The archbishop of Owerri Catholic archdiocese, Valentine Obinna, has compared an alleged assault he suffered on Saturday with “Christ’s humiliation on the cross of Calvary.”
He added that he had left in God’s hand his “assault” by “All Progressives Congress members loyal to the Imo State Government.”
The cleric alleged that some persons suspected to be APC members had assaulted him during a burial service on Saturday.
APC members who reportedly accompanied wife of the state governor, Nkechi Okorocha; chief of staff to the governor, Uche Nwosu; Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Acho Ihim; and some commissioners had allegedly invaded the altar and ordered the archbishop to stop his speech, which they considered to be anti-state government.
The incident happened on Saturday at Saint Michael’s Catholic Church, Ngwoma-Obube in the Owerri North Local Government Area during a requiem mass in honour of the mother of one Mr. Alex Mbata.
The chief Judge of the state, Pascal Nnadi; and the senator representing Imo East, Samuel Anyanwu, were also present at the church service which ended in a fiasco.
A source at the church service, Wilson Okeke, told our correspondent that the APC members accused the prelate of allowing someone to campaign for the People’s Democratic Party during a speech, while he allegedly refused an APC member who wanted to do the same.
“The archbishop was not the one who celebrated the mass. It was the parish priest.
“The archbishop was only making a speech at the end of the mass, just before the benediction. It was at this point that the assault happened.
“While the archbishop was talking, a member of the APC, Chris Ekwueme, subtly interjected him by saying that there were also good roads constructed by the state government.”
Okeke added that at some point, a People’s Democratic Party member, Iyke Ehiriwe, asked to be allowed to speak.
“Initially, the archbishop refused to hand over the microphone to him; but when he whispered into his ear, the archbishop obliged him,” Okeke said.
Our correspondent gathered that the PDP member urged the people to vote out the APC government in the state on the basis of “bad governance.”
“The comment elicited angry reactions from the people,” Okeke said.
“APC members who came with the government functionaries invaded the altar and asked to be allowed to speak, but the prelate allegedly refused.
“This led to a protest, and some Reverend Fathers intervened and aided the archbishop to complete his speech before the benediction was said,” Okeke alleged.
The archbishop who spoke to our correspondent on the phone on Sunday through the Director of Media and Communications of the Owerri Catholic Archdiocese, Rev Fr. George Nwachukwu, claimed that he was “insulted and assaulted by the APC members.”
Nwachukwu said, “The archbishop and the archdiocese have decided to take no action against the APC members who assaulted the church.
“We have taken the assault on the archbishop the same way Jesus was insulted, assaulted and humiliated on the cross of Calvary.
“We have left it in the hands of God. The assault to the church and the archbishop was very painful, provocative and highly unwarranted; but we have resolved to press no charges but to leave it in the hands of God.”
But the media aide to the chief of staff to the governor, Chikezie Nwadike, who said he was at the church service, told our correspondent that APC members were not to blame.
Nwadike heaped the blame on the PDP member who reportedly “campaigned” in the church, denying that the archbishop was assaulted by APC members.