The Question Rev. Fr. Mbaka Has To Answer
In Nigeria and even beyond, the Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka is a very well known minister of the Catholic Church. Widely touted as a controversial priest, many Nigerians speak well of him. Many also doubt his level of sincerity.
Mbaka is always in the news. If he is not in the news about the miraculous healing prowess he is said to possess or his defence of the efficacy of prayers, he is in the news about some social development in the country. If he is not in the news about political developments in Nigeria, he is in the news about some community entanglements. Actively, he keeps supporting or criticizing the actions or inactions of Nigerians and Nigerian politicians in the face of the challenges they have to deal with. His mission has attracted many people to the grounds of his Restoration Centre in Enugu where he preaches, and they keep coming.
But Mbaka is also a materially minded man of God who has various businesses in the country. One of his companies is said to be the Aqua Rapha Investment Limited which manufactures Rapha Groundnut Oil, Rapha Soya Oil and Rapha Carbonated Drinks. During the launching of these products sometime ago, a local Nigerian newspaper, The Sun, reported him as saying he would support the Biafra agitation if the chieftains behind it come out to lead the struggle. He
feared that the protests could snowball into a crisis as huge as the Boko Haram if it was not controlled and that the situation could scare potential investors from coming to invest in the region. “I want you to know that if there are any of you here who are being oppressed, we are being oppressed too. What I am begging is for things to be done in the right way. Because, if we continue like this, the entire vision of the governors of Igbo land – the vision for employment and economic diversification – will be frustrated. No investor can come into a city filled with crises” he was quoted as saying.
Speaking during the event, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State commended Mbaka for using his company to provide 4,500 jobs for the people of the state. Ugwuanyi said the state government is interested in business initiatives that create jobs for the people and turn around the state’s economic fortunes.
During an earlier sermon at his weekly Adoration Ministry, Mbaka had strongly criticised Biafra supporters, describing them as ‘evil’. The man of God advised youths in the South East and Deep South to go back to their businesses as the protest could lead to their deaths. In a swift response, Uche Mefor, the Deputy Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, fired back at the cleric, making it clear to whoever wanted to listen that the quest for “Biafra is more than money!”
Most recently Mbaka is quoted as saying there will be more trouble for the Igbo if they eventually actualise Biafra. Father Ejike Mbaka warned the people of South-East Nigeria against seceding from Nigeria. He feared that such a move could lead to more trouble for them. Mbaka said he disagreed with the claims that the Igbo are being marginalised. He said he was sure that if Biafra was eventually actualized, the people would face more trouble than they were currently facing in Nigeria. His words: “If you think we have trouble in Nigeria now, we will see more trouble in Biafra. No Anambra man would let an Enugu man be President and no Imo man would let an Abakaliki man be President."
Mbaka also warned that secession will affect the Igbo more than it will affect people from other ethnic groups. He said: “No Hausa person owns property in Igbo land. No Yoruba person owns property in Igbo land. “But 60% of businesses in Northern Nigeria are owned by the Igbo. 40% of businesses in Western Nigeria are owned by the Igbo. “Go to Sabon Gari in Kano and see what the Igbo own there."
Dismissing the followers of the Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu as "children of the poor who know little of the implications of secession”, Mbaka actually touched the point that will interest many Nigerians.
In a way, Mbaka’s life story replicates the story of these youths from South Eastern Nigeria who are now agitating for freedom from a system they see as oppressive and feudalistic.
Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka was born into the “noble” family of late Chief Humphrey and Felicia Mbaka in Amata-Ituku in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State. His “dad” was a palm wine tapper. And when he was young, he helped his father in tapping and selling palm wine in his village and perhaps the environs. To many Nigerians, that doesn’t look like being born with a golden spoon in the mouth. So, at that point in time, Ejike was like a child of the poor who knew little of the implications of “secession”.
Like the young Biafra agitators, Mbaka was a dreamer. And like they say, every story of success starts with a dream. Those who knew him in his childhood recollect that once he was through with his home demands, the little Mbaka would quickly run out to organize Block Rosary Prayers where he acted out his dream by usually assuming the role of Francisco. Francisco was one of the three children said to have been visited by Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima in Portugal in1917.
Ejike was said to be deeply involved in the rejuvenation of the charismatic group in St. Anthony’s Parish, Ituku where he led the prayer warrior team and from his activities there, became endeared to the entire Christian Community in Ituku.
His father was a pagan at the time. But he cautiously tolerated his son’s local runs and Christian activities in the town. Yet, as soon as the young Mbaka declared his desire to join the priesthood, the story changed dramatically. His father and his kinsmen not only opposed the idea but also persecuted their little boy and made life one miserable experience for him.
His father was in a dilemma. Ejike was an only son. To his father, the news of his quest to become a priest was tantamount to reading his own obituary. It meant that since the young man was not going to get married, his father’s lineage would become perpetually obliterated from the face of the earth. Ejike was made to pay dearly for this supposed act of obstinacy and insubordination.
But Ejike was determined. He remained unruffled, undaunted, and resolute to the divine call to serve his Creator.
After his secondary school education at St. Vincent’s Secondary School Agbogugn in Awgu Local Government Area of Eungu State, he proceeded to the Seat of Wisdom Seminary Owerri and St Joseph’s Ikot Ekpene for his training and nurturing to priesthood. On 29 July 1995, Rev. Fr. Mbaka was ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in the order of Melchizedek.
That historic event marked the triumph of light over darkness to the glory of God and as many would testify, the Catholic Church in Nigeria instantly knew that the eagle had landed at last.
That is the story.
It may seem so easy to forget when we have struggled to come to the top as Rev. Fr Mbaka has. But in many ways, the story of Mbaka’s life compliments the current struggle of Igbo youths of South East Nigeria to be freed from a system they see as suppressive and feudalistic.
Today Mbaka is celebrated. And so, he sees these agitating youths of the South East as “children of the poor who know little about the implications of secession.” Mbaka forgot that his own father was a pagan and a village palm wine tapper.
Today, Mbaka has made it. He is a very wealthy priest, offering scholarships to many indigent students, doing a lot of charity works. One of his companies alone is said to be employing 4,500 people.
But tell me: had the young Ejike succumbed to the dictates of his parents at the time they were opposed to his ministerial calling, would he have been what he is today? That is the question Rev. Mbaka has to answer.
Emeka Asinugo is a London-based journalist and Publisher of Imo State Business Link Magazine (imostateblm.com)