From Magnus Eze and Jude Chinedu, Enugu
Fiery Catholic priest, Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka is in the eye of the storm. Thousands of worshipers and members of his Adoration Ministry, Enugu Nigeria (AMEN), on Wednesday, took to the streets of Enugu in violent protest over the sudden disappearance of their Spiritual Director.
At the end of the protest, which lasted over four hours, property belonging to the Catholic Church, including the residence of the Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga, were destroyed.
The protest, which had never been witnessed in the state almost, led to anarchy in the town. It was quelled when the ‘missing’ Mbaka reappeared in a black SUV at about 2.50pm, urging his followers to go back to their homes or the Adoration Ground, that he was safe.
But before then, the residence of the bishop had been vandalized; windows were shattered while air conditioners were damaged. Even water installations were not spared. It took the intervention of some individuals to stop the house from being set ablaze.
Mbaka has been in the public eye for quite some time. In 2014, he had prophesised that General Muhammadu Buhari, then presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) would defeat former President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 polls.
His prophecy drew the ire of many, especially in the old Eastern region where Jonathan had teeming supporters.
Barely three years later, he spoke vehemently against the same Buhari’s government that he had prayed for. He warned Nigerian leaders of a looming disaster, which he said would be sparked by the unmitigated bloodletting in the country, while calling on the President to go to Rome to atone for the human carnage going on in the country under his watch.
“Supernatural disaster is coming. Angels are already warming up. Nigerians should not worry; one day there will be vacancy from Abuja. The jet will park and nobody will use it unless they repent.”
According to him, had it been that it was the Imams that were killed in Benue or Plateau, the president would have attended their burials.
“God can prophesy someone into a position. If you know how Nebuchadnezzar became the President. He went there under prophetic order. When God wants to punish His people, He can use a leader. The Nebucadnezzar God later pushed into the bush.”
He further said that President Buhari was like an egg that was bound to meet a sledgehammer in the nearest future, charging those who were close to the president to ensure he got his message.
He called himself a microphone speaking as directed by God warning that anybody who would want to attack him because of the message would meet his waterloo.
That is Rev. Father Camillus Ejike Mbaka, Spiritual Director of Adoration Ministry of Enugu, Nigeria (AMEN).
Arguably, one of the most unconventional Catholic priests in Nigeria; Mbaka’s methods and tactics have endeared him to many, with thousands of followers trooping to the adoration ground located at Umuchigbo, Iji Nike; Enugu East Local Government Area of Enugu State for spiritual encounter every Friday. For all the followership, Mbaka is no stranger to controversies; he rather seems at home with them. No wonder one can hardly think of any other priest that divides opinion more than the charismatic priest.
In fact, Mbaka said during the first physical service of his church after about five months of closure due to lockdown occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic that the country goes ‘gaga’ anytime he declares prophecies.
He said, “Like you know, whenever we declare a prophecy here, the whole country goes gaga and they begin to plan evil. But woe betides whoever that should allow himself to be used to try any attack on me or this ministry.
“You may not like me; I may not be among those you consider as good people, but I know that God is using me to save people and minister succour to mankind.”
Family background and journey to priesthood
Fr. Mbaka is the only son of late Chief Humphrey and Felicia Mbaka. He hails from Amata Ituku in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State. Humphrey Mbaka’s family stood out for their special talent in palm wine tapping in the community. Ejike as a child helped his father in his palm wine business. He was also close to his mother as he always helped out in domestic chores.
Despite the demand of domestic activities, the young Mbaka also devoted time to Block Rosary. He stood out as one of the leaders of the group at St. Anthony’s Parish, Ituku where he led the prayer team. His father, who was a traditional religion worshipper, seemed to have tolerated his tilt to Christianity until he declared his intention to enter priesthood. This was met with stiff resistance by his late father who allegedly made life a living hell for the intending priest.
Mbaka attended St. Vincent’s Secondary School, Agbogugu in Awgu L.G.A of Enugu State, from where he proceeded to the Seat of Wisdom Seminary, Owerri, Imo State and St Joseph’s Seminary Ikot Ekpene in Akwa Ibom State, for his training as a priest. He was ordained a priest on July 29, 1995 and was subsequently posted to Holy Ghost Cathedral, headquarters of Catholic Church in Enugu Diocese as the Assistant Diocesan Administrator.
He later ventured out on evangelical missions to Capuchin; a religious order of Franciscan friars within the Catholic Church, and Government Technical College (GTC), Enugu, where he founded the Word Prayer Centre of the Eucharistic Jesus which later metamorphosed to the Adoration Ministry, Enugu Nigeria (AMEN).
It was gathered that those early years of priesthood were unbearable for Mbaka as he would hold Mass at the GTC and shortly after the service; the church leadership would come and retrieve the offering. He was not allowed access to the offering; neither was he given accommodation.
At some point, he lived with a couple in their one-room apartment in the GRA; and most times slept in the car. It was from there that some members who saw the efficacy of his prayers rented a place for him before they eventually commenced putting up structures for the Christ the King’s Parish (CKP), which hosted the adoration ground at the GRA.
Huge crowds troop to the adoration ground every Friday from all parts of the country in search of spiritual encounter. The atmosphere is usually charged and electrifying such that one gets the exact buzz that goes with the Pentecostal fellowships.
According to one of the choristers in the ministry, Oluchi Okolo, the singers usually have their works cut out for them as they are expected to sing and keep everyone “in the realm of the spirit” until the man of God arrives. She said once the man of God is sighted, the atmosphere becomes more intense and shouts of “Daddy”, “Oga Ndi Oga”, “Nwa Ikuku”, “ Onyeisi Okanga”, “Oga Emma”, and so many other appendages with which Mbaka is known rend the air. She described the feeling as blissful.
The all-night service proper at the Adoration Ground can best be described as Pentecostal-Catholicism. Without being told, a first time visitor will think he was in a Pentecostal gathering until it was time for the Holy Communion and the devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.
Describing worship at the Adoration Ground, an observer wrote: ‘Worship here combines preaching, ecstatic Eucharistic adoration, two Masses, anointing and dance in a way that is hard to imagine for anyone who has not seen it before. Mbaka is a celebrity and a force in the entire South East region, supported by many followers and clergy.’
However, in 2016, Mbaka was transferred from the CKP where he had presided for 20 years to Our Lady’s Catholic Church, Emene; a small parish in an obscure part of Enugu as an assistant priest.
His exit from CKP on January 31, 2016 was a highly emotional exercise as he was escorted by thousands of Catholic faithful in Enugu to his new parish.
Several lorries, buses and cars all lined the street in what could be dubbed a triumphal exit that halted economic and other activities for over four hours along major streets where the long convoy passed.
Addressing the crowd before the movement, Mbaka had expressed reservations over the transfer, which he said was calculated to make him suffer by certain leaders of the church.
He said: “I know we are going to suffer within now and few months to come. I am going to suffer and suffer; I know that.
“I’m going to suffer because I have no place to put my head. I am going to suffer because I have no place to keep the Adoration Ministry’s assets. I know I’m going to suffer.
“Fortunately, it is going to happen in the month of lent. So, I am going to use my exit here as a Lenten observance./ but Jesus said it all in John 16:20 to his apostles that you will be sorrowful and the world will be rejoicing but very soon I will turn your sorrow to joy.
“The quantum of the assets of the Adoration Ministry is the only thing I am bothered about for now. Where am I going to keep them? I am going to stay in one small room that has only one small bed, one small table, little toilet and bathroom.
“So, where am I going to keep all the Adoration assets? My clothing and books I can keep in the car or somebody’s house but where will I keep these assets that I have given to the Catholic Church of Enugu? But I say may God take the glory and whoever that has offended me, I have forgiven.
“I won’t fight anybody or even dream of battling anybody. If anybody allows the devil to use him, the same that advised you to make a mistake will laugh at you when you cry over the error. The baby is born, there is no going back.
“We are moving out. We have been doing it and we will do it again.”
Actually, many had thought that heavens would fall over the transfer. The manner the whole thing died down attracted the envy of former Vice President of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Bishop John Praise Daniel who extolled the legendary discipline in the orthodox Catholic Church.
“I know if it were in a Pentecostal church, a church would have started the following day. A man with over 30, 000 worshippers still agreed to leave everything to one small church. It’s discipline,” he had remarked.
Life of giving
In early 2020, Fr. Mbaka shocked both his followers and non-followers alike when he disclosed that he spends about $2 million (over N700 million) monthly on charity works. The priest through his Multi-Live Savers for the Less Privileged has positively changed the lives of many indigent persons nationwide.
During the event marking his 25th year of priestly ordination, one of his followers, Anita Ogonna, praised him saying: “Fr Mbaka, you are not a saint or the best among all, but I respect you so much in all your physical and spiritual doings, you are a man who converted his money for private jet to give many poor people a home, you converted your pomposity to give young people hope, you restored many even at the point of death. You did not consider your ministry as a competition with others. You are really a shadow of emulation, prophet of contentment, man of generosity, prophet of humility, prophet of the poor, one among the givers of our time”.
The priest distributed over 4,000 bags of rice, condiments and clothes to less privileged members of the adoration family as part of his 2018 Christmas and New Year gifts.
Haruna Ayuba who led a group of Northern Christians to the programme said: “All these good works and miracles of God through Fr Mbaka still confirm that in spite of all the attacks on him, the hand of God is still upon him and his ministry.”
His many controversies
Mbaka is synonymous with controversies. From his frosty relationship with the then Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani to the standoff with former President Goodluck Jonathan and then to the recent prophecy on the Imo State Governorship position, Mbaka’s penchant for toeing paths other preachers would love to avoid could be clearly seen.
Nnamani was the first to taste the bitter pill from Mbaka. It was a tough eight years for the governor, as he found in Mbaka a man he could not handle. It was literally a battle of superiority between the two. Their friction got to its peak with the death of 14 worshippers following a stampede at the Adoration Ground; an incident Mbaka blamed on the then Governor. But Nnamani denied complicity in the incident and has continued to plead innocence till date.
Mbaka allegedly went ahead to prophesy that Nnamani would not win re-election in 2003. However, the governor won convincingly at the polls. He also contested and won a senatorial position in 2007 after serving his second term as governor.
His statements unarguably contributed to the failure of Chief Ikedi Ohakim to win re-election as governor of Imo State in 2011. The priest has since made up with the former governor.
On December 31, 2014, Mbaka shocked Nigerians, especially the entire South-East region as he prophesied against the re-election bid of the then President, Jonathan, whom he dubbed bad luck. In his New Year message for 2015, titled “From good luck to bad luck,” the priest tore the former president to shreds as he detailed his failure in tackling corruption and insecurity in the country.
He prophesied that the then opposition candidate, Buhari, would win at the polls. During the sermon at the Christ the King Catholic Parish, GRA, Enugu, Sunday, January 4, 2015, Mbaka said that he had been receiving threats.
“Surely, they shall gather, but because the gathering is not of God they shall scatter. No weapon fashioned against me shall prosper. They said Buhari gave me money, but I have never met with Buhari. I don’t know him in person. I only delivered the message I was given and I stand by that message because the future of this country is bleak with Jonathan on the saddle,” he said.
While the controversy raged; even many of Mbaka’s staunch followers found it hard to accept it, with a lot of them suggesting that the priest had really dabbled into politics.
One of the celebrated attacks Mbaka received was a musical video by a local artiste known as BBC, titled: “Mbaka Why?” The video further poured fuel into an already burning furnace. BBC went ahead to list a number of failed prophesies allegedly delivered by Mbaka and predicted that his prophecy against the president would fail likewise.
Mbaka’s prophecy came to fruition as Jonathan was roundly defeated at the polls and the priest was vindicated.
Another controversial prophecy was the Imo State Governorship position which was at the time at the Supreme Court. The candidate of the PDP, Chief Emeka Ihedioha had won the election and was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) but Mbaka prophesied, even though Iheadioha had been sworn in as governor, that the candidate of the APC, Senator Hope Uzodimma would become governor of the state.
Mbaka advised those who might find the message unpalatable not to come after him, warning that such action would attract the wrath of the Holy Spirit upon such individuals.
“Many things are going to happen in Nigeria this 2020 that will shock countrymen and countrywomen; but all would be to God’s glory. In spite of all that would happen this 2020, there is hope.
“In Imo State, there is hope. Hope, hope, hope in Imo State! Imo people have suffered but God is raising a new hope that would be an agent of salvation for them. He’s coming with a new flag to restore the dignity of that noble land.
“A new leadership that will break barriers and there would be joy in the land of Imo. Lift your candles as I bless Hope Uzodimma; and I empower him to, spiritually, to take over. How, I do not know.
“Please, if you heard that there would be a new government in Imo and you don’t like the message; if I say Hope, you can say hopeless but do not fight me.
“I am saying this in respect of those who may want to come after me because of the message. If you do that, the God of Moses, Elijah and Elisha will deal with you. I am only a messenger of God”, he said.
Many Nigerians, including priests, attacked Mbaka for making a prophecy that was at the time seen as impossible as they believed that Uzodimma did not even stand a chance even if Ihedioha should lose at the apex court.
Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Imo State, and other religious leaders berated Mbaka over the prophecy insisting that it was politically motivated.
Also, the Imo State Chapter of National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) in a statement in Owerri by its Chairman, Isidore Chukwuemeka, asked: “Where was Mbaka when Imo State was serially raped for eight years by a clueless administration that mindlessly looted the treasury of the state?”
Even after the prophecy was fulfilled, some people still continued their attack on Mbaka. Senior Pastor of Awaiting the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, Adewale Giwa said that he was not surprised to see the fulfilment of the prediction by Rev. Fr. Mbaka that Uzodimma would be declared Imo State Governor by the court as Mbaka was a partisan prophet, adding that he must have got the hint of the judgement before speaking.
Giwa said: “When a partisan prophet speaks, we surely know who gives him the hint. This is a concluded deal among them.
“Is it not the same prophet who enters Aso Rock, wining and dining with the President? We know where they all belong. Check my record, I stand by the truth at all times and the truth will eventually prevail in Nigeria.”
Mbaka later admitted that the prophecy was a risky one but cautioned people against attacking him or his prophesies. In a statement released weeks after Uzodimma was declared the substantive governor of Imo State.
“Help me to correct the mendacious, heinous and horrendous impression given by the press over my relationship with my bishop. I have no problem with my bishop. Am I forgiving him for what? I didn’t say that I have forgiven my bishop as they reported.
“I rather opined that I have forgiven all those who maligned me when I prophesied, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, that Hope Uzodimma is going to be the governor of Imo state.”
“When I was in primary and secondary school, I had started seeing vision and doing mysterious things by God. Attacking me is a waste of time. That will not stop God in sending messages to me. So, you attackers, use your time and do meaningful something for yourself,” he added.
At the wake of the crisis generated by Mbaka’s prophecy, Bishop Callistus Onaga had instructed the Catholic faithful to disregard the prophecy.
But Mbaka had wondered why there was so much negative reaction to his Imo prophecy than when he prophesied late General Sani Abacha’s death, late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s death, as well as Buhari’s take over from former President Jonathan.
“All these came to pass, why is this one so catastrophic? Those who attacked me, who is now a loser? Is it you or me? Holy Spirit told me that Hope Uzodimma was going to become the governor of Imo State and I should obey God rather.
He cautioned the church and all those who were perturbed by his God’s gift that they should know his gift did not just come when he became a priest.
The Catholic priest had on January 15, held the first thanksgiving for Uzodimma at the Adoration Ground, a day after the apex court sacked Ihedioha as governor.
His other controversies
Mbaka had described former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as Bureau de Change because of the mindboggling foreign currencies that reportedly exchanged hands at the last National Convention of the PDP in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, before he emerged the party’s presidential candidate for the 2019 elections.
Regardless, he warned him not to emulate Buhari if he was elected the president.
Mbaka stated that the President had all the human and materials resources at his disposal to make the country better but rather chose to play ethnic, despotic politics by surrounding himself with people without vision and not inclined to his line of thought. He noted that Buhari had wasted a golden opportunity offered him by God and by implication disobeyed God.
He also described the cost of the APC’s expression of interest and nomination forms as outrageous; saying that if the leadership of the party had conscience, they would not have collected N24 million from people to obtain the forms. He added that a party with conscience would have returned the money to the aspirants instead of casting aspersions on them.
Although Mbaka had predicted defeat for the ruling party in the elections but he said that there was still opportunity for change. He further warned Buhari that the “price of disobedience is disgrace.”
He, however, stated that if Atiku had the opportunity that the president has, he would have revamped Nigeria.
Eventually, when Buhari won the election, Mbaka said that Atiku had lost it in the spiritual realm the day he (Mbaka) apologised to his running mate, Obi.
He was to later celebrate President Buhari’s victory in the Presidential polls on March 27; where he said that God had honoured his prophecy.
Mbaka said had the President lost in the polls, his ministry would have been closed down. “But our God is a humongous miracle. He has answered our prayers. I am happy. I am filled with joy. On this altar, we will decree and it will come to pass. Anybody I support will be victorious.”
He declared that even if the Presidential polls were cancelled, Atiku and Obi would still lose a rerun because “the ways of God are not the ways of man. People should stop playing God”.
Prior to this period, the Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) had in January 2016, threatened to drag Mbaka to the Vatican following his prophecy on plots to kill Buhari. Leader of the group, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko had asked the Nigerian Catholic hierarchy to sanction the priest for abandoning his sacred vocation and deviating into the profane and mundane roadside career of high wire politics under the canopy of his Catholic’s priestly vocation.
Voice of the voiceless
Mbaka’s closeness to Governor Ugwuanyi did not stop him from speaking out for the people as he openly decried the recent demolition of structures in Enugu by the Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority in its bid to restore the original master plan of the capital city.
The outspoken priest had described the action of the Enugu State Government as an atrocity against the people.
According to him, the immensity of suffering and economic hardships in the country did not warrant the demolition of people’s shops without giving them time, or providing alternative areas for them.
“If you want to restore the master plan of 1933 in Enugu State, you should do it holistically. There are some areas where the master plan was flouted but because they belonged to the echelon political class, government is afraid of pulling the structures there down.
“What about Zoo Estate? The place that was made for animals’ residence is now being harboured by human beings, so, you don’t take justice one-sided; whoever errs must be punished. When I see you people destroying those ones, I now know that you are out to restore the original master plan of Enugu,” Mbaka stated.
Meanwhile mixed reactions have trailed the whole episode of his disappearance and reappearance. Former Federal Commissioner of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Executive Director of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), blamed the diocesan bishop for allowing him the latitude of growing wings within the church.
He urged the Bishop of Enugu diocese to go ahead and close down the Adoration Ground, saying Mbaka should be defrocked and laicized if he became rebellious.
Onwubiko said: “I think the Bishop made a mistake to have allowed Rev Fr Mbaka to grow almost much bigger than his diocese by running his own ministry to the detriment of the core responsibilities for which he was ordained.
IPOB seeks support for Mbaka
Meanwhile, the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, in an audio broadcast has warned people from the South-East not to condemn the cleric.
Kanu reiterated that there are Nigerians like the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami and Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai who have grievous cases hanging on them, and appear to be sacred cows in Nigerian society.
“In a normal country so to speak, the condemnation of Father Mbaka, you may welcome it somehow. I know sometimes regardless of our shortcomings, we are brutal in the way we think. We see what is bad and say it’s bad.
“It doesn’t matter who is doing it. That’s why a lot of people came down heavily on Father Mbaka but I’m telling you this, yes in Biafra, we can do anything we like to him. But, in Nigeria, as far as Nigeria is concerned, never ever condemn your own,” Kanu said.