Ejike Mbaka, one of Nigeria’s most outspoken clergymen, has come down hard on President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing him of indifference to the country’s worsening economic situation.
Mr. Mbaka, a Catholic priest and lead minister at the Adoration Prayer Ministry, Enugu, said Mr. Buhari stood a high chance of losing the support of many Nigerians if he allowed the hardship Nigerians are facing to linger for much longer.
The preacher said he would not allow his closeness to the president get in the way of his longstanding advocacy for the masses.
“It is not easy everywhere. Hunger everywhere. As the president is fighting corruption, some of us are praying that he will equally fight hunger. Hunger is in the atmosphere,” Mr. Mbaka said in a sermon to his congregation on July 23, 2016.
“Yesterday, some people were saying Father Mbaka started preaching against–whatever. The issue is that Father Mbaka is preaching as the spirit prompts him. There is hunger everywhere. My job is to tell our leaders the truth.”
Mr. Mbaka attracted public attention in the lead up to the 2015 election after he withdrew his support for President Goodluck Jonathan and backed then candidate Buhari.
The endorsement was widely believed to have provided a much-needed boost for Mr. Buhari’s acceptance amongst evangelicals and people of Igbo extraction.
The preacher took issues with Mr. Buhari for his signature war against corruption, a policy he suggested paled into insignificance in the face of dwindling economic indices, widespread financial troubles and acute poverty across the country.
“All this noise about EFCC arrest this and that, after one week that one is over. People are dying of hunger. Dollar is growing every day and naira is dying every day. Euro is rising every day and naira is collapsing every day. Pounds is on hike every day–on a mega level- and naira is dwindling–on a hyper level,” Mr. Mbaka said.
Mr. Mbaka slammed Mr. Buhari for his apparent fixation with the war against corruption, saying such an endeavour would not address immediate challenges afflicting the nation.
“The landlords are crying, tenants are lamenting. Sellers are crying. Buyers are lamenting. There is hunger on the street. Many students are being rusticated from school, why? Because they can’t pay for school feels.”
“Proprietors are distressed. Many companies are winding up. The economy is hard,” he said.
Mr. Mbaka said he was compelled to express his strong stance against the direction Mr. Buhari was steering the country because of a noticeable uptick in the number of people trooping to him and the Catholic Church because they could no longer afford to feed themselves, adding that situation had cut deep into his personal pocket.
“When somebody like me can bring my cheque and all the money I have in my account will finish in school feels and in charity and hospital fees and whatever.
“If it is well with these people, would they be coming to me? I am receiving the shock, the pain directly. The quantum of charity that we’re doing in the ministry is telling me the level of poverty that is in the atmosphere,” Mr. Mbaka said.
Mr. Mbaka said he made concerted efforts and used his own resources to ensure that the raging hostilities in the oil-rich Niger-Delta were contained, saying the crisis could have been aborted if Mr. Buhari and others in charge of the country’s affairs were “wise”.
“Before this Avengers phenomenon, I did something that, if the leaders of today are wise, the problem could have been averted. By the gift of the Holy Spirit, the sagacity, I was proactive. I won’t tell you what I spent to make that happen so that the president would not suffer what he’s about to suffer now.
Mr. Mbaka said he believed other neutral voices like himself would soon emerge from their corners to speak truth to power.
“As I’ve told you, this is just the good morning of it. Very soon, those who are quiet would begin to talk.”
He also lampooned the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, for his recent comments in which he suggested that Niger Delta militants are saboteurs.
“Yesterday the vice president announced that the avengers are saboteurs. Should he say that? He should not. Go to Niger Delta, you will cry. The place where the oil sustaining this country is coming from. No good water to drink. No farm land. No road. No quality lifestyle. No industry,” the clergyman said.
Mr. Mbaka said Mr. Buhari should take measures to revamp the country’s economy and propose far-reaching reforms for the judiciary, saying the current practices had left the country worse off.
“We need economic experts and the gurus, sages, that are sincere who can come in and think about our economic revamp. And a judicial reformation.
“How can a case be in court for more than 10 years? Even if you prosecute all the senators, the matter may linger until next 20 years. So, what have we achieved?”
Mr. Mbaka said he was too concerned about the country’s appalling economic situation to bother about his relationship with Mr. Buhari, saying the God he served was sufficient for him.
“I don’t need the president to survive. I need God. I need the Holy Spirit. All I need is Jesus. So, people are suffering. Suffering is everywhere. People are smelling on suffering. In spite of the perfumes they put on their body, when you smell them they smell of suffering. We men are tired of such stories.
“People are not even talking about jobs anymore. More students everywhere. Graduates everywhere. Those who are making it now are those who are selling dollars. And somebody called me last week and said ‘Father please, pray for this condition to last’. He’s trading in dollar.”
Mr. Mbaka said the Nigerian government should revoke all oil bloc licences in private hands and find a pragmatic solution to the plight of the people of Niger Delta to avoid further social unrest, and came down hard on the president for failing to reflect the diversity of Nigeria in appointing people to federal positions.
“Our president may be an expert in fighting corruption, we clap for him over that. In fighting insurgency? He’s a guru in that. But economic management? I don’t know. And this is not a military Buhari we knew. This is a democratic Buhari.
“So, he must find a democratic solution that is non-tribalistic. And he should begin to do things in a way and manner that people should not begin to wag their tongues.
“Look at the last NNPC board configurations. Not less than 11 of them. How many Yoruba are in that board? How many Igbo are there? I think none. Niger-Delta, I think one.
“Kachikwu is not an Igbo man, he’s a Delta man. If an Etiku man begins to answer Mohammed, his name doesn’t mean he’s an Hausa man, he’s an Etiku man. How many Niger-Delta people are there and how many northerners are there? People are watching.”
Mr. Mbaka said he would continue to condemn Mr. Buhari and others in a position of authority behind the pulpit if they failed to make themselves available to the benefit of the common man, saying it was part of what culminated in his strained relationship with Mr. Jonathan.
“You know in Jonathan’s time, there was a time I demanded I would be telling him what I should tell him, so that I would not be tempted to be speaking from the pulpit. But they didn’t give me that opportunity.
“How can I pray for one month or two months to get somebody that I want to speak to so that that person can talk to another person that would talk to another person that would talk to another person that would talk to the president? How? Is it not our country?”
Presidential spokespersons, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ text messages seeking comments for this story.