Open Letter to Catholic Priests on Gov. Ohakim’s Re-election Bid -By Elvis J. AgukweArticles, Columnists, Elvis J. Agukwe, Imo, NNP Columnists, State News Tuesday, April 19th, 2011
By Elvis .J. Agukwe, Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria – April 19, 2011 - As a member of the Catholic Church and a communicant at that, I have often been fascinated by the transformational, regenerative and cathartic effect of the sacrament of Eucharist. Preparation for the sacrament defines the essence of Catholicism for it is here that a marked difference exists between us and other Christian denominations . We believe in confession before the Eucharist. Others believe that one can confess to God straight without necessarily passing through a priest. I am aware that Christ, while on earth gave absolute powers to the Apostles (our priests) for the remission of sins.
My subject matter, however, has nothing to do with dogma and doctrines. It has to do with the sacred duty of forgiveness. The Apostles pointedly asked our Lord Jesus Christ how many times one should be wronged to hold back forgiveness. He answered 70 times 70 for a day. Now mathematicians know that it is not possible for one person to offend another for that number of times. The lesson here is that one should always forgive. More importantly, the Lord’s Prayer is what binds every confessed Christian. “God, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us”, the prayer enjoined. It is conditional. It is demanding. For you to receive, you must give.
In my opinion, and with due apologies to other Christian denominations, catholic priests understand the implications of this prayer more than other men of God . They hear confessions. They absolve faithful of their sins as commanded by God. Therefore they know what it means to hold back forgiveness and the concomitant consequences. That is why I am disturbed over the rumours that some catholic priests are preaching against the re-election of Governor Ikedi Ohakim over the indiscretion of his security details! A catholic priest was said to have been assaulted by the details over an alleged security breach.
Whatever be the fact of the matter, the truth that is self evident is that Gov Ohakim could not in his wildest insanity order the flogging of any man of God , not to talk of a catholic priest. Another incontrovertible fact is that Ohakim as the governor and Chief security officer of Imo State has since taken full responsibility for the action of the security agents. As a humble Christian, he went a step further to apologize in a state wide radio and television broadcast, which text was published in national newspapers. That was after he took his entire cabinet to His Grace, Archbishop Anthony John Valentine Obinna, to render an apology.
Ordinarily one had expected the matter to die a natural death since Amarachi Obinna himself accepted Ohakim’s apology on behalf of the catholic clergy and laity. But unscrupulous politicians who have nothing to offer the electorate to warrant any vote, have since latched on this matter to incite the priests against the person of Ohakim, the government of Imo state and the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). This is most unfortunate. Those who resort to ethnic and religious cards have since lost their aces and in their desperation want to cause confusion in the state. Our Mother Mary will certainly not allow this infamy.
But what would pain the heart is if the priests swallow the bait of the opposition in the state to use them against the governor and government. One thing I have always boasted of is the intellectual capacity of our priests. With two degrees in philosophy and theology and sound moral and disciplined training spanning 14 years, the priests are expected to rise above base and clannish considerations. Nobody should pull any wool over their eyes. For people who peach forgiveness daily; for people specially chosen under the Order of Melchisedek, they fully understand the import of going against the demands of the Lord’s Prayer!
Beyond the spirituality of this charge, the moral burden of being seen as people who don’t understand God’s injunction for priests to pray for those in authority, sticks out a mile. They should also not be seen as being opposed to Ohakim because he is an Anglican. Indeed, the attitude of some of our catholic priests is capable of setting off a religious conflagration or sharp division, where instead of seeing ourselves as brothers and sisters from Imo , we begin to talk of we and them, that is catholic and Anglicans . We need peace and stability more than ever in our state and therefore should not be bogged down such inanities.
Come to think of it, Ohakim has taken deliberate steps to show love to Catholics . Apart from holding the head of the Catholic Church in Imo and Abia , Amarachi Obinna in the highest esteem, the governor has identified with Catholics in all their activities. Even Anthony Cardinal Okogie, the Metropolitan See of Lagos acknowledged this when Ohakim delivered a soul moving tribute in honour of Bishop Victor Chikwe of Ahiara Diocese during his burial last year.
To also demonstrate his sensitivity to the feelings of Catholics, Ohakim sacrificed his loyal deputy, Her Excellency, Dr Ada Okwuonu to pick a catholic, Prof Viola Onwuliri as his running mate for the April 26 governorship election. Even when some people saw nothing wrong with an Anglican-Anglican ticket, Ohakim knew that he could not afford to alienate an important stakeholder like the Catholic Church from government. As a catholic, I can also confirm that majority of Ohakim’s cabinet members are Catholics.
It was also not surprising that after governments upon government failed to return schools to missionaries, majority of them owned by Catholics, Ohakim did it with a grant of N10million to each of those schools. That is a man who is being portrayed by a wicked and visionless opposition as anti-catholic.
For me, I know that our priests are too supplicated to be involved in this vicious campaign of calumny against Governor Ohakim. We should never create the impression that we can’t give our support to Ohakim because he is an Anglican; not after he has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that he has been more-catholic friendly than when we had a catholic governor for eight years. It is also imperative and instructive to note that during those eight years, Anglicans gave the government of the day their 100 per cent support.
My appeal to our priests is that they should not through their action or inaction, through sins of omission or commission make things difficult for Catholics in the government of Ohakim and for those of us who are members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). They should never succumb to the blackmail of the enemies of the state who feed the populace with lies and make utopian promises to them.
There is no doubt that Governor Ikedi Ohakim is the man whom in 2007 all Catholics, including priests, went in dire supplication to God asking Him to save them from the hands of murderers and kidnappers. Those evil men are still around. God heard the prayers of Imo Catholics and gave us Ohakim. His hands are not too short for Him to help us once more for Ohakim to complete his eight years tenure.
It is therefore incumbent on our catholic priests to give their unqualified and open support to ensure the reelection of Governor Ohakim to complete God’s design for us in Imo State . May God who has saved us from many evil plots see us through the deceitful antics of the devil. May Jesus have mercy on us, and may our Mother, Mary continue to pray for us.
CC: His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI
Francis Cardinal Arinze
Archbishop AJV Obinna
Clergy and Laity
Agukwe is the Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy
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