By Nwamkpa Modestus
Penultimate week, precisely on the 8th of December 2016 during the maiden annual Engineering lecture instituted in honour of Engr Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu by the Society of Engineers, Imo state chapter held at the Imo state International conference centre Owerri, the Governor of the state Owelle Rochas Okorocha who was the special guest of honour, during his speech descended heavily on the revered Arch Bishop of Owerri ecclesiastical province, His grace Most Rev Dr Anthony J.V Obinna. The Governor tongue lashed the Arch Bishop accusing him of getting involved in partisan politics and preaching hate thereby tacitly instigating public hatred against his government. He warned the Arch Bishop to desist from meddling in politics. What a tall order!
Also, during the media chat with a cross section of pressmen in the state on Wednesday 14th December, 2016 at his Spibat Estate, Governor Okorocha again took the Bishop to the cleaners by reveling that the Bishop once told him that he was a member of APGA in a failed bid to justify his assertion that the Arch Bishop is a card carrying member of a political party. He fumed and expressed dissatisfaction with one of the prayer points of the Arch Bishop during the opening prayer at the Engr Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu lecture where he said the Arch Bishop prayed God to touch the heart of the Governor to pay workers and Pensioners, a prayer that obviously did not go down well with the Governor and which he saw as another way of preaching hate or inciting the public against him and his government in such an august gathering. In fact, the Governor in that media briefing, added what I may consider as a comic relief when he threatened that any more of the attack by the Arch Bishop again, he would ask Imo people not to pay their Tithe again in the Church saying that after all, Churches flourish because of peoples’ sin as according to him, if everybody decides to be righteous today, nobody would attend Church again and men of God would be out of job.
Quickly, I want to stoutly rise in defense of the Arch Bishop AJV Obinna and in fact I consider the Governor’s attack on the Arch Bishop as unfortunate, misplaced, unjustifiable, nonsensical and hypocritical. I view it as tomfoolery on the side of the Governor. In the first place, it will be incontrovertibly right to say that Governor Okorocha was a major beneficiary of the so called political involvement of the Arch Bishop. We will all recall that in 2011 general election, the then Governor Ikedi Ohakim got his fingers burnt as a result of the ferocious attack by the Catholic Church which was super headed by the Arch Bishop when Ohakim was wrongly accused of haven beaten a Reverend Father Eustace Okorie. The matter was excessively romanticized and politicized culminating in the infamous Assumpta debate in 2011. And in that debate, Ohakim was literally treated like a leaper and Okorocha took the shine that day. His Candidature was secretly and openly endorsed by the Arch bishop and many of the Catholic Priests because Ohakim was marked out to be exited from Douglas House.
No need to bug you with all that happened that time but suffice it to say that the Catholic Church attacks on Chief Ikedi Ohakim in 2011 especially his alleged assault on the Catholic Priest no doubt, emboldened Governor Okorocha’s campaign that time, enhanced his chances and ultimately ensured his eventual victory. He benefited that time and then Arch Bishop Obinna was a darling man of God that time when Okorocha was in APGA and was contesting under APGA platform but now that the same Arch Bishop Obinna is criticizing his policies especially the nonpayment of pensioners, he is accusing him of getting involved in partisan politics. This is unfair and tantamount to one biting a finger that assisted him. The Governor lacks the moral justification to attack, insult or malign the Arch Bishop because he condemned many of his policies, progranmes and actions in the state.
However, let us even look at the Governor’s claim of partisanship by the Arch Bishop even though he did not established any prima facie evidence that Arch Bishop Obinna actually was or is a card carrying member of any party except his effusive and wild accusation or assertion that the Arch Bishop once told him that he belonged to APGA, a claim that is still at large. Basically, there is nothing wrong if Arch Bishop Obinna gets involved in politics and I think he should because as a man of God and the spiritual head of God’s people, he must always preach about social welfare and equal distribution of the common wealth of the people and since politics is the only means through which the wealth of people are dispensed and distributed, men of God particularly the Arch Bishop must get involved in politics not because of the pecuniary motive but for the good of the people. Remember, that politicians are also part of the Church and it is the duty of the spiritual heads in every Church to reorientate, re-modify and reshape the thinking and behavior of the politicians and this could only be done in the Churches and religious gatherings and also only by the Pastors and Priests of God.
Perhaps on known to the Governor and some ignoramuses, Arch Bishop Obinna is both the spiritual and political head particularly for the Catholic faithful. In fact, the Arch Bishop owes both God and man the ecclesiastical duty to voice out against the ills of the society. In the Bible, some of the Apostles and Disciples of God were both spiritual Heads and political heads. Apostles like Paul, Amos, Stephen and Peter at one time or the other commented on the political developments in Israel and Babylon.
Maybe, the understanding of politics by the Governor is such that it is an a exclusive reserve only for a certain categories of people called politicians. By the way, who is a politician? For me, a politician is anybody who is interested in how the society is run, how the common wealth of the people is distributed and who is concerned about his/her rights and obligations in any given society. Afterall, it is said that ‘man is a political Animal’ So Arch Bishop Obinna is also a politician but not in the real sense of a partisan politician or a pecuniary politician like Governor Okorocha and others.
Again, even though Jesus himself was not a partisan politician during his time but he never condemned politics or political involvement out rightly. Remember, he admonished us to be the ‘salt and light’ of the world. When he was choosing his Disciples, he met some who were Fishermen, he called them out and promised to make them Fishers of men and for me, it also included Fishers of Politicians and how will you fish out men or politicians if you don’t get involved in politics and preach to politicians? So I do not know why the Governor will be unsettled with the alleged political involvement of the Arch Bishop even when he has benefited in such political involvement by the Arch Bishop in the past.
Funny enough, even as Governor Okorocha is asking the Arch Bishop not to get involved or comment on politics because according to him, the Arch Bishop is not a politician, the Governor forgot that he himself also preaches at the Church inside the government house Owerri on Sundays. So, is he now both a politician and Pastor? I repeat, Arch Bishop Obinna is right to get involved in politics. He has the right to make personal choice during elections. He has the inalienable right to vote a candidate of his choice. He must voice out policies of government that are anti people. He cannot shy away from this responsibility because it is both spiritual and politically necessary. The only thing is that there is a limit at which he can get involved in politics. His involvement cannot be for pecuniary motive but altruistic and for the glory of God and the interest of mankind.
I stand to say here that if men of God leave the business of politics in the hands of only the partisan politicians, then there will be problem in the society as the society shall be hellish, brutish and unrefined. It is only the fear of God and the knowledge of the consequences of the law that shape the behavior of man in any society. Otherwise, there will be anarchy because there is an element of man that is sadistic and brutish. And therefore, it is only men of God or Apostles on the Altar of God like Arch Bishop Obinna that preaches God’s way to man including politicians. They preach against evil and bad policies of government to those in power without minding whose ox is gored. Governor Okorocha is therefore wrong in his attach on His Grace Most Rev Dr Anthony J.V Obinna.
It is therefore at this point that I shall alert from this vehicle of Truth. Truth is the only word we understand and we have vowed to remain on the track of Truth. It is therefore only the Truth that shall set us free.
Truthfully Yours, Nwamkpa Modestus.