By Tony Okafor, Awka
Members of All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA)who are Catholics have accused Archbishop of Onitsha, Valerian Okeke of aiding priests to campaign for a certain political party and its candidates in the last elections.
To this end, the have petitioned the Papacy in Vatican to intervene and call the Archbishop to order to prevent chaos in the church.
The narrated how Archbishop Valerian Okeke aided priests under his administration to ditch their primary assignment of preaching the gospel to publicly campaign for preferred politicians and a certain political party while disparaging both Catholic and non Catholic candidates in other political parties.
In a letter dated 19th March addressed to Vatican’s Roman Catholic headquarters led by Pope Francis, the group who identified itself as “Concerned Catholics and Members of APGA accused the Onitsha Archbishop of abuse of powers, colluding with Reverend Fathers to abuse their priestly powers while engaging in fierce public campaigns for the Labour Party and its candidates in the just concluded 2023 general elections.
Registering their displeasure, the group gave account of how Okeke deliberately refused to call the said priests to order which further emboldened them to throw caution to the wind by launching series of attacks against candidates of other political parties in clear favour of those flying the Labour Party ticket.
The four-paged letter addressed to the Holy See signed by the group’s coordinator, Sir Peter Okeke read in part, “We write in our capacity as concerned Catholics and members of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), who are no longer comfortable with the prevalent abuse of priestly powers, to strongly and most respectfully, register our deep disappointment at the obvious collusion of Archbishop Dr. Valerian Okeke to address the very shameful actions of priests under his care, who threw all caution to the wind in serial attacks against candidates of political parties in clear favor of those flying the Labour Party ticket.
“”For starters, previous APGA governments have always ensured to carry the church along in terms of providing candidates for various positions, both within the party and government but this unwritten rule set by former Anambra Governor Peter Obi was naively jettisoned by Gov. Soludo who insisted on Merit as the benchmark as opposed to the old ways of doing things.
“To be clear, the argument that the litany of priests like Rev. Fr. Nwokedi Ezumezu and Fr. George Adimike (who is incidentally, the press secretary to Archbishop Valerian Okeke,) whose weekly tirades against candidates not flying the Labour Party ticket, did not enjoy blessings of their Archbishop, cannot be sustained when one considers the impracticability of a large swathe of priests going publicly rogue against the clear dictates of the Canon law which forbids them from exhibiting partisan tendencies.
“Infact there is no way these number of priests could openly solicit support for political parties whilst castigating others without the express approval of their Archbishop and if it was ever under dispute, Archbishop Valerian Okeke himself, laid every doubt to rest in a recent February 15th thank-you visit by the Labour candidates in the just concluded Anambra North Senatorial and Onitsha North & South Federal House of Representatives, Dr. Tony Nwoye and Engr. Idu Emeka, where he celebrated the duo and thanked them for recognizing the significant roles played by the church in ensuring that the Labour Party won resoundingly in the Feb 25th general elections.
“The Holy See must note the unfortunate import of such a public declaration of His Grace’s collusion especially when juxtaposed with the fact that well over 90% of candidates from other political parties whom they worked against, are bonafide Catholics.
“In our estimation, this action by Archbishop Dr. Valerian Okeke, was reckless, an abuse of power and the trust of the people and it is sad to watch as the church under his care, is currently being run solely on personal insatiable interests because the sorry sight of beholding priests being thanked and applauded by their Archbishop for misleading and misinforming parishioners on whom and who not to vote, is nauseating and goes against everything the church stands for.
“Simply put, these priests would not have dared take such publicly odious actions without the express approval of Archbishop Dr Valerian Okeke who as you know, wields total influence over their lives and every action or inaction they take and there remains no doubt that the Archbishop was the chief instigator and orchestrator of the entire nefarious actions by his priests.
“In Anambra Central Senatorial District, the case was the same as priests were under strict instruction from Archbishop Dr Valerian Okeke to make favorable announcement for the Labour Party, in church on the Thursday and Friday leading up to the February 25th general elections and it was sad seeing our archbishop thanking priests for what he termed “a job well done”.
“This open letter stems from a place of disillusionment, disappointment and shock at how low the Onitsha Archdiocese was and is, willing to go in pursuit of a partisan agenda which definitely, is at variance with the spirit and letter of the Canon law which forbids priests from converting the most holy altar of God to campaign soapboxes.
“It should interest the Vatican to know that Archbishop Dr. Valerian Okeke uses his powers of rampant postings and trainings to whip priests into line to do his dealings and it is common knowledge that disobedience to carrying out his direct orders that should be repulsive to their priestly calling, earns such priests a form of banishment to very remote areas while obedience elicits compensation.
“The Vatican may wish to ask Archbishop Valerian Okeke why and how he believes that openly projecting candidates of the Labour Party, who are mostly opportunistic career politicians that lost primaries in previous political parties and who may not necessarily possess the requisite pedigree and proven track record of service to humanity, somehow confers on them the toga of infallibility to the outright repudiation of possibly far more qualified Catholic candidates flying other party tickets?
“It is this sorry state of affairs which has led most priests to live under a climate of fear which has invariably led to the conspiracy of silence, with priests snitching on each other with a view to attracting favors from the Archbishop, that currently afflicts the Onitsha Archdiocese.
“We believe that it is our duty to speak out and draw your attention to this decay, this cancer currently spreading throughout the Onitsha Archdiocese and if the truth must be told, even the new Diocese of Aguleri is not immune from the Archbishop’s divisiveness as he has refused to post senior indigenous priests there.
“The Holy See is most respectfully enjoined to investigate the activities of Rev. Fr. Ekwunife who is not only the Archbishop’s man Friday but can be likened to the most corrupt Reverend Father in the diocese whose known hatred for APGA and open preachings of support for the Labour Party, leaves little to be desired and we stand to be corrected that his angst against the current Anambra State government stems from Gov. Soludo’s refusal to continue with the quarterly culture of sending huge sums of monies to the Archbishop of which Fr. Ekwunife has played the role of the conduit for some years prior to the emergence of the current leadership in Awka.
“The insensitivity and gross wickedness unleashed on APGA, APC and PDP candidates (many whom were Catholics,) by priests of the Onitsha Archdiocese, requires that the Holy See urgently intervene to safeguard the integrity of the church from what is surely a steady, and logical decline from those pristine heights to a footnote of shame.