By Felix Uche Akam
As the face-off between Fr Mbaka and the presidency shifted to an in-house misunderstanding with the consequent destruction of his bishop’s refectory as well as the desecration of the Cathedral among others by the protesting fans, I would like to single out a narrative that is less discussed- the failure of public relations.
Most of the submissions flying on the media space tried to vilify either Fr. Mbaka and uphold the supremacy of the Church or condemn the Church for stifling independent voice of her priest. Others have tried to describe as religious fanatics the protesters largely believe to be adorers at Adoration Ministry Enugu Nigeria (AMEN.
None of these narratives has addressed the issue. The failure to hit the nail at the head has its roots in either the love for or hatred against either the Church, Fr. Mbaka, or the adorers by the rest of us. While we may love the poor, we should not allow such love degenerate to hatred for the rich for both the poor and the rich are children of God.
To be fair at this stage, let us pretend we did not hear what Fr. Mbaka said after he resurfaced, because we have not heard from the diocese as to what truly transpired. However, between the Church in Enugu who has maintained a dignified silence before, during and after the protest, the missing Fr Mbaka, and the presumed Adorers who got nervous of their missing spiritual director, went in search of him and eventually ended on a sad note, there was a disconnect in information management.
If recent events have taught those in authority anything, it is that power has shifted to fault-finders, to the masses. Those in authority need self-protecting procedures which do not create a vacuum between them and those who should know at a time they should know. In a world of internet, a vague communication or total disconnect is capable of maximum harm.
Time has changed. The medieval silence in a face of a potent issue cannot be the only criterion for communication in this era. Time is always of essence. That is why public relations is about doing your best in a fixed time. There is no lifeline but deadline in PR, because all developments are subbed to deadline. A perfect communication is useless if it misses the deadline. This is where the Church goofed because there was enough time to put the protesters in the know.
The issue is not whether the priest should be a political voice or not. It is not whether the church has right over her priest or whatever. The issue is that whatever is worth communicating, ought to be communicated fast.
The attackers are not all religious fanatics as many of us presumed. For those who earn their living in Fr Mbaka’s business interests, their employer was missing. For the average Igbo and many Enugu residents who may never have visited the Adoration Ground, a true Igbo was missing in a mysterious way after exchanging verbal blow with the presidency. For the Adorer at the ministry, ‘Jesus’ was in the Praetorium and there was not a time to deny him like Peter. None of the above is guiltier than those who have pushed a narrative rooted in prejudice.
We wish it never happened, but now it has happened, may the window period opened for prayers refine our perspectives not only to reconnect to God but to discern the signs of time. A stich in time saves not only nine but many.
©Felix Uche Akam: 07.05.2021