Firsts Baba Isa (FBI), a Legal Practitioner, writes from Abuja
I just read a statement issued by Rev Fr Emma Eroh, the Director of Communications in the Catholic Diocese of Ogoja; and that statement puts the responsibility of the arrest and detention of a Catholic Priest, Rev Fr Titus Armon, squarely on Governor Ayade, who happens to be a Knight of the Catholic Church.
Before the Governor and his merchants of propaganda and hellfire-bound liars come out to deny this as I have seen them do in many instances like in the case of Agba Jalingo, Ifere Paul, Joseph Odok, etc., let me say that I’m terribly appalled that I have lived to see a day where a Knight of our Church will humiliate, torture and embarrass a priest like this.
The purpose of the Catholic Knighthood is to have men and women who will defend the Church; not in taking up arms but in how they conduct themselves, uphold the doctrines of the Church and revere the sacraments and the clergy.
I was an Altar Boy, who even became the President of the entire Altar Boys Association of Ogoja Diocese. All my life I have lived with Reverend Fathers. Heck, I wanted to be one. They are not perfect but they are highly respected because of their learned, calm, peaceful and godly disposition to life generally.
Today, we have a Catholic faithful who became a Governor, a Governor who became a Knight of the Catholic Church and that Knight sent soldiers to arrest a Catholic Priest in his church; they dragged him without even allowing him the dignity of wearing his cassock. They lifted him up and threw him inside a waiting van and drove him for over 7 hours to Calabar. They locked him up for over 24 hours without access to his lawyers or anyone. .
This one is on the church. The Governor is a tyrant, we know that already. He is called “Little Napoleon” in some quarters. We know this already. So, this one is on the church. How will the Church respond to this?
Issuing a press statement is a good place to start but that is not enough. The church should not dismiss this as a case of turning the other cheek.
The church must take action.
Firstly, the church should immediately suspend the knighthood of Governor Benedict Ayade. We don’t want to belong to a church where a Knight will abuse the fundamental rights of a priest and go scot free.
Secondly, the governor, the army and the SSS should be taken to court immediately. Nobody is above the law, not even a Catholic Priest. If Fr Titus committed an offence that warrants an arrest, I will be the first to call for his arrest. But in this case he has done nothing wrong.
He was arrested in place of his brother who is also a Catholic priest. And for what? Because his phone was used to post, allegedly by his brother, an #EndSARS video? That is not an offence. Both of them did nothing wrong. .
Knowing the Governor, I can tell you for free that this has nothing to do with #EndSARS. This is how the Governor operates: whenever he wants to arrest and intimidate his critic, he will make it look as if the Federal Government is involved. Soon, he will come out to tell us how he does not control the army or the SSS and how #EndSARS is a Federal Government issue. We all saw this script play out in Agba Jalingo’s case.
The truth is that the Governor is hunting down Fr Ghesu Armon, the brother of Fr Titus, because he wrote a critical article about him.
Let the fundamental human rights of Fr Titus Armon, and even that of Fr Ghesu Armon, be enforced. Let the Governor and all his law enforcement conspirators pay for this. Let the church make them pay.
The church should also stop participating actively or passively in the misgovernance going on in Cross River State. You have donated your pulpit several times for this same Governor Ayade to mount on and make promises to the people he never intended to fulfill and of course never fulfilled. .
The church has allowed priests to serve as the Governor’s SA’s and members of fanciful committees; these committees are high in jargons and low in performance. With these priests present in this administration, the church cannot excuse herself from the failure of the administration and the consequent opprobrium.
The Church has been quite for too long in the face of tyranny and bad governance. Why? Is it cowardice? Over 2000 years ago, the Founder of our church looked at Herod and the politicians and called them “Foxes!”
That’s the same spirit he gave us. Not a spirit of fear or timidity!
Ayade touched a prophet. He did a prophet harm… and in the process he broke the law.
Let him pay. Make him pay.
And as for those who are toying with the unworkable idea of using the instruments and apparatuses of the state to curtail the exercise of religious freedom, know that you will fail. Religion does not bow in the face of force or violence, it flourishes.
This is the Word of the Lord.