The Catholic Laity of Udi North comprising Eke, Affa and Okpatu Regions of the Catholic Church in the old Enugu Diocese have restated their rejection of inclusion in the proposed Udi Diocese, arguing that it was a ploy by the present leadership of the Church to force them out of Enugu Diocese.
Stating this last weekend in Udi Town, the Laity said that they had in the past pointed out that they would not be a part of any Diocese other than Enugu pending the time Eke Diocese would be created.
Traditional ruler of Eke, Igwe Chinwendu Onuoha said the attempt to create Udi Diocese with the intention of making Udi North a part of it was clear injustice, ungodly and discrimination.
He said that after Onitsha and Aguleri, Eke, starting as an outstation in 1910 was the next Catholic settlement in the entire Northern Igbo land.
Eke, he said, came as a desire of the then paramount ruler of Agbaja, Onyeama N’Eke who invited Bishop Shanahan, then stationed in Onitisha and Aguleri to establish a station in Eke.
In response, Shanahan had sent Revs Heeley, Aloysius Muller, Joackim Corbin, Marcel Gardin, among others, in quick succession.
To strengthen the Catholic presence, Onyeama had decreed among his subjects in the Northern Udi to embrace the Catholic Church despite the Anglican which was preaching the gospel in Igbo language having gained grounds then in southern Udi and Ngwo.
Igwe Onuoha said that immediately Eke took full effect, it began to erect out stations to further the cause of the Catholic Church In the present day Enugu State and adjoining regions. In effect, the out stations of Abakaliki, Ogoja, Nsukka, Awgu, Oturkpo, Makurdi, Idah were set from Eke as the parent Parish. This was also to the effect that the entire Udi North communities were all-Catholic even up till the early 2002.
Also speaking on the development, Mr. Eze Nnadi, a laity member from Abor said that Udi South communities where the Enugu Catholic Dioces wants to situate the proposed Udi Diocese was more Angilcan or Protestant than they were Catholic.
He said that Eke, was initially recognized for its Pioneer roles and was elevated by Bishop Eneja to a Deanary but this was taken away from them by the regime of Bishop Anthony Gbuji, who according to him, created more Deanaries after he dismantled existing ones.
He said that the Catholic Church must not contemplate bowing to the antics of some elements who want to create the scenario of Ahiara-Mbaise in Enugu, since they, the people of Udi North would never join the proposed Udi Diocese.
He said that what the Catholic establishment in Enugu should be doing now is to restore the status of Eke Deanary and leave it in Enugu Diocese.
Engr. Harry Okolo, a native of Eke who also spoke on this said that they the people of the former Eke Deanary were not opposed to the Bishop pushing for the creation of Udi Diocese, but that he must leave the Udi North out of the arrangement.
According to him, the entire scheme had been designed to rob Eke of its preeminent position as the first ever Catholic Station from which out stations of Enugu, Abakaliki, Awgu, Nsukka, Ogoja, Oturkpo, Makurdi and Idah, came to be.
He regretted that long after all these former out stations had become parishes, graduated to Deanaries and now blooming Dioceses, Eke, the cradle has stagnated as a Parish.
He said that he believed that the World leadership of the Catholic Church would not want a repeat of what happened recently in Imo State, in another close region since such would bring a lot of credibility problems for the Church of Christ.
To buttress their points of refusal of Udi North, the Laity had carried out a demonstration on the premises of Catholic Secretariat at Ogbete, Enugu, in which they displayed placards variously written: “leave us in Enugu Diocese”, “We will never be part of Udi Diocese”, “Udi North rejects Udi Diocese”, “Have your Diocese…but leave Udi North Out”.
One of the demonstrators, Ikenna Ozoude said he understood the plot of the present Bishop, Dr. Calistus Onaga. “Onaga”, he claimed, wanted to create Udi Diocese to make up the required Diocese to change the status of Enugu to Arch-Diocese with him as Arch Bishop. But we are not even against it. We will welcome it, but he cannot force us to leave Enugu and join Udi Diocese.”
Ozoude believes that Enugu becoming an Arch Diocese would be a welcome development but not at the expense of Udi North.
When asked to state in simple words what the Udi actually wanted, Igwe Onuoha said: “we are asking for very little which are achievable without hassles. One, Eke Deanary should be restored and Udi North must be left in Enugu Diocese and should not be included in the proposed Udi Diocese.
Asked the implications of the appointment of an Auxiliary Bishop, ostensibly for the proposed Udi Diocese, he said it was not their business. “If we are not part of a Diocese, how can we be a part of Auxiliary Diocese.”
Nnadi on his part blamed the entire development on what he called “the typical Umuneke people’s desires to always rule others and take what does not belong to them. They say they are U.B.O, which translates to ‘Umuneke Before Others’. That is their business but we are no longer at the stage anybody can make a slave of us. Not in issue of region which is even open to no end all over the world.”
The Catholic Secretariat has not responded to questions sent to its Communication Desk two weeks ago.