By Tochukwu Onyeagolu
“I know the Bishop’s house. It is very beautiful.” This was what an Okada man who escorted me to the family of Late Mr. Chukwuemeka Aniwetalu of Umuazu village, Nteje told me. I almost missed the point when he said: “Bishop’s house.” I know that Nteje is not a diocese. I also know that the people of the town have no bishop yet. So I was wondering which Bishop’s house he meant. The Okada man must have read through my puzzled look for he added immediately: “Archbishop built a house for a family in this town.” That was when the power and the impact of what the Archbishop did struck me.
Never has a gift become too powerful as to break into a place and create a name for itself. But that is what the Archbishop has done. He did not just build a house for someone in need. He had rather succeeded in creating a moving human story, a story that will reecho for long among the people of Nteje. Oliver Wendel Holmes has words that capture so beautifully the significance of what has taken place in this community. “A man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” The story of the bishop’s house has no doubt enriched the narrative of Nteje community and the mind of her people.
Today in Nteje, it is common to hear ordinary people, men and children talking about the Bishop’s house. Even market women have a new staple on their gossip menu. And the questions on our lips have been: “How did a gift transcend itself to become at once a story, the story? How did a gift transform a place to give it a new identity? How did the gift of a new home gravitate away from the mundane plane of things to assume something of a legendary proportion?” I think it has to do with the character of the giver. Every gift reveals something of the giver. The Archbishop, in building the house, gave himself whole and entire. Now to the major story as it happened.
When the pathetic story of the beautiful Adaoma Aniwetalu, a young girl with special needs, was brought to the knowledge of His Grace, Most Rev. Valerian M. Okeke to help her acquire basic education, Adaoma and her people were not prepared for the surprise that was immediately underway. In a gesture reminiscent of the sort of encounter between God and his servant Solomon, the Good Shepherd of Onitsha Archdiocese became a sign of divine providence for Adaoma and her family. Just like in the case of Solomon and how God blessed him with other things beside wisdom, the Archbishop gave Adaoma not just the needed scholarship to realize her dreams but also provided her with a home and a life worthy of the dignity of any child of God. All thanks to the Bishop’s inspiring sense of charity, many well-meaning people of God in Anambra State and beyond were excited to rally their resources in service of this great course. The good shepherd called out to them, they heeded with zeal.
Archbishop Valerian Okeke gives, in a classical Christian way, whole and entire, with no strings attached. This was my sentiment as I stared at the beautiful yellow structure with patches of orange colored designs adorning the front view, a house built for Adaoma by His Grace, Most Rev. Valerian Okeke in collaboration with many good-spirited individuals. I have known a few generous people and the many amazing things they have done for the poor. I have read tales about Greek mythic heroes, tales of Prometheus defying the gods to bring fire to mankind. While all these stories are moving and powerful in their own right, yet they could not prepare me for the spectacle of the ‘Bishop’s house’. It has class and it has elegance. The inside is tastefully furnished to plush standard. Are you asking of solar-powered inverter system, standby generator, borehole, CCTV security camera, furniture, kitchen fittings, and modern convenience? They are all there and much more. Some people referred to the house as full option, that is, a house built to taste and equipped to the last item needed for human habitation. It is simply a house built by a man for whom perfection was not a distant pursuit but a minimum ante. It is indeed a bishop’s house, built as if the Archbishop himself intends to call it a home.
It has been said that the power of wealth lies not in what it allows us to do for ourselves, but what it enables us to do for others. No place has the meaning of these words played out more than in what the Archbishop did for Adaoma. In fact, if wealth has any purpose and meaning, it has achieved it in the life of Adaoma,( now also called Ada Jesus)
“Thank you beloved Archbishop, my big daddy. Without you, I won’t be where I am today.” These were her exact words as the emotional Adaoma appreciated the Archbishop, calling herself Adabishop. Her gratitude to the Archbishop was so meaningful, such a poignant reminder to everyone around, of the deep human reach of the gift this beloved prelate has given.
Do you know what it means to know God? Jonathan Sacks, a Jewish Rabbi answered: “To know God is to act with justice and compassion, to recognize his image in other people and to hear the silent cry of those in need.” Rabbi Sacks was not giving vent to his personal opinion when he said this. He was rather reechoing the message of Prophet Jeremiah to his Jewish audience. “He took up the cause of the poor and the needy; then it was well. Is this not what it means to know me? declares the Lord.” (Jer 22:16) This is the story of a gift, a gift that reveals what it means to know God. The gift is the Bishop’s House. It is very beautiful.
By Patrick Egwu
On a sweltering Monday afternoon, Jeremiah Ancha sat on a wooden bench in front of a makeshift camp for displaced people in Benue state, in Nigeria’s middle belt region. Widely known as the country’s food basket because of its extensive agriculture, the state takes its name from the lower Benue River, which flows through it.
Ancha, 48, used to cultivate local crops like millet, corn and cassava on his farm in his home community. But increasing attacks by cattle herders from the Fulani ethnic group have forced him and his neighbors to desert their farmlands and ancestral communities for safety.
In January 2018, according to Reuters, 73 people mostly local farmers in Benue, were killed and about 100,000 were displaced. Since then, the number of displaced people has spiked to about 500,000, according to the International Organization for Migration and local emergency agencies that respond to the humanitarian needs of some 20 camps for displaced people in the state.
Ancha, who fled his village with his wife and five children, still remembers the traumatic events of that day.
“Our house and farmlands were destroyed when they came, and even now, they still attack at night,” he says. “Since they attacked our village, this is where we have been living.”
Photo: Jeremiah Ancha, pictured in a camp for displaced people in Benue state, in Nigeria’s middle belt region, escaped with his two wives and children when the herdsmen attacked on Jan. 1, 2018. (Patrick Egwu)
For decades, the middle belt region has seen rising conflict between local farmers and cattle herders, who migrate regularly with their livestock from the northern part of the country to the south, which has arable land for grazing. This causes friction between the herders and farmers who accuse them of invading their ancestral territory and destroying their farmlands.
The government’s proposed policy of allowing open grazing has sparked controversy. Open grazing is the practice of allowing cattle to roam freely in open fields and other land. In doing so, however, the cattle destroy crops, and many people oppose open grazing, calling for the construction of ranches instead. Climate change has aggravated the problem, as the herders are faced with drought and the encroachment of the desert onto grazing land in the north.
The conflict is worsening Nigeria’s displacement crisis. Between 2009 and 2018, the number of internally displaced people in Africa rose from 6.4 million to 17.7 million, and more than 2.5 million of them are in Nigeria, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR. The humanitarian crisis in the camps is exacerbated by food insecurity and severe malnutrition, the agency says.
Sub-Saharan Africa also hosts more than 26 percent of the world’s refugees — 6.3 million in 2018, compared to 2.3 million in 2008, according to the UNHCR. This is partly because of ongoing crises in Nigeria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
The government in Benue, the state most affected by the grazing conflict, passed an anti-grazing law in 2017. The law bans herders and their cattle from entering its territory for grazing and imposes a five-year jail term for offenders.
The cattle herders are mostly Muslims, while the farmers are Christians. In Nigeria, a large and diverse nation, Islam is dominant in the north and Christianity in the south. Benue, in the middle belt, is predominantly Christian, with a few clusters of Muslim communities.
In 2018, two Catholic priests and 17 parishioners were killed by herders in Benue during an early morning service. Local parishes in the region have also been attacked, and other killings of Christians have sparked protests across the country.
The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria and parishioners in the country have regularly condemned the killings and staged protest and demonstrations.
According to the International Crisis Group, the herder-farmer conflicts in Nigeria have at times been deadlier than the Boko Haram insurgency in the country’s northeast. In 2016 alone, an estimated 2,500 people were killed and tens of thousands were displaced across the country.
A recent report by the group said the attacks have increased tension between the cattle herders and farming communities, with over 8,000 people killed and more than 200,000 displaced since 2011. Many have sought refuge in neighboring countries.
Critics say the government’s response over the years has been inadequate. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is a Muslim from the Fulani north. Nigerian Catholic communities and other Christian leaders have accused him of protecting his cattle-herding kinsmen and not doing enough to end the killings. The Catholic bishops have urged parishioners to protect themselves, saying the government has failed to protect them.
Attacks have increased since Nigeria imposed a lockdown March 30 in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The middle belt region, which produces a large percentage of the country’s food for domestic consumption and export, has been affected most. More than 50 people, mostly Christian farmers, have been killed by armed gunmen since the lockdown began, according to CSW.
By Sept. 4, Nigeria had registered more than 54,000 cases of COVID-19, with 1,051 deaths and more than 42,000 recoveries, according to Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, which is responding to the pandemic along with the Ministry of Health.
“Last week, some villages were attacked and more than 10 people were killed in the process,” Paul Tekina, another villager at the camp said. “When this happens, the police go there, but before they arrive, the attackers have already disappeared.”
Besides the human toll, the conflict has caused a drop in agricultural income in the region. A 2015 report by Mercy Corps, a global aid organization, says Nigeria’s economy is threatened by decades long disputes between farmers and pastoralists in the region, and that ending the crisis could add $13.7 billion in annual revenue to the treasury.
The U.N. World Food Program warns that by the end of 2020, COVID-19 could push the number of people suffering from acute hunger to more than 250 million, many of them in Africa. The World Bank predicts the pandemic will drive sub-Saharan Africa into its first recession in 25 years and could also spark a food security crisis on the continent because of declines in food imports, higher transaction costs and reduced domestic demand.
Now that they are away from the places where they were attacked, Ancha and other farmers, most of whom are Catholic, have started cultivating farm produce for this growing season, which began in March. Agricultural extension workers and volunteers from urban areas are also assisting the farmers with awareness programs about how to adapt to climate change during the farming season.
“Now we cultivate what we eat here,” says Ancha, who lives with his wife and five children at the camp, about two hours by road from Guma, his home community. But he looks forward to the day when he can return to his ancestral home, where he had lived all his life until the attack. “If this continues, we will remain here,” he says of the attacks, “but if it stops, then we can go home and start all over again. Everyone here wants to go home.”
[Patrick Egwu is a Nigerian freelance journalist currently based in Johannesburg, where he is an Open Society Foundation Fellow on Investigative Reporting at the University of Witwatersrand.]
A 90-year old statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at St. Patrick Cathedral, El Paso, USA was vandalized on September 16, 2020 morning at around 10:00am.
According to a report by Catholic Media on its Facebook wall, “a suspect came into the sanctuary at St. Patrick Cathedral and destroyed the almost 90-year-old statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was located in the center behind the main altar of the church”.
In recent months, several Catholic churches in the USA have faced attacks and acts of desecration. At least twenty attacks on Catholic churches, statues, businesses, cemeteries, parishioners, and personnel” occurred since May 2020, and it’s evident that “Catholics are under attack in America.”
Many of the attacks reflect a deep-seated hostility towards Christianity, and the liberal media and politicians have chosen to ignore such attacks on Christians conveniently. The media outlets, which often amplify attacks on Muslims anywhere in the world, have tended to downplay malicious attacks against Christians.
America’s founding fathers believed religious liberty to be essential to the new nation, securing it with the First Amendment’s protections. However, the rights of Catholic churches and Catholic religious institutions are under increased persecution by liberals, atheists, and other violent groups backed by liberal politicians.
“The trend of desecrating Catholic spaces and property must stop,” U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) wrote in an August 11 letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr. We, as Christians, have a moral obligation to vote for a Government that will protect our churches and freedom of worship.
A far-left led liberal government will have no interest in protecting Christian religious rights, and the situation is the U.S. could become much worst than what is going on in Europe. “Violence against Christian sites is most widespread in France, Germany, Britain, Ireland, Italy, and Spain, where churches, schools, cemeteries, and monuments are being vandalized, desecrated and burned daily, according to government statistics. Research by the renowned “Gatestone Institute” found that approximately 3,000 Christian churches, schools, cemeteries, and monuments were vandalized, burned, looted, or defaced in Europe in 2019 — at more than five a day, a record year for anti-Christian hostility on the continent. In an editorial, Catholic Media notes that in majority of these types of attacks, the perpetrators are never caught or appropriately punished, and we cannot let such hostile acts happening in our country, so we must act in this election.
“It’s high time for Christians to stand for our faith more than our lives. We should vote in this election, just like our life depends on it, not just this life on earth, but the lift after death as well. Our Christian faith and traditions are critical to the salvation of our souls after death, and our right to practice our faith without fear must be protected”!
The Catholic Bishop of Makurdi Diocese, Most Rev. Wilfred Anagbe, has suspended all pastoral activities at St. Peter’s Parish, Low-Level, in Makurdi, following a desecration of the Holy Eucharist and the looting of sacred vessels in the Church.
Rev. Fr. James Utav, the Diocesan Deputy Director of Communication, confirmed the development on Tuesday, in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
According to him, the Bishop, while reading the decree sanctioning the suspension of pastoral activities, said the Parish would henceforth be closed from the celebration of Holy Mass and all other activities in line with Canon 1211.
“The suspension, which took effect on September 15, 2020 followed two sacrilegious attacks on the Parish on 12 August and 13 September by yet-to-be identified persons.
“The decree sanctioning the suspension states that the Parish will be closed from celebration of the Holy Mass and all other pastoral activities in line with Canon 1211 with effect from today, 15 September, 2020 until further notice,” he explained.
He quoted the Bishop as revealing that the Chapel of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the main Church building were broken into, during the attacks.
“The sacred specie of the Most Holy Eucharist was desecrated and sacred vessels looted thereby defiling the Church.
“The closure is to enable us to adequately prepare for penance required by law in order to repair the injury this profanation has done to the sacred body of Christ.
“Pastoral activities shall resume only after a proportional satisfaction is made with regards to this sacrilege and we are also fully guaranteed of a better security outfit and structure for the parish in accordance with canonical requirements.
“When that is done, the entire worshiping community of this Parish, among other things, must perform a novena of reparation to be concluded with a rite of atonement in line with diocesan liturgical norms,” he further quoted the Bishop as saying.
“If you do not forgive those who wrong you, you are overburdening you heart and giving in yourself to the shackles of the evil one”.
The Priest-in-Residence at Christ the King Catholic Church Oru Ahiara, Ahiara Diocese, Rev. Mgsr. Theo Nwalo stated this in his sermon marking Eucharistic Mass in the parish.
Preaching on the topic: “Be your Brothers keeper,” the clergyman cautioned against grudges and malice, underlining numerous benefits derivable from unconditional love for one another.
He stated that Jesus Christ paid the supreme sacrifice and died for us while we are still sinners, point’mg out that if one only loves those who love him and hates those who hate him, he is not Christlike and has nothing to exhibit as a child of God.
In his text taking from Matthew 18:15-20, he said, Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”
Continuing, he said: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself. Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another;
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Love does no evil to the neighbour; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law. Do not hate. Do not discriminate. Eschew greed, avarice, covetousness, treachery, blackmail, backbiting, calumny and pull him down syndrome. Do not take to heart the wrongs of your brother or hold tightly to the past. You will only be increasing your burden which could weigh you down. Do not use your position to victimize anybody or settle old scores. Leave vengeance for the Lord and do not let the devil take hold of you or manipulation you. If you do not forgive, your father in heaven will neither forgive you nor grant your request.”
Citing also the book of Ezekiel 33:7-9 where it was said: “If you do not speak to the wicked man, I will hold you responsible for his death but if warn him and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself,” the cleric cautioned against teeth for tat, reiterating that vengeance is for God.
The First was taking from the book of Ezekiel 33:7-9 ” If you do not speak to the wicked man, I will hold you responsible for his death,” Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 94:1-2,6-9.Rv.7-8 “O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts,” Second Reading – Romans 13:8-10 “Love is the answer to every one of the commandments” and Gospel – Matthew 18:15-20 “If he listens to you, you have won back your brethren.”
* Anyanwu DC is the Area Information Officer of Ahiazu Mbaise LGA.
Pope Francis urged the faithful on Sunday to steer clear of gossip, calling it worse than the coronavirus and saying it could be used to divide the Roman Catholic Church.
“Please, brothers and sisters, let’s make an effort not to gossip. Gossiping is a worse plague than COVID,” the pope said during his weekly address from a window above St. Peter’s Square.
“The devil is the great gossip. He is always saying bad things about others because he is the liar who tries to split the Church,” Francis added in the off-the-cuff comments.
The pope has regularly warned of the risks of gossiping and has also railed against Internet trolls.
“If something goes wrong, offer silence and prayer for the brother or sister who make a mistake, but never gossip,” he said on Sunday.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Frances Kerry)
A proper understanding of the Church wrestles with historical and theological
complexities that underscore her nature as a mystery in history. Without going into
such complex issues, suffice it to say that fundamentally the Church is about
Christ. Hence, a Christless Church is as absurd as a Churchless Christian. In
response to the lockdown occasioned by COVID-19, Christian Churches
translocated their worship online. The decision to suspend public religious
assemblies momentarily, which caused discontentment and confusion to many
Christians, offered some a needed alibi to attenuate the value of Sunday worship
assembly. They questioned the rationale behind the insistence on Sunday worship
attendance since technology provides an alternative way of worshipping.
Consequently, the weakness of the faith of some Christians became evident in their
positions. In their estimation, true worshippers do it in Spirit and in truth (cf. John
4:23), after all, religion is in the heart (uka di n’obi). As a result, the Church needs
to adapt to modern development. This position runs contrary to ‘what it was to be’
Church and demonstrates a superficial appreciation of her mission. In any case, an
adequate understanding of the mystery of the Church arrests this challenge by
clarifying her true identity.
From whatever perspective (biblical, theological, spiritual, anthropological,
sociological and eschatological), the Church is a body. She is the body and bride of
Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-14; 2 Cor. 11:2-4; Eph. 5: 22-33); the assembly of
believers, the body of the people of God, the temple of the Spirit, a communion.
Presence underscores these expressions of bodiliness as an essential factor. The
Church needs real presence to be Church such that being the Church and going to
church are not mutually exclusive. From the perspective of spirituality, being and
doing are not separated. It is in doing that being is expressed – going to church is
essential to being part of the Church such that absenting oneself from the assembly
of the faithful contravenes God’s law (cf. Heb.10:25). In that case, appealing to the
alibi of the Church in the heart manifests extreme lack of knowledge of the
corporate nature of the sacred communion, the Church. As the communion of the
saved and instrument of salvation and fellowship with all creation, this divine
project serves man’s ultimate purpose.
The weekly Christian worship, in a special way, demonstrates this corporate nature
by our prayer patrimony, “Our Father”, for the Church offers us the opportunity of
assuming the filial relationship within fraternal context. The Church significantly
demonstrates human inter-subjectivity. She is always a relationship of “I with
You” and the “You” is Christ but since Christ comprises of all he saved, the
Church is an encounter of “I” with “totus Christus” (whole Christ) and not “solus
Christus” (solitary Christ). The “whole Christ” is a corporate concept of Christ the
head with the faithful. Arguably true, the Church is the most significant possibility
of assumption and expression of our identity as humans. It resonates with the core
of our beings expressing both dignity and indigence all at once and letting our
poverty encounter the greatness of Christ in whose providence we thrive.
In the Church, our brokenness meets our nobility in Christ and submits our poverty
to God’s greatness, who by his providence takes over our cares and concerns. Our
self-reserving, self-referential, self-congratulating and self-idolatrous obsession
makes us feel at the centre of the universe. However, at worship, we begin a
journey of self-discovery, which is a real exodus of self-giving that courageously
opens us to the reality of what life is and offers. It helps us to see in the entirety of
the community the meaning of communion in Christ. The gathering expresses the
human dimension of the Church; the concreteness of the assembly makes it evident
that the Church is not just a spiritual reality or amorphous entity not instantiated
in‘re’. Each gathered assembly (the ekklesia of God) is the point of contact that
opens up to all other so-gathered communities for the spiritual communion given
by God. The disciples gathered in the upper room before the Holy Spirit came
upon them and constituted them into a Church (cf. Acts 2).
The Church of Christ is neither just an invisible spiritual reality with no
“fundamentum in re” nor only a visible physical entity; she is a “both … and”
inclusive project of the Father. The Body of Christ is a mystery symbolically
expressed both in spiritual and physical realities with a permanent foundation in
Christ by the Spirit. For the Church to be consistent with her symbolic nature
respecting its various ramifications, she has to be concretely present and
encountered. By way of analogy, since there cannot be a marital act without the
physical presence of the couples irrespective of whatever assistance the digital
operation offers, so also regardless of the digital support in times of extreme
necessities, there cannot be Church properly so-called without the physical
presence of the assembly. This concrete presence symbolizes a mystical
communion. In consequence, sacraments (Confession, Chrismation, Eucharist,
Marriage, etc.) are not administered online.
While digital technology creates new relations, communities and cultural praxis
that impact the general cultural practices of a people, these realities are,
notwithstanding, offshoots of the existing cultures. The digital anthropology is
embedded in the science of man. It cannot be disconnected from anthropology,
which funds its development in its study of the socio-cultural phenomena within
the digital interactive space. As such, a people’s appreciation of religious worship
or sacred mysteries will impact how they treat them relative to the online
possibilities. This anthropological disposition funds perspectives and conceptions
of faith expression.
Worthy of note is that, as the digital technology offers assistance to physically
absent couples to sustain their conjugal love, it will in no way replace the physical
presence or diminish its value. In truth, the online reality sustains the desire for
communion, creates and raises their expectancy, arouses their hunger for each
other as an appetizer and stirs joy for their physical meeting. Yet the Internet is
never a substitute for real presence in any conjugal relationship, be it between
humans or bridal relationship of the Church with Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 11:2-4; Eph.
5:22-33; Rom. 7). How can there be a conjugal relationship without the real
presence of the bride; how can there be a Church without the actual presence of the
gathered assembly? In the sacred bridal interconnection with the divine Groom, the
assembly becomes the real presence of the bride ready for the encounter with the
Groom by the Spirit. This assembly that is a communion of shared beliefs and
“becomings” relives the experience and whets her appetite for the real stuff on the
marriage feast of the Lamb on the last day (cf. Rev. 19:7).
Unfortunately, our desire for autonomy from the authorities does subtly make us
promote online liturgy instead of onsite worship. The member-shopping drive
where some target a select number of elite or middle-class faithful, who are
religiously faithful to the online offertory, digital tithe and online harvests,
aggravates faith crisis. Ecco! The temptation to these can make us not to explain to
people the difference between the ad hoc and extraordinary online liturgy and the
weekly onsite worship. Such a lack of profound Catechesis atrophies the faith of
the faithful at the onsite worship.
Properly speaking, going to the Church is like expressing the pilgrimage nature of
life. Since life is a journey, then attending Sunday worship puts the inner stir in
active mode. It is a refusal to be destitute and deity at the same time. God, who in
his all powerfulness could save humanity by his Word or by willing it alone but
chose the human way of encounter (bodily process), wants us to meet. He invites
us to meet as a people called by his name (cf. Matt. 18:20). The Church is,
therefore, a mystery of corporate existence, which abhors individualism or lone-
Finally, faith has both private and public dimensions. The public aspect not only
implicates the need for public witnessing but also finds concrete expression in
liturgical gatherings of Christ’s faithful by which the Church as a mystical body
and community of believers is specially demonstrated. There is no gain writing it
in capital letters to make the point that privatizing the faith can only atrophy or kill
it. To see digital connection with faith community, which online worship fosters in
the face of the pandemic, as a replacement for the incarnated, mystical and
sacramental communion which onsite worship enthrones would play into the hands
of those who want the demise of the Christian faith. The Tele-Church does not
represent the ekklesia of Christ and does not suffice for Weekly Eucharistic
assembly because a Tele-Eucharist fails the Incarnation criteria. Similarly, there is
no ekklesia on the Internet, rather virtual worship can serve as “praeparatio
evangelica” and indeed, “logos spermatikos”, seeds of grace that prepare the
faithful for an encounter with the whole Christ (totus Christus), which the Sunday
liturgical assembly represents. The reality of the onsite worship spells the nature of
the Church such that in moments of emergency, online worship serves only as a
support and not a substitute.
Fr George Adimike
Nasir el-Rufai is hurting. Badly. He is angry. Very, very angry.
It serves him right.
The Kaduna State governor is beside himself with rage because he was booted out of the 60th Annual General Conference of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) which kicked off virtually today.
He is hurting because he was originally billed to be one of the star attractions at the August gathering in August.
He was to rub shoulders with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike; House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila; Chief Justice Tanko Mohammed; former President Olusegun Obasanjo; former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; Attorney General and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami; Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) President, Brian Speers; and Judicial Institute for Africa Director of Training, Linda Dobbs.
A man in love with the sound of his own voice, and not one to miss such an auspicious platform, El-Rufai had already primed himself to deliver a killer punch of a speech that would damn and, perhaps, silence his critics forever.
But some lawyers, apparently scandalised that such a divisive figure was offered the platform to further spew his obtuse, imperceptive and disruptive rhetoric, protested and demanded he be disinvited as a guest speaker.
The aggrieved lawyers felt that failure to withdraw his invitation would be a bounteous reward for bad behaviour. The NBA leadership acquiesced.
There has been a bedlam ever since. El-Rufai’s supporters are up in arms.
Some of them who are lawyers have threatened to boycott the conference. The deposed Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, made a surprise visit to Kaduna, the first since his dethronement, and took a swipe at the NBA.
“Withdrawing the invite does not show us as people who want progress. Because if you disagree with someone, having him in your hall where you can tell him your views is important and he can defend himself,” Sanusi argued.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar lll, also came calling. The timing of his visit is instructive. According to El-Rufai, he also expressed support for his efforts at bringing peace to Kaduna State.
All these are expected.
El-Rufai, a man of immense political muscle, is well-heeled and entrenched in the power superstructure of the Muslim North. He believes he is one of those who own Nigeria and, therefore, remains infallible, no-matter what he does. The consequence of such sense of entitlement is the vexatious swagger and predatory impunity.
He sees the NBA’s action as ultimate humiliation and will fight back in any way he can.
But even as he plots revenge, he pretends that the NBA’s rebuff does not matter to him. After all, he insists, it was the association that invited him. So, if they decide to withdraw the invitation, it is their problem, not his.
But don’t be deceived by the bold face and braggadocio, the NBA’s stern rebuke is ego-deflating and humiliating to El-Rufai.
So, when he says he “wishes to make clear that he did not seek the platform and is not agitated that he has one less speaking engagement,” it is sheer baloney.
Such antics remind me of the Igbo saying that when a rat escapes a child on a hunting expedition, he dismisses it as a “shit-hole rat.”
El-Rufai surely needed one more, not one less, speaking engagement to continue espousing his jaundiced, cynical and jaded worldview of ethno-religious supremacy.
Such opportunities pump his adrenaline. Denying him is a hit below the belt, a quintessential sucker punch.
Some people have argued, just like Sanusi, that withdrawing the invite was a wrong-headed move by the NBA. To them, the platform would have put him on the hot seat to provide the lawyers an opportunity to grill him.
So, rather than shoving him off the list of guest speakers, a question and answer segment could have been factored into the programme to give Nigerian lawyers the opportunity to engage him and pick his brain.
But what difference would it have made?
El-Rufai, the unapologetically proud and brilliant Fulani, tweeted on July 15, 2012 that: “We will write this for all to read. Anyone, soldier or not, that kills the Fulani takes a loan repayable one day no matter how long it takes.”
He would have used the NBA platform to further espouse his highly skewed narrative aimed at unconscionable ethnic baiting and profiling.
Those claiming that by disinviting him the NBA denied him a fair hearing, are either missing the point if they are truly sincere in their submission or they are simply being mischievous.
It is not a surprise that El-Rufai is hitching a ride on this fair-hearing wagon.
But he has had the fairest opportunity to air his opinion on the ugly developments in his state. He monopolises the bully pulpit of his office. He is a regular face on television and radio talk shows.
Journalists in the print media fall over themselves to avail him the pages of their newspapers, an opportunity the victims of the Kaduna macabre orchestra can only dream of.
But rather than using the bully pulpit of his high office to bring out the best in civic life, he divides the people and insults those who disagree with him.
So, what difference will the NBA platform make? None that I see. If anything, it would have afforded him one more opportunity to spew ethnic and religious hatred, insult his critics and further divide the people.
It is good that he was denied the opportunity. Kaduna, and indeed Nigeria, needs less, not more, of El-Rufai’s incendiary rhetoric.
Those imputing ethnic and religious motive to the NBA’s courageous and commendable action also miss the point. It is, no doubt, a narrative that resonates with the man and one he is actively promoting.
But it is too simplistic.
In the first place, El-Rufai is not the first Muslim from the northern part of the state to govern Kaduna. Ahmed Makarfi, a Muslim, governed eight years with relative peace. At no time did Makarfi incite one ethnic group against another.
El-Rufai was disinvited neither because of his religious belief nor ethnic origin. Among other invitees, Gbajabiamila is a Muslim from the South; Mohammed and Malami are Muslims from the North.
The young lawyers who championed this cause gave their reasons.
In its petition to the NBA’s Technical Committee on Conference Planning, the Open Bar Initiative – an advocacy and justice initiative for lawyers across Nigeria – listed El-Rufai’s lack of “empathy,” statement that invaders “will go back in body bags” ahead of the 2019 elections, the threat by his son, Bello, to support gang-rape of a Twitter user’s mother, routine arrest and intimidation of critics, contempt for judicial pronouncements, among other gripes.
The leadership of the NBA, whose motto is ‘respect for rule of law, democratic norms and values’, agreed with the petitioners and took the heartwarming step of axing El-Rufai from the conference.
That is the crux of the matter.
Last week when I wrote in the article Nasir el-Rufai and the carnage in Southern Kaduna that if he persists in playing whack-a-mole politics with people’s lives, Nigerians must make a conscious decision to call him out, I didn’t know that the NBA would deploy its huge moral authority to do so.
Will that change anything? We wait and see. But by rebuking El-Rufai, the NBA has done Nigeria a good turn.
By Ogu Bundu Nwadike, M.A
This is a tribute to the amiable lawmakers elected under the big, strong and reliable umbrella of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo State into the national and State Assembly respectively. Among them are one senator and five House of Representatives members at the National Assembly, with six Imo State House of Assembly members.
They include: (1) Distinguished Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi, representing Imo East (Owerri Zone) Senatorial District in the Senate; (2) Rt. Hon. Henry Nwawuba, representing Mbaitoli/Ikeduru Federal Constituency; (3) Rt. Hon. Bede Eke, representing Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala; (4) Hon. Emeka Chinedu, representing Ahiazu Mbaise/Ezinihitte Mbaise Federal Constituency and (5) Rt. Hon. Jerry Alagaboso, representing Orlu/Orsu/Oru East Federal Constituency.
At the Imo State House of Assembly, we have Imo PDP representatives, including, (1) Rt. Hon. Barr. Okey Onyekanma, immediate past Speaker, representing Mbaitoli State Constituency; (2) Hon. Barr. Anyadike Nwosu, Minority Leader; representing Ezinihitte; (3) Hon. Barr. Frank Ugboma, Deputy Minority Leader, representing Oguta; (4) Hon. Philip Ejiogu, representing Owerri North; (5) Hon. Toochi Okereke, representing Ngor Okpala; and (6) Hon. Solomon Anukam, representing Owerri Municipal.
I call them our Wonderful Eleven. That’s because when, on January 14, 2020, after Supreme Court made Uzodimma governor, and they had the heavy push and pressure to decamp and run after Uzodimma’s mirage millions, they saw the bigger picture and resisted Eve’s apple and Judas’ temptation, and remained in Imo PDP! Truly, they’re the Wonderful Eleven! May God continue to be with them and grant them more blessings!
Today, they’re known as men of tested and proven integrity. They’re men of great character and good conduct. They’re true men of the people. They care much more about the overall good of Imo State and Imo people than selfish percuniary benefits. They’re the true patriotic representatives of Ndimo!
There’s no doubt that they’re proud of themselves, their great accomplishments and achievements. They’re proud of cleaning tears and generating laughter, joy and happiness among Imo people. The list of the good things they’re is quite long!
Their families, friends and associates are proud of them. Imo PDP is very proud of them. Imo people are proud of them. Nigerians are proud of them!
Having been privileged to personally observe their empowerment programmes recently, specifically those of Distinguished Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi, Rt. Hon. Henry Nwawuba, and Rt. Hon. Okey Onyekanma, I reported to Imo PDP and Imo people that our elected leaders in the State and National Assemblies are doing our great party proud. Thanks to them and glory to God!
In the past few weeks, it has been donation of electric power transformers galore. The mission is “Let there be light”! Imo PDP lawmakers want Imo people to enjoy public electricity supply. At least ten communities got transformers which they didn’t have before now. One happy observation was the team spirit among the lawmakers, using Distinguished Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi, Rt. Hon. Henry Nwawuba, and Rt. Hon. Okey Onyekanma as points of contact. Imo PDP legislators are a great team of a great party!
In addition to the donation of the brand new 300KVA and brand new 500KVA transformers, I observed that the lawmakers also graded some rural roads in their respective constituencies to make easy vehicular and pedestrian movements.
Special gifts of wheels chairs were made to some special citizens by Distinguished Senator Onyewuchi in one of his empowerment programmes in one of his constituencies in Owerri Zone Senatorial District that he represents.
Also special was the micro-cash grants and interest-free loans scheme initiated by Rt. Hon. Okey Onyekanma, who mapped out multi-millions for thousands of beneficiaries, including particularly indigent petty traders in open markets in various communities in Mbaitoli LGA, that he represents.
On a very memorable occasion a couple of weeks ago or thereabouts, an incident which the people rated a miracle happened. Rt. Hon. Onyekanma sponsored the restoration of a damaged transformer in Lawa Ishi Ogbaku in Mbaitoli LGA and while he addressed the people on the commissioning ceremony, there was light! Yes, he brought light to Lawa Ishi Ogbaku!!
According to the natives, who are direct beneficiaries from the restored light, that was the first time that community received public power supply in a very long time! The joy and happiness of Lawa Ogbaku indigenes knew no bounds!
How many shall we count and how many shall just assume as part of the great work Imo PDP legislators at State and National levels are doing to better the lives of Imo people? They’re just numerous!
One thing I noted about the current phase of infrastructural development equipment and machinery, coupled with the financial empowerment programmes of Imo PDP is that they’ll benefit everybody irrespective of party affiliations and differences. They’re programmes and projects that are shared to all people in the community, without discrimination.
For instance, the roads and the transformers, and the electricity that was restored; all will be for the enjoyment of everybody including PDP, APC, APGA and other political parties. The biggest transformer, a 500KVA, was donated to Amawuihe community at Ubommiri in Mbaitoli LGA by Distinguished Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi. Will it serve only PDP leaders and members in Amawuihe Ubommiri? No!
Even Rt. Hon. Okey Onyekanma’s micro-cash grants and interest-free loans were given to the people of Mbaitoli LGA without discrimination of their party association and affiliation.
I witnessed Rt. Hon. Onyekanma’s system of distribution of the sparkling white envelopes containing his micro-cash grants at Orie Ogbaku Market and Ekeoha Ekwereazu Ogwa Market respectively.
He never asked about the party the lucky recipients belonged to. And I noted that on each occasion it was an impromptu surprise visit to the markets. So, there was no way, it could have been arranged for only PDP members to get the largese. It was simply an honest, transparent and accountable process of show of love and care for the people!
The wild chorus of “Everywhere You Go, Okey Is Okay” and “Okey Is Okay Everywhere You Go” also testified to the general reception accorded him in all parts of Mbaitoli LGA that he represents.
It must therefore suffice to say that just as the three legislators referenced in foregoing paragraphs in this short essay are thinking about the good of Imo people, so also are the other legislators not mentioned playing various roles to see that they’re providing those things the current unpopular regime in Imo State doesn’t want to provide for Imo people. To God be the glory!
As Imo PDP Wonderful Eleven journey into their second year in the 9th Legislature, Imo PDP will continue to boast about their forthrightness and vision for the good of the people. They’re true democrats!
The good prayer is that as they go about donating infrastructural development equipment and machinery, as they go about grading and tarring Imo rural roads, as they go about distributing micro-cash grants and giving interest-free loans, as they go about bridging the gap between this current anti-people regime and Imo people, may Almighty God continue to bless them all and their families with long life, good health sound mind, and all-round prosperity. In Jesus’ name! Power to the people!!!
By God’s grace Imo State must be rebuilt!
*Nwadike is the State Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo State!
By Ogu Bundu Nwadike, M.A
Come Saturday, October 31, 2020, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will be conducting a bye-election to fill the Imo North (Okigwe Zone) Senatorial District seat that became vacant following the death of the occupier of Distinguished Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu. May God continue to grant eternal rest to his soul!
From all indications, the Peoples Democratic Party is very set to win the election with a combination of moonslide and landslide wide margin.
That’s based on some very salient reasons. First and quintessentially is Imo PDP’s highly democratic processes of preparation for the election. There’s a round the clock concerted efforts by all stakeholders of the party both in Okigwe Zone in particular, and Imo State in general to ensure victora ascerta!
The anticipated sweet victory is also based on the peace and love, unity and progress that has become the true identity of the current PDP in Imo State. It’s so amazing Imo PDP now exists in an unprecedented unity, peace and progress! That’s quite critical and crucial for success in elective politics!
The fact that the current State Chairman of Imo PDP, Engr. Charles Ugwuh, is a very illustrious son of Okigwe Zone and a very experienced astute politician, is another factor that will further enhance the push and drive by PDP to win the Okigwe bye-election on October 31.
Now, let it be reminded that Okigwe Zone, just like Imo State, has always been a PDP territory since the dawn of the 4th Republic in 1999. That’s an incontrovertible truth, in spite of bad politics by bad politicians!
The imminent victory of PDP in the October 31, 2020 bye-election will, therefore, be a reclaim and regain of what rightfully belongs to the PDP. Okigwe is for PDP and PDP is for Okigwe!
Recall that it was via the worst ever sort of political brigandage and violence that the APC won the Okigwe Senate seat via Uwajumogu, and with similar duress secured a certified controversial second term.
In the 2015 general elections, PDP won Okigwe Senatorial District seat through its then member, leader, and candidate, Chief Athan Achonu. Many seem to forget that fact, especially now that “One Arm General” chose to embrace and dine with the same political devils that truncated his PDP sponsored victory in the 2015 election.
It was political “we no go gree” stance of Imo APC that saw the party hijacking the PDP victory through duress which characterizes the politics of APC at all levels so far. Yet, the evil roles of moles, traitors, conspirators, betrayers, and saboteurs in Imo PDP at the time can’t be overlooked.
Unarguably, Imo PDP, as at the time of the 2015 general elections and the subsequent political hostilities and brouhaha, was unfortunately housing some of the worst political vampires anyone can see in a nightmarish dream.
They betrayed and sabotaged Imo PDP in all ramifications. They were PDP in body but APC in soul and spirit. They were robbing Imo PDP to pay Imo APC.
But as the Supreme God would have it, those Egyptians Imo PDP saw in 2015, they don’t see in Imo PDP again. Pharaoh and his soldiers have since drowned in the Red Sea of Imo politics. They’re now neither here nor there, spoiling any party they gatecrash into!
Instructively, what emerged from the shameful departure of those Obote men was a reformed and rebranded PDP, where love and peace, unity and progress have continued to reign seamlessly supreme.
The result was the spectacular victory of PDP in guber election in 2019. Imo PDP won with a wide margin. It defeated it’s closest opponent with about 100,000 votes cast by Imo people for PDP.
And even after the same “political spoilers of PDP par excellence” did everything humanly possible to edge Imo PDP out of Douglas House on January 14, 2020, Imo people still see Imo PDP in Douglas House. It’s PDP everywhere you go in Imo State!
That can’t be unconnected with the people-oriented programmes and projects that were established by the Imo PDP RebuildImo administration in its seven-month tenure led by His Excellency, Governor Emeka Ihedioha CON.
It’s on that backdrop of continued victory with love, peace, unity and progress in Imo PDP, even since after the Supreme Court made Uzodimma governor, that Imo PDP is very optimistic that come October 31, the party will reclaim the Okigwe Zone Senatorial seat that rightfully belongs to PDP.
Besides the prevalent enviable order in Imo PDP and the orderliness in the management of its affairs, which has endeared the party to the greater majority of Ndimo, and sustained the massive support for PDP, there’s also the tested and proven good attributes of the party’s potential aspirants for the bye-election.
Instructively, Okigwe Zone has some of the most brilliant and intelligent Imolites. With very good reasons, Okigwe Zone recently produced a very good man as the State Chairman of Imo PDP, Engr. Charles Ugwuh, for which the party remains grateful to Okigwe people.
It’s also believed that in the same vein, Ndi Okigwe will give Imo PDP another very sound Okigwelite as candidate for the forthcoming bye-election. Okigwe Zone nwere madu na PDP! That’s truth based on facts and figures!
As at the time of filing in this prognosis, it’s not certain who Okigwe Zone will send from the PDP family to go and represent them in the Senate. The process and procedure are going with respect to rule of law and due process. But it’s so certain that after all said and done, the eventual candidate will be a fit as fiddle round peg in a round hole.
Above all of the above, Imo people are fed up with the bad leadership of the APC in Imo State and Nigeria. That party only came to fulfill the three-fold satanic ministry of kill, steal and destroy. Nigeria has been totally ruined by APC. That’s unarguable!
The salvation of Nigeria and Imo State now lies in the hands of PDP. Indeed, historically, everything good about Nigeria since 1999 is characteristically made in PDP. While the party is associated with building and rebuilding, APC is known for wanton destruction and deetion of human and material resources of the country.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that as I write this short essay, Imo APC is embroiled in very heated fratricidal factional war that looks set to deny it participation in the bye-election. Remember that according to the Supreme Court, Imo APC hadn’t any guber candidate in the 2019 general elections.
There are about six functional factions of Imo APC that play the crab and lepers politics against one another. And as was hinted on the front page of a pro-APC Imo-based newspaper: “The WhitePaper”, concerning the Okigwe bye-election, “Imo APC Won’t Play Any Roles As Factions Exist”! QED!
At least three “consensus” candidates have emerged, while there are indications that the war will end in direct primaries. Yet, while the Uzodimma faction, led by Chief Marcel Nlemigbo is selling nomination forms in Owerri, the Owelle Rochas Okorocha faction is holding stakeholders meeting at Westbrook Hotel, Owerri. Other four factions are simply maintaining the “siddon look” philosophy!
There’s every reason to believe that the factions of Imo APC will remain at war and miss the election. The summary of it all is that Imo State is a PDP right from Adam. APC just wanted a foothold in the Southeast geo-political zone, and unfortunately, the ot Imo State.
Yet, the victory has proved to be pyhrric and unsavoury because since January 14, 2020 when the conspiratorial gang-up against Imo State and Imo people was controversially consummated at the Supreme Court, Imo State and Imo people have simply fallen from frying pan into raging fire in the hands of Uzodimma and his pseudo-Imo APC! What a caged victory!
Based on the foregoing, therefore, the PDP will as well walkover the APC in the October 31 bye-election and reclaim the Okigwe Senate seat that was stolen by Imo APC in 2015 and 2019 general elections. All that needs to be done to win the bye-election is being done. All Imo PDP hands are on deck. And without any iota of doubt, PDP will win and win with a wide margin. Okigwe Zone has decided to return to PDP! To God be the glory!
By God’s grace, Imo State must be rebuilt!