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Bishop Onyia: When Commendation turned Condemnation for Humility

By Prof. Damian Wayne

The going attempts by some political elements who are obviously surreptitiously garbed in religious sanctimony to disparage the cheering act of humility recently displayed by the revered Bishop of St. Cyprian Anglican Church, Abakpa Nike, Rt. Rev. Onyeka Onyia, has exposed how unconscionable and desperate people can go to score cheap political points.

The propaganda, in a clandestine maneuvering by the suspected political scavengers, railroaded the Anglican Church, roped its members into psychological deceit of believing that an abominable act, antithetical to their dogma, had been committed by an innocent Bishop who was merely re-echoing, in practice, the very essence of the teaching of Christ, and, indeed, Apostle Paul’s insistence on the virtue by everyone that belongs to the Body of Christ, regardless of how highly placed in the society.

To bell the cat, the usual trait and trail of these pharisaical hypocrites was to stir an odium and hatred in the minds of the unsuspecting members of the public, and through these psychological instruments of media warfare, reduce them to a gullible crowd of bandwagon who would not interrogate the authenticity of whatever the media churns out.

Our today’s cybernetic space driven by technology and innovation in the media has also come with uncensored distortion of facts, pollution of social media ethics and narratives that are coloured or skewed to fit into the mission of political scoundrels. And the critical minds, notwithstanding that they’re very few, still pause and interrogate the rationale or logical thought behind every action. Rather than condemn or commend, it primarily behooves on us to ask; why?

In terse biblical allusions, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, on whom our faith, path, principles and inspirations are drawn, laid down the test for both the priest and the lay faithful. Christ was particular about humility when he warned in Luke 14:10 that, “But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher”. And in Matthew 18:3-4, Christ was absolutely emphatic about humility when he threw the bazooka to the bewilderment of his listeners; “And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Indeed, these illustrations by Christ recently played out at the thanksgiving/retirement service of my friend and colleague, the former Vice Chancellor of the prestigious University of Nigeria and former Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, at the Cyprian Anglican Church, Abakpa, between two highly placed individuals not just in Nigeria, but in the world.

While one is a global player in entrepreneurship, oil and gas industry, education, and other reputable businesses who has created thousands of jobs for Nigerians, with unblemished credentials and impeccable character as a Christian, lover of the people and philanthropist par excellence, the other is one of the finest priests of the Anglican Communion, theologically lettered, and sound in most of the fields. His intellectual horizons and sphere of influence are a landmark for the church.

It’s an undisputable fact that Dr. Peter Mbah’s name has become a household name among Nigerians for obvious reasons. Far from his political aspiration as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, in Enugu State, Dr. Mbah’s eminence was not obtained by virtue of honorific title bestowed on him, but by dint of eminence resulting from hard-work, diligence, assiduity and compassion for the people. His track records resonate with the people; both those skilled and the unskilled because they’re all beneficiaries of his conglomerates as staff. For the downtrodden, the chemistry or law of attraction is there, and this is quite appreciable through his Peter Mbah Foundation that has spread the tentacles of love, affection, and compassion to them. From offsetting medical bills to building world-class hospitals, construction of roads, rehabilitation centres, building of free schools, feeding of the poor, and offering of scholarships and employments. The testimonies are limitless.

So, when on January 29, Dr. Mbah honoured the invitation extended to him, despite his bustling schedules literally struggling for space, and decided to take a back seat at the church, it’s customary that worshipers would be consumed by the extra-ordinary display of humility by the business mogul. Dr. Mbah, appeared unperturbed sitting in midst of the people at the back seat, stunned many who had supposedly thought that he would walk up straight to the high seat as seen of some opposition members, who, despite coming late, strutted in swaggering pride to the elevated seat.

Those who are close to Mbah would readily describe him as a simple, easygoing and unassuming God-fearing man who will refuse entreaties of centre attraction especially in a church of that nature. Stunned by congregants, many of them had their phones speaking of Mbah’s humility as they wanted to take pictures, do videos, perhaps, to pass a message across that, “Come and see the true meaning of humility in a man all opinion polls and facts on ground had predicted to sweep the next gubernatorial election to clinch victory.”

Learning of Mbah’s presence at the church and his refusal to join other politicians to struggle for the front seat, the officiating bishops were awed by the simplicity. Bishop Onyia, as an old friend of his, had the conviction that he would redirect him of his rightful seat. He walked up to him. They embraced as transcendental friends of decades. Such friendship had sent a strong message to some of us who were key observers of the discussion, regardless of their lofty heights in life, the bond, the humanity, the gesture, the Christ-love are all still playing out. This is an unexampled indelible mark that only the grace of God can inspire and we must learn from them.

But Mbah would want to stick to his principle of humility, and the Bishop would also want to display the humility epitomized by Christ by also telling him that, “We’ll kneel for each other here. We’re going to wash each other’s feet. See, you’ve displayed humility, and I’ll also display mine as the messenger and follower of Christ”. Both went on their knees, even with that bubble of smiles, and with the congregants cheering in admiration of the uncommon precedent laid down by the duo that, “Whoever humbles himself even like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of God”.

Unbeknownst that, even as the worshippers were happily taking videos to remind them that humility pays, some hubristic elements planted by the Pharisees who grandstanded arrogantly to the front seat to parade their candidacies, were on a evil mission of extracting videos to execute a demonic end.

The video clip released by the opposition to blackmail the church into tongue-lashing the Bishop is uncalled for and has been serving its purpose; to divide the church. Instead of this condemnation renting the social media covertly flamed up to sway emotion, the church must take a firm stand devoid of pressure, duress, undue influence, blackmail, manipulation, and stand with their own Bishop for his humility. The Carthaginian martyr, St. Cyprian, whose the cathedral was named after, was described as a bunch of humility. He was persecuted for his humility and his stand on the tenets of Christ. Dear Bishop Onyia, you’re merely following the path of our saint, and take courage when members of the opposition are out to extract their pound of flesh for whatever political reason. Rejoice for the kingdom of God is yours!

For me and many others that are reasonably inclined to the theology and teachings of Christ, Bishop Onyia deserves commendation. He deserves to be told, “well done for your uncommon humility”. Dr. Mbah and Bishop Onyia still represent the mind of Christ and the uncommon humility that is the symbol of Christianity.

In reinforcing the test of self-abasement which will lead to ultimate glorification by God, Christ said in the Gospel of St. John chapter 13:14-17 thus; “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them”. After all, priests are called to serve and not to be served. The stooping down by both Dr. Mbah and the Bishop could be compared to the washing of the feet without discrimination. To argue that the bishop was regaled in cassock and ought not to have washed the feet of another person is accurately described as a perverted thinking of the hypocrites. Except the church or some members of the public are trying to rewrite the Holy Bible or impose their dogma over Christ’s to suit earthly desire, then Bishop Onyia should be showered with floral of encomiums.

This biblical verse should always be a strong reminder of pride against humility as warned by Christ in Luke 11:43, “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you love to sit in the seats of honor in the synagogues and receive respectful greetings as you walk in the marketplaces.” Why do Nigerians prefer to cheer the Pharisees and holier-than-thou elements who are crookedly arrogant and vilify the humble?

Prof. Damian Wayne is an adjunct professor who teaches Law, Philosophy and Theology in the North America and the Europe

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