Adekunle Emmanuel is a bishop in the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Diocese of Egba. He was ordained 1992 as a priest in 1993. He spoke with Gbenga Osinaike, publisher of Church Times Nigeria on his ministry and how Christianity came to Nigeria through Abeokuta, Ogun State.
My calling as a pastor
Being a pastor in God’s vineyard is a calling of God as well as a desire of my heart. I have always had the longing right from my primary school days. People used to call me pastor when I was young so growing to becoming one came natural. I had the hand of God upon my life. I had always wanted to be a pastor, a teacher and an engineer. I thank God all these desires have come to pass in my life.
I trained at the Federal Polytechnic Ilaro and went to the University of Ibadan where I did a post graduate programme in Education, Guidance and Counseling. I taught mathematics and Physics and introduction to technology. I was in Emmanuel College for my theological training and then went to Crowther Graduate School of Theology for my post graduate programmes.
Working in Anglican Setting
A lot of the things I enjoy are based on God’s dealing with me. I had always read books of Kenneth Hagin and a lot of other Christian books. I remember when I was in school, I was in Christian Union. My fellowship president called me that I should ensure I serve in a living church if I want to do any pastoral work. He said the Anglican Church I’m attending was not it. I told him I was ready to leave Anglican Church if God so direct. Interestingly the brother and I served in the same state and we were in the same NCCF. He was from a Baptist background. After our youth service he came to see me in Abeokuta that was after about three years and said to me, do you know I’m back in Baptist. He said God had told him to go back and work in the children department of the Baptist Church. I just laughed and said, thank God I did not leave the Anglican Church.
There had been trials and temptations. I came into ministry work as a bachelor and married while being a priest. I started in Remo Diocese. Unfortunately there was crisis in the diocese for about 10 years. It was not easy being a priest in a crisis ridden area. But we thank God that He saw us through. I had my skepticism about Remo people because while we were in Emmanuel College we came there for leadership training and we went to the king’s palace and there the king was telling us that being an Anglican priest before we could make it we had to belong to a secret cult. That annoyed me. But as God would have it when I was posted for my priesthood, I was posted to the diocese of Remo and that really got me annoyed and worked me up.
All my class mates knew I did not like the Remo environment. The people were so audacious about their secret cult practices. The interesting part of it was that I was posted to the very town where the king made the pronouncement that to succeed as a priest one had to belong to a cult and I was made to work with the king who made that pronouncement.That experience made me to appreciate the need to reach those who were yet to know the Lord and to love them.
I experienced spiritual attacks during my stay in Remo. I remember I was coming from devotion one morning and I found myself reading an inscription on a wall. As I was reading it, I felt a hand hit me from behind me. I did not see any one physically. By the time I got home the place was swollen. I had to pray on it and anointed it until it dried up. That experience did not make me shy away from my responsibility.
I got married in Remo but it took us 14 years before we could have our first baby. And that conception came after we left Remo. The place was a stronghold. But today, I’m proud of them and I talk well of them. I thank God I started my ministry in Remo. I can recount a lot of spiritual experiences and attacks. But God used us to make a lot of impact there. Many of them still relate very well with us. While I was there I preached fearlessly. I can still recollect my first sermon as a curate. As soon as I finished preaching one Sunday morning, a member walked up to me and began to vibrate saying, all I said was nonsense.
What is peculiar about Egba Diocese
This diocese is peculiar in many respects. The first church ever built in this country is in this diocese. I have been blessed to be the vicar of the oldest church and the headquarter church in Abuja. The amazing thing about Christianity in Egba land is that God told the people of Egbaland through Ifa oracle that they were going to have a visitation from the white man’s land and the white people would bring a book. The Ifa oracle told them that the progress of the land lies in the adherence to what the book says and the message of the white man.
What God did here in the life of Sodeke the then Balogun of Egba is similar to what God did in the life of Cornelius in the Bible. Cornelius was yearning to know God. He was a Gentile and God spoke to him in a dream to go and call Peter. God told the told the Egba people through the Ifa oracle to settle in Abeokuta that He would make them a nation and make them prosperous and that He would give them edge over other nations around them.
The oracle also told them that somebody would come to them who is not of their own complexion and the person will be like a new born baby. And that the person would bring a book. The missionaries came to Abeokuta in 1830 and by 1837 all those who had been taken to slavery were returning back home and these ones had tasted Christianity. And when they got here they sent for missionaries to come from Sierra Leone. Those men that were coming were coming to Abeokuta. Badagry was the entry point for them. They stopped over in Badagry. If they had their way they could have come here straight. Egba Slave Returnees who were Christians told their people that the only thing that could make their life better was to have Christianity and have education. And the Egba people embraced it. The missionaries arrived in Badagry in 1842 and came to Egba in 1843.
The ifa oracle and Christianity
Sodeke was the leader of the Egba people. He brought them together and was working towards fulfilling the prophecy of Ifa oracle. It is on record that he took Henry Townsend on his laps when he came. I believe that the first martyr that is indigenous is Pa Sodeke. He accepted Henry Townsend, He accepted His book, the Bible. He now promised Towsend that he would give him all the support. He had negotiations with Townsend who requested that he should be allowed to go back to England bring more missionaries to Egba land.
But when Townsend left, before he came back to Egba land, Sodeke was poisoned because the heathen realized that he had sold out to the white man’s religion. That is why I believe he was the first martyr. We believe in vision and prophecy. God is a good God. There are times He would communicate to people through the medium they understand. And that does not mean he approves of that medium. But He uses it to bring people to Himself. Abraham was brought out of heathen religion, but God spoke to him in that heathen state and brought him out. Pharaoah also heard from God through dream. God may use several means to talk to people but that does not mean he approves of means. But God uses these things to bring people to the truth and when they come to know the truth their heathen ways are discarded.
Abeokuta in destiny
Abeokuta has been blessed with great people and here we have a record of first this first that, but unfortunately the present generation is wasting away. Many of those who grew up here who had become important people in the society don’t come back home. They are all over the place while their home country is depreciating. The first polytechnic was established in Abeokuta but the school is no more. The truth is that there are more people who subscribe to idolatry practices in Egbaland than we can imagine. There are a lot of unreached places in the whole of Egbaland. There are many villages and remote areas that are yet to experience the light of the gospel. The infrastructure problem and health problem are still being experienced by a vast majority of people.