Ahaneku, Okpalaeke, UNIZIK And Ahiara Diocese

The emergence of Prof. Joseph Eberendu Ahaneku as the Vice Chancellor of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka came with its own dose of politicking, brickbats, ethnic and sectional sentiments but at the end of the day, reason and wise counsel prevailed and the best candidate, suitably qualified and placed to pilot the affairs of the university, emerged and has resumed duty. I had course to intervene during the slugfest for the Vice Chancellorship when some people tried to introduce sectional and partisan flavor to what should be a game for the most qualified and most competent. I equally noticed that one of the issues used against Ahaneku was that he is from Mbaise, the area that had been presented as rejecting an Awka bishop on the reasoning that the bishop should come from within. This much was confirmed in a report on saharareporters.com where it was alleged that some of the people opposed to Ahaneku’s emergence premised their opposition that his people rejected their son as bishop and therefore, he should not head an institution located in Awka, with the huge advantage placed on area of location on such questions as who heads a university located within its soil.

It is gratifying to note that the tension and acrimony that attended the pre-selection process simmered down with his emergence and has almost ebbed away. That is how it should be. That is the pre-eminence of wisdom and reason and that is how such contests should be settled.

Sadly, the Ahiara diocesan bishopric crisis is yet to be fully settled and the bishop of the diocese, Most Rev. Peter Ebele Okpalaeke is yet to be installed because some people in Ahiara have sworn never to let the same wisdom and reason that was at play in Awka take pre-eminent role in the resolution of the crisis. Yes, I understand that the Pope appointed the Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Oniayekan to oversee the administration of the diocese and resolve the crisis. I understand the studious cardinal has been doing his utmost best to reach out to all sides and advance the mandate he was given by Rome on the Ahiara issue. I equally understand that a huge section of the local clergy and laity, embarrassed by the intransigence being deployed by those that want an indigenous bishop at all costs, have bandied together to firm up the mission of the Cardinal, there is still the same stiff-neckedness some clergy and laity have deployed to ensure that no resolution of the issue is achieved. The tactics remain the same; misinform, incite and mislead the people on the issue and make it so difficult for peace to be achieved, deploy enough perverse reading of the rules, ordinances and precepts of the Church and target the largely unaware majority and cause enough bad blood among the people to make it possible to frustrate the mission of the Church in Ahiara. Recruit and deploy every foul strategy to confuse and obfuscate the issue so as to make it impossible to achieve a just resolution of the crisis.

As I said in the report I wrote when the crisis was simmering, the eggheads of this cyclical provocation of crisis are mainly non-Catholics and fallen Catholics who have severed their communion with the Catholic Church and they find rich harvest in the gullible many that have seen the Catholic Church as an okpulo, to be inherited by the choice son and not the Universal, Catholic and Apostolic Church that runs from one end of the earth to the other. They spare neither the Church nor its hierarchy in their vengeful attacks and they are prodded by those who benefit most or who anticipate to benefit from this reckless obduracy. Today, the main target of their scurrilous attack is the Cardinal whom they welcomed with generous aplomb just a year ago. Their angst is that the Cardinal is not doing their pre-ordained wish but doing the well-known wish of the Catholic Church, which formed the original mandate he was given when he was deployed to Ahiara and which aligns with the practices of the Catholic Church.

As at today, the Church in Ahiara is practically grounded as the normal functions and activities of a diocese are all held at bay due to the absence of a bishop. Ordination of priests, and issuing some vital sacraments are suspended because they need a sitting Bishop to administer.

My relating this enduring diktat to the Ahaneku issue is informed by the co-incidences that surround both cases. It is coincidental that Ahaneku is from Ahiara and he was contesting and indeed emerged to head an institution located in Awka from where Okpalaeke is from. There is nothing that stops Awka people from going for broke to ensure Ahaneku did not emerge, and if he emerges, as he did, did not resume in Awka. The emerging practice in Nigeria where universities are increasingly becoming the exclusive preserve of areas where they are located supports this position. If they fail to get their ways, they may decide to practically seal off the university until their demands are met and trusting the weak and pliant system we have in Nigeria, they will certainly have their way. But they neither did this nor did they sustain their campaign to have someone else from Anambra head the university because wisdom and reason came to intervene. Yes, there were the usual intrigues and dirty politics that attended the selection process but this was neither subscribed to by all Anambra or Awka indigenes nor did those vending these take them beyond the bounds of decency and good counsel. They knew when to stop and did so and hence, an Mbaise man is heading the largest educational institution located in Anambra State today. This should serve a veritable lesson to those that have been embarrassing Mbaise people with this nauseating reasoning that an Awka or Anambra indigene cannot be a bishop in Mbaise. This should humble those that seek to circumscribe the Catholic Church to their hearths and heirlooms. This should serve enough lessons to those who still believe they can mislead others on the awkward reasoning that no one else but an Mbaise man is good enough to occupy the bishopric seat of Ahiara Diocese.

Mbaise people must reciprocate this noble gesture and the best possible way to do this and heal the festering wounds of intolerance and inter-ethnic bigotry is to bury whatever hatchet that had been sowed as a result of the Ahiara bishopric issue and install Bishop Okpalaeke as quick as possible. Good enough, a strong lobby of Ahiara Laity has emerged to advance this and they have sent a strong petition to the Church demanding the installation of Okpalaeke, they should be encouraged to work to break the artificial walls of hate and intolerance erected in the course of this issue. I charge Prof. Ahaneku to move in and be directly involved in the process of brokering peace in Ahiara because he has been strategically placed to lead this charge. The Church should move in to do what is right without further prevarication and ensure that the Church in Ahiara is returned to its normal and stable state as soon as possible.

Written by
Peter Claver Oparah
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