By Ushahemba Nongu
Civil and ecclesiastical authorities are distinct with clearly defined roles and job specifications in their own rights. The roles may be complementary to each other but they are not the same and cannot usurp each other. The Church is under the authority of civil authority.
Having said the above, let me pointedly state here that the inglorious entry of Fr Hyacinth Alia into partisan politics has set the Church up for opprobrium from his followers who make scathing and uncouth comments about the Church doctrines and its hierarchy and everyone who do not believe in their mass hysteria.
Let me point out that Alia knew from the outset the consequences of his actions but deliberately chose to whip up cheap and gullible sentiments in the name of the Church, that is why even when he was suspended for “Contumacy” he twisted the facts and publicly told his followers that he was “only permitted” a letter of suspension was interpreted as “letter of permission” to participate in partisan politics. His action has subjected the Church to ridicule and dishonour most particularly that his followers have allowed only emotions to prevail over reason.
In a video clip of a homily that went viral on the social media, Most Reverend William Avenya, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Gboko, Alia’s Local Ordinary gave public catechesis, a section of his words in Tiv language and transliterated below:
Tiv version: “…U pati mban ngee, se fatyo u nam or ian ye nam za ga, sha ciu nan zaan yô, ior mba ke pati u gen la, ver kela yila imbya or la ye Fada shin Bishop ga…”
English version: “…these parties are many, we cannot allow anyone to go into it, because when anyone goes into it, members of the other parties won’t call such a person Reverend Father or Bishop…”
It can be inferred from the above Alia forayed into partisan politics against the wisdom of the Church and its age long traditions. And with the multi-party democracy in practice in our clime, Alia’s words and actions now are slanted towards his personal interest and of course that of his political party, the APC on whose platform he is aspiring to govern Benue State come 2023.
Bishop Avenya was indeed right when pointed out in his homily that once a priest ventures into active partisan politics, those on the other political divides will no longer regard such a person as a “Reverend Father or Bishop”. This is the case of Alia too who no longer speaks on issues as a priest but as a full time politician that he is now.
As it stands, the true identity of Alia now is that of a partisan politician. Nobody ever responded to his views on the pulpit as he confined himself within the purview of his original calling. Now as a politician seeking public office, he speaks as one to the fancy and adulation of the gullible persons.
As I have said previously, being in the public glare of the partisan political climate is far different from operating in the hallowed precincts of the Church, therefore, when political actors engage, issues are interrogated and situated within the proper context.
The rest of us must be properly guided that Alia is representing and serving his self interest and that of his political party, the APC and not the Church, therefore, when issues arise, people must stop bringing the argument and cheap blackmail of “he is a priest and priesthood is under attack.” No, this is too lame! Priests who are living their priestly calling are known and esteemed for who they are and what they do towards transforming the society.
The Church is clearly insulated from active partisan politics and so too her clergy whose moral and spiritual duty is to tend the flock and guide it aright in political participation.
To every discerning mind who cares to know, Alia by his suspension is no longer protected by Canon Laws of the Church as he has voluntarily relinquished that privilege. The Church will never contradict herself to speak in Alia’s defence as a partisan politician, as doing so will portray the Church as protecting the interest of only a section of her faithful. We must be properly guided.
*Nongu writes as a Political Commentator, Citizen and Church Faithful