By Christopher Ezema
Celestine Okanya is back again with his usual antics, rabble-rousing and playing to the gallery. This time around, he is recklessly splashing mud on the Catholic Diocese of Nsukka and our revered Bishop, Most Rev (Dr.) Godfrey Onah. Having read through his tendentious narratives, I am still at a loss on why this supposed fellow Catholic is desperately seeking to drag the Bishop’s name into his usual brinksmanship. Cele’s grouse is that he fixed a Thanksgiving Mass at the Cathedral for Sunday, May 16, to be followed by a political reception at St. Theresa’s College arena. He has invited his new political friends and rented some multitude to showcase his imagined political clout and popularity. It is nothing but a political rally packaged as thanksgiving reception.
The chairman of Nsukka Local Government however issued a notice banning crowded public gatherings in the council, hinging the ban on the sudden spike in Covid 19 cases in the country. All over the world, crowded events are known as Covid 19 super spreaders. With the recent scare over the more deadly strain of the ravaging pandemic from India, the federal government reintroduced restrictions a few days ago while state likes Rivers and Bayelsa imposed dusk to dawn curfews.
From the statement issued by the council chair, only the planned political rally-reception was affected. The Holy Mass could still go on and a more private reception in line with Covid 19 protocols may even be permissible.
That is what any responsible government should do. After all, even the state government had earlier postponed indefinitely the already publicized “Enugu Youths for Gburugburu Rally” scheduled for May 14, 2021.
But let us assume for the sake of argument that the action of the chairman was politically motivated. The questions is: how does the Bishop enter the political fray starring the chairman and Cele Okanya? I find it interesting that Cele Okanya, a devious political hustler is playing the victim card and traducing a soft target like the Bishop when he knows where his problem lies. He wants the Bishop to confront the government on his behalf. He abhors the Bishop’s purported involvement in partisan politics but at the same time wants the Bishop to engage in a political fisticuff with government to serve his selfish interest. Cele’s sheer impudence in casting aspersions on the Lord Bishop of Nsukka Diocese to score a cheap political point only proves that his Catholicism is skin-deep. He is a fake Catholic.
He ought to know that though symbolically returned to the church, its original owner, mission schools like St. Theresa’s College in all intents and purposes still belong to government which payrolls their entire workforce. Even if this was not so, it is no brainer that all civil institutions like churches and schools are subject to the regulatory authority of the government. “Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” is Christ’s unequivocal injunction submitting the ecclesiastical realm to state authority.
The Bishop cannot defy the lawful directives of the local government just to please a notorious charlatan and blackmailer or to prove his aloofness from politics. Bishop Onah’s moral stature, austere lifestyle and courageous truthfulness to power are already well known to parishioners and the public in general. That he is the non-executive chairman of the governing council of the State University has not by any means compromised his strong personal character and principled detachment from political partisanship.
Cele Okanya can throw tantrums at the Bishop because he has always been a low lifer and pretender. To those who may not know his ignoble antecedents, Cele has contrived different schemes since his dismissal from the Nigerian Army to sustain his flamboyant lifestyle. An attention-seeking twerp with vaulting ambition totally at odds with his evident disabilities, he dabbled into politics and after failing abysmally in his misguided quest for the State Assembly seat, saw a plum political appointment from the governor as his natural entitlement. When this appeared long in coming, he became angry, bitter and erratic, ranting away his frustrations against the governor on social media platforms. Almost on a daily basis, Cele spewed bile on the governor hoping that his antics would produce results. He was ignored.
As the 2023 election season builds up, Cele Okanya has hit upon a small fortune, a more than obliging sponsor and godfather in the person of the governorship wannabe, Senator Ike Ekweremadu. The senator in his delusional obsession for the governorship seat against the ingrained zoning principle has been so distanced by seasoned politicians across the state that he now junkets round the state hobnobbing with political nonentities and small fries like Cele Okanya and sponsoring child dedications, thanksgivings, weddings, funerals and local sporting competitions as witnessed in the Ovoko fiasco orchestrated by this same Cele.
Christopher Ezema, a Catholic faithful, writes from Nsukka.