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THINGS LEFT UNSAID: OKPALEKE DEBACLE

On Saturday, July 2, 2016, an ugly scenario played out in Mbaise over the rejection of the
foisting of a mercenary bishop, Peter Ebele Okpaleke, on the Catholic Church in ala
Mbaise. I am constrained to pen this recollection because of the couched truths and
innuendos which have saturated our media recently. We have been inundated with
enquiries from critical and cautious minds who are taking the pain to verify what they are
being fed with both online and offline. The danger of a single story cannot be
overemphasised. Hence for similar reasons, St Luke embarked on the mission of
presenting a proper documentation of things as they are and have been. A little
background here is necessary for a better appreciation of the massive rejection saga.

On Thursday, September 16, 2010, the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara Mbaise, Imo State, of
Owerri Ecclesiatical Province, lost her most cherished saintly bishop, Victor Adibe
Chikwe, ushering in an Episcopal sede vacante (vacant seat). As it were, the veil of
Mbaise was torn in two. Chikwe was the pioneer bishop of Ahiara and for twenty years
shepherded the only rural diocese in Africa to enviable heights, during which she attained
the status of Ireland of Africa due to the very large number of Mbaise priests and
religious sweating it out to spread the Gospel home and abroad. Looking at his priests by
his bedside as he was dying and almost ultimately sensing what would happen when he
leaves, how mercenaries would cast lots to scavenge even his tunic, his last words were:
I thank you my Priests. Ahiara is in good hands. This certainly was a re-enactment of
Priests, behold your Diocese! Diocese, behold your Priests! At his funeral, three weeks
after, on October 7 same year, the faithful thronged to prayerfully touch his casket and
after the casket was taken away for interment, the people of God flocked around the table
on which it had lain, in supplication to the peoples saint. I took pictures and still have
them. Never had I seen such great piety and sensum fide. We all knew he was
exceptional. He was a saint. There was a Bishop. Fast forward to over two years later:
NO BISHOP TO REPLACE HIM YET. The multimillion dollar question remains WHY?
We shall get back to that.

During the prolonged interregnum, Rt Rev. Msgr Theophilus Nwalo was elected by the
priests of Ahiara Diocese as the Diocesan Administrator, as Canon Law obliges (Can. 420
1). This duty he discharged diligently given his limited powers till the appointment of
John Cardinal Onaiyekan as the Apostolic Administrator of same diocese about three
years after, precisely on July 3, 2013. Though Ahiara had no bishop, under the Diocesan
Administrator, Msgr Nwalo, Episcopal functions like ordination, Chrism Mass, burial of
priests, reunion with seminarians and appending of signatures never suffered. Whenever
such ecclesiastical schedules arose, bishops were promptly invited and they obliged.

Exactly, two years, two months and three weeks after the demise of such ebullient Pastor
par excellence embodied in Bishop Chikwe, Friday, December 7, 2012, saw the
pronouncement of a priest of the revered Catholic Diocese of Awka, Anambra State of
Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, Peter Ebele Okpaleke, as the appointed bishop of Ahiara
Diocese. I can vividly chronicle the sequence of events that fateful day from about 1300
hours when the insipid news began trickling in till it was confirmed and then the
immediate reactions all over the globe. Spontaneously, all sons of truth and justice, even
those not of Mbaise extraction tore their garments in bewilderment and stupefaction,
which also immediately gave way to condemnation and rejection of Okpaleke as bishop
of Ahiara, even amidst raucous boasts from Awka-minded people who already counted
Ahiara as another conquered and annexed ecclesiastical territory of theirs to be ruled by
settled vassals and episcopal missionaries. Home and abroad, Okpaleke was instantly,
unanimously, vehemently and unequivocally denounced and rejected by the Mbaise
people en masse. Reasons for this would be delved into. However, there is no gainsaying
that vox populi, vox Dei the voice of the people is the voice of God.

As soon as the news broke, and was met with such open and passionate rejection,
congratulatory messages turned to denials and washing of hands off Okpalekes
bishopric. No body wanted to be publicly identified with such blown fraud. His kinsman,
top Vatican godfather, Francis Cardinal Arinze, in his congratulatory letter to him
publicised both ignorance and surprise at his elevation. Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama,
President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) confessed it went on
behind him. Archbishop A.J.V. Obinna, Metropolitan of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province,
moaned that his hands were tied. Anthony Cardinal Okogie asked how Okpalekes name
meandered its way into the list of Ahiara Episcopal nominees poised as a priest of Ahiara,
the bereaved diocese of his beloved friend and confrere Chikwe, and to buttress his
repulsion at the malpractice, boycotted the military-enabled consecration in a seminary
chapel outside the diocese. Amidst the foregoing, Bishop Solomon Amatu currently of
Okigwe Diocese, though originally of Awka Diocese, invoked unprintable expletives on
Ahiara Priests in the hallowed Maria Mater Ecclesiae Cathedral of Ahiara Diocese,
calling them touts for opposing the much-anticipated arrival of his kinsman to Owerri
Province to make room for more ecclesiastical exploits and pastoral jamboree.

Another important and purgative immediate fallout of the Ahiara rejection was the
instantaneous thwarting of an otherwise hatched and concluded scheme to conscript Fr
Denis Chidi Isizoh, of the noble Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha Anambra State, a long
time secretary and stooge of former Papal candidate, Cardinal Arinze, as bishop of
Nsukka Diocese in Enugu State. Due to the never-imagined brouhaha caused by their
previous goof, they did the needful and shortly afterwards confirmed an Nsukka son, Rev.
Prof. Godfrey Igwebuike Onah as substantive bishop of Nsukka. Nonetheless, and quite
amazingly, in a trajectory show of bravado after his Ahiara-delivered ordination, Bishop
Onah turned around to cast public aspersions on Ahiara for digging in their heels and
clamouring for equity and fairness in the administration of the Churchs goods and
offices.

Be that as it may, a perfectly similar replica of the Ahiara turbulence was also playing out
in nearby less-priviledged Makeni Diocese, situated in the Northern part of Sierra Leone.
The foreign erstwhile bishop of Makeni resigned on January 7, 2012, and another foreign
bishop named to succeed him from the Southern part. The priests and laity of Makeni
Diocese unanimously and fiercely rejected the orchestrated neo-colonisation of their
territory, albeit in the name of religion and blind obedience, alleging complicity of the
Nuncio and some longer-legged local bishops from the neighbouring region to stifle them
off from the map of ecclesiastical relevance. Despite the refusal, the same hijacking cabal
went ahead after many months to ordain the new bishop outside the targeted diocese and
continued to plot a grand invasion of the diocese to install him against the wishes of the
people of God. Meanwhile, on January 3, 2013, Rome sent a high profile delegate to
listen to the people first hand and be better advised on the next pastoral action. The
people on ground were interviewed and the rejection was massive. Consequently, the
diocese was declared vacant on the spot, the rejected bishop proclaimed impeded, and an
Apostolic Administrator appointed from among the clergy working in the diocese already
who knew the people. Mbaise also received a Vatican visitor, in the person of the
Ghanaian Peter Cardinal Turkson, but Archbishop Obinna accompanied the Cardinal to
Ahiara to see the priests and laity, and effectively stifled all deliberations and submissions
during the interactions. Eventually, after a drawn out battle between both sides in the
Makeni faceoff, Pope Francis resolved the crisis in the best way possible. The
Administrator was elevated as bishop on July 18, 2015, and consecrated October 30,
same year, while the imported bishop was sent back to his original diocese to work as
auxiliary bishop. Pastorally, the diocese got back on its feet.

Now back to Ahiara. By this time, Okpaleke had also long exceeded the canonical
interstitia of three months after Episcopal appointment according to Can. 379 for
Episcopal consecration. In spite of the stupendous public outcry from all angles, and after
several failed attempts to consecrate him in Rome, in Mbaise or in any other suffragan
diocese within the Owerri province, the players went ahead to degradingly consecrate
Okpaleke on May 21, 2013, in a Rambo style inside a small, decrepit seminary chapel in
Owerri sequestered by a heavy military barricade, much to the chagrin of Owerri priests
who thereafter gave him a twenty-four hour ultimatum to leave their soil and go practise
his art elsewhere, for fear he could end up as their long-due auxiliary bishop. Contrary to
their expectation in ordaining him a bishop irrespective of the exposed fraud involved, he
was further rejected all the more by the Mbaise nation who refused to play second fiddle
in their own religious administration. Before and after, Okpaleke never stepped his foot
on Mbaise soil, and never will.

Consecration over, he had yet to take canonical possession of Ahiara Diocese, another
very important and final procedure well spelt out in canon law which Can. 382 2 states
must be done within four months of appointment. This was never to be. However, the
same canon warns thus:

One promoted as bishop cannot assume the exercise of the


office entrusted to him before he has taken canonical
possession of the diocese (Can. 382 1).

Suffice me to mention that ordinations had been fixed that year and the ordaining prelate
was gearing up to perform such noble task when the same people who vowed Okpaleke
must take over Ahiara cancelled the ordination, that there would be no ordination or
Episcopal function in Ahiara again until Ahiara accept Okpaleke.
Nonetheless, there appeared a ray of light at the end of the tunnel with the appointment of
John Cardinal Onaiyekan by July 2013, as Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara Diocese.
Some said a Daniel had come to judgement. Some said it was a Greek gift. Still, Mbaise
received him with arms wide open and hearts quite large. He himself confessed he was
surprised at the dignifying reception and conduct from Ahiara diocese. He saw what was
truly on ground and said his mission was not to install Okpaleke. All the same we kept
watching. After interacting with the clergy and faithful of the diocese, he reported to the
Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) that an overwhelming majority of
Ahiara priests were against Okpaleke coming to Ahiara, and that only about seven
renegade priests of questionable character were touting for Okpaleke against over 700
priests from Mbaise. Not long after, the Cardinal began revealing his true mission. He
began having exclusive meetings with the seven priests he had earlier publicly branded
renegade, rebranded them obedient priests, then turned against Mbaise priests, calling
them rebels. With his renegade-turned-obedient priests, he has been frantically plotting a
forceful and well armed invasion of the cathedral to install Okpaleke in Ahiara. This
prompted Ahiara to alert him again of the dangers of bringing in Okpaleke against the
wish of the people. Seeing that he could not proceed with the planned invasion, he
removed Ahiara entirely from his diary and maintained what may be best described
almost as a state of incommunicado with the diocese and her affairs.

Cardinal Onaiyekan was appointed three whole years ago but since then has not
celebrated Chrism Mass, ordination, confirmation, pastoral visits, reunion with
seminarians, priests funerals or other important Episcopal or pastoral duties in Ahiara
diocese. We do not need to repeat the fact that in spite of refusing to perform any of these
even when the diocese demanded such obligations from him, he would nevertheless,
always jet in from any part of the world he is to attend the funeral of lay men in Mbaise,
on the invitation of Abuja moneybags. He treated the priests like a plague and refused
appending his signature to any Ahiara priest for studies, health, mission, or whatever
necessity, home or abroad. In fact, some who tried to engage in further studies were
ejected and repatriated on the Cardinals request, amidst threats of Papal sanctions to the
schools if they dont expel Ahiara priests studying under them. Cardinal appointed what
he called Vicars/Delegates to oversee the diocese since he was not around and never
planned to be. The first was Rev. Fr Prof. Louis Ashiegbu who honourably and painfully
resigned shortly afterwards, citing persistent double standard from the Cardinal. Next
came the henchman of the Okpaleke group, Rev. Fr Dr Clement Ebii, who had hitherto
disowned Ahiara diocese and avowed never to be involved with anything Ahiara Diocese
again, but now being appointed Vicar/Delegate to oversee the same priests he had
dissociated from, and same diocese he was fighting so hard to cripple. As expected, the
priests and laity rejected this choice of the Cardinal, giving him many reasons to buttress
the impropriety of such move. As usual, their cries and lamentations fell on deaf ears.

Another scheme the Cardinal produced was to post one of the renegade priests, their chief
executioner, public scandal to all and sundry, over twenty years in the priesthood but with
a long rap sheet which has made him see more priestly years without faculty than with
faculty, recurrently demoted and deprived of a parish, graciously sent on mission outside
the diocese with shameful and tearful results, currently operating from his fathers house
and yet notoriously unrepentant, a name that sends waves of repulsion down the spines of
who may hear it, denounced even by his people, Rev. Fr Chima Januarius Ahaneko, to
one the most respected, prestigious, oldest and populated parishes in the diocese, St
Patricks Umuokrika Mbaise, as Parish Priest after the death of their erstwhile adored
parish priest, Very Rev. Msgr Don Okoro, against all advice even from his Vicar, then Fr
Ashiegbu. The people of Umuokrika could not stomach it and notified the Vicar that his
priest had a long history of scandalous lifestyle home and abroad, and had also worked in
neighbouring parishes within recent times, without any prospect of amending his ways.
Guess, what happened? Ahaneko tried using police to invade and take over the parish in
the wee hours of the morning. They were firmly repelled by the youths who kept guard in
anticipation of their usual tactics.

As if that was not enough, Fr Ahaneko at a later date also invaded the Cathedral Parish,
St Brigids Nnarambia Ahiara, which incidentally is his home parish. This happened in
the dead of the night when the priests there had locked up and long retired. Ahaneko
stormed the church with a certain Amadiokoro Uchenna (a staff of Enterprise Bank who
had been promised the diocesan accounts if they bring in Okpaleke) and his armed
hoodlums carrying guns, axes and other hardware with which they broke down iron doors
like a walkover, took over the parish and barricaded themselves in. Ahaneko gave orders
to his thugs to beat up his fellow priests in the parish which they did before him. One of
them, who had repeatedly being flown abroad for treatment, Rev. Fr Nweke Marcelinus,
was hospitalised after that merciless brutality on the orders of his fellow priest, and I
hope he survives that nauseating ordeal. It actually took the arrival and breaking in of
youths and police to halt their instant execution at the hands of Ahaneko who was
carrying the weapons himself. On his part, Ahaneko boasted that he was detailed to take
over the Cathedral Parish, his own home parish, as the parish priest/Cathedral
Administrator. The police file is still open.

These are just a few instances of the militant braggadocio and belligerent onslaught
Ahiara has been bedevilled with just to make Okpaleke Bishop of Ahiara, dead or alive.
The think-tank and chief instigator of the group is a once-respected and highly decorated
priestly entity, before he assumed Lucifers fate upon himself, Very Rev. Fr. Dr Jude
Uwalaka. Many continue to wonder what led him into becoming bedfellows with the
likes of Ahaneko whom he hated passionately and often vilified publicly for their
shameful, irresponsible and undesirable traits. His demeanour can be likened to a certain
politician who was known for sticking to due process and openly criticising the president
for his insincerity and corruption, but when the president made him a minister, he
suddenly flipped over and stopped condemning the corrupt president, and when
interviewed started preaching that in African culture, it is bad manners to talk while
eating. A cursory survey of the few elements gunning for Okpaleke reveals a common
trend: these are a crop of disgruntled, unscrupulous, scandalous, ill-reputed and mentally
unstable characters whose sole purpose is left to your imagination.

As regards the ill-fated Saturday that broke the internet, it was long in the offing. It was
purely a CWO (Catholic Women Organisation) thing. The storm had been raging for
several months before the D-Day. It all began when the National CWO President berated
and started antagonising the Ahiara Diocesan CWO President for supporting Ahiara
Diocesan Priests, her own legitimate constituency. She was mandated to withdraw every
support from the priests, starve them to submission, and mobilise the Ahiara Diocesan
women to stage protests against the priests and lock up all the churches in the diocese.
The National President ordered her to carry that out with immediate effect, and directed
that all the National Executives as well as the local provincial executives (Owerri
Ecclesiastical Province, comprising the dioceses in Imo and Abia States i.e., Owerri,
Orlu, Okigwe, Ahiara, Aba and Umuahia Dioceses) be part of the protest which was
planned to hold in Mbaise against the priests of the Holy Roman Catholic Church in
Mbaise. The woman at the receiving end of this lashing and unholy mandate, Ahiara
Diocesan CWO President, Ambassador of Mary, a noble lady in word and deed, Chief
Mrs Felicia Nwogu Nneoha, by dint of a rare Christian fortitude, calmly let them know
that what they were demanding for was wrong and as such, she would not be a party to
such nefarious scheme. When they could neither intimidate her nor buy her over to betray
the priests of Ahiara Diocese, she was suspended from the national body.

As if that was not enough, coming down to her own Province, she received the greatest
blow ever. The Metropolitan of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace, Archbishop
A.J.V. Obinna, disgraced her out of the provincial CWO. He unleashed all sorts of
unprintable names on her, telling her that her continuous stay as the Ahiara Diocesan
representative in the Province had a question mark. Finally, he asked her to step down
from office, that she had overstayed her tenure and she should get a letter of authorisation
from her bishop. The episcopal letter ruse was just a grand plot to supplant her with an
already-waiting pro-Bishop Okpaleke woman, which was done successfully. Not only the
diocesan CWO, but other laity organisations in the diocese were hijacked as well. The
erstwhile executives were hurriedly retrenched and new officers, especially presidents
and secretaries, swiftly appointed from the pro-Okpaleke camp without recourse to due
process and established norms for constituting the leadership of diocesan lay
organisations, all backed by the fiat of both John Cardinal Onaiyekan and Archbishop
Obinna. Those appointed were either those who had been previously sacked from office
by Bishop Chikwe due to some depraved acts, or those who had some bitter grouse with
the diocese, or perhaps a combination of both factors. The pro-Okpaleke faction now
have a parallel presbyterium and lay organisations operating from their theatre of
command, a parish in Ezinihitte Mbaise, St Rose Parish Ihitte, which is now the
Okpaleke campaign headquarters and housing his equally rejected Vicar/Delagate, Fr
Clement Ebii. They do not participate in any Ahiara diocesan program, whether for
priests or lay, and when they do not tire themselves in disrupting scheduled diocesan
programs, they hold theirs in their new diocesan secretariat, St Rose Ihitte. The legitimate
parishioners of St Rose have stopped attending church in St Rose due to the brutish and
scandalous acts of Fr Ebii and the Okpaleke campaign party. Unfortunately however, Fr
Ebii always tells the parishioners that he does not need their presence in the parish, and
that he is self-sufficient, so they can go anywhere they want.

Having commissioned the new diocesan executives, it was almost mission accomplished
for the planned national CWO coup against Ahiara Diocese. The national executives
instructed the pro-Okpaleke diocesan CWO President to carry out the scheme hatched
long ago, which was effected with the patronage of Fr Ebii. Fearing she might not be
given leeway to fulfil her agenda, the national CWO President stormed Mbaise with her
retinue of national as well as Owerri provincial executives, backed from on high by the
national police. There arose claims that the CBCN President, Archbishop Kaigama
begged the national CWO President not to embark on that explosive trip and the Imo
State Commissioner of Police advised Fr Ebii not to stage that event. All advice fell on
deaf ears. The Okpaleke women had already secured enough sets of Ahiara Diocesan
CWO uniform for the visitors from hell, so that their visit would be captured as Mbaise
women demonstrating in their numbers against the priests. As if deploying massive
troops of policemen to facilitate their agenda would not satisfy them enough, the
Okpaleke group went as far as contracting scores of thugs and hit men from different
campuses and cults, paying each as much as 120,000 and 150,000, armed and stationed at
strategic points between the cathedral and St Rose, to shoot at any pro-Ahiara diocesan
personnel.

On that fateful Saturday, the Okpaleke group converged at their headquarters, St Rose
Ihitte, both the Mbaise loyalists and the visiting warlords. On the other hand, the pro-
Ahiara Diocesan women gathered at the Ahiara Cathedral, together with the men and
youths, for a prayer rally and solidarity procession within the cathedral, covered by the
press, and all dressed in black since the Okpaleke foot soldiers had hijacked the normal
diocesan uniform for their own activity. It all began peacefully. Somewhere along the
line, some youths left the cathedral and set some tires ablaze just at the external perimeter
of the cathedral, at the junction leading to Ihitte, chasing back some vehicles conveying
some of the Okpaleke supporters. The Ahiazu police division police officers who had
been patrolling the area, eventually returned and guarded those few youths back into the
cathedral, very professionally and peacefully, after which they left the vicinity. Alas, a
short while afterwards, hordes of policemen swarmed the cathedral premises and it soon
dawned on those inside that all the police divisions in Mbaise had been mobilised from
on high against the diocese. They were all outside the cathedral premises, apparently
looking for some pretext to gain entry. All of a sudden, while the unsuspecting faithful
gathered at the cathedral were praying, the police started teargasing them through the
fence. Dozens of teargas canisters were unleashed upon the men and women, old and
young, without provocation. As the onslaught continued unabated, scores of vulnerable
old folks had passed out, and resuscitation attempts being carried out on many due to the
effects of the massive teargas. Next thing, the youths inside the cathedral reacted by
hurling sand, stones, sticks, bottles and every object in sight at the police over the fence,
to do ward them off. Well, the teargasing ceased at last, and that was when the real
trouble began.

The policemen let out a scream that the Ahiazu DPO had been shot. Swiftly, they
repositioned and barricaded the cathedral gate, preventing any entry or exit, and seemed
to be waiting for special orders to finally invade the cathedral based on their new script
that the DPO had been shot. Some vehicles conveying women who had already left the
cathedral were intercepted and seized. At that point, a young priest of the diocese, Rev. Fr
John Ogoekwe, who had been quietly observing all taking place, decided to go
investigate the absurd shooting claims. To his chagrin, it was simply false. All
eyewitnesses faulted the claim. Moreover, it was in broad daylight and nobody noticed,
heard or saw a gun, a shooter or any shot. Still more puzzling was the fact that the police
and the youths were on different sides of the fence, hence humanly impossible to shoot
somebody over the fence on the leg, as was alleged. Eyewitness accounts all testified that
it was the bricks, or at worst bottles, hurled across the fence that might have injured the
DPO. Fr Ogoekwe, in a surprising display of sacrificial courage, not minding the heavy
guns brandished by the police officers, openly accused them of fermenting trouble with
their heinous lie about the DPO being shot. Fr Ogoekwe came back to the cathedral gate
and threw it open for those held captive inside pending massive arrest to throng out. On
sighting the crowd trooping out, the police fearfully withdrew and gave way. This
singular act of Fr Ogoekwe saved all the families in Mbaise from each having several
members arrested that day because it was indeed a mammoth crowd at the cathedral.
While many left, others stayed back; most waiting for their common bus to return and
pick them, thinking the police attack was over. Meanwhile, Fr Ogoekwe proceeded with
two other priests to St Rose Ihitte to enquire from Fr Ebii and Fr Ahaneko, who seemed
to be pulling the strings behind the cathedral invasion, why they would send the police to
arrest innocent old women who have done them no ill. Within as instant, Fr Ahaneko
swiftly ordered the troops of policemen there to strip and beat up the priests who came
there, just as he had also ordered armed thugs some months back when he invaded his
own home parish at night, St Brigids Cathedral Parish, to beat and maim his fellow
priests staying at the parish. The policemen promptly obeyed those who paid them and
mercilessly and publicly beat up these priests of God, cheered on by Fr Ahaneko and the
other Okpaleke followers, including the national CWO president who was enjoying the
gladiators entertainment. One of the priests, Fr Nathaniel Ezenwa, was beaten to a pulp
and had to be resuscitated. They bundled priests of the Catholic Church inside a catholic
parish like captured hoodlums into their vehicles and zoomed away. This brings to fore
Caesars heartrending lamentation: Et te, Brute! David must have been in a similar
betrayal when he wailed: If this had been done by an enemy. But it is you my own
companion. The traitor has turned against his friends, he has broken his word. His
speech is softer than butter, but war is in his heart. His words are smoother than oil, but
they are naked swords (Psalm 55).

One would now think the worst had been accomplished, but the climax was still been
hatched by these agents of ecclesiastical gangsterism. The policemen went on to mobilise
the entire police force in Imo State Command to storm the cathedral again. Meeting the
gates to the cathedral locked, they broke down the gates as one would expect them to tear
down a known terrorists camp. When the priests and lay people still left in the church
saw what was unfolding anew, all scampered for safety because the policemen were
armed to the teeth and shooting sporadically in the Holy Cathedral of the Catholic
Church. Several people were injured, both from the shots and the stampede. Some ran
into the Cathedral church itself for safety, but these forces from hell broke down the
church doors and forcefully took them away. Some ran to the bishops court itself but
were not spared rather. These policemen were smashing doors and windows, even the
bishops kitchen, teargasing occupants, snuffing them out of hiding and whisking them in
their hundreds into waiting vehicles. It was like a movie where terrorists were being
hunted down and captured by commandos. More priests were also beaten and arrested
right inside the Cathedral, including elderly and sick priests who could not run. The book
of Psalms lamented for the ruined temple thus: The enemy has laid waste the whole of
the sanctuary. Your foes have made uproar in your house of prayer. Their axes have
battered the wood of its doors. O God, they have set your sanctuary on fire; they have
razed and profaned the place where you dwell. They said in their hearts: Let us utterly
crush them! (Psalm 74). In spite of all pleas, the policemen vowed to release neither the
faithful gathered at the cathedral nor the priests, especially Fr John Ogoekwe who had
earlier released the thousands of hostages barricaded inside the police by the cathedral
previously, for which the policemen openly swore to deal with him without any priestly
mercy or considerations. They were all transferred same day from Mbaise division to
Owerri command where they were paraded naked and tortured more beyond recognition.
It was on the third day that their families saw them again.

With each sacrilege committed, we thought that was the end, only to be dazzled with
more soon afterwards. All these events which seemed like a lifetime took place in just an
episode spanning 24 hours. That was on Saturday, July 2, 2016. The next day being
Sunday, day of the Lord, it started again that morning. Having restored the broken gates
of the cathedral the previous day, the priests in the cathedral left that Sunday morning to
assist different parishes in their mass schedules as usual, not knowing that the police had
been aroused afresh to unleash more harm on the cathedral. Monitoring the priests and
seeing that all had moved out to different locations for mass, the policemen swooshed in
again on the cathedral, this time to lock the gates of cathedral definitively, on the behest
of the Commissioner of Police, alleging that the cathedral was an armoury from which
different sizes and calibres of guns were used to attack the police the previous day. The
priests were effectively locked out from the cathedral as the police refused to bulge or
even heed the plea of the dozens of priests who gathered at the cathedral after mass to
allow their brother priests to at least go into their rooms after, remove their soutanes
change into something more comfortable. The priests remained on their soutanes all day
in the hot sun, locked out of their home after returning from Sunday mass, without food
or water, and eventually were not even allowed to sleep in the cathedral that day. It was
only on Monday that the police opened the cathedral gates, having realised that their
allegations were stupid, spurious and squalid.

What was the allegation? The news media went hyper frenzy with doctored reports about
priests attacking the police with guns in the cathedral. The Police said it was the youths
that shot at them and injured the Ahiazu DPO on the leg. We recall that the youths were
inside the cathedral premises when the alleged incident took place, with the police
shooting teargas canisters into the cathedral from outside the fence. One would then
question the possibility of shooting someone over the fence on the leg. Such would
require a trajectory missile like ground to air. Also, in a public place, filled with police, in
broad day light, how could a shooter go unnoticed? How come no one heard the sound of
the shots? By the way, who comes to church with guns to attack police? One thing is
sure: the youths reacted as the police continued teargasing them without any respite, by
throwing stones and other handy objects at the police, including sticks, rocks and bottles
lying loose around. One of these might have struck the DPO on the leg.
Despite the police onslaught, the Ahiara Diocesan Priests went on to visit the injured
DPO, Mr Danjuma, in the hospital that same evening, in a show of Christian meekness of
turning the other cheek. The DPO received them cordially and they took up his hospital
bills, as well as supplying provisions and beverages for him. On a relaxed note, the
priests asked him what happened and he responded that he was shot at the cathedral.
However, when prodded further, he admitted that he heard no gun shot. He also
acknowledged that no bullet was pulled out from the wound. The DPO further confessed
that he saw no one holding any gun, knife or weapon whatsoever. In fact, he said that he
did not know what hit him, how it hit him or when it hit him. According to him, he felt no
pain and no force of impact. He virtually said nothing hit him. In his words, he just felt
like lifting his leg but it felt numb and looking down, he saw blood, but never knew how
it came about. That was when his colleagues then rallied round their warlord and let out
their battle cry that the DPO had been shot. This was the story sold to their superior
officers as a pretext to wipe out all those at the cathedral. Nevertheless, those knew the
DPO previously reported later on that he had being suffering from a poisoned leg
gangrene (acha ere in Igbo language) which usually hampered his smooth movement and
active functions as a gallant officer. We thank God eventually that the truth did not
remain buried forever.