In our world today, the biggest challenge to the church of God is how to maintain sanity in mankind in the midst of trending unusual behavioural patterns fast gaining social acceptance, especially among the younger generation. It is no more odd to see people shamelessly identify themselves publicly as lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals and transexuals as the political authorities in many countries have legitimized these deviant and anti-social behaviours under the guise of freedom, not minding the immoral implications and the resultant surge in dangerous crimes.
Ironically, these abominable social trends have crept into many churches globally even as some members of the priesthood who ought to know better have joined the bandwagon. And some have gone as far as engaging in some of the most reprehensible of these acts such as same sex marriage.
For the church, this challenge which, obviously, is not the will of God for mankind, is a wake up call for continuous revival to bring all of mankind to align with God’s original plan and purpose for the world while at the same time redirecting those who had lost the way back to the creator’s purpose for their lives.
One of the greatest advocates of this kingdom responsibility and obligation in contemporary times is Most Reverend Nicholas Dikeriehi Okoh, the immediate past Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, who retired in March this year after completing his mandatory tenure as head of the church. For all of his full term of 10 years, he was able to shield the Nigerian congregation from these destructive trends and tendencies even as he spoke vehemently at several international forums against allowing the church of Christ to deviate from the eternal values ordained by God in the scriptures for mankind under the guise of modernity or any other excuse..
Under his leadership, the church of Nigeria resisted the urge to join the western world in accepting or tolerating these non biblical acts. He was able to carry the various authorities of the church along to decisively resolve some cases that came up. Some of the priests involved in such incidents resigned and left the church while some repented and retraced their steps.
As he retired this year, Primate Okoh felt fulfilled that the church of Nigeria maintained the purity of the Anglican orthodox faith under his leadership. In his words: “We in the leadership have been vilified, they said we are illiterates. Now, standing from the point where I am and looking back to the past ten years, I said God you have not let me down. I will hand over this church to my successor an orthodox Anglican church. So I will say that the ability to defend the Anglican orthodox faith is perhaps the most important thing we have done.”
To keep the church in line with the orthodox faith wasn’t such an easy task but with determination Primate Okoh achieved the feat through dedication to the spiritual growth and development of the church. He stirred up evangelical revival among the congregation to boost their knowledge of God through the teaching of the truth of God’s undiluted word and thereby prevent them from falling prey to false doctrines and satanic influences.
In the process, he reinforced existing spiritual programmes in the church and also created new ones. Some of the new programmes he introduced include the Monthly Power Night, an all night prayer vigil on the last Friday of every month. Another is The Way of the Cross, a spiritual meditation programme during the Lenten Season. It was inaugurated in 2014 and has continued to be a spirit filled annual gathering of the faithfuls. He also initiated the Divine Commonwealth Conference (DIVCCON ) an annual conference of ministers and believers anchored by the Anglican Church but also open to Christians of all denominations. It was introduced in 2011.
Still in the quest for the spiritual growth and development of the Church, Primate Okoh created many platforms for the fellowship of brethren towards kingdom stewardship. They include Christian Men’s Fellowship, Brides of the Lord ((Women’s) Fellowship, Youth Chaplaincy and Prison Chaplaincy.
Perhaps the most audacious project embarked upon by Primate Okoh in the pursuit of evangelical revival is the establishment of the Advent Cable Network Nigeria Television (ACNNTV). With this he took the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion to the hitech age with ability to reach homes and other places in any part of the world with the message of the gospel – The Undiluted Word of God-This has enhanced the spread of the gospel while also ensuring the spiritual nourishment of members in their homes, beyond their physical encounters in the four walls of the church.
Primate Okoh did not only cater for the spiritual nourishment of the church. He also took care of the physical welfare of the youths and women through empowerment projects to create employment opportunities for them under the auspices of the church. The projects which also generate revenue for the church include a civil security outfit known as Crowther Chariots Limited and the Women Water Project which produces the famous brand called Rose bottled water.
Other enterprise projects initiated by him include the Crowther Business Plaza and the Diocesan Training Center where youths are trained in various skills of trade and business enterprise such as Catering, Event Management, Fashion Designing, Farming, Home/Body care and Social Media enterprise.
Recognizing the importance of a good leadership to the mandate of the ministry Primate Okoh ensured that the church invested a lot in manpower development within the clergy through consistent training, ordination and retraining of priests to have capable hands in the ministry. He encouraged priests to go back for further studies fully sponsored by the diocese in his quest to build a future leadership able to propagate the gospel anywhere. Many Archbishops, Bishops, Priests are proud holders of PHD certificates.
Another area of development very dear to Primate Okoh was the education of children. He too had been a beneficiary of mission schools as a child. He established the Anglican International Academy for the Abuja diocese and donated the entire sum of eighty eight million naira (N88 million) gifted him by friends and well wishers during the celebration of his 25th wedding anniversary to the project.
Indeed, his administration impacted every aspect of the church. In terms of physical development, the church of Nigeria made a lot of progress under the leadership of Primate Okoh. The ultra modern, multi billion naira National Secretariat/Headquarters of the church known as St. Mathias House was built and commissioned during his tenure. He encouraged the building of churches across the dioceses in various parts of the country in furtherance of the spread of the gospel.
Several churches were also built at strategic locations in the Abuja Diocese such as Wuye, Mabushi, Lugbe, Duboyi, Apo, Kpaduma, Kobi Makaranta, Paradise Hill Estate, Kafe, Galuyi, Kabusa and Gwarinkpa. Other physical infrastructure built in the Abuja Diocese during his tenure include Diocesan Quarters, Wuye; Clergy Quarters, Gwarinkpa; Lay Quarters, AGGS Compound and Episcopal House, Wuye.
However, he did not ascribe his decade of achievements to himself alone as he gave glory to God and his predecessor Most Reverend Peter Akinola when he said: ” I felt his legacies of building on the church foundation were worth it. I not only built on his legacy but in some other areas, I felt I should do things differently due to new demands and passage of time.”
Having done his utmost best for the cause of the church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Primate Okoh however believes that there is still a lot to be done to attain God’s ordained standard for the church and same applies to other churches.. According to him, Christians must internalize and live by the principles of the gospel they have heard and received. This is the real essence of salvation and it can be achieved through a continuous process of teaching the gospel to guide their day to day living.
. Sir Folu Olamiti, a Media Consultant, writes from Abuja.