Daily Champion (Lagos)

6 December 2009

Nigeria: Catholic Church Splits Over Obi, Soludo, Ngige

Abuja — The Catholic Church in Anambra State, appears to be divided over the choice of a candidate to support in the Anambra 2010 governorship election. Three of the front runners in the February 6 poll, Governor Peter Obi, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and Dr. Chris Ngige are members of the Catholic Church.

This political configuration has seemingly pitched Catholic priests against one another. Consequently, the Catholic Bishops of Awka, Prof. Simon Okafor; Nnewi, Bishop Hillary Okeke and Onitsha, Arch-Bishop Valeria Okeke may ban their priests from making further comments on who among the governorship candidates is the most suited for the post.Daily Champion investigations revealed that political campaigns have shifted to the pulpit with priests, drumming support for their preferred candidates from the congregation.

It was gathered that the priests are torn between the choice of Obi of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Soludo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Ngige of the Action Congress (AC).

A reliable source that preferred anonymity, said since the church was yet to take a decision on the candidate to support for the election, it would not be healthy to allow the priests to openly campaign for particularly candidates.

For instance, while officiating a morning Mass on Sunday November 29, Rev. Father P. Obiesie of the Madonna Catholic Church Nnobi in the Catholic Diocese of Onitsha, was said to have called on the congregation to support Obi in his bid for a second term in office, saying that "the governor is doing well and deserves our support".

But while he preached, some members of the congregation engaged protested subtly and disrupted the sermon for over 20 minutes.

The aggrieved church members did not stop at that. Daily Champion gathered that after the service, some members of the congregation gathered in groups to discuss the development with many of them vowing to confront Father Obiesie next time he made such remarks.

In Awka, the state capital, it was learnt that a member was said to have shouted down on a priest, warning him not to politicize the mass, and that nobody will force members to vote for a governor who from all human considerations have performed far below the expectations of the people.

Even with what is going on in the churches, an analysis of the campaign jingles being aired on the Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) Television shows the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese openly canvassing support for one of the candidates.

Our source said since Obi, Soludo and Ngige are devout members of the Catholic Church, it would be better for the Church leaders to be seen as being neutral while praying that God should grant the electorate wisdom to choose the best candidate who would provide quality leadership that would help to restore the glory of the state and lead to the peace and prosperity of the land and the people.

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