Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has appealed to supporters not to insult a Catholic priest, Fr. Ashwe and the church for not allowing him address the congregation at the Thanksgiving service to mark the 64th birthday of a former Governor of the state, Senator George Akume.
The incident take place at St Christopher Catholic Church Wanune.
Shorty after the homily, when the priest advised Senator Akume in his sermon, as the leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to ensure that the governor pay workers’ salaries.
After the sermon, Akume, at whose instance the mass was celebrated was allowed to speak, and he in turn invited the governor to react to the issue of non- payment of salaries which the priest raised in his sermon.
Shortly after the Senator handed over the microphone to Governor Ortom, the priest informed the governor point blank that the doctrine of the Gboko Diocese of the Catholic Church does not allow politicians to speak in church after service except at reception venues.
The governor simply complied even though there was uproar as worshippers who were mostly politicians hurriedly abandoned the service.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor later issued a statement to douse the tension between the Gboko Diocese and the governor among his supporters.
The statement reads in part: “We have read various statements arising from the thanksgiving mass yesterday in honour of Senator George Akume at St. Christopher’s Catholic Church, Wannune, Tarka Local Government Area.
“We wish to state that Governor Samuel Ortom understands and respects the decision of Gboko Catholic Diocese not to allow politicians to speak during masses and therefore would not have felt slighted when the Priest in Charge of the Wannune Parish did not permit him to speak during the mass in accordance with the decision of the Diocese.
“We urge those amplifying the incident and making inflammatory statements for political reasons to sheathe their swords.”