breaking inconsistencies.

At one time, he expressed disappointment at not being patronised by a President he helped to power, although Aisha, the President’s wife had visited him in July 2015 and occasionally sent gifts to him.

In his 2018 Cross Over night message, the Priest berated Buhari for inflicting pains on Nigerians and warned about an electoral doom for him in 2019. He said the President was sluggish, archaic and hypnotized by a cabal.

On one of such visits by Aisha, Mbaka said:

“I had wanted to pray for you and because I don’t want anybody to attack me, I don’t want the Bishop to invite me, I don’t want politicians to attack me anywhere. God forced me to say this… Change or you will be changed.

“God said that Buhari is in trouble. He is hypnotized and his mantra has been cannibalized. The wind will be too strong that Mr. President and the cabal will be blown out of office shamefully.”

But somehow, the two parties mended fences and became allies yet again with Mbaka recanting his earlier doomsday prophecy.

‘Sharp guy’ prophecies?

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Father Mbaka has so many prophecies credited to him which, many often see as mere predictions and permutations.

Besides the removal of Emeka Ihedioha, the winner of the Imo State governorship election and the installment of incumbent Hope Uzodinnma by the Supreme Court which he prophesied, Mbaka has also made other shocking prophecies and while most have come to pass, many others have fallen on the hard rock, refusing to germinate fruits.

In the year 2002, Mbaka had a frosty relationship with former Enugu State governor, Chimaroke Nnamani, and prophesied that the governor would not get a second term in office and that he would die that year. He firmly warned Nnamani not to contest for a second term and that he would never win the election.

However, the prophesy failed to materialize because when the election came, Nnamani did not only win by a landslide, he also won an election to the Senate after successfully serving his constitutional two terms as governor.

In 2011, Mbaka recorded another notable failed prophecy. The former Director General (DG) of NAFDAC, the late Prof. Dora Akunyili, had resigned as Minister of Information and aspired to represent Anambra Central in the Senate on the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). She had a strong opponent in Dr. Chris Ngige, a former governor running on the ticket of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

As the situation was becoming uncertain and with election fast approaching, Akunyili opted to intensify her prayers and promptly travelled to Enugu to see Mbaka for prayers and anointing. After praying for her, Mbaka assured her that he had a revelation that she would triumph in the election. Akunyili was soundly defeated by Ngige at the poll.

In January 2016, Mbaka predicted that Nigeria would experience new crises and overcome them all within a short time. But the crisis the country has experienced in the area of insecurity, kidnapping for ransom, herdsmen/farmers clashes leading to loss of lives, Boko Haram insurgency and banditry has refused to go away.

That same year 2016, Mbaka also prophesied that an attempt would be made to assassinate President Buhari. But no such attempt on Buhari’s life was recorded or made public that year.

In 2015, he had predicted that Buhari would win the Presidential election and that his tenure would witness peace and progress. However, less than two years later, he lamented that the tenure had invited suffering and hunger to the electorate. He told Buhari not to consider seeking a second term in office as he would be defeated. But in 2019, Buhari successfully defeated all opponents to win a second term in office.

What next?

The long term effect of the fall-out between Mbaka and the Buhari-led administration on the one hand, and the Catholic Church on the other hand, will surely have a riveting repercussion in the end, and might pit the Nigerian populace against both the church and the Presidency.

While some will see the travails of Mbaka as a clear persecution, others will see his travails with the church as a way of using religion to term a dissenting voice.

Many have already compared the support the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, is getting from the church and the backing of Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi is getting from the Moslems as being in sharp contrast to what Mbaka is currently facing.

And, the pertinent question on the lips of many is whether Father Mbaka will be sufficiently cajoled into pulling his Adoration Ministry from the Catholic Church?

Who really is Father Mbaka?

According to his citation on Wikipedia, Father Mbaka is by birth, the only son from the family of late Chief Humphrey Ogbuefi and Felicia Mbaka in Amata Ituku in Awgu local government area of Enugu State.

Right from infancy, Mbaka showed his proclivity to the things of God and at a very early stage, spared enough time to commune with God while also assisting his father in his palm wine business.

He was also deeply involved in the rejuvenation of Charismatic group in St. Anthony’s Parish, Ituku, where he led the prayer warrior team.

His father, though a pagan at that time, cautiously tolerated his local runs in the Christian activities in the town, but as soon as Mbaka declared his desire to join the priesthood, the story changed drastically. His father and kinsmen not only opposed the idea but also persecuted him and made life a miserable experience for him.

After his secondary school education at St. Vincent’s Secondary School, Agbogugn, in Awgu LGA, he proceeded to Seat of Wisdom Seminary, Owerri, and St Joseph’s Seminary, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, for his priestly training.

In 1995, Mbaka was ordained a priest of the Holy Roman Catholic Church in the order of Melchizedek. He was posted to the Holy Ghost Cathedral, the headquarters of Catholic Church in Enugu Diocese as the Assistant Diocesan Administration.

He later discovered the need to embark on evangelical missions outside the cathedral with a bid to reaching out to more people. Such moves took him to Capuchin and G.T.C Enugu where he celebrated masses for the congregation and it was at the G.T.C that the idea of having an Adoration Ground to the Eucharistic Jesus was conceived, hence, the birth of Adoration Ministries, Enugu (AMEN).

By Isaac Dachen…

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