In a thinly veiled support for fiery Enugu priest Rev. Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has urged the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to stop trying to blackmail its critics and address the insecurity ravaging the country.
The CBCN’s statement is entitled “URGENT CALL TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO BE OPEN TO CRITICISM IN ADDRESSING THE PERVADING INSECURITY IN NIGERIA” and signed by its president, Bishop Augustine O. Akubeze¸ archbishop of Benin City.
The bishops lamented: “A Nigerian does not need to be a registered political party card-carrying member before speaking about the failing economy, the daily killings and kidnappings of students, older men and women; babies and infants; people being killed in IDP camps and even in their homes by insurgents.
“Every reasonable Nigerian is sick to the stomach to read or hear of a governor running from insurgents who want to kill him in the state where he is constitutionally the chief security officer.
“Nigerians are tired of hearing of bandits taking youths in the university and executing some of them, while others are kept to be used to bargain for ransom.”
Only recently, Fr Mbaka had bemoaned the state of the nation under Buhari and asked the National Assembly to impeach him if he failed to resign. He also blessed Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), for working to save his people from terrorist invaders.
Subsequently, the Department of State Services (DSS) warned that some religious leaders were working with external forces to overthrow President Muhammadu Buhari. The president’s media aide, Garba Shehu, stated that Mbaka’s attack was prompted by the fact that he once came to the presidency accompanied by contractors and that the presidency refused his request. “Shame on you,” Fr Mbaka responded, explaining that the “contractors” were unknown to him but had wanted to help quell insecurity in the country.
The bishop of Enugu diocese, Callistus Onaga, summoned Fr Mbaka to the cathedral where he was held incommunicado for two days until followers of his Adoration Ministries Enugu Nigeria (AMEN) staged a violent protest leading to invasion of the bishop’s residence. The protest stopped after Mbaka’s reappearance.
Bishop Onaga, after the incident, condemned the invasion of the place of worship by the protesters and declared a one-week prayer as atonement for the desecration of the holy altar and destruction of property in the cathedral.
The CBCN, in its statement, said the recent coup scare was uncalled for, as many Nigerians who experienced the brutality of the military are aware that a return to such days is not the prayer or desire of Nigerians.
“While we reject any call for the destabilisation of Nigeria or military takeover, we nonetheless say to the Federal Government of Nigeria led by President Muhammadu Buhari: there is no need to focus your energy, time and resources on any form of propaganda against religious leaders who disagree with your performance.
“There is no need to spend so much of your time trying to blackmail anyone who criticises your government.
“We speak out because we do not want Nigeria to collapse.
“We are not speaking out for the APC government to fail; we are speaking out so that Nigeria will not fail.”
The bishops called on the federal government to be transparent with every Nigerian in the struggle to revive the economy, industrialise the nation, objectively deal with corruption and significantly reduce the high level of insecurity and unemployment.
The Catholic bishops wanted the federal government to call for a meeting of all stakeholders to have a sincere discussion on the way forward and that such discussions must seek how to implement the much-talked-about restructuring and devolution of power.