The main reason for the faceoff between the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha and his erstwhile ‘spiritual father’ and the Archbishop of the Owerri Diocese, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna has been uncovered.
It will be recalled that the Archbishop played a prominent in the emergence of Okorocha as the state governor in 2011 after he led a damaging campaign against the then Imo State governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, who was accused of beating a Reverend Father, an allegation he was later absolved of.
The cleric and the Imo governor had enjoyed a father-son relationship after he was sworn-in as governor in 2011 but things fell apart shortly after then.
In 2015, the Archbishop had threatened to stop the re-election of the governor, who he said had failed to deliver on his electoral promises. He even went ahead to mobilize the Catholic against the governor.
Since then the cleric had not made pretences about his hatred for the Okorocha-led administration and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The face-off got to a climax recently during a requiem mass at St. Michaels Catholic Church Ngwoma-Obube in Owerri North Council Area of the state when the Archbishop openly castigated Okorocha’s administration and told the people to vote out the APC and whoever the governor is supporting for any position in 2019.
This almost resulted in a bloody clash between APC and PDP supporters that accompanied their different principals to the event, which also had the governor’s wife, Nkechi Okorocha, the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Uche Nwosu and the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Acho Ihim in attendance.
Since then the media has been awash with news of assault on the Archbishop and being a predominantly Catholic state, the news spread like wild fire, even though the Cleric had denied that he was not physically assaulted as reported.
Many people had erroneously attributed the feud between the governor and the cleric to the Archbishop’s insistence that the governor should pay the arrear of pension owed the pensioners.
But the Nation findings revealed that the governor incurred the wrath of the Archbishop, when he refused to fund Catholic mission schools in the state, a situation that did not go down well with the cleric.
After the return of the mission schools to the Churches in the state, the Governor Okorocha had given the Catholic Church N400 million takeoff grant but refused to part with further money, arguing that the state cannot afford to be funding all the schools belonging to the Churches, coupled with the fact the state is running a free education programme.
But the Cleric dismissed the governor’s reason as a mere excuse, accusing him of being ungrateful to the Catholic family after the key role they played in his emergence as governor in 2011.
The Archbishop according to investigations was alleged to be further infuriated when the governor turned down his request to post a Reverend Father as the Chaplain of the Government Chapel, which the governor said is interdenominational and could not be headed by a Catholic Priest.
However when contacted, the Director of Communication of the Owerri Archdiocese, Rev. Father George Nwachukwu, said that Archbishop has nothing personal against the governor but is fighting on behalf of the people of the state.
According to him, “the governor started very well in 2011 and he had a good relationship with the Archbishop until he deviated and the people started crying, the Archbishop being a representative of Christ on earth, stood up in defense of the people and there is nothing personal about that”.
He continued that, “and on the issue of funding of Catholic schools, we have no problem about that the schools are doing well”.
Also commenting on the alleged assault of the Archbishop by APC supporters, Nwachukwu, restated that the Archbishop was not physically assaulted, “I have told all the journalists that called me that the Archbishop was not physically assaulted but was only verbally assaulted and in this our part, we take verbal assault on such a person seriously”.