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TIMELINE: From friends to foes – here’s how Buhari and Mbaka fell out

TIMELINE: From friends to foes – here’s how Buhari and Mbaka fell out
May 01
11:04 2021

On January 1, 2015, Ejike Mbaka, prominent cleric and spiritual director of the Adora­tion Ministry Enugu Nigeria (AMEN), delivered a message that shook the entire country and crushed what was left of the goodwill the Goodluck Jonathan administration enjoyed among Nigerians. In his sermon titled, ‘From good luck to bad luck’, Mbaka said Jonathan has not achieved much six years after being in power, and that it is time for change.

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“What is the fate of this country? Shall we continue like this? We need change,” the cleric had said.

The sermon — delivered weeks after he said the government at the time has done well — was the beginning of what turned out to be a chummy relationship between the priest and Muhammadu Buhari, Jonathan’s opponent in the forthcoming election then.

On December 18, 2015, months after the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate defeated Jonathan, he hosted Mbaka at the presidential villa and thanked him for speaking up in the buildup of the election.

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“It brought you out to the whole country as a man of courage. It was honest and well delivered. It has gone into the records as one of the best concerns expressed from the pulpit, not because it favoured me and my party, the All Progressives Congress, but because it was good for the country,” Buhari had said.

Now, that same presidential villa is in the news as the venue of a purported meeting where things started to fall apart between the two.

Garba Shehu, a presidential spokesman, alleged that the cleric was aggrieved and seeking Buhari’s resignation because he was at the villa to request for contracts and was rebuffed.

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As expected, tongues began to wag while keypads clicked nonstop. Mbaka is yet to speak on the allegation but the controversy rages on.

Let’s rewind to how the duo turned from friends to foes:

JULY 29, 2015: Buhari praised Mbaka, describing him as a man of truth

Before they first met in December 2015, Buhari showered encomium on Mbaka on the occasion of his 20th priesthood anniversary, describing him as a man who speaks truth to power even if it meant risking his life.

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DECEMBER 18, 2015: Mbaka ‘happy’ with what Buhari came on board to achieve 

When he met with the president at Aso Rock, the priest said he was happy with the mission of the Buhari administration.

FEBRUARY 2, 2016: Mbaka ‘after good governance not favour’

Mbaka’s visit to Buhari became a subject of controversy, forcing him to clear the air. He said that during his meeting the president, he only asked for good governance, and that he does not seek favour from politicians who come to him for prayers.

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JULY 25, 2016: Mbaka defended Buhari and blamed Jonathan for economic woes

One year after Buhari took power, Mbaka still had not forgotten about Jonathan, whom he blamed for the nation’s economic woes. The priest attributed Nigeria’s challenges at the time to how the former president “mismanaged” the nation’s resources while stressing that the country was “passing through a process of change”.

AUGUST 3, 2016: Mbaka finally admitted Buhari’s ‘failure’ in managing economy

For the first time, the cleric did not mince words on how the Buhari administration was not adequately managing the economy. He said Nigerians are hungry and may vote him out of office in 2019.

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DECEMBER 31, 2016: Mbaka said people around Buhari had blocked his access to the president.

Communication, they say, is the manure for all friendship — and that of Mbaka and Buhari was not an exception. Little wonder he lamented during the crossover service in 2017 that access to the president was becoming difficult.

“We cannot reach him for advice because of the kind of people around him,” he said.

Mbaka visited Buhari at the villa twice

FEBRUARY 5, 2017: Again, Mbaka defended Buhari, attacking his handlers 

For the second time in a year, the cleric defended the president amid the myriads of problems Nigeria was battling with. He blamed Buhari’s handlers, instead, saying they have an agenda different from that of the president.

JANUARY 1, 2018: Mbaka moved against Buhari; told him to change or be disgraced

Almost a year after, the priest admitted that Buhari’s may be complicit in Nigeria’s problems after all. He warned the number one citizen that the wind of change will blow him out of office if he did not change for good.

DECEMBER 2, 2018: Mbaka attacks Buhari’s opponents in the 2019 election

During his church’s bazaar celebration in 2018, the cleric said Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi, his running mate, might “end in shame” with the way they were going.

What went wrong? Obi had refused to openly donate money during the programme, after which Mbaka said in response: “In your capacity and what God has done for you as governor … God hates stinginess. What I am saying is not to please you, but what will save your life. Otherwise you and Atiku will fail.”

Mbaka also accused Buhari of abandoning his ministry 

At the same programme, the cleric told Abdullahi Ganduje, governor of Kano state who represented Buhari, that the president will go nowhere if he remains “ungrateful to this ministry.

“Anything can happen and his health can collapse. Atiku is waiting for him somewhere and the only thing that can stop Atiku is spiritual. You people should go and come back, you people should not take us for granted, I am speaking with spiritual mandate,” he said.

JANUARY 1, 2019: Buhari gets Mbaka’s nod for second term

After accusing Buhari of being ungrateful, things took a dramatic turn with Mbaka endorsing the president for another four years in office just a month later.

He said: “A president that is fighting corruption need to be supported. We pray for President Muhammadu Buhari; he is a man who understands the situation. Four years doesn’t mean eight years; he has finished his four years, I pray for peaceful transition that he may complete his remaining four years.”

JANUARY 28, 2019: Buhari hosted Mbaka at Aso Rock weeks to election

Three weeks after Mbaka endorsed him to seek re-election, Buhari hosted the cleric at the villa where they both met for about 35 minutes.

NOVEMBER 1, 2020: ‘Buhari should apologise to Nigerians over bad governance’

The first sign that their friendship might have collapsed came days after the #EndSARS protests when the priest asked Buhari to apologise to Nigerians for “bad governance”.

He said the recent #EndSARS protest was not just against police brutality but also indicted the current administration of bad governance.

DECEMBER 31, 2020: Mbaka warned Buhari that the youths will rise against his government

He took another hit at the president two months later when he warned that the youths will rise against his government if it does not cater to their needs.

He also warned against the politicisation of the demands made by the youths.

Mbaka, the controversial cleric

APRIL 28, 2021: ‘Resign or be impeached’

The final straw from Mbaka came on Wednesday when he asked the president to resign over Nigeria’s worsening security situation.

The priest claimed God is angry with the president over his failure to end the widespread killings across the nation, and asked the national assembly to impeach him if he fails to resign.

His comments broke what was left of the “camel’s back”.

APRIL 29, 2021: Femi Adesina praised Kumuyi and blasted clerics ‘who preach civil disobedience’

In what appeared to be a dig at Mbaka, Femi Adesina, presidential spokesperson, praised William Kumuyi, general overseer of the Deeper Life Ministry, for his message on hope for the country.

Adesina then tackled clerics that supported the #EndSARS protesters and “encourage hatred, dissenting and civil disobedience” in their sermons.

APRIL 30, 2021: Presidency alleged Mbaka was angry because his request for contracts was rejected 

Forty-eight hours after Mbaka’s call for Buhari’s resignation, the presidency made a comeback with a statement in which it claimed the priest was “everything apart from what he claims to be.”

It alleged that Mbaka once came to the presidential villa to ask Buhari for contracts in appreciation of his support but was rebuffed, hence his call for the president’s removal.

A friendship that started on the back of Jonathan eventually collapsed on the floor of the villa. Nigerians await Mbaka’s response — or will he simply ignore?

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