The crisis in Nguru, a community in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State may be far from being over, following the last minute decision of the Parish Priest of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Agbani Nguru, Rev. Fr. Anthony Ezeh to cancel a bursary awards, which was supposed to take place during church service.
The exercise was sponsored by a group known as the Nguru Development Foundation.
Nguru Development Foundation, this paper gathered, had for the past 11 years, been organizing and giving bursary awards of various sums to indigenes of Nguru community who gained admission into institutions of higher learning and had usually used the platform of the Catholic Church in the community for the disbursement.
Trouble, however, started, according to our sources, in 2018, following the refusal of the Parish Priest of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, also in Nguru, Rev. Fr. John Igwebueze to allow the ceremony take place in his church, allegedly as a result of a lingering disagreement between some members of the Foundation and a renowned cleric from the community, Rev Fr Paul Obayi.
The rift borders on alleged attempts by Fr Obayi to acquire a large parcel of community land to build a private university.
It was learnt that these Nguru indigenes, otherwise known by the tag, Nguru Concerned Citizens had gone to court to challenge the propriety of the alleged land transaction, joining the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Bishop Godfrey Onah, in the suit.
This, it was learnt, was what made Fr. Igwebueze to prevent the sponsors of the annual bursary from using the church for the 2018 event, a development that made them to schedule this year’s ceremony at St Mary’s Agbani, Catholic Church in the same Community.
Findings reveal that preparation was in high gear for the ceremony, as the parishioners eagerly awaited the event, until the morning of Sunday August 18 when the Parish Priest communicated to the Secretary of the Foundation, Mr Okechukwu Onah, that he was under intense pressure to not allow the parish be used for such an event, a development that made the organizers to make frantic calls to the beneficiaries, numbering 33, advising them on a new venue.
It was further learnt that Nguru has been sharply divided since Rev Fr Paul Obayi met resistance by some members of the community over his intention to acquire community land for a private university project.
This division that has lingered for four years and became even sharper during the events that led to the election of an Igwe for the newly-created Nguru Autonomous Community in 2018.
Although most of the people who were opposed to Fr Obayi and his university project supported another candidate in the Igwe elections, Chief Christian Attajah, Chief Linus Obayi eventually won the election and has since received his staff of office from the State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Members of the Nguru Development Foundation refused to officially speak on the matter, but our findings revealed that accusing fingers have been pointing at the new Igwe, Chief Linus Obayi, suggesting that he prevailed on the Parish Priest to lock the Foundation out of the church, less than 12 hours to the time it was scheduled to disburse its annual bursary to new undergraduates.
A member of the Foundation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, claimed that Igwe Obayi allegedly called Fr. Ezeh, warning the priest to desist from Nguru politics.
Continuing, our source revealed that the Foundation had decided to avoid using the Church for any of its activities henceforth.
“We will not have anything to do with the Catholic Church or any other church as far as this our annual event is concerned,” he said.
“In our community, we have more than 10 village squares of various sizes and we think that conducting these events in these places where our forefathers held their meetings will be better and easier for us going forward.
“We are a predominantly Catholic community and that is why we have been partnering the church for these events every year, since 2008, until last year. We had also reasoned that using the platform of the Church will be an easier way to attract other members of the community to join in contributing to the education of our sons and daughters.
“But since the Church is proving to be uncomfortable with such a worthy cause as ours, we will keep away from them going forward,” he concluded.
The bursary awards ceremony, which was quickly shifted to the home of the Secretary of the Foundation, Prof. Ike Onyishi of the Dept of Psychology, University of Nigeria, Nsukka was attended by parents and guardians of awardees as well as previous recipients.
Chairman of the Foundation Mr Bonaventure Ugwu charged the new students to be good ambassadors of the community and focus on their studies.
Bonaventure, whose goodwill message was delivered by Prof Ike Onyishi informed the beneficiaries that there were no shortcuts to greatness, admonishing that being focused, diligent, honest and hardworking formed the major springboards for achievement and greatness.
Meanwhile, when contacted, Igwe Obayi said it was regrettable that some people were hell bent on smearing his name.
He told DAILY POST that he never contemplated such action, let alone carrying it out.
“How can I ask the parish priest to stop them? What right have I to influence him?
“The last time I saw that parish priest was during the visit of the Bishop to our parish, that was the last time I saw him, I don’t have his number, never called him. If they had said I influenced the home parish priest, (because we have two parishes), some people may accept that one.
“But this parish priest in question, I never visited him, never called; it was yesterday some people told me that such rumour was going on. I leave it to God, I swear that if I ever did any such thing, may my reign not go well. I leave them for God.
“The issue is that during my election, they supported my opponent but at the end of the day, I won; I called them let us work together, but they are still fighting me; I don’t support evil. My younger brother is a member of the Foundation, some members of my cabinet are members, and they are contributing, so why will I try to stop them,” he stressed.