Mbaka: Priests are human

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THE controversy over the transfer of the outspoken Roman Catholic Priest, Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, from Christ the King Parish, GRA, Enugu to Our Lady Parish, Emene, also in Enugu, is uncalled for considering the spiritual dimension of priesthood. What, ordinarily, should have been an internal administrative matter has been politicized, which is very wrong.

Apostle Paul wrote to the Hebrew Christians that priests were taken from among men and appointed in things pertaining to God. He said no man takes this honour to himself, except by God, just as Aaron was, Heb. 5:1-4. Therefore, a priest is prone to error and subject to human weakness.

Viewed from this angle, it is needless wondering whether Fr. Mbaka is a priest, politician or villain, as some commentators had done. Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka is squarely a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever he does must be viewed from the perspective of a priest. He may be wrong in one dimension the same way other priests may have been equally wrong in other dimensions. The fact that he is outspoken and fearless does not in any way make him a villain. Jeremiah and all the prophets of old were outspoken and fearless to confront kings and emperors of their time. Didn’t Moses confront Pharaoh?

Having said that, the bone of contention was the transfer of Fr. Mbaka to Emene, which many say is a rural area. Emene is not a rural area. It is an elite suburb of Enugu metropolis. As a matter of fact, the Enugu International Airport is located at Emene. The Our Lady Parish, Emene, is a walking distance from the airport, meaning that Fr. Mbaka does not have to stress himself any longer if he wishes to travel by air.

As a young lecturer at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) in mid 80s, I lived at Emene, in fact, directly opposite the Our Lady Catholic Church, where I served as choirmaster with my friend Charles Nnorom, who now lives in Owerri. Emene provided the venue each time the popular Fr. Edeh, of the Holy Ghost congregation, came to Enugu for ministration. Fr. Mbaka’s Adoration Ministry would find Emene to be suitable for the ministry.

On whether or not the transfer was punitive, first and foremost, there is no contention that the bishop of every Catholic diocese is the overall superior that has control over both the clergy and laity in all church matters. The bishop has the prerogative to post any priest anywhere. From that angle, the transfer of Fr. Mbaka to Emene was absolutely in order.

Following the transfer, the newspapers were awash with photographs of Fr. Mbaka shedding tears and lamenting that he had been sent to Emene to go and suffer, which portrayed the transfer as punitive.

The shedding of tears by Fr. Mbaka, for me, was purely emotional and never meant that he was opposed to his transfer. The tears were not in any way different from the tears a bride sheds when she is being handed over to her new husband. Tears doesn’t mean that she is not going but mere expression of emotional outburst for leaving a family that nurtured her to a different family.

After spending 20 years in one parish, and planting a very large and successful ministry, one should not expect Fr. Mbaka to simply pack his bag and baggage and leave; smiling at the faithful he had become body and soul with. Many of the faithful he was leaving behind equally cried. Did Jesus not weep when Lazarus his friend left them in death? John 11:35. Fr. Mbaka did what every natural human being would do in the circumstance.

As for going to Emene to suffer, from one angle, this is where I have grouse with the transfer. Fr. Mbaka, who was the parish priest of Christ the King Parish, GRA, Enugu and Spiritual Director of the Adoration Ministry, Enugu for 20 years reportedly was sent to Emene as a curate. That is punitive, if it is true. It amounts to demotion. Fr. Mbaka’s ministry has been a blessing to the church. He ought to get promotion and not demotion.

Fr. Mbaka’s outstanding performance and success, no doubt, has attracted envy and jealousy among the Catholic clergy in Enugu diocese. That informed the punitive posting to Emene as curate to kill his ministry. There is no love in that posting for either Fr. Mbaka or the host of Christian faithful that he leads. The architects of this transfer want to silence Fr. Mbaka, extinguish the fire of the Holy Spirit and close a flourishing ministry that should be supported by the church.

I don’t agree with Fr. Mbaka that he’s going to Emene to suffer on the ground that he is moving from a duplex to a one-room apartment. A priest should be ready to serve under any circumstance even in the war front as many have done. Jesus said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head,” Matt. 8:20. Jesus, our Lord and Master, did not have a room, yet he persevered in his ministry.

Fr. Mbaka may have overstepped his bounds by delving into burning political issues of the day. For instance, it was absolutely senseless for him to have bluntly told former President Goodluck Jonathan that he was going to lose the 2015 presidential election. That, of course, brought him to a collision course with the President and the then ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Again, recently, the same Fr. Mbaka was reported to have said that some people were planning to assassinate the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. Igbo has a saying that you don’t take what is used to poke the ear to poke the eyes. How can any person in his right senses say that considering the implications for the country?

Notwithstanding the errors that in no way demeaned his successes. Fr. Mbaka is pro people. It is difficult to recount the number of people under his charity – the students, the sick and discharged, the homeless, the widows and orphans, the jobless and many more. His free housing and scholarship programmes, the Ozala Parish he built and numerous people he has trained. His generosity knows no bounds.

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