By Francis Ekpone, Okechukwu Onuegbu & Gabriel Alonta
Governor of Anambra state, Chief Willie Obiano, last Friday, snubbed over 300 Anglican priests from the Niger Diocese who besieged Anambra state Government House to protest the alleged forceful takeover of Bishop Crowther Memorial School in Onitsha, Anambra state.
Diocese of the Niger, Anglican Communion has been contesting the ownership of the school with the state government which led to the ban of church services in public schools in Anambra state by Obiano led administration.
The priests who barricaded the entrance of the Government House insisted that no other official of the state government would address them except the governor himself.
The protesting priests carried placards of various inscriptions such as: Gov. Obiano, stop disrupting our church services and activities, Bishop Crowther Memorial Primary School is not government property among others.
Addressing journalists, the leader of the priests and Archdeacon of Onitsha South Archdeaconry, Ven. Josiah Chukwukadibia Ofoegbu, said they were there to register their grievances over marginalisation and politics of denomination being played by the Anambra state government under Obiano.
They also claimed that so many Anglicans in the state were denied All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) ticket for various positions in the just-concluded party primaries, describing such as a threat to peaceful coexistence.
“We are embittered in what is happening in our dear state. This present administration is turning Anambra state to a denominational state. It is unfortunate that this is happening 28 years after Bishop Ajayi Crowther who built the school left Nigeria.
“The school was handed over to the Anglican Church. Both Anglicans and Catholics knew about that. When government seized school, it was seized from us and during hand over of schools, it was again handed over to us.
“But it was quite unfortunate that governor Obiano sent thugs few weeks ago to send us out of the place. They disgraced us in our own property. They dispersed the worshippers and even threatened to kill us. This injustice must end.
“We want to let him know that we will worship there on Sunday; he should prepare for war. We are ready to die on that land. Obiano should stop that discrimination.
“Some Anglicans were denied ticket in this state because they are not Catholics when people like Jim Nwobodo and Nnamdi Azikiwe were leaders, they never discriminated against anybody.
“We are here to also tell the governor that we will worship at the place on Sunday and if he fails to open the place, we will open it by force. Nigeria and the world will hear what will happen on Sunday” he said.
A mild drama played out during the protest when an Archdeacon of the Anglican Communion and Governor Willie Obiano’s aide, Ven. Barr. Amaechi Okwosa sent by the governor to address the protesters was rejected by the aggrieved priests.
Okwosa, who is also the managing director and chief executive officer of Awka Capital Territory Development Authority, while addressing journalists, said the governor had set up a committee to look into the matter with a view to finding a lasting solution, even as he regretted that governor was not informed about their visit.
“To the best of my knowledge, there wasn’t official information regarding the visit. They are laying down their grievances and, from what they are saying, they have a misgiving regarding a school at Onitsha which they want the governor to intervene and do the needful.
“The matter is a lingering situation. The government headed by our governor, had inaugurated a committee to look into that matter so that it will be resolved once and for all, and that will be a precedence to other issues that are similar to this.
“Also we got from some of the clergy that this matter is in court already and speaking as a lawyer, they should let the law to run its course, instead of getting in the way of law.
“I told them that if what they are saying is true, I will advise them to wait and let the court resolve the matter. Also, if the bishops in the Anglican Communion are coming to see the governor, they should wait for the outcome of the meeting.
“We have spoken to their leaders and let them know that if they had spoken to us about their coming, the governor would have adjusted his time. The governor is not on seat because he did not have any formal notice.
“I want to say very clearly that the government of Anambra state is very sensitive to matters like this and the government is not out to take people’s property belonging to church or individual. I am pleading with them to eschew violence and follow it to a peaceful conclusion.
Also, I am aware that the nine bishops of the Anglican Communion, have met regarding this issue to which they have agreed to come see the governor and he is looking forward to seeing them to resolve the matter very soon. I feel bad that they are outside the sun because I am one of them,” he lamented.