For sometime now, the cyberspace has been awash with commentaries, both informed and deformed, deliberate misinformation and disinformation and analyses on the brouhaha over the appointment of a new bishop for Ahiara Catholic diocese.
The matter is only drowned by the quit notice purportedly issued by some northern youth groups on the Igbo. Some have even taken a dig on the agitators of Biafra that if they cannot settle for one of their own as a bishop in a church in Igboland, how can the project not implode sooner than later if it succeeds?
But what exactly is the matter all about? Is it likely that it is all about politics and pursuit of personal and clannish interest masked as church authority interest? Given that all politics is local, is it not unlikely too that some religious actions and decisions have political motives after all the appointment of a replacement for Judas Iscariot was done by casting of lot by the early church? Is casting of lot not a political mechanism for selection?
Created in 1987 by Pope St John Paul II from the old Owerri Diocese, the late Victor Adibe Chikwe was installed its first bishop on January 31, 1988. The diocese is reputed to have produced 700 indigenous clergy, among the largest by any diocese in Nigeria and has about 600,000 Catholic laity at home alone and some 400, 000 scattered across the world.
The succession crisis thus started following the death of Bishop Chikwe, who turned the diocese into one of the most lucrative and admired, after 22 and half years and Bishop Okpalaeke from Awka Diocese of the Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province was appointed as a replacement.
This did not go down well with the worshippers who have gone all the way to Rome to register their rejection of the appointment with the Pope. Almost like asking, Is there no Balm in Gilead?, the Mbaise Catholic faithful are unanimous in insisting that one of their own be appointed Chikwe’s replacement or in the worst case scenario someone else from the Owerri Ecclesiastical Province and not Bishop Okpalaeke from Awka Diocese.
As if protesting, they further argue that if none of their 700 clergy is fit enough to be appointed bishop in any diocese, there is no way any outside theirs will preside over them.
Now the political side of the whole thing: Is it likely that a prominent Nigerian clergy at the Vatican is using his connection to ensure the posting and or ‘colonisation’ of other dioceses with “boys” from his own Awka Diocese? How come no clergy from Owerri Province is heading a diocese in Onitsha Province while about two bishops from Awka diocese are heading dioceses in Owerri Province? Is there an unwritten code that Onitsha Province should train and send bishops to diocese under Owerri Province and not vice versa? Shouldn’t church appointments be sensitive to the dynamics of the environment it is located? Should people in privileged positions be seen to be advancing interests personal to them in a manner reminiscent of Adams Oshiomhole’s infamous “Go to hell” if you don’t agree as many read the Pope’s recent order to those rejecting Okpalaeke’s appointment in Ahiara Diocese?
Like I have always held, look deep into the workings of religious bodies, you will see more the markings of man than the ordering of God. I hope I am wrong this time round.