By its very nature and from inception, the church remains inseparably the sign and sacrament of Christ and derives its meaning and mission from the life and mission of Jesus Christ, without which it is automatically a nullity. Without the mission of Christ the Church is demystified and stripped of its Christ-acquired and extended mystery because the Church does not exist if not to further and accomplish the salvation, sanctification, dispensation of mercy, justice and liberation mission of Christ to mankind. That mission was, prior to his birth, already designated by the prophetic oracle of Isaiah and is intrinsically implied in the name of “Jesus” as Saviour and Messiah.He appropriately announced this characteristic mission of Jesus when he said that the Spirit of God was specifically given to Jesus to commission him to soothe the spirit of the afflicted and broken hearted, to liberate captives and the unjustly imprisoned, to comfort and give joy to mourners, be the harbinger of saving justice and to give the oil of gladness in place of despondency (Is. 61:1-3). He reaffirms that that delightful spirit which is in Jesus is tenacious and invincible. He will never grow faint or be crushed until fair judgment is established on earth (Is. 42: 1-4).The mission of Christ is not in the least, the acquisition of imperial powers and the penalization or extermination of those who reject his power. This is rather the spirit and mission of Mohammed which is stealthily on ground in the world and Nigeria today.
In pursuance of that mission, the Church which represents Christ on earth, like her master, relegates and de-emphasizes other values for this central mission of the dispensation of mercy, justice, forgiveness, reconciliation and sympathizing with the sheep without a shepherd, (Matt. 9:36).She liberates those under the clutches of socio-political, religious and spiritual domination and oppression, including as Jesus did, those who contravene or their human condition conflicts with the Sabbath (Matt. 12: 1-14). Jesus would rather give up his life than allow those given to him to be snatched away by the bandit and wolf (Jn. 10:11-13, 28-29) as in Nigeria today, the religion and Church of Christ is under threat of being snatched away by the rampaging Islam in the very eyes of the ministers of God as they are going around acquiring power and money. Above all, like Jesus, the Church and the bishops must live the principle and Christology of ransom and of one man dying for many (Matt.20:28) as the ultimate ecclesiology of salvation, than sacrificing the faith, integrity and interest of a whole people or diocese for the ego and ambition of one powerful manor group as in the case of Ahiara. Jesus himself discouraged the grabbing and imposition of the ruling power on others, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. Not so among you”(Matt.20:21-28), and did not himself resist or punish those who rejected him (Lk.9:54).This is the sign of Christ which the Church becomes its testimony and which nothing else could supersede or substitute. Its contrary is anti-Christ.
The Church loses its relevance, mission and identity if it deviates and relinquishes her Christ-extended primary goal of sanctifying and redeeming the world, when, in the pursuit of power she turns the iron rod of fury on those who resist the bitter pill of the whims of some powerful and privileged ecclesiastical agents or clique. But this is ironically what has prevailed in the Nigerian Catholicism for long and in particular, in Igbo Catholicism more than a century, with its climax in the 2012 of the awful imposition of a bishop on Ahiara diocese. There was a total unprecedented strangeness in the manner bishop Okpaleke was selected and foisted on the people. But he was consequently rejected as he was also first and previously rejected to be the bishop by his own diocese. In reprisal reaction to the rejection, the Nigerian bishops, wrongly applied the parable of the servants who refused to be ruled by their king and ostracized the entire Ahiara diocese on failing to coerce them into servile surrender. From that moment, every sign points to the truth that they prefer to watch the diocese crumble than give up on Okpaleke. This gives credence to the allusion that the Bishops say that “the church will not succumb to Ahiara”, a terrible dichotomy of Ahiara and the church or the bishops and the Church. Do they mean that the bishops are the church and Ahiara is not part of the Church, the body of Christ?
But are the Nigerian Catholic bishops and the Vatican sincerely and genuinely surprised by the rebuff of Ahiara diocese and recent skepticism of other dioceses in the appointment of bishops? The Vatican could be ignorant of the enormity of the reckless, detestable racketeering, nepotism, favouritism and injustice previously meted against the Mbaise nation in particular and the rest in general by some Nigerian ecclesial hierarchies. But those who have been perpetrating the act and those bearing the brunt of their treachery are not ignorant of it. Should Cardinal Francis Arinze and the Curia which includes himself be ignorant of the card play on power and the lopsidedness in the nomination of bishops and auxiliaries and the distribution of ecclesiastical offices in Igbo Church since 1945? Is he sincerely surprised at the apocalyptic rumples in the Igbo Catholicism presently, considering what had transpired through him in the past years, which, by his rare and privileged position and offices he unavoidably could not have been unprivileged to superintend its process by recommendation or approval?
In 1945 the mysterious short changing and shoddy handling of once acknowledged best candidate from Mbaise, late Msgr. Edward Ahaji, considered most suitable and evidently qualified for the bishop of the then new Umuahia diocese was too mundane to be attributed to the Holy Spirit. In a swoop of maneuver, Msgr.Edward Ahaji was swiftly supplanted and Anthony Gogo Nwedo was invested with the office. In 1970, Fr. Ignatius Mmereole Okoroanyanwu, also from Mbaise was also clearly favoured and chosen by Bishop Whelan to replace him and look after Owerri vicariate when the later left Nigeria. But the then Holy Spirit of the time was stereotyped to corner the position in favour of the then Francis Arinze’s beloved mentor, Mark Unegbu, for favours and cooperation previously received from him. Only the eyes of child-like faith of the oppressed in the Church’s infallibility calmed the nerves of rational skepticism and inquisition for what was clearly and obviously unholy. As if this was not enough, the creation of Ahiara diocese like others from old Owerri diocese by Bishop Mark Unegbu, was like wrestling out food from the lion’s mouth and harder than Pharaoh letting go the Israelites. Prejudice and favouritism superseded merit, sequential and serial processes in the exercise. The turn of the creation of Ahiara was as usual swept under the carpet until curiosity and over stretched patience led to open agitation. When reluctantly created in 1987, the game of shortchanging of Esau’s blessing and leadership was attempted in the choice of the bishop of the new diocese even when previous dioceses were all given indigenous priests as their bishops. But for the new Ahiara Mbaise, the authority wanted a different and contrary rule until it was rejected.
Does it surprise and embarrass the Vatican that Ahiara Diocese should reject a bishop purportedly “appointed by the Pope” after all the shenanigan of power politics that had previously traumatized and harassed the Mbaise nation in the Igbo Catholicism? What makes the Edward Ahaji-Anthony Nwedo, Mark Unegbu-Ignatius Okoroanyanwu and Arinze power racketeering against Mbaise in 1945 and 1970 different from bishop Okpaleke’s episcopal banditry in 2012? Have the previous trend of appointments since the coming of the Catholic Church in Nigeria and Igbo provinces changed or rather corroborated the suspicion of conspiracy, human machination and manipulation of the process in favour of a certain privileged hegemony and cliquism? Is there not a certain Mafia superintending the Nigerian Church and on mutual connivance in the conspiracy of power and claim that all is done by the Pope? Or is the Curia and Papacy accepting responsibility for the injustice, perversity, nepotism and corruption of power so far identified with the Igbo Catholicism? How does the Pope and the Holy Spirit, in the appointment of bishops and the distribution of Power in the spirit of the “universality of the Church” consistently produce indigenous bishops from one diocese and province of Onitsha and Awka and distribute them to other provinces and dioceses without appointing and sending for once, anyone from another province or diocese to hold the office of leadership and minister to them?
An ex-ray of Onitsha Archdiocesan province since creation in 1950 shows it has consistently had auxiliary bishops or stand-by bishops for eventual posting to neighbouring suffragan dioceses and other provinces suspected to be vulnerable by any imagination and calculation. While the archdiocese of Onitsha has never lacked indigenous substantive and auxiliary bishops, Awka, the indigenous diocese of Cardinal Francis Arinze has never been in short supply of indigenous auxiliary Bishops who would immediately replace a retiring or diseased bishop without any squabble and struggle except perhaps in 2011 with the then, Rev. Fr. Peter Okpaleke in 2011. Ironically, no person from outside Onitsha province or Awka diocese has ever dared taking the position of a substantive or auxiliary bishop in the area. By 2014, Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye is the fourth auxiliary bishop of Awka diocese within only seven years of the episcopacy of his substantive bishop who is still relatively young and strong. The appointment of auxiliary Bishops is not a solely and independent action of the substantive bishop. They are applied for while the granting or refusal depends on the prerogative and blessing of the Vatican authority which Cardinal Arinze, before and after retirement has been directly or indirectly involved in as aVatican citizen and leader of the Church when it concerns his constituency. Ironically, in divine sublime omniscience, the Holy Spirit under his tutelage as Cardinal has always denied or delayed auxiliary bishops to other dioceses and provinces or forbidden them to apply for one, thereby creating leadership succession problems in the event of the death or retirement of their substantive bishops. Coincidentally, this succession problem is always, most suitably settled by the persons of the omniscience and ubiquitous Cardinal Arinze privileged diocesan or provincial kinsmen.
It remains a puzzle why for all times, no one diocese of the entire Owerri province has ever requested or qualified for an auxiliary Bishop to counter the rising problem of power succession, which is usually solved by the persons of Awka or Onitsha provincial priests. Let us observe that, each diocese in the civilized world, especially the United States, has many auxiliary bishops assigned with various delegated portfolios in the spirit of division of labour in the same diocese. But it seems that Nigerian bishops resent or irritate auxiliaries. Could it be for the purpose of exercising absolute, overwhelming and undivided authority and loyalty? But it is clear that for the South-Eastern zone, it serves the purpose and necessity of creating a utility problem and vacancy for a particular superior group that solely supply and export bishops to others. Disturbingly, while the Church in Igbo provinces is boiling for unjust imposition of Awka bishop on Ahiara, from 2012 to 2014, Awka diocese alone, with unabashed temerity and insensitivity appointed and ordained two new indigenous bishops, Jonas Benson Okoye and Peter Okpaleke, the later for exportation to Ahiara. With Bishop Denis Isizoh as auxiliary bishop of Onitsha Archdiocese, the province alone had three indigenous bishops in four years. One is emboldened to ask, why could they not and have never taken any priest from outside their Onitsha province, say, Owerri, or outside Awka diocese, like Nsukka, Enugu, Abakaliki or Awgu dioceses for auxiliary in respect to their pretentious “unity and universality of the Church” which is always argued in favour of their oppression and domination of others’ tactics?
The anarchism and imbalance in the appointment of bishops in the Nigerian and Igbo Catholicism was radicalized in 2012, when it threw away all caution and decency to the wind of power obsession with audacious effrontery, a priest of Awka was slyly parceled and sneaked into the enquiry list of prospective Ahiara bishop-elect, after being rejected by his own diocese. The Vatican, perhaps in ignorance of the ecclesiastical power barbarism by her Nigerian ecclesiastical agents and the Nuncio,was rammed and hypnotized into announcing in a very unusual manner, the appointment of Rev. Fr. Peter Okpaleke as bishop-elect of Ahiara diocese over more than five hundred capable priests of the diocese. They were forced by the Nigerian Catholic bishops to accept him, after he was definitively snubbed and rejected by his home, Awka diocese, to be their bishop in 2011.The appointment revealed a clears discourteous and intentional negligence of all sacred protocols and procedures for the selection of such office holders. Rattled by the wildness of the appointment and the rejection, bishop Ugorji, though in sympathy with the college of bishops, but in truth to conscience, was unavoidably miffed to say, “because of the secret nature of this thing”, (meaning the selection of bishop-elects), “people tend to manipulate it”. The archbishop of Owerri, A. J. V. Obinna, intending to empathize with the aggrieved Ahiara priests in order to elicit their surrender to the banditry and concoction of the appointment which he admitted its misdemeanor, regretted the unjust practice of the universality which always supplies bishops from one source to other people and said, “I understand how you feel and I would also feel the same way if I were in your shoes because, it would have been good to appoint bishops from here and there”. The mildly speaking president of the Nigerian bishops, Bishop Ignatius Kaigama, in justice to the gathering of the aggrieved and murmuring Ahiara diocesan priests in 2012 also admitted that, “You have made a legitimate point”. But they insisted that that legitimate point of truth should in servile obedience be suppressed to save one man against Christ’s mission and witness to the truth (Jn. 18:37-38).
What was paramount in the psychology of the appointment was not the legitimacy of procedure but the presumption of servile obedience and the mutual settlement and pay back for previous and future gratuities among the power conspirators. With all the mastery, capacity and excuses to manipulate and maneuver in the Nigerian style, they were oblivious of the signs of the time, that the human spirit could sometimes in questioning the rationality of action defend itself. Consequently, they never imagined it could ever be resisted or take such a long time not to have installed the bishop whose selection was flawed with infractions. All that was in their mind was that he must be installed one day and at all costs as they had done some other places and times in the past. No wonder the Catholic bishop of Okigwe, Bishop Solomon Amatu, who is the kinsman and former boss of bishop Okpaleke, who himself trained under Bishop Amatu’s tutelage on how a priest from their zone must be a bishop, called the aggrieved Ahiara priests “touts in the motor park” in 2012. He told them that theirs is not the first time they, (the born to be bishops and to rule strategists) are witnessing a murmuring of the sort, and that they are used to such agitation and murmuring, but it would sooner or later fizzle out and Ahiara will surrender like others. He was not kidding. Against all civilized standards, spirituality, principle and ethics of power of Christ, his words were later matched with action as all manner of simony, military and monetary intimidation were scandalously and openly employed to realize the surrender for the installation of the bishop to sustain the collective power of the bishops and Awka trend of annexation. Four years without surrender to the injustice, the Nigerian bishops, the Cardinal and their Nuncio have sustained scandalous persecution, calumny and propaganda on Ahiara diocese with all manner of unconventional, pagan and mundane weapons to coerce them into surrender. The obsessive spirit of Bishop Okpaleke and everything done so far contrary to the spirituality of power of Christ to install him replicate the anti-Christ and Saul’s persecution of the Church.
The shepherds of the Church are supposed to be ministers and harbingers of God’s mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, justice, liberation and salvation in the manner and mission of Christ’s messianic priesthood(Is. 61: 1-7). This mission implies the loosing of social, spiritual and psychological pangs, even for renowned sinners. But when Cardinal John Onaeyekan was sent to mediate on Ahiara problem, he neglected every sense of dialogue that could lead to the truth and just resolution and applied diplomatic double standard, maneuvering and technical equivocality to cow the oppressed into coerced obedience. As this could not catch up, he employed Nigerian shrewd divide and rule tactics among Ahiara priests to dislodge their solidarity and expressed he wished to get at least thirteen percent of the priests in order to use them for his purpose. When this could not yield, the Cardinal told the bishops that Ahiara priests are dangerously united. Then the bishops collectively resorted to conspiracy and agreed to stigmatize the entire diocese as certified dissidents and rebels and abandoned them, even to bury their dead priests. But Jesus, whose ministry they represent in his mission of forgiveness and salvation ate with public sinners, tolerated stigmatized and defiant deviants of religion and morals. What less, those traumatized by years of ecclesial injustice, who, like the biblical widow (Lk.18:3-8) are only asking for deserved justice? As for the provincial Archbishop of Owerri whose territory was trespassed and violated, he deserves sympathy and pity for his self-imposed incapacity as he is hanging on the pendulum and insomnia of his innate and instinctive prejudice and hatred for Mbaise and the gagging intimidation of Cardinal Arinze mafia. His hatred for Mbaise is sinfully instinctive but the cause is unknown since bishop Chikwe of Ahiara protected him in Mbaise during his own crisis before his installation. His unprovoked and natural resentment for Mbaise, catalyzed by Cardinal Arinze intimidation, consistently corrode and paralyze his courage for truth. But while he and the Bishops ostracized Ahiara priests and the faithful and denied them the sacraments, they still, until recently, attended the funerals and golden jubilee of prominent elite citizens and families who are also collectively of the same ostracized Mbaise lepers and just rebels of the injustice in the same diocese.
The reason for the Nigerian Catholic bishops to resist rectifying the injustice done to Ahiara diocese and their preference to rather intimidate and punish them as the worst offenders of the Church is not out of wickedness but anti-mission power mania, anchored on the fear of setting a precedent that would threaten and undermine their sacrosanct and absolute imperial power. They prefer instead to set a dangerous and scandalous precedent of their paternal infallibility of the father who is always right. In this, what is important is the primacy of power absolutism and their right and prerogative to punish. But this rather contradicts, vitiates and questions their mission of Christ’s justice, compassion and service, as, rather than punishing, Jesus even loosened and freed those indicted and held in clutches for offending the sensitivity of religious law and morality (Jn. 8:1-11). In the mission of mercy Jesus took the side of a prodigal forgiving father to restore the prodigal son (Lk.15) than penalize him. But to facilitate the anti-mission spirit, on January 21st 2015, the provincial Bishops of Owerri and Cardinal John Onayekan, without reference to the Pope, unilaterally signed and fired an arsenal of coercive decree thus, “Given that it is the prerogative of the Pope to freely appoint Bishops (can.377 paragraph 1), and considering that there can be neither appeal nor recourse against the judgment or decree of the Roman Pontiff (can 333 paragraph 3) and to avoid setting an unhealthy pastoral precedent, we earnestly appeal to you our brothers and sisters to allow the Bishop given to you to take canonical possession of the Diocese”. What a contradiction and gagging decree wrought in selfishness of power! This amounts to the scaring and upsetting unilateral imposition of circumcision by some self-styled members of the Jews on the Gentile converts that they will never enter eternal life unless baptized according to the tradition of Moses.
This intimidating decree that has consolidated many years of persecution of a whole diocese because of one man demonstrates the Nigerian primitive power and arbitrariness which vouch for the good of one powerful individual against the entire citizenry. But do they care that this demoralizing attitude separates their mission from the mission of Christ and achieves a hypocritical precedent of false and misplaced value for power and relegation of divine justice in favour of human imperial institution and traditional obedience? Isaiah refers to it as hypocrisy of human commandments that make God’s word ineffective for the sake of tradition (Lk.7:9-13).In a civilizing world of enlightened openness where imperialism and absolute dictatorialness tend to give way to dialogue and freedom of choice of leadership and a Church where humility of service and salvation of the soul, even of the sinner’s supersede the primacy of power, this decree and the desperation to secure power for one man smacks of anachronism, retrogression, religious imperialism and spiritual dehydration. This distortion of mission spirit impelled by the urge to suppress the weak attracts divine anger, “Woe to those who enact unjust decrees, who compose oppressive legislation to deny justice to the weak and to cheat the humblest of my people of fair judgment, to make widows their prey and to rob the orphan” (Is.10: 1-2). How could our revered bishops muster the moral gut to preach God’s justice, truth, mercy, forgiveness and the humility of power to the culprits of worldly political power, having violated the entire spirituality of power themselves? Indeed, the salt has lost its taste, the light of the world has been dimmed and a city on the hill wears a disgusting and uninviting look.
Given the psychical trauma and resentment the person of bishop Okpaleke represents in the sub-consciousness of Ahiara Diocese and conscientious Christians, his mission of sanctification and proclamation of the good news of joy in the diocese, which is the fundamental priestly mission, is automatically jeopardized and doomed. The entire flock already polarized by his savagery, resent his belligerent and pugnacious personality. He therefore stands the worse privileged to unite, reconcile and evangelize the flock he invaded through the back window and banditry of power like the proverbial bandit who invades and scatters the sheep (Jn.10:7-15). Yet, he insists on coming to Ahiara, and the Nigerian Catholic bishops stand behind his jinxed and failed mission. This is a sign that their interest is not the mission of Christ but to sit at the right and left hand of power even without drinking the cup. Their comfortable starvation of the whole people of the diocese of the sacraments of Christ poses a question of whether the bishops really believe in the spiritual reality, relevance and efficacy of the sacraments as they believe in the acquisition and retention of power and position. Justifying this suspicion is their preferred choice of padlocking, stifling or crushing Ahiara diocese, the most vibrant and dynamic of the dioceses in the Catholic world and the Nigerian Church. But their accidental bullet of paralysis is now extended to other dioceses across South-South and South Eastern zone of the country just to secure the power of one of their own and their collective power. This is the therapy for the threatening fear of “setting a precedent” that will disable their power to select and choose at will without challenge, those dictated by their privileged Cardinal Arinze and his group.
Therefore, like the innocent children slaughtered by Herod in a bid to kill the infant Jesus, many dioceses in the Nigerian Church are virtually paralyzed in the course of getting Ahiara alone to submit. Innocent seminarians of Ahiara have been heaped up and denied ordination for consecutive four years because one man is rejected. The sacrament of Confirmation has been denied the entire diocese. Priests of Owerri province lecturing in Seat of Wisdom Seminary who refuse to align with their atrocious dealing in Ahiara have been intimidated, sanctioned threatened and most frustrated out, living the seminary academically desolate. Other dioceses with diseased or retired bishops are put on hold and suspense because of the dilemma of how to replace them to avoid another Ahiara debacle. They include Aba diocese, Abakaliki and Uyo, to mention but a few. They are due for replacement but are suspended until Ahiara is subdued in order to continue the usual arbitrariness with the rest. They have become the Holy Innocent victims in pursuit of the infant Jesus (Ahiara). It would have been easy before now to effortlessly sneak one bishop from Awka or Onitsha Archdiocese who have the divine privilege of supplying bishops to solve succession problem anywhere.
In his mission of salvation Jesus accepted the principle and position of the ransom of one man dieing to save many. It is by this principle that he becomes the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (Jn.1:29). This constantly dominated his mission that he could not even claim his right to live. It is on this principle that the entire theology and Christology of salvation, the Good Shepherd and the priesthood is anchored. He did not punish or impose himself on those who resisted his passage through their territory (Lk.51-55) or call fire to burn them up (Lk. 9:51-56). He taught his disciples not to insist or impose themselves or resist those who did not welcome them either, but to shake off the dust on their sandals and leave the town(Mark 6:11). So did the disciples do.(Acts.13:51). What is the ancestral root of the spirituality of mission of Okpaleke and our bishops in the present situation?
Three cardinal principles constitute the mission of Jesus and every priestly and political leadership. It is a delegated and commissioned rather than a self-employed mission because no one takes the call upon himself (Heb. 5:4-5). The mission is for the purpose of the one who sent and the good of those sent to, (Jn. 12:44-50) and judgment and punishment for rejection is reserved for the delegating master and not the delegated messenger (Jn.12:47-49). This restrains one from waging a war against opposition and makes resignation by the delegated agent possible than insisting and fighting when he or his message is rejected or jeopardized either by his person, action or circumstance. But conflict or rejection is not new and strange in the Church. Jesus was rejected at times. What is strange is the manner and attitude of response and resolution. Following the mission of justice and salvation of Christ in conflict resolution in the Christian community, the disciples consistently applied justice in favour of the oppressed than the privileged powerful. The aggrieved and marginalized Hellenist widow is a typical example of settling a case with utmost dispatch of justice in favour of the oppressed (Acts 6:1-7). The imposition of circumcision on the Gentile converts whose faith and salvation were threatened necessitated the convocation of the first ever Council of Jerusalem by the Church. It was resolved in favour of the faith and inclusion of the harassed Gentiles in the Church rather than the privileged aggressor and powerful Jews. In all this, Christ’s mission of mercy, justice, liberation and inclusiveness even of the sinner, the poor and the oppressed is pre-eminent. In Nigeria, the comfort of the flamboyant pastor with fleet of private jets and swelling congregation, the seat of the bishops and the Cardinals, are pre-eminent and primary to saving the endangered and oppressed people.
What prank are the Nigerian bishops playing in pretending the inability to prevail on Bishop Peter Okpaleke to resign for the whole Church encumbered by his jinx? Why should they punish and insist on a whole diocese to surrender to one man’s ambition or else crumble the entire Church without insisting on his resignation when Pope Benedict XVI resigned to save the Church? Whose mission are they representing in punishing the people of God for rejecting an unjust aggressor who was repulsed by his own brother priests who jubilated for his exit from their presbyterium? Could it be the fear of diminishing their dictatorial and absolute power that they are protecting in their fight on behalf of Peter Okpaleke, and like Herod, they have to crush the entire diocese and stifle the provinces for their interest? For this interest, the bishops have continuously delayed and derailed justice with a protracted persecution to watch the diocese to either crumble or surrender to save his ambition.
What salvific Christology does it serve to insist on more than five hundred priests to surrender for one priest or remain stagnated, without asking one priest to resign an embarrassing and unjust appointment? Like Jesus who died to save many, Jonah voluntarily opted to be jettisoned under threat of shipwreck to save the majority of the inmates endangered by his crisis mission. Prefiguring the good shepherd of Jesus, Moses also implored God to delete his name in the book of life than destroying the whole Israel under his leadership. When God gave David options of punishment for his offence for counting the Israelites, David chose what would affect him alone than the whole people who are innocent in his plan of census. Is the psychological and spiritual incarceration of the whole people of God to save one Peter Okpaleke and the interest of some people serving the mission of Jesus, the humble and unassuming Pope Francis or the mafia of the Nigerian hierarchy or one Nigerian Cardinal in the Vatican? Or is it a racist agenda or sign of defending the rich, the powerful and the elite against the poor and powerless of Ahiara Mbaise? Who is actually dictating this measurement of unjust chastising of the whole diocese because of the inordinate ambition of one person? The bishops have given us the concocted impression that it is the Pope and Vatican but that is sin against the eighth commandment.
All manner of spiritual and social persecutions, deprivations and harassment have been dished out to the people of Mbaise diocese to intimidate them into surrender to the appointment of infraction. Their children are persecuted and denigrated at every quarter and on the pulpits. There has been a failed attempt of an overture through a wealthy Nigerian business man who the bishops condescended to his wealthy majesty and asked him to persuade the priests of Ahiara to accept the bishop at most for two weeks. Failing to get the expected result, they incited the national leadership of the Christian women Organization to force the president of Ahiara Catholic women incite her women to protest against and starve the priests of the diocese of the monthly feeding in order to bend their necks. This she refused. She has been severally embarrassed and threatened for rejecting the offer of political appointment in Abuja and turn against Ahiara priests. The Owerri Archbishop has dealt her with vinegar of humiliations to satisfy Cardinal Francis Arinze’s interest. There was an unimaginable plan by the Okpaleke fans and the knights of St. Mulumba to smuggle the bishop into the Ahiara Cathedral in the disguise of the funeral of the mother of one of their members. This is satanic and power insanity. What a wicked and pagan attitude to power by those who are supposed to evangelize the world on the morality of power! What else could have compelled such a class of revered echelon of the hierarchy to stoop so low to unconventional and primitive mechanisms if not the lust for power than love for saving mission?
It is clear that Ahiara diocese is not disobeying the Pope and is not the cause of the protracted delay of the solution since 2012. They are rather representing the spirit of the invincible messianic mission of justice and fairness of Christ and the Church (Is. 42:1-4) and the caution against fraudulent and violent grabbing of power by the sons of Zebedee which Christ forbids among the disciples (Mark.10:35-45). Unfortunately, those involved in this merchandise of power have severally admitted and regretted in private places the gravity of their grievous injustice to Ahiara diocese. Therefore, disobedience is not the issue at stake in Ahiara problem but the fear posed by Ahiara challenge which would affect their grip on power. They therefore see Ahiara submission as a battle they must win than righteous justice and truth they should allow to prevail to their detriment. Disobedience happens to be the only catchy word that will easily sell them to the simple public religious sentiment to crush and win the weak. To win this battle against Ahiara for a grip to leadership dictation, it would not matter if the whole entire Nigerian Church get paralyzed like Syria in the hand of Assad. Hence, those looking for quick reprieve for Ahiara, Uyo, Aba, Abakaliki and other dioceses so soon or think the Pope would be allowed to give justice to Ahiara may be disappointed because, contrary to the mission of Christ, it is better for the whole Church to get stuck than one bishop Okpaleke and the cabals to lose their mandate. But this is the height of anti-Christ. Or has bishop Okpaleke become the metaphorical fierce wolf and dragon that would rise and mercilessly devour the Church (Acts. 20:28-29)?
Going by this contradiction and derailment of mission and bishop Opkaleke holding the bishops spell-bound, Bishop Solomon Amatu his brother insists that Ahiara must surrender, while Bishop Hillary Okeke of Nnewi wrote and believes Opkaleke to be Jesus, the rejected stone that would later become the Corner Stone in Ahiara, and the Nigerian bishops insist that “the Church will not succumb for Ahiara. Okpaleke therefore becomes their phenomenal metaphorical object, a monster and ghost hunting the Bishops and keeping them hostage until they satisfy his bidding. He has become their colossus, a dangerous threat and hurdle they fidget to jump. In fact, he is the deity and spirit that hounds and hallucinates their consciences and an idol they unconsciously adore under the fascinating spell of power. Okpaleke seems to glory and giggle in his quiet as the unavoidable celebrity and dilemma of the bishops, commanding and buffeting the psychology of their priestly integrity. They have become his inferior and he, the superior masquerade that threatens their miniature and pusillanimous spirit and make them unable to tell him to humbly resign, as he stubbornly and dangerously paste on their hallucinating psyche, the caution and fear of offending his sacrosanct and inviolable sensitivity but makes them to prefer to destroy the entire Church instead. They must please his majestic and regal personality even to contradict their priestly mission and Christ’s principle because he overpowered them to empower him with the bishopric. He is like the fish bone in their throat and it is now better for the whole church to stifle and die than one man to surrender a controversial mandate. This is a great challenge of mission and why the problem of Ahiara has remained long unsolved and may last longer, so long as the overwhelming threat and fear of Okpaleke and Cardinal Arinze remain the idol whose fear than the fear of God and Christ’s mission is the foundation of their caution and beginning of wisdom. To escape their threat and to keep their seat of power, even the Pope is completely barricaded and placed incommunicado of whatever jungle methods they are pelting on Ahiara to fix it in a derailed and deviated of mission that is anti-Christ.
REV Father Oke Ogu writes from Ahiara-Mbaise Diocese of the Catholic Church in Imo State
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