From Chuks Collins, Awka
Fully robed priests of the Anglican Church numbering about 500 this afternoon stormed the Anambra State Government House protesting what they described as unprecedented sustained religious bigotry by the Gov Willie Obiano against non-Catholic faithfuls in the state especially the Anglicans.
Wearing long faces chanting popular Christian choruses, intermittently reading from the bible and singing sonorous but heart touching songs from their denominational Ancient and Modern official hymn book, the priests carefully and peacefully blocked the main entrance to the governor’s office and vowed never to quit the scene until Obiano personally addresses them.
They bore many placards with various inscriptions like, “Religious politics in Anambra has no end”, ”Governor Obiano give us back our land and school”, “Bishop Crowder memorial primary school Onitsha belongs to Anglican Church”, “Bishop Crowder is not government’s property”, “Willie Obiano leave our property for us,
One of the priests who simply identified himself as Rev Ibeh told journalists that they were protest and sensitizing the world on the sustained bias and brazen marginalization being suffered by non-Catholics in the state. But that they were pushed to take the peaceful protest measure over the seizure of Bishop Crowther Memorial primary school located behind the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity in Onitsha. That the governor, himself a Catholic aided the Catholic Church to seize, convert and keep it among many other such schools and property owned by the Anglicans, private individuals, groups and communities.
Rev Ibeh also disclosed that the State government had “mistakenly” handed over no fewer than about One hundred and nine (109) schools belonging to other faiths, families/individuals, groups and communities to the Roman Catholic church. But that it was curious that no such mistake occurred with any Roman Catholic church owned school.
He said that worse was that these bonus school gifts were quickly renamed, ostensibly to cover up the tracks. That it was sad that the archival barefaced records, exposes and contradict them as it was so open for all to see.
The reverend noted that when they cried out, at the time, the government set up a panel headed by retired chief Judge of the state, Justice Godwin Ononiba, a staunch Roman Catholic as its chairman. Of course as anticipated, it didn’t take time when the committee members disagreed, which resulted in the submission of a minority and majority reports. Two distinct reports.
Surprisingly, both reports have remained abandoned, moulded and dusty on the bookshelf in the governor’s office for more than a decade now. This has neither solved the problem nor mitigated it in any way. Instead it has buoyed the initial peripheral suspicion. Even more shocking was the eerie silence with which the Roman Catholic Church authorities greeted the school “bonus gift”.
Because some of the original owners of the schools had wondered aloud that as a Church they would have rejected and pointed out the mess, especially when some of these original owners are themselves Roman Catholics. That is if it was not actually a well rehearsed and orchestrated thing; as the records clearly show that they have continued to keep, run, enjoy and administer the schools. Again, what do the law call ‘conversion’ or someone who takes, seizes and keeps what doesn’t belong to him?
Rev Ibeh narrated how Gov Obiano shouted down the resident Anglican priest at Nkwelle Ezunaka during his maiden official outing shortly after assuming office in 2014 to the scene where some suspected hired thugs demolished a parish of the church. The governor had on getting there attentively listened to the Catholics and was about leaving when the poor priest politely urged him to hear their own side of the story -as the victims. The governor instantly lost his cool, insisting he was not there to bandy words.
Perhaps, realizing his mistake few days later, decided to paper the big crack by setting up a panel chaired by his deputy, Dr Nkem Okeke. Of course, with that initial disposition, his stand and outcome of the panel was foreclosed as it was seen as just being used to buy time. True to expectation, nothing has been heard on the matter till date, hence the priests stormed the governor’s office if only to get him realize that he’s governor to not just the Catholics but even to the pagans and other non-Christians.
Rev Ibeh who must have come prepared tendered what he called documented statistics showing that the Catholics corners more than 79 percent of the total number of appointments, projects, funds/budgets allocations and contracts in the state doesn’t augur well for the love, cohesion and brotherliness that once existed in the state.
When the reaction of the state government was sought, the governor’s office sent an emissary who pleaded with the journalists to “kill” the report.