African Church crisis deepens as South South leaders allegedly sack South West bishops
• ‘Religious manipulations responsible for crises, backwardness in Nigeria’
The ongoing leadership tussle in the African Church may have taken an ethnic dimension, as the South-South leadership of the Church in the region has allegedly ordered bishops of South-West extraction to relocate to their states.
An insider who spoke with journalists in Uyo yesterday disclosed that Bishop James Bamilede from Ekiti State, who visited Fourtowns, Uyo and Archbishop of Calabar Province, A. A. Odufuwa, have been sacked from their stations since the return of Primate of the Church, Bishop Emmanuel Udofia.
The source confirmed that other South-South states like Edo and Delta have in addition to expelling bishops of Yoruba origin, threatened a breakaway, if the Western provinces continued harassing Udofia.
The Calabar and Rivers provinces had during a reception for the Primate in Uyo, last weekend threatened to breakaway from Lagos, if Udofia was not allowed to complete his tenure.
It was also alleged that Udofia was being threatened with sack if he fails to vacate office as Primate by May this year when he turns 60 years.
But South-South members of the Church are, however, of the opinion that a new law could not have applied to Udofia, who was voted into office on the dictates of the old constitution.
It was learnt that Udofia, who was warmly received at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Uyo last Saturday, was told by the laity and clergy of the two provinces made up of Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Delta, to temporarily relocate to Uyo until the crisis is over, especially with the alleged threats to his life and that of his family by some parishioners of the Church in Lagos.
Vice lay president of Warri Diocese, Ezekiel Okorode, who spoke at Udofia’s reception in Uyo, said the indignities to which the Western Provinces of the Church had subjected Udofia were in a way, bringing victory to Calabar and Rivers provinces.
Responding, legal adviser of Calabar Province, Justice Ezekiel Enang, said the two provinces would stand by the Church’s General Council’s decision that Udofia should retire at 65, after which the new rule of retirement at 60 would take effect.
Also speaking, Medical Adviser of the Calabar Diocese, Dr. Nathaniel Adiakpan, expressed gratitude to God for preserving Udofia’s life and his safe return home, saying that was the most important thing.
Responding, Udofia said he had not relocated to Uyo because he still considered himself Primate of African Church Worldwide and as such, he would go to the arch cathedral anytime he feels like.
Meanwhile, Vice Chancellor of Kaduna State University (KASU), Professor Muhammad Tanko, has argued that religious manipulation and bastardisation of cultural pluralism were responsible for crises and backwardness in Nigeria.
He made this known, while speaking during a research dissemination conference on Action for Religious and Cultural Pluralism in Nigeria at KASU campus, Kaduna.
The conference was organised to present findings of academic researchers from the institution to religious stakeholders, European Union (EU) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on factors militating against peace in the country such as tribalism, politics, youth restiveness and reprisals, among others and ways to checkmate them.
Represented by Deputy VC, Professor Abdulahi Ashafa, he said: “As important as religion and culture and as inevitable as pluralism in human society, Nigerians have been suffering openly and in silence from the negative impact of religious manipulations and bastardisation of cultural pluralism.”
Insisting that due to the country’s unstable political culture, elements of stability and development are difficult to identify, he, however stressed: “Through painstaking research and analysis, religion can serve as agent of stability and development since its teachings and tenets worldwide promote national stability.”