DR. SUNDAY COFFIE MBANG – THE EAGLE SOARS HOME IN ELEGANCE
In glowing terms, words kept pouring to describe the man whose feat has dazzled the entire world, as his popularity in death soars higher than when he lived. The length and breadth of Nigeria, the western world and at home where this colossus traversed during his eventual 86 years of life and times on earth.
Dr. Sunday Mbang (CON) was indeed an enigmatic icon whose death has left a big vacuum that will take some while to be filled.
Pa Mbang was a voice for the voiceless, a bastion of hope for the oppressed, especially those Nigerians who survived the oppressive tendencies of the military regime of late General Sani Abacha, whose reign of terror sent many dissenting voices to their early grave.
It was at such a time in the annals of our nation that Dr. Sunday Mbang, then President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) become a rallying point of the masses, as he engaged the military junta through the media on regularly basis. He was re-echoing the aspirations of Nigerians who then earnestly gaped for a new dawn through participatory democracy.
Today, that shrill, fearless and bold baritone voice seems silence, but it is not. The voice is still speaking through the horn speakers of the indelible footprints he left behind. His works will speak for him in decades to come.
As part of preparations for a befitting home going ceremony of this great Christian father, several eulogiums have been mounted in memory of the legendary gospel icon anywhere the Methodist movement has had her foothold.
In Nigeria, from Abuja, Lagos to Akwa Ibom State, the cities have been agog with the celebrations of the life of Pa Sunday Mbang.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Akwa Ibom Chapter and the Fathers of Faith Forum held a Service of Songs in honour of the late patriarch on Tuesday 8th August, 2023, as part of a week-long immemorial obsequies.
The Service of Songs featured solemn hymns, special choir renditions and eulogies in memory of the late patriarch, who, among his numerous achievements, was the founding Chairman of Fathers of Faith Forum, a strong body of Church elders, where you’re admitted in only if you’re up to 70 years.
The body was formed for advocacy for unity and spiritual of the Church and for good governance. Dr. Sunday Mbang (CON) utilized this platform, after his formal retirement from Methodist Church, to mentor younger gospel preachers and also campaign against cultism in church, government and the society.
His dream was to see the emergence of a truly practicing Christian as Governor of Akwa Ibom State. He was so passionate about a Christian Governor to the extent that when Pastor Umo Eno and Senator Dr Akon Eyakenyi were elected as Governor and Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Dr. Sunday Mbang told a gathering of pastors in his chapel that he was a fulfilled man who was prepared to depart this world.
Little wonder why church leaders poured encomiums on his life during the Service of Songs and Tributes. The President and Archbishop of Lutheran Church Nigeria, Most Rev Dr. Christian Ekong, in his homily described Pa Mbang as a Saint. He said Mbang was an upright leader whose commitment to truth, the kingdom and social justice for the downtrodden was unparalleled.
Most Rev Dr. Christian Ekong’s consolation, like many others, was that the departed Gospel legend has raised hundreds of sons and daughters who will ensure that the torch of righteousness, honesty and social justice he held, will continue to shine for generations unborn through those thousands that Pa Mbang raised.
He charged the audience to emulate the exemplary Christlike life of Pa Mbang. The archbishop who was the Planning Committee Chairman of the occasion, urged younger generation of ministers to uphold the tenets of sound Christian ethics, transparency and moral values taught and exemplified by the departed father.
The occasion drew some eminent personalities from the national scene, such as National President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev’d Dr. Daniel Okoh, former CAN President and immediate Archbishop of Catholic Church, Abuja Metropolitan Diocese, FCT, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Deputy National President, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Archbishop John Praise Daniel and PFN National Publicity Secretary, Bishop Emmah Issong.
Others were CAN Akwa Ibom State Chairman, Bishop Chris Nyong, Primate Emmanuel Udofia, Noble Lady Grace Isaiah Issong, Archbishop Idem Ikon, Archbishop Udeme Simon, Rt. Rev’d Prince Asukwo Antai, Archbishop Sunday Uko, Archbishop Augustine Akpan Ikat, Archbishop Israel Benson, Bishop Joe Idem. The list of clergymen and women is endless, as the large auditorium of Insight Bible Church was filled. Several choirs, including the Government Voices, made solemn renditions of hymns and classical tunes which were loved by Pa Mbang.
Besides CAN and Fathers of Faith’s Service of Songs, Mbang’s children also held many public events to celebrate their father. In one of the events held at Prelate Sunday Mbang’s Chapel, Shelter Afrique, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, which was attended by scores of clergymen and some government officials, including the Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Dr. Akon Eyakenyi, the Senior Pastor of Victory Life Bible Church, Abeokuta, Apostle Lawrence Achudume, who gave the homily, described Pa Mbang as a rebel in cassock but with a cause.
He reflected on the long relationship that he had with Pa Mbang since the 90s when Pa Mbang was the CAN President of Nigeria. Apostle Lawrence Achudume recounted how Pa Mbang’s outspokenness on national issues, especially his strong advocacy against the suppressive military regime, motivated him then as the President of Christian Union and NFES.
[Elucidating on the sterling qualities of Pa Mbang, he said the departed father was a selfless leader who was determined to see a new Nigeria without greed and injustice. Apostle Achudume made a passionate plea to Nigerians, especially politicians, to embrace nation-building ethos like honesty, the pursuit of justice and fairness to humanity in which the life of Mbang illustrates.
He charged that for Nigeria to attain the dream of its founding fathers, the country’s leaders must re-dedicate themselves to uprightness, a virtue upheld by Pa Mbang till his exit, and urged political leaders to shun all forms of corrupt practices and take seriously their oath of office.
Achudume revealed that late Mbang was a strong advocate for the development of Nigeria, noting that he used his radical approach to Christianity to drive home the need for the liberation of the citizens from hardship.
His words: “Mbang used his radical approach to Christianity to advocate freedom for the oppressed and social development for the citizens.”Achudume, however, observed that the desired change Mbang advocated for has not yet been witnessed in Nigeria, and stated that the nation needs more of the likes of Mbang to champion the cause of the masses.
The cleric added that himself and Pa Mbang maintained a father-son relationship, recalling how he used to tap from Dr. Mbang’s wealth of experience and wisdom each time he visited him from Abeokuta.
Achudume described the late Dr. Mbang as a rebel in the cassock who was very contented, humble and lived a very simple life till he breathed his last.
He said “Mbang was a rebel in the cassock, with a cause and didn’t seek for fame or wealth but for the freedom and liberation of humanity. His strong desire was to see a one Nigeria”.
He added that the blunt stance of the late Prelate emeritus on national issues, and his forthrightness brought him into contact with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, as they both became very Good friends.
Achudume appreciated the children of the deceased for organizing a series of programmes in honour of their father. He urged them to continue to uphold his sterling legacies.