All honour, glory, majesty and adoration to Almighty God for the priviledge to gather again far annual clergy workshop of Lagos Metropolitan Dioceses. I thank my Diocesan the Rt. Rev’d Dr. James Olusola Odedeji who approved my ability to honour this invitation, I am sincerely grateful to the Dean of our seminary who invited me to speak on the above subject matter. My special thanks also goes to all our visitors to the seminary and our revered fathers in God, it is my prayer that God will continue to bless and prosper their episcopal ministries in Jesus Christ name. Amen.
I heartily welcome all the participants to this year workshop and I pray that our gathering shall never be in vain in Jesus Christ name. Amen.
After the abolition of slave trade in 1833 by the then British Empire, Freetown in Sierra-Leone (West coast of Africa) was acquired for the settlement of the liberated Africans. Some of the liberated Africans became converted Christians and educated in the formal school system in Freetown. Back home in Europe there were great revival of missionary movement in Britain. The revival led to the founding of different religious groups. These groups were founded as follows: Baptist Missionary Society (1792), London Missionary Society (1795), Church Missionary Society (1799).
The revival zeal of these establishment prompted their missionaries to move into the field to win souls. Sierra-Leone became their landing point, from where they move to other parts of West Africa.
With the evangelical atmosphere change in both Britain and Freetown, the call to spread became eminent. Some of the early converts, especially of the Yoruba origins returned home to join their kiths and kins. They relayed their experiences abroad; the slave ships, their rescue by the British warships, the religion and schools at Freetown and so on. These stories became captivating to their local audience. As time went on, several of these rescued slaves returned home and their stories were the same. These wonderful experiences, relayed to this local audience resulted to calls from Badagry and Abeokuta to the missionaries in Sierra-Leone and Britain. On 24th September, 1842, the Wesleyan Methodist Society sent Rev. Thomas Birch Freeman, the then superintendent of the Wesleyan Methodist Society in Cape Coast, to Badagry. This was in response to a formal invitation by the Yoruba emigrants from Sierra-Leone who had settled in Badagry. Freeman (a son of a Negro father and an English mother) was accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. William de Graft, who later established primary schools in Badagry. Mr. William de Graft was also an African, born at Cape coast.
In 1843 Rev. Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Rev. C. A. Gollmer and Mr. Henry Townsend all from the Church Missionary Society arrived at Badagry for missionary work. They later moved to Abeokuta in 1846 where they founded two schools; one for boys and the other for girls.
The Presbyterian Mission arrived at Calabar and established a station there in 1846. In 1853 the Southern Baptist Convention opened a school at Ijaye and another at Ogbomoso and Lagos in 1955. Between 1842 and 1864 various missionary bodies have made their presence felt especially within the Lagos, Calabar and across the Niger areas. These missionary bodies are:
The story of the planting of Christianity in Nigeria would be incomplete without a mention of the Italian Roman Catholic priest, Father Berghero. Operating from Whydah in what is today the People’s Republic of Benin (formerly Dahomey), Father Berghero, in 1860, visited Abeokuta and Lagos where freed Catholic slaves from Brazil welcomed him warmly. A permanent station was established in Lagos in 1868, soon followed by others at Lokoja, Abeokuta and Ibadan. Within ten years of Father Berghero’s visit, the Roman Catholic Church in Nigeria had become so well established that it ceased to be under administration from Dahomey. By 1885, the church had spread further inland, thanks to Father Joseph Lutz who started work around Onitsha in 1886 and spread the gospel in many parts of the present day Imo and Anambra States. Another important Catholic missionary in this area was the Irishman, Bishop Shanahan. Although Lokoja had a small C.M.S. station in 1858, it was not until 1889 that the missionaries entered Hausaland, which was predominantly Muslim. Their converts, for many years, were confined to the people of southern Nigerian extraction resident in the north, and to the-large non-Muslim population of the north.
WORK OF EMPOWERMENT BY THE EARLY CHRISTIAN MISSIONERS IN NIGERIA AND ITS IMPACT ON THE CHURCH
The first school in Nigeria was started by the Methodist missionaries at Badagry in 1842. This was the work of the great missionary, Thomas Birch Freeman, who placed two missionaries, Mr and Mrs. de Graft, in charge of the school. Soon after the Methodist experiment, the church Missionary Society set up their own school at Badagry. These pioneer mission schools met with a discouraging response. They were closed down in 1852 in favour of schools opened in Lagos which, in 1851, had one time British control. Earlier in 1846, the Rev. Hope Waddell of the Church of Scotland had opened a school at Duke Town, Calabar. Within ten years the C.M.S had opened twelve more schools in what is today Cross Rivers State. By the close of the nineteenth century the major Christian missionary churches had opened elementary schools in many part of southern Nigeria with an enrolment of about 74,000 by the First World War. Soon after the start of elementary schools, the missionaries started opening higher institutions also. Important among these, all in Lagos, were the Baptist Academy in 1855, the C.M.S. Grammar School for Boys in 1859, St Gregory’s College opened by the Catholics in 1876, Methodist Boys High School 1878 and Methodist Girls’ High School 1879. Soon after secondary schools were opened in other parts of southern Nigeria, including Bonny High School, which was taken over by government in 1904. To supplement these missionary efforts in the field of higher education, the government opened its own secondary school in Lagos in 1909, this was King’s College. Following agitation by the people in 1934, the government opened the old Yaba Higher College and Medical School, which awarded diplomas acceptable only locally. This institution in 1948 developed into the University College in Ibadan. The original Yaba College in Lagos has grown into a polytechnic. Predominantly Muslim territory, the North received western education later than the South. By 1914 there were barely thirty schools in that vast area. As happened in Ghana, the development of training colleges in Nigeria was slower than secondary schools, though the C. M. S. had opened the first training college at Abeokuta as far back as 1849. The first leaners of the school were used as teachers and church workers to propagate the Christian faith in all towns and villages in Nigeria.
Another valuable contribution of the Christian missionaries in Nigeria was the development of literature in the local vernaculars, this included the translation of the Bible into some of the important local languages. One of the lasting works of the C.M.S missionaries was the development of literature in Yoruba. Among several others, the native Bishop Ajayi Crowther produced the first translation of the Bible in Yoruba. In 1859, the first newspaper in Yoruba, called the Iwe-Irohim, was published by the missionaries. Similar developments were carried out by the missionaries in other Nigerian languages, Efik, Kanuri, Igbo, etc.
One of the far reaching implications of the Christian missionary presence in Nigeria was the great studies which were made in the field of literacy. Indeed nothing shows the ardour of the pioneering missionaries better than the effort devoted, within the limited resources of the missions and the ability of the missionaries, to the study of the principal Nigerian languages, reducing them to writing, in most cases for the first time. According to Ajayi (1965), “the driving force behind the work on the Nigerian languages was the anxiety to teach the converts and would-be converts to read the Bible in them” (p. 13). It was especially for this that so much emphasis was placed on translating the Bible into the vernaculars; the ability to commit some African languages to writing led to the translation of the Bible into the vernacular of many Nigerian societies. The literate Nigerians began to read the Bible in their own languages. The study of Nigerian languages began in Sierra Leone where several of the languages were represented among the liberated African slaves. As early as 1830, J.T. Rabon of the C.M.S., observing that the ‘Aku’, as the Yoruba were called, were fast becoming a majority in the colony, began a study of Yoruba with a view to facilitating evangelization within the colony. Okeke (2006) also observes that “in 1848, Fourah Bay Institute which was almost languishing in the 1830’s, was revived, and Edward Jones of African descent became the principal; the curriculum included West African languages” (p. 34). Furthermore, when arrangements were being made for the Niger Expedition and a mission was projected for the model farm at Lokoja, J.F. Schon, a German linguist and C.M.S. missionary, was charged with the duty of training interpreters and himself acquiring the languages he considered most essential. The languages he chose were Hausa and Igbo. For the same purpose Samuel Crowther intensified his study of his own language, Yoruba. The results of these studies were published in 1841. The other missions in Nigeria were also studying different languages in the country, comparing translations and discussing the orthography. Interest in Hausa and Igbo were intensified with Henry Barth’s travel in Northern Nigeria and Macgregor Laird’s mail contract to ascend the Niger by steamer in 1854. Attention was also paid to Kanuri. A brilliant German missionary of the C.M.S., S.W. Koelle, in 1854 published two works: Grammar of the Bornu or Kanuri language and African native literature in Kanuri which were of wonderful accuracy and interest. By the middle of the 19th century this interest had come to take deep root. Between 1852 and 1900 over ten works had been published in the language, mainly by missionaries and their aids. Most of these were primers and grammars, a few were word list and collections of proverbs, while the remainders were translations of sections of the Bible into various dialects of the language. This trend continued, or rather broadened out with the increase in evangelical work which followed in the wake of the new political settlements. By the first decade of the 20th century when Nigeria was thrown open to the missionaries and scholars, various primers and grammars and word lists had been published in the peripheral dialects of the various languages and thus, the languages began to acquire new prestige. It must be conceded, therefore, that the missionaries rendered remarkable services to the development of Nigerian languages through reducing them to writing, through their numerous catechetical tracks in the vernacular and, through the translation of the Bible into them. The missionaries emphasized that it would be impossible to convey the gospel message effectively to any people unless the evangelist himself was able, not only to master the local tongue of the people but also to understand their thought and value system. It is possible that these considerations caused them to stress the importance of producing literature and teaching material in the vernacular. Although the vernacular literature, were first produced primarily for evangelistic considerations, it has also had considerable positive effects upon the building of the Nigerian nation.
The Development of Indigenous Journalism in Nigeria: In a sense, journalism which began in Nigeria from the 1850s in part derived their inspiration from the example of the European missionaries. The effective use to which the British humanitarian movement put the newspaper in the mobilization of opinion in favour of their programmes established the newspaper as an essential instrument of mission work outside Britain. According to Olukoju (1997), it was the C.M.S. that published in 1859 Nigerian’s first newspaper, the Iwe Irohin, a fort nightly publication. An English language supplement was added in 1860. The Christian missionaries thus pioneered newspaper publishing in Nigeria, an industry that played a decisive role in the country’s later history. Omu (1967) states further that not only did the C.M.S. inaugurated journalism in Nigeria, it also started the tradition of the large number of one room printing works in several large towns in Nigeria, some of who printed some of the early nationalist newspapers. The Christian missions also introduced a variety of journals and magazines published by the Church. Magazines such as African Church Gleaner, Nigerian Baptist and the African Church through which budding nationalists aired even their political views (Gbadamosi and Ajayi, 1999). With larger city populations and a far greater number of people able to read, missionary newspapers and their demands for social and political reform were influencing more people than ever before. It became an important medium for the development a modern state in Nigeria R.B. Blaize of Oyo and Abeokuta parentage began the first Nigerian owned newspaper in 1880 known as Lagos Times. Twenty four months later, Lagos Observer surfaced. The Eagle and Lagos Critic emerged in 1883, and in 1887, The Mirror appeared. Nigerian’s desire for the building of their nation in European manner was expressed through these print media. The newspapers aimed at uniting Nigerians and discussing vital issues which heralded an incipient nationalism and their call for Nigerian political representation. Its emphasis lay heavily with Nigerians in their revolt against indiscriminate European influence and their desire to play a greater role in the leadership of their country. The newspaper helped immensely in the education and information of the people on the need for the rejection of all traces of colonialism and advocated for self-rule. In a sense, the indigenous newspaper movement developed at the time it did partially because substantial members of skillful printers were available to undertake the printing of the newspapers. The newspapers introduced many educated Nigerians to what had become an intrinsic part of enlightened society in Europe and other lands and what was to become the chief weapon by which they were to exercise their power of participation in their own government. The emergence of the newspapers coincided with an important phase in the evolution of modern Nigeria. From the foregoing, it is evident that the newspaper press that was introduced by the missionaries was an important influence in the evolution of modern Nigeria. Nationalist leaders like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Samuel L. Akintola were reputed newspaper men inspired by the activities of the pioneer missionary pressmen. The newspaper press has helped in creating a tradition of fearless and energetic political journalism which underpinned the propaganda of the independent movement. They played a key role not only in stimulating intellectual activity and molding nationalist opinion but also in inculcating a spirit of criticism and resistance in future generations of Nigerian leaders.
Sequel to the success of the abolition of slave trade which gave rise to the planting of Christianity in Nigeria, the missionaries did not only preach the gospel in the country. They assisted in reestablishing the legitimate trade on which Europeans nations hitherto traded with Africans before the slave trade such as pepper, gum-arabic and Bini-Cloth, in this way, they introduced European system of commerce in Nigeria in place of the illegal trade on slaves. Industrial institutions were established to teach carpentry, bricklayer, dyeing etc (Okeke 1994). Without denying that prior to the introduction of Christianity in West Africa the people had developed their own crafts, one must admit that it was Christian missionaries who introduced modern forms of crafts such as carpentry and masonry. The early missionaries set up craft centres as part of their educational programmes.
The missionaries also greatly improved the health services. Prior to advent of the Christian missionaries and indeed well into the pre-independence period, most sick people depended for cure upon concoction herbs and roots and barks of trees. Although modern scientific research has confirmed the medicinal properties of these concoctions, traditional medical practice had several shortcomings. Preventive medicine was hardly known; the result was that epidemics of different kinds were frequent. Also, the traditional doctors more often than not could not diagnose illness accurately. They often attributed natural ailments to supernatural causes and resorted to mystic cults to appease the ‘unknown’ spirit, before applying medicine to the sick person. They also prescribed many taboos which, in the light of modern medical science, had no relation whatever with the illness being treated. However, the early missionaries established medical centres, at first at their mission posts, and later far and wide, to attend to the sick. In due course leprosariums and orphanages were built to supplement their medical services. For instance, in Nigeria, one of the first groups of missionaries to introduce organised medical services were the Roman Catholics. Father Jean Marie Coquard, operating in and from Abeokuta for forty years, was renowned among the Egba as a priest and surgeon in the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1892, the Church Missionary Society opened the Iyi Enu Hospital in Onitsha which is today a leading hospital in Anambra state. In 1902 the Methodists opened a clinic at Igbo-Ora. Meanwhile, the Scottish missionary, Mary Slessor, had established a reputation in the Cross River area as a nurse. Through hard work and persuasion she succeeded in stopping the practice among the people of killing twins. Another important missionary doctor was J. R. Stephen who for many years headed a missionary hospital at Ilesha.
The story of health services in Akoko is worth remembering (Owadayo, 2018). It is to the credit of Mrs. Margaret Lennon, a grade 1 nurse trained in America. Mrs. Margaret Lennon was passionate about the improvement of the people’s healthcare. She sought to salvage the people from the ills of unhygienic traditional health care services by providing a new orientation. Margaret started with small-scale healthcare services by running St. Stephen’s Church mission yard dispensary. She handled minor and common cases like headache, burns, diarrhea, yaws and dysentery, etc., until she could obtain government license to function effectively in that capacity. Mrs. Lennon was painfully handicapped in the early 1920, when there was no hospital in the entire Akoko Division to which serious cases could be referred.
Against all odds, Venerable Lennon organized donations to enable him lay the foundation of an edifice in 1932 for a clinic, dispensary and maternity home, a feat that attracted the interest and support of good people like Mr. T.K.E Philips and his family, who came from as far as Lagos with donation for the facility. In this humble but rough manner, the ‘Faith Dispensary’ started off and gave birth to the medical health care, which was raised to a state hospital in 1966 by the government of the Western Region.
About a decade after, Venerable and Margaret Lennon were struggling to introduce western medical healthcare in Akoko, Venerable and Mrs. Dallimore of the Anglican Church opened a hospital at Ako-Ekiti. Mrs. Dallimore first served as the nurse-in-charge. In 1936, Our Saviour’s Hospital, which later was named Ile Abiye Maternity Centre under the sponsorship of the Ondo Diocese, was later ceded to the Ekiti Diocese. This maternity centre gradually became known was the Ile Abiye Hospital and a training centre for nursing and midwifery under the leadership of S.M. Jebb.
Later in the 1960s, the planting of hospitals in the old Ondo Province became a matter of competition between the churches. The Catholic, Methodist, Baptist etc, built hospitals in Ado-Ekiti, Ifaki, Akure, Ondo, Owo etc.
As happened in other West African countries, many more mission-sponsored hospitals were founded in the course of the twentieth century.
The missionaries set up model farms where scientific agriculture was taught and new crops were introduced for the people, to go alongside longstanding indigenous production. New crops hitherto not found in Nigeria were also introduced by the missionaries such as root and
Source: Agha 2012
Plantation agriculture (Model Farm) was started with numerous other food crops and plants. In the field of scientific agriculture and farm settlement in Nigeria. It was Fr. Borghero from Roman Catholic Mission who was the first to establish a farms settlement along a nine-mile strip of farm land along the coast near Badagry. The farm was called “St. Joseph at Topo”. It was established in 1875 and it was first of its kind. Different types of foreign crops were introduced and cultivated in the farm for distribution to farmers e .g cassava, oranges, cane sugar, cocoa trees, potatoes, yam, banana and rubber trees to name just a few. The native families who had become Christians lives and farmed the land and paid for the use of the land in kind.
In 1880 Fr. Beli, who was the superior of the station described the condition for admission thus “We admit on the land of the mission families wishing to put themselves under the rules we have imposed. They cultivate the land for their own profit except for a little rent paid in kind and by helping to clear further areas of strip of land” (Agha, 2012) The farm provided food for the missionaries and their workers, sanitarium for the sick and sanctuary for the oppressed. (Ajayi, 1969).
Through the Norwegian Church, the Presbyterian Church established a farm land at Ikwo in 1962. The Church introduced foreign crops like rice, mango, pineapple, yam, plantain, maize, varieties of beans among others. The church introduced scientific methods of cultivation, cooperative system of farming which enabled the people to be well established. The farm land was handed over to Anambra state in 1986 and was renamed Anambra College of Agriculture and now is known as Ebonyi College of Education, Ikwo”. In 1972, the Presbyterian mission established the Yakurr Agricultural project aimed at helping the citizens of the area to be established for a better living.
One of the enduring marks of the impact of Christianity on people, towns and villages of the Ondo Province is trade (Owadayo, 2018). Initially, Ondo appealed to the colonial government through the Yoruba Mission for good roads and security. With the introduction of Christianity, people travelled outside Ondo, Ekiti, Akure, Owo, Akoko to trade in Onitsha, Ikorodu, Oshogbo, Warri, Sapele, Lagos etc.
Specially blessed with fertile land, suitable for cocoa plantation and other cash crops, and bedecked with iroko and timber forest, Ondo and her immediate neigbours (Idanre, Ile Oluji, Okeigbo, Odigbo-Ore) were propelled into international acclaim. This was reflected in the issue with which Ladipo Akinkugbe, an extraction of a popular family in Ondo, was confronted with when he went for an interview for a regional scholarship:
You are Akingubge, aren’t you? But I know your uncle in Lagos has a lucrative timber trade and he is well able to look after you, why then do you need a scholarship?” Then followed an uneasy spell of silence, “That will be all, you can go.
Ondo became a rallying point of worship and location of the diocesan headquarters, invariably the seat of cathedral and church government, hosting state services and providing a good rendezvous for synod delegates and provincial conferences. The CMS bookshops and petty shops for clerical outfits emerged. Ondo gradually became and economic resource centre for towns and villages around.
Archdeacon L.A Lennon introduced modern agriculture into Akokoland. He brought various seeds-mango, breadfruits, grace, almond, etc. to Akoko in 1924, from the Blaize Memorial Institute, Abeokuta. He encouraged church workers to grow backyard gardens. He introduced cocoa plantation to Akoko from 1926 to 1928. He made agriculture prospective and attractive by including it in the curriculum of Victory college, Ikare. In pursuance of this objective, Mr. Alfred Obatuyi Ogedengbe was awarded a scholarship to study modern system of agriculture at the Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, USA in 1947, and his return to teach in the college had a multiplying effect on some of whom later became modern farmers.
In 1943, Lennon’s efforts to enhance agriculture were intensified when he was transferred to Akure as the archdeacon of Ondo-Lokoja Archdeaconry. This gave him the opportunity to organize an agricultural exhibition in 1944 in Ikare and another in Akure in 1948. In addition, he acquired land for agriculture to teach people on how to boost food production.
Right from the time of his arrival in Akoko, Lennon addressed the development of the physical facilities of Akokoland with remarkable rapidity (Owadayo, 2018). Even very glaring was the need for road construction. Without a good road to link Akoko with outside places, Owo, Kabba and Ado-Ekiti, Akoko would virtually be in isolation. Before 1921, foreign government officials and missionaries were carried in hammocks to Akoko. Bishop Akeredolu reported how difficult Archdeacon Lennon found it to mobilize the Akoko community to construct the Ikare-Owo road. He was supported the Ajagunna and Momoh, the two leading traditional rules in Ikare, while many other people backed out. It was started in 1922 and was completed in May 1925. The road was opened in June 1925 by Bishop Melville Jones. For the purpose of opening the road, Lennon went the previous day to meet Bishop and Mrs. Jones at Owo. They both set out at 8:30am the following day and got to Ikare at 11:30am. Under the inspiring leadership of Lennon, many roads leading to villages were constructed by villagers through self-help systems.
Impact of Empowerment Works on the Church
The Anglican Church has played a major role in the empowerment works. First, this was through education. The Church Missionary Society has used education as a major tool of evangelism. The Church played a key role in social and economic empowerment which also in result brought change and transformation to the society.
From the above findings, it has become necessary to make the following recommendations with the aim of challenging the present day church denominations in Nigeria to actually be committed to the task of furthering the Great Commission project - “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…; teaching them…” (Mt. 28:19-20); casting out demons in the Lord’s name…; and laying hands on the sick so that they will recover (Mk. 16: 17-18):
The white missionaries who came to Nigeria in the 19th century with their new religion from different parts of Europe and America contributed significantly to the growth and development of the country. As we have noted above, they bequeathed not only education and medical services but also other important aspects of development that touched the social, economic, political and moral life of Nigerians. The greater percentage of the food crops we enjoy today were introduced into Nigeria by the missionaries on their arrival. The introduction of foreign food crops, fruits, and vegetables has not only enriched Nigeria but has also been a source of good health and the growth of the population. Western education has contributed so much to the social development of the nation both in terms of human development and physical transformation. It is some of such education-oriented developmental facilities that one of the militant Islamist sects in the country popularly known as Boko Haram is currently poised to annihilating. Most of the northerners were not opportune to receive much of the missionary benefits owing to Muslim occupation of the North which led to the difficulty of the early Christian missions to penetrate the area. Due to Muslim domination of that part of the country the people lost the opportunity of reaping the numerous socio-economic benefits of the Christian missions, especially that of the Church Missionary Society whose early missionary outreach to Northern Nigeria was aborted as a result of Islamic opposition during the colonial era. The few northerners who became Christians and have reaped the benefits of Christianity to some extent would have had a fuller and freer atmosphere for such harvests which by now would have meant consolidation of the socio-economic gains of Christianity in their areas were it not for the incessant persecutions they suffer under the Muslims. Nevertheless, majority of Nigerians have always valued Christian missions as an important socio-economic factor. Many 19th and 20th century missionaries are still being remembered today by their converts or their children with great affection for the socio-economic contributions they made in their lives.
Contact us for any informationContact
Leave a Comment