Posted by Steve Uzoechi | 5 March 2018 | 5,135 times
The Archbishop of Owerri Catholic Archdiocese, His Grace, Anthony Obinna, on Saturday had a brush with supporters of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Imo State for daring to condemn the apportioning of political offices to the family members and allies of Governor Rochas Okorocha.
The Archbishop was admonishing the congregation at the St. Michael’s Catholic Church, Ngwoma in Owerri North council area during the requiem mass for the mother of Mr. Alex Mbata. Obinna had, metaphorically told Chief Uche Nwosu, the Chief of Staff to Governor Okorocha, Mrs. Nkechi Okorocha, the Imo First Lady, and all others at the service that the state needed a seasoned administrator democratically elected and not a handpicked successor as likened to the governor’s son-in-law.
“It is like civilian dictatorship which is unacceptable. Not the governor, not his deputy, not even me can handpick and determine who governs Imo without recourse to the will and votes of Imo people,” the Archbishop said. Obinna urged the members of the congregation to endeavour to get their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and deploy them appropriately in 2019. Nwosu is married to Okorocha’s first daughter.
The Archbishop condemned the recent apportioning of positions to loyalists by Okorocha who had endorsed Nwosu as governor, announced his deputy, Prince Eze Madumere, for Senate and Commissioner for Information, Prof. Nnamdi Obiaraeri, for Senate; while Ozuruigbo Ugonna and Deacon Chike Okafor would go for House of Representatives.
But Okorocha yesterday said God has endorsed his son-in-law and that it was futile antagonizing him. Okorocha said: “This time, it is Uche Nwosu because they have seen that he is the man for 2019 with God on our side. And no amount of blackmail or tricks would change the plan of God on the young man to govern the state.
“It takes someone alive in the things of the Spirit to know that Uche Nwosu is a “child” of destiny. He has the divine mark. And anyone fighting him is fighting his God. And no one can battle with God.”
On his part, Nwosu said that power belongs to the people and only the people of Imo State can determine who governs them.
Trouble started when Obinna was lamenting the dilapidation of roads and infrastructure in the area and the increasing level of poverty and hunger in Imo State. An appointee of the governor from Oru West council area, Chief Chris Ekwueme, shouted that Governor Okorocha was working and doing his best.
Ekwueme was invited to the podium and was given the microphone. The APC stalwart stated that Okorocha was working and cannot finish all the developmental works in Imo in his tenure, noting that the concern of the Archbishop will be addressed. Another member of the congregation, who apparently was not sympathetic to APC, dashed off to the podium and requested to speak and was also given the microphone after Archbishop Obinna, who was sceptical about his intentions had quizzed him in low tones.
The man lamented that the APC government in Imo State is a tragedy which has continued to inflict pain and poverty on the people of the state.
He stressed that nothing under the Okorocha administration is working or functioning in the real sense of it as issues are driven by more of propaganda than truth. He called on the people to demand for change in government come 2019 and use their PVCs wisely. Angered by the man’s submission, APC followers started jeering and shouting in the church. Thereafter, it degenerated to raining insults on the Archbishop, forcing him to end his admonition.
The Archbishop handed over the microphone to the Monsignor as the APC supporters thronged out to the front and turned the church into a rowdy session. Priests and church workers formed a wall around the vestry with most of the young priests ready to defend themselves if the APC supporters breached the altar, but they didn’t. While the bedlam continued, the First Lady, Mrs. Okorocha, and Nwosu were still in the church and watched on.
The speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Chief Acho Ihim; the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Paschal Nnadi, and many commissioners were also in the church. An eyewitness, Rev. Fr. Chika Opara noted that it was not the first time Okorocha’s men were bringing thuggery to the church.
“This was exactly what they did in 2015 when the Catholic Church organised a debate for governorship aspirants in the state. When things were not going their way, they sent in their thugs, attacked the organisers and destroyed the podium for the debate,” the cleric said. Reacting to the incident, the Association of Catholic Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (ACMPN) condemned the harassment of the Archbishop.
“These dastardly acts have become frequent occurrences in the current administration against leading religious leaders, human rights activists and social critics. The present event goes further to underscore that in Imo State under the current administration of Owelle Rochas Okorocha, there is suspension of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion as enshrined in Sections 38 and 39 of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria,” ACMPN said in a statement by its chairman, Dr. Philip Njemanze.
A former House of Representatives’ member and onetime aide to Okorocha, Hon. Uche Onyeagucha, condemned the attack on the church. He said: “It is high time Okorocha called himself and his supporters to order. I understand Okorocha’s desperation to run for a third term, riding on the back of his son in-law, but there must be a limit to this madness. Priests are entitled to their sermons from the altar to the church. Imo State has not and cannot be allowed to degenerate to government dictating sermons for men of God.”
In his statement, the governor’s spokesman, Sam Onwuemeodo, said Nwosu is being blackmailed. “We say this for posterity sake. Imo people, including youths, students, men and women have thrown their unalloyed support behind the youthful Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu, for the 2019 governorship in the state. He has become the subject matter as long as that issue is concerned, with APC officials and leaders from 24 out of the 27 local governments in the state having already endorsed him for the 2019 Imo guber poll.
“Now seeing Uche Nwosu as the guy to beat in the 2019 election, they now think that there is no other way to stop him than through unwarranted blackmail. That is the reason, such a quintessential gentleman and an embodiment of decency should be associated with whatever that transpired at the event in question,” Okorocha’s spokesman said.
The media aide to the Chief of Staff, Mr. Chikezie Nwadike, told our correspondent that APC members were not to be blamed for the disruption of the church service. Nwadike said: “It was the PDP member who started campaigning in the church that caused the uproar. He was insensitive to the point that he was asking people to vote against the state government in a church service where people were mourning their late mother.”
The Owerri Archdiocesan Director of Media and Communication, Fr. George Nwachukwu, however, said that the church has left the assault on the Archbishop and the church in the hands of God.
He said: “The Archbishop and the archdiocese have decided to take no action against the APC members who assaulted the church. “We have taken the assault on the archbishop the same way Jesus was insulted, assaulted and humiliated on the cross of Calvary. “The assault on the church and the archbishop was very painful, provoking and highly unwarranted, but we have resolved to leave it in the hands of God.”
•Sourced from New Telegraph.
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