$9.3m Arms Deal Scandal, Catholic Bishops did not Lambast Oritsejafor: The Need for Caution

This rejoinder is actuated by the screaming front page headline on Page 1 of The Catholic Leader newspaper of Sunday September 28, 2014 entitled:“$9.3m arms deal scandal: Catholic Bishops Lambast Oritsejafor--He is dragging Christianity into mud”.The Leader newspaper –a Sunday newspaper- is the official mouth piece of the Owerri Catholic Archdiocese under the able leadership of His Grace Archbishop Valentine AmarachiObinna.According to the story, “Catholic bishops have criticized President, Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor over his alleged involvement in the $9.3 million deal that turned awry in South Africa.”

As Catholics, we have a duty of reverential honour and respect to the ordained of The Church, The priests of the Holy Order of Melchisedec.So, this rejoinder is not and cannot by any stretch of the imagination be construed to be an attack on the Catholic Bishops, more so, since I am a Catholic and, above all, the Bible has admonished us not to touch the anointed of God.

The Catholic bishops were referring to the ongoing rumpus arising from the alleged use of the private aircraft of the President of Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN), Bishop Oritsejafor to ferry the $9.3 million that was seized by South African authorities. The alleged denunciation by the Catholic bishops was made in an interview which the President, Catholic Bishops Conference,Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, granted the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation(BBC).

If I had read this story from the secular press, I would not have given a damn about it, but this story was reported in a Catholic newspaper- hence I am disorientated. Above all, Catholic Bishops are not known for making frivolous or controversial comments on issues.

I am glad to report that in a GSM chat with an impeccable source at the Catholic Secretariat in Abuja, I was told that the Catholic Bishops did not at any time lambast Pastor Oritsejafor.The details of what the Catholic Bishops said on that occasion will be reported soon. At a time like this, one must advise our faith-based press to exercise caution and moderation in reporting anti- Christian stories. They should also guard against lifting stories from the websites and other media without confirming the genuineness of such stories.

The story borders on a controversial $9.3 million which was allegedly smuggled out of the country with a jet belonging to the President of Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN),Ayo Oritsejafor.According to the story, the raw cash was seized from two Nigerians and an Israeli on arrival in South Africa.Although Pastor Oritsejafor has since confirmed ownership of the jet,he says he does not know anything about the controversial $9.3 million found inside the aircraft. The episode catalyzed uproar when it surfaced in the House of Representatives(HoR) as it triggered off a rowdy and rancorous session which culminated in the members of the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress(APC), walking out of the Plenary House sitting.

Addressing the press on that occasion, Honourable Sampson Osagie,the Minority Whip, explained that his colleagues see the $9.3m million smuggled out of the country as another shame to the country. However, as God would have it,the indefatigable and irrepressible Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR),(Hon EmekaIhedioha), was the presiding officer on that sitting. As a consummate legislator and core PDP adherent, he used his wealth of experience and sagacity to navigate Aso Rock from what would have been a fatal episode. To Hon EmekaIhedioha, I say thank you indeed for a great outing. It is hoped that the PDP is taking judicial notice of the great sacrifices of some of her dependable party men.

In discussing this issue, I wish to use some of the Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ) as pegs to drive home my message. One of the FAQs include the poser as to whether a man of God should be so rich as to own a private Jet and a private university to boot.I am disorientated that most section of Christendom ,especially the Catholic Church, has appropriated poverty as salvific, a sort of green card to heaven.Pastor Oritsejafor owns a private jet; some people also say he owns a private university. Most people do not think it is appropriate for a man of God to bask in prosperity and affluence. In their warped opinion, those who are heaven bound must wait for their reward in Heaven while living as paupers in this planet.

They will soon pull out a citation from the BOOK of Life (Matthew 19:24) which states something to the effect that “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”. The same people say nothing about the dozens of citations in the Bible on the promise of God that His plan for us is a plan for good success and even prosperity.

Please read the Book of Joshua Chapter-1 verse 8 which states thus: “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and have good success”. Again Chapter 29:11 of The Book of Jeremiah states thus:”For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope(New American Catholic Bible).

A future full of hope and good success cannot be a future of abject penury /financial impecuniosity.As a result of the paucity of space, I have just picked two of the dozens of such promises of prosperity and good success for those who worship Him in truth and in Spirit. Then, I begin to wonder why most Christians have rejected all these promises of prosperity and prefer to appropriate poverty and financial wretchedness as the only ways to make heaven .

Why is this so? If all manner of criminals, scammers and 419ners can be stinking wealthy, why are some people including Christians denouncing Pastor Oritsejafor and other super rich men of God for being stupendously rich and opulent?Is the God we worship a poor God?So, enough of the indictment of Pastor Oritsejafor on account of his prosperity unless they want us to believe that our God does not have the capacity to actualize his promises of good success and a great end. When it is extremely necessary to so condemn one of their own, it must be done in the closet, it should not be a media circus which purpose could be for grandstanding. Those who condemn Pastor Oritsejafor should know that there is an undeclared war against Christianity in Nigeria today.

For those who do not already know, the Boko Haram war is a religious war which was publicly declared by the religious leader of the Nigerian Muslims,AlhajiSa'adAbubakar the 3rd,, when at a meeting of Northern Traditional rulers(Emirs) at Arewa House, Kaduna State, onMonday, 2nd July, 2007, the Sultan said:“the upsurge of Christian evangelism is worrisome”. He added that “such spread of Christian faith makes it urgent that the message of Islam should be proclaimed loud and clear. He urged the Jama'atuNasril Islam(JNI) to take steps to counter the rise of evangelism as he vowed to counter the overpowering evangelism of the Christian religion in the North.

Although this declaration of war was reported in screaming banner headlines in several national newspapersas well as the front page of the Catholic Leader newspaper of July 15th,2007, neither the Catholic Bishops nor the leadership of CANtook appropriate steps to call the Sultan to order over the seditious and inciting statement which he made in a public forum.Please readThe Daily Champion newspaper of Thursday, July 6th, 2007, pages 1& 6. I have no doubts that if a cleric of the calibre of Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor was the Chairman of CAN at that point in time, he would have insisted on a retraction of that toxic Fatwa on Christian evangelism.Such apostasy and criminal libel would not have been swept under the carpet.

Before condemning Pastor Oritsejafor, Christians should take judicial notice of Matthew 11:12 which posits:”From John the Baptizer's time until now, the kingdom of God has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force”(The New American Catholic Bible).Irrespective of the contextual interpretation you may use to decode the message, it is a clarion call on the Christian faithful, especially the Church leaders, to gird their loins for war when the Church of Christ is under attack.

So, by extrapolation, one does not expect a man of God like Pastor Oritsejafor to only fast and pray even when the enemies of Christendom have declared war on the Church, more so, since The Book states that “Faith without good works is dead”. Those who worship God must donate their time, talent and treasure (money).So, if in the course of working in the House of God, a need for a private jet arises, does anyone expect Pastor Oritsejafor to withhold it even when God has blest him with a private jet?

However, in this case, it's not that Pastor Oritsejafor volunteered to use his private jet to fight the enemies of Christians. The Pastor has made enough clarification on this issue and we should not give a damn about a few disgruntled enemies of the Mystical Body of Christ who are either hard of hearing or so full of hate and conceit that they must give their own nebulous interpretations to the issue at hand because of their warped delusion that they are born to rule. For the umpteenth time, the Pastor did own up ownership of the private jet. However, as is the case globally, the jet was leased to another organization for use.

So, the Pastor does not know a thing about what the plane was used for. Even here in our own local milieu, people lease out their bicycles, inaga, keke, vehicles and private/commercial jets for use by other parties.I have no doubts that on such cases, the lessee will sign an indemnity to indemnify the original owner(the lessor) from abuse or wrong use of such facility. So, why is that of Pastor Oritsejafor different from the norm

Neither the Government nor Pastor Oritsejafor has done anything that is negatively unique under the present circumstance. Those who don't know a thing about covert activities in political engineering should not dissipate energy discussing the topic. Such people should ask questions about the details of United States involvement in Iran-Contra Affair (aka Irangate).In that episode senior administration officials facilitated the sale of arms to Iran in order to evade an arms embargo which was imposed by Congress. It was an operation to free seven American hostages who were held in Lebanon by a groupwith ties to Iran.

You mayalso inquire into the details of 'Operation Entebbe” which was a counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission carried out by commandos of the Israeli Defence Force(IDF) on 4th July,1976.The setting was Entebbe Airport, Uganda.It was a successful mission in which the Israeli commandos rescued 102 0f 106 Israeli held hostage by enemy forces.

Those who insist on discussing this issue should ask questions about the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing-the flight which was flying from Frankfurt to Detroit via London and New York City was destroyed by a terrorist bomb on Wednesday, 21st December, 1988 killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew on board. The terrorists were allegedly carrying out the orders of the then Libyan leader, the Late Muammar Ghaddafi.

The members of the All Progressives Congress(APC) who have been making a noise on this issue should explain to us the details of what transpired in London when the APC leader/presidential aspirant and the then Nigerian Head of State, GeneralMuhammaduBuhari(retd.) contracted terrorists who drugged UmaruDikko with the intention of abducting him to Nigeria in a diplomatic crate. At the time of the failed abduction, the Late UmaruDikko was on exile in London after fleeing the military junta which was headed by MAJ-Gen. Buhari after he(Buhari) toppled the civilian regime of his kinsman, AlhajiShehuShagari, on December 31st, 1983.

Today,APC members who are in the same party withBuhari are making a noise about a small scene which took place in South Africa. Buhari who was Head of State when this show of shame took place should explain what happened in the failed abduction of AlhajiUmaruDikko.President Jonathan will never get involved in such a show of shame.

Some people have even asked whether it is good for a man of God to be in politics? Although there is nothing to suggest that Pastor Oritsejafor has joined partisan politics,it is my opinion that politics should not be left solely for the dregs of society- the scammers, deviants and 419ners, after all, one cannot change a system from without. Often, one has to be a participant observer in order for one to know the bolts and nuts of an issue. At this point, it is necessary to draw attention to the role played by the Catholic Priest, Cardinal Jaime Sin, in the collapse of the authoritarian regime of the Late Ferdinand Marcos of Philippines. It was Cardinal Jaime Sin who made a broadcast through the Catholic Veritas Radio and called on the Philippines to troop out and join the rebel troops in their barracks in order to terminate the dictatorial regime of President Ferdinand Marcos.

The Philippines swiftly responded to the order of Cardinal Jaime Sin and this culminated in the collapse of the corrupt regime of Ferdinand Marcos. In the same vein, one must emphasize the role played by the Late Pope John Paul the 2nd in the death of communism in his country, Poland, in particular and the world in general. The Pope was a dependable ally of the then President of United States, Ronald Reagan, in the successful struggle to extirpate communism in the world. I have cited just a tip of the iceberg because of the paucity of space.

The Boko Haram Group and their sponsors are encouraged by the fact that previous acts of religious bigotry/persecution against Christians went unopposed by the Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN).Some of these unfair treatments against Christians include Nigeria's membership of the Organization of Islamic Conference(OIC).It was this episode that culminated in the sacking of the second in command in the then General Babangida government, Naval Commodore EbituOkohUkiwe, from the military. I am not aware that the CAN protested this injustice on EbituUkiwe. Another impunity of the Muslim North is the beheading of an Igbo trader, GideonAkaluka, in Kano in 1989 on the nebulousgrounds that he desecrated the Koran.

They overpowered the police and captured Gideon Akaluka who was in protective custody after which they beheaded him under the watchful eyes of the police. They carried his bodiless head and danced through the streets of Kano while the Northern Emirs and Elders watched.If the like of Pastor Oritsejafor was at the helm of affairs in CAN during those woe begotten periods, the perpetrators of those dastardly acts would have met their match in him.

While we Catholics may have our grouse against some leaders of the Pentecostals, Episcopalians, Evangelicals and the like, we also have our own shortcomings. Is it not a monumental setback that after a century of Catholicism in Igbo land, the Ahiara Mbaise Catholics have vehemently rejected Bishop Okpaleke that was appointed by the Pope for Ahiara Diocese of Mbaisenation. This reason for rejecting him is that he hails from Anambra State. They insist that the new Bishop must be an indigene of Mbaise nation. In the Catholic Church of old, the rejection of a Bishop appointed by the Pope would have been an apostasy, a palace coup against the Papacy, after all , it is the doctrine of the Catholic Church that the Pope is infallible when he speaks EX-Cathedra i.e. when he speaks from the throne of ST Peter, the First Pope after the Risen Christ. So, we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.

We should not be too judgmental of the so-called new generation Churches, more so, since they are off shoots of The Church, The Catholic Church. Let us emulate the posture of Gamaliel who in Acts 5:38-39 advised the Christian faithful not to bother themselves with those who were alleged to be performing magic in the name of God. Talking to the the people of God on that occasion,Gamaliel held:“My advice is that you have nothing to do with these men. Let them alone. If their purpose or activity is human in its origins, it will destroy itself.If on the other hand, it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them without fighting God himself”(New American Catholic Bible).All in all, it is my candid advice that we should concentrate more on those attributes that hold us together as Christians,after all, our redeemer, Jesus Christ, prayed that all who go by His name shall be one.

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Articles by John Mgbe