ODOGWU EMEKA ODOGWU writes that over 5,000 members of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Province of the Niger on Saturday gathered at Dr Alex Ekwueme Square, Awka to pray for the state.
At the prayer session, they alleged that there is religious Boko Haram going on in Anambra State against the Anglican Communion and its members , adding that it is being supported by the Anambra State government.
The church also alleged that the state is divided between the Roman Catholic Church on one side and the Anglican Church and others on one side by the state government, whom it alleged is giving the Roman Catholic Church undue favour against other churches in the state.
The allegation was made at the Dr. Alex Ekwueme Square Awka, during annual Anglican Prayer Rally of Anambra State, APRAS, 2018, anchored by the Archbishop Province of the Niger and Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Most Rev. Prof. Godwin Okpala.
The Province of the Niger also alleged that employment and political appointments are given in the state based on religious inclination, adding that except one belongs to Catholic denomination, employment and political appointment will not be given to those seeking for them.
The Church also alleged that some people want to rewrite the history of Christianity in the state with the apparatus of the government, by trying to make the landlords tenants in their house.
Speaking in a sermon titled “Divine Defence” Ven. Israel Odita lamented that the Anglican Communion is at the receiving end of the “Religious Boko Haram” going on in the state and Anambra State government is solidly behind it, warning that it will destroy the state if not tackled.
According to Ven. Odita, terrible things are happening in Anambra State, we have religious Boko Haram in Anambra State, and the apparatus of the government is being used in the Boko Haram to cajole the Anglican Communion to become members of Roman Catholics.
His words: “Political appointments and job offer are now given in the state only if you are a member of the Catholic church, even the last All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA primaries, candidates were picked and elected based on being a member of Roman Catholic denomination.
“They have destroyed the state with religion, something is wrong in this state, it is time we deal with the elephant in the room destroying the state, matters of religion are volatile and we must handle it carefully otherwise the state will go down.
“Nobody benefits from religious squandermania, just recently Anglican worshippers at Bishop Crowther Memorial Church were attacked and wounded by people claiming to be working for the government and the place is now under lock and keys.
“Even the biased panel that was dominated by the Catholics set up by the former governor Peter Obi gave the recommendation that the land housing BCM church belongs to Anglican but under the resent administration of Governor Willie Obiano, Anglicans are beaten and chased out from worshipping in the church and the governor kept sealed lips.
“Following the beating, chasing out and locking the Anglican faithful out of the Church, we came here yesterday with the Archbishop of Province of the Niger and other eight Bishops in the Province to speak with the Governor, but we were locked out from seeing the governor, we stayed for three hours waiting to be attended to by the Governor but we were ignored, that was very unfair and disrespectful and insultive treatment.
All the nine Bishops in the Province of the Niger, including Archbishop Godwin Okpala, Bishop Owen Nwokolo of Diocese in the Niger, Bishop Samuel Ezeofor, Augusta, Bishop Alex Ibezim, Awka, Bishop Israel Okoye, Ihiala, Bishop Johnson Ekwe, Niger West, Bishop Henry Okeke, Mbamili and Bishop Prosper Amah, of Ogbaru Diocese attended the prayer rally.
The Province of the Niger, however noted that it is allegation against the government and the Catholic Church was not for people to hate the government or members of the Catholic Church but to condemn bad thing being done by the two.
Meanwhile, last Friday, the Governor of Anambra state, Chief Willie Obiano snubbed over 3000 Anglican priests from Niger diocese who besieged Anambra State government house to protest the alleged forceful takeover of Bishop Crowder Memorial School in Onitsha, Anambra state.
Diocese of the Niger, Anglican Communion has been contesting the ownership of the school with the state government which led to the ban of Church services in public schools in Anambra state by Obiano led administration.
The priests who barricaded the entrance gate of the government house insisted that no other official of the state government will address them even the deputy governor, Dr. Nkem Okeke except the governor himself who claimed there was no prior notice of their visit to the government house.
The protesting priests carried placards of various inscriptions such as: Gov. Obiano, stop disrupting our church services and activities, Bishop Crowder Memorial Primary School is not government property’’ , “Governor Obiano, Give Us Back Our Land amnd School: Bishop Crowther Primary School, Onitsha”, “Governor Willie Obiano, Save Anambra State from Religious Crisis”, “Bishop Crowther Memorial Primary School Belongs To Us” to mention but a few.
Addressing journalists, the leader of the priests and Archdeacon of Onitsha South Archdeaconry, Ven. Josiah Chukwukadibia Ofoegbu said they were in government house to register their grievances over marginalization and politics of denomination been played by the Anambra state government under Obiano.
They also claimed that so many Anglicans in the state were denied All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) ticket for various positions in the just concluded party primaries, describing such as a threat to peaceful coexistence.
His words: “We are embittered in what is happening in our dear state. This present administration is turning Anambra state to a denominational state. It is unfortunate that this is happening 28 years after Bishop Ajayi Crowder who built the school left Nigeria.
“The school was handed over to the Anglican Church, Both Anglicans and Catholics knew about that. When government seized school, it was seized from us and during hand over to schools, it was again handed over to us.
“But it was quite unfortunate that governor Obiano sent thugs few weeks ago to send us out of the place. They disgraced us in our own property. They dispersed the worshippers and even threatened to kill us. This injustice must end.
“We want to let him know that we will worship there on Sunday, he should prepare for war. We are ready to die on that land. Obiano should stop that discrimination.
“Some Anglicans were denied ticket in this state because they are not Catholics when people like Jim Nwobodo and Nnamdi Azikiwe were leaders, they never discriminated against anybody.
“We are here to also tell the governor that we will worship at the place on Sunday and if he fails to open the place, we will open it by force. Nigeria and the world will hear what will happen on Sunday” he said.
“Those supporting this government, both those in secret and open, the sun that scorched us today, let the sun smite them… and this government that disrespected us the Minister of God, let disrespect follow them all the days of their life…”.
A mild drama played out during the protest, an Archdeacon of the Anglican Communion and Governor Willie Obiano’s aide, Ven. Barr. Amaechi Okwosa sent by the governor to address the protesters was resisted by the aggrieved priests.
Okwosa, who is also the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Awka Capital Territory Development Authority while addressing journalists said the governor has set up a committee to look into the matter with a view to finding a lasting solution, even as he regretted that governor was not informed about their visit.
“To the best of my knowledge, there wasn’t an official information regarding the visit. They are laying down their grievances, and from what they are saying, they have a misgiving regarding a school at Onitsha which they want the governor to intervene and do the needful.
“The matter is a lingering situation, the government headed by our governor, had inaugurated a committee to look into that matter so that it will be resolved once and for all, and that will be a precedence to other issues that are similar to this.
“Also we got from some of the clergy that this matter is in court already and speaking as a lawyer, it is pre-jurisdiction, when you take some steps when the matter is still subsisting in court, they should let the law to run its course, instead of getting in the way of law.
“I told them that if what they are saying is true, I will advise them to wait and let the court resolve the matter, also, if the Bishops in the Anglican Communion, are coming to the see the governor, they should wait for the outcome of the meeting.
Also, I am aware that the nine Bishops of Anglican Communion, have met regarding this issue to which they have agreed to come see the governor and he is looking forward to see them to resolve the matter very soon. I feel bad that they are outside the sun because I am one of them” he lamented.
Collaborating him, the Chairman of Anambra State Physical Planning Board, Honourable Chike Madueke said he was aware of the matter, pointing out that his Board which has statutory right over physical planning and development in the state did not approve them land for the Anglican Communion.
Madueke who denied knowledge of demolition in the premises of Crowther Memorial Primary School Onitsha, pointed out that the clergies are only playing to the gallery and advised them to follow the proper channel of communication if they want to see the governor for dialogue.
It would be recalled that Bishop Crowther was the first clergy to bring a church to Nigeria and laid the foundation stone at the present disputed Crowther Primary School land some years before the arrival of Catholic Church to Nigeria and wondered why the state government had to shut the gate to the school on the ground that the land does not belong to the Anglican Communion.