By Davey Ozurumba
Looking at life in retrospect conjures both joy, sadness and amusement. Joy that you were part of the action, probably heroic; sad that such an event occurred and perhaps took a toll on its entrail; and a source of amusement that the event is fit to whet your appetite for further probing of its cause.
About a fortnight ago, Nigerians, or some parts of the federation remembered past events in their area’s history which brought immense joy to the citizenry.
These were the 138th anniversary of the birth of the church Missionary Society CMS in Igboland which was celebrated throughout the Anglican Communion of the Church of Nigeria in the South-East geo-political zone of the country. The other was the remembrance of the earth-moving salary award to workers which was recommended to the federal government and implemented to the letter by a thorough-paced man of great learning and vast experience, Chief Jerome Oputa Udoji.
Although CMS, as it was then known and called, appears to have faded in memory, its fruits have spread throughout Christendom. Its tentacles bear testimony to its growth in different parts of the world, notwithstanding the challenges it faces amongst the adherents of their faiths and creeds especially Moslems who are hell-bent on decimating the ranks of the Christian faithful.
In the welter of this orchestrated annihilation of Christians by Islamic fundamentalist, one is shocked to notice certain incongruities now being brought to bear, or introduced, by the same evangelists whose fore-fathers sacrificed their lives to preach to us the way to God- to salvation.
The latest fad is same-sex marriage or what is commonly known as homosexuality.
As we keep the memory of CMS aglow, the question still tugs at the spines – how is Christianity today? How does one fathom the perversions of the ethos of the church relating to gay marriage and ordination of women into priesthood?
The advent of Christianity to Igboland brought joy to the people. The early missionaries explored everything to inculcate the spirit of oneness amongst the faithful and adherence to the doctrine of the church as enunciated in the scriptures.
Today, the reverse is the case: the all-Catholic Ireland has embraced homosexuality as a way of life; American courts have given a clean bill of health to homosexuality; almost one third of the Christian world have endorsed the pernicious doctrine, thus making a mockery of the efforts of those early explorers who traversed many parts of the world on an evangelical crusade.
Although there are no discernible evidence of the practice of same-sex marriage on the continent of Africa, instances abound of the ordination of women as priests in some parts of East Africa, another abominable act not consistent with the teaching of the scriptures.
What is in focus in this write-up is the advent of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in Igboland in the 19th century and the message these missionaries brought to us. Are those messages been adhered to by their progenies up their?
Various churches led by their bishops have taken stands on the vexed issue of gay marriage –speaking with both sides of the mouth-some condemnatory, some adulatory, it is time the Anglican Communion as the umbrella organization of the faithful spoke with one voice instead of addressing the issue in discordant voices. The head of the communion is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who took over from Rowan Williams. The latter completed his 10-year tenure, and left an indelible parting comment on leaving office in 2012.
His successor, he said rather humorously, would re quire the “constitution of an ox” and the skin of a rhinoceros. People interpreted this to mean that Justin Welby, the former oil company executive who succeeded him would have an uphill task that might daunt him.
The comment did not daunt him even as he left a hefty salary of f100,000 per annum for a clerical stipend of f9,500 per annum! What a sacrifice! Howbeit, according to a chronicler, “Archbishop Justin Welby rode to Canterbury on a wave of adulation”.
The CMS, the anniversary of which we celebrated a short while ago and which some other climes must have observed in their own ways, has phased out, leaving different countries with their own churches, but all within the Anglican Communion.
It would be recalled that most African bishops liked to torment the former Archbishop of Canterbury by accusing him of neo-colonialism; the new man thinks otherwise. To him, “Anglican Communion needs to find a new way of being together, a way that reflects the 21st century and not the old colonial pattern”.
What this means may be difficult to delineate from the accusation of the so-called pandering towards neo-colonialism. He may be diplomatic in a way through use of woolly words, or the Anglican culture of hesitant change and incremental progress.
In all, he has a challenging duty to managing the phalanx of certain conservative African bishops in the Anglican Communion in the light of the feared divergent views on the application of the common weal.
The sore-point here is homosexuality: the first edition of a book with the title SEARCHING ISSUES published in 1994 taught that homosexuality practice was a sin; that homosexual orientation could be cured, and that it was wrong to ordain “unrepentant practicing homosexuals “into Christian leadership. In the revised edition of 2013, however, all these passages were removed.
What is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s opinion, and what should he canvass to the flock of worshippers worldwide?
Happy celebration of the advent of CMS in Igboland which was highlighted with the translation of the English Bible into Igbo language in Egbu, right in the vineyard of God, the seat of the Anglican Communion in this part of the country and home to the big Diocese of Owerri, now Diocese of its own.
We remember another epochal occasion in the lives of Nigerian workers; this occasion cannot be discussed without the mention of the name of Chief Jerome Oputa Udoji. He was not a trade unionist in the mould of the Imoudus of this world ever calling out workers on strike for being denied their ‘Cola’ (cost of living allowance). But, without carrying any placards, and only with a stroke of the pen he brought cheers and hope to weary workers.
In 1972, just a couple of years after the end of the Nigeria-Biafra war which witnessed an unparalleled austerity, an economic crunch that took its toll on the people, Chief Jerome Udoji was assigned by then Military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon to head a review commission of the civil service standards and compensation in the country.
Chief Udoji recommended an increase in the salaries of public and civil servants, unified an integrated administrative structure, elimination of waste and removal of inefficient departments, among others.
The only aspect of the recommendation that warmed that hearts of Nigerian workers was the award of salary package.
‘Udoji Award’ became a house-hold phrase in those days, when most depraved workers became affluent overnight – with the ‘award’ in pocket!
The ongoing debate on slash in the remuneration of public-office holders (governors in particular) to ease cash-crunch in the country and make room for the payment of workers’ salaries, unpaid because the states had become insolvent, has assumed another dimension.
A favourable slant for Anambra workers who, although their salaries have not fallen into arrears like those of their counterparts in some other states, they have got a rise in their take-home pay. Hurrah, thanks to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State.
The governor remembered the Udoji’s sweepstake which came unnoticed to weary workers, and so, flashed joy on the faces of his workers, contrasting the gesture with the sullen faces that have become the trade mark of cash-strapped workers elsewhere.
The popularity of the ‘Udoji Award’ saga saw the naming of Anambra State Secretariat after the man, Chief Udoji, one of Africa’s most distinguished administrators who played a pivotal role in the shaping of the post-civil war history of Nigeria.
Anambra State indigenes have thus immortalized one of their own, the Igwe Ozuluoha 1 of Igboland who passed away on April 2, 2010 at the age of 98.
This instance is the relevance of remembrance.