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Speaking Truth To Power by Emmanuel Oluka.

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If this essay took five days to be written, the writer probably spent four days trying to decipher a befitting title or caption for it. This is not to mean that he experienced writer’s block, neither was he ill-prepared. It was simply because he understood the seriousness and sensitivities around the topic. Yet, like whirlwinds, the stories keep evolving by the day. Indeed, the writer had up to ten (10) captions justling to adorn the top central position of the essay; but in the end, “speaking truth to power” won the intense struggle. It’s anticipated that by the end of the essay, the reader will understand why the truth was spoken to power.

In the meantime, the phrase, “speaking truth to power means to confront those who hold higher positions of authority and power, and to demand response in the form of a solution to an existing problem. Speaking truth to power connotes bravery; it connotes risking one’s reputation and can trigger the wrath of the person being confronted. This is exactly the case between a cleric of the Catholic Church and Diocese of Enugu, Nigeria, Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka, and the Nigerian Presidency.

Background

The fearless Catholic priest and spiritual director of the Adoration Ministry, Enugu, Nigeria is reputed for speaking truth to power and attracting the wrath of those in political authorities by calling them out and exposing the injustices and bad governance under their watch; while demanding improvement. In a midweek homily delivered at the Adoration ground in Enugu on the 28th of April 2021, Fr. Mbaka demanded the impeachment of Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari over the ugly spate of insecurity in the country. He lamented that the President and chief security officer could remain quiet amid the killings and deaths in Nigeria, insisting that he (Buhari) has lost touch with realities. According to him, President Buhari would’ve resigned following the insecurity in the country, while maintaining that no civilized leader would choose to sit tight while people die anyhow.

In the same homily, Mbaka specifically mandated the National Assembly to urgently impeach the president if he doesn’t want to resign. He warned the lawmakers about grave consequences awaiting them should they fail to impeach the president and instead attack him (Mbaka).

In a swift reaction, however, the Presidency through its spokesperson, Garba Shehu, issued a statement decrying how Mbaka, who had supported Buhari twice to win the Presidency, could turn around and seek his resignation or impeachment because he (Mbaka) was denied federal government contracts. Garba Shehu’s verified Twitter handle also corroborated the same contract-seeking allegation leveled against Rev. Fr. Mbaka.

Responding to the allegation, Fr. Mbaka admitted taking three security contractors to the president. Sunday Punch of 2nd May 2021 reported that, “he (Mbaka) did not know the contractors before meeting them, and that he only did after they told him they could help solve Nigeria’s security problems”. Corroborating the cleric’s position in his Sunday homily of 2nd May 2021 and made available to the public, he said, “Yes, I led three security experts to the Presidency; they offered to help salvage the security situation in Nigeria.”  He said he never knew them, maintaining they came to Enugu and pleaded he took them to the Presidency following the spate of insecurity and how Nigeria has been moving oil outside the country. He said further, “These (the three security experts) are the three people they rejected their offer.

From the matters arising afterward, Mbaka even dared the ruling government and the All Progressive Congress (APC) party to report him to the Vatican if they wanted. He said this after he had presented his positions and cleared the air on the allegations leveled against him.

Reactions and Opinions

Following these developments and reading through reactions and public opinions in social and mainstream media, they reflect divergent views; and indeed, people are free to react the way they wanted. Particularly, reactions trailing this development are so, because of the erstwhile political alliance between the Presidency and Rev. Fr. Mbaka. This dates back to 2015 when Mbaka had supported and prophesied about Buhari’s emergence as president. Many couldn’t just understand how Fr. Mbaka could renege on this political alliance to demand Buhari’s resignation or impeachment, following the romance he once had with the Presidency.

That prompts the question; Is Mbaka speaking out of both sides of his mouth or directly from God?

The Holy Bible in 1st Samuel Chapter 15 captures the story of how God sent Samuel to anoint Saul as king but later withdrew the kingship from Saul when he (Saul) reneged on the mandate God gave him (1 Sam 15:10). In President Buhari’s case, his primary mandate remains the security of the lives and property of Nigerians. The people as well as Fr. Mbaka, gave this mandate to Buhari. But then, it is no longer news that this mandate appears untenable, as the nation’s security, under Buhari’s watch continues to go south. This is why Mbaka called for the President’s resignation and impeachment. Now, is this what speaking out of both sides of the mouth entails? Should Mbaka have been quiet, politically loyal, and sycophantic, just the way other (Buhari) supporters would be? Think about it.

Nonetheless, the writer wouldn’t want to dwell so much on Mbaka’s previous political allegiance with the President. Rather, the writer would prefer to face the real issue(s) currently raised by the Catholic cleric. To this end, what were the burning issue(s) Rev. Fr. Mbaka raised in his recent homily? He raised the issue of insecurity, killings, and death; and these are all glaring issues.

Under Buhari’s watch, Nigeria has continued to rank poorly on the Global Terrorism Index (GTI). As of 2020, Nigeria became the third most impacted country on the terrorism index – a position it has retained since 2015. Yet, a few days ago, Nigerians witnessed the uproar involving a cabinet member of this administration allegedly being linked with terrorism. We also saw how the same Presidency rose to his defence. What then, is the sincerity in the presidency’s fight against insecurity? Are Fr. Mbaka’s claims not validated? Is Nigeria’s insecurity getting any better? These are the burning questions the presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu ought to have addressed.

Scrutiny of Garba Shehu’s statement

Was the Presidency hasty in releasing a statement in reply to Fr. Mbaka on his position regarding the precarious security in the country?

Describing it indeed has no better way. Looking at the reply of the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, it’s pretty clear that the Presidency acted very hastily. Truly, the insecurity is frightening; likened to this… a child is frightened and that child is already walking on a precipice; you don’t have to frighten that child the more; you have to approach him with caution so that he doesn’t fall. That child is “Nigeria’s security.” For anyone that understands Mbaka’s reasons for calling out the President, and also considering the Presidency’s hasty reply in just four paragraphs – not more than a hundred and seventy (170) words – then, the presidency may have just escalated the already uncertain security situation, rather than mitigate it.  Garba Shehu’s statement is not only hasty, it is uncoordinated, politically and professionally immature, and a diversionary tactic from the real issues raised by Fr. Mbaka which ought to have been addressed by the Presidency.

A Message to the APC

It looks plausible for the APC as a political party to quickly wade into the situation, but they should rather be highly critical of Garba Shehu. You know why? Suspicions are on the ascendency that the presidential spokesperson is deliberately careless in his statements. This’s probably a tactic to bring the APC down and to ensure victory for his (erstwhile) boss, and former presidential aspirant and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar in the 2023 elections. Garba Shehu was Atiku’s spokesperson, and Atiku is no longer of the APC; so, no one knows where his true allegiance will lie should the APC fall. Besides, this is a government that doesn’t scrutinize people they employ and put into top-sensitive positions.

Way Forward

What the Presidency needs to do now, is not going after Fr. Mbaka. Henceforth, the Presidency must desist from diverting the attention of the media or the people any longer. The Presidency must face the (security) issues raised by Rev. Fr. Mbaka head-on. Mbaka spoke truth to power, and it is only instructive the Presidency tackles the insecurity he raised, to stem the spate of killings in the country.

 

Oluka Emmanuel Chukwuemeka is a graduate of Electronic and Computer Engineering from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State. He is a research enthusiast and a passionate writer. He writes in from Enugu and can be reached via “write2oluka@gmail.com