FIRST BISHOP OF BENIN DIOCESE
Sam U. Erivwo, Ph.D.
Reproduced in URHOBO WAADO by kind permission of Professor Sam U. Erivwo
After the Civil War the Diocese resolved to have a Rehabilitation Scheme to meet the needs of those who suffered because of the War.
Side by side with the work of rehabilitation of the victims of the Civil War, went the task of evangelisation especially in the riverain area of the Diocese most affected by the War. Thus the work of evangelism by the Anglican Adams Preaching Society resulted in the conversion of a whole heathen town of Okparabe where a notorious traditional medicine man call Kupa, was converted, and has since then become a vibrant evangelist in the area.
In the education sector, Anglicanism flourished in Asaba, Isoko, and Urhobo Archdeaconries. When C.M.S. Schools were affected by the action of Government which sent many Grade II Teachers to the Northern Government which suffered from acute shortage of teachers at the time, some experienced but untrained C.M.S. Teachers who had been laid off, at the end of 1968, had to be re-absorbed in C.M.S. Schools.
The Diocese thus survived the Civil War, mended
broken walls in Schools and Churches, and intensified efforts in reconciliatory
actions by being actively involved in the R.R.D. (Reconciliation, Rehabilitation,
and Development) programme organised by the Christian Council of Nigeria
(C.C.N.). Buildings, plants, and machinery
that were damaged during the war were for example repaired by the Church
in 1972 at the rural Training Centre, Asaba. Bearing in mind the biblical
injunction that we should bear one another’s burden Agori Iwe ensured
that other dioceses which also suffered as a result of the Civil War
were assisted by Benin Diocese. Thus, according to the witness of the
Rt. Rev. B. Nwankiti, the diocese of
“One of the most challenging visits was from the Diocese of Benin whose Bishop sent to us a three-man “God-Mission’ headed by Chief S.J. Mariere. The Diocese of Benin suffered at the hands of Biafran Soldiers during the last civil war, and yet, immediately after the war that same Diocese sent a gift of £250 to each of the Dioceses of Eastern Nigeria to help with the rehabilitation of the clergy and other church workers. (The man Benjamin, Diocese of Owerri Press, 1993, p.10)
The Diocese also carried out village extension
services programme and helped to implement C.C.N. Agricultural programme
The Diocese distributed seeds to the people of the riverine areas of the State for planting. The Diocese continued with its women extension programme in the villages where Christian home classes, needle work, nutrition and Children welfare and family planning were taught to the rural dwellers and small poultries established. This was a programme that was very similar to what the first lady of the Federation in the Babangida Administration was to start all over the country late, and designate “Better life for Rural women”.
All these activities testified to the vitality
of Anglican Christianity in the area, under Agori Iwe and the impact it
was having on the peoples. In Warri township
a new Anglican Church, St. Peter’s Anglican Church igbudu, was built and
dedicated for worship by the Rt. Rev. Agori Iwe in 1975, bringing the number
of Anglican Churches in Warri to two. The growth of the Anglican Church
in the present