There is no dull moment with The Most Revd Professor Adebayo Akinde. His office is open. His countenance is friendly. He is a people’s person.
Irrespective of who you are or where you come from, the revered cleric makes you feel at home and sometimes you want to wonder: Is this the Professor of Computer Science? Is this the man who at 32 already bagged a PhD in
Computer Engineering? You probably then will be forced to ask still:
Is this the Bishop of Diocese of Mainland and the Archbishop of Province of Lagos?
Such questions will naturally come to your mind because of the kind of person Akinde is. He is just down to earth. He laughs with you; cracks joke with you and takes you as one of his own. At a first encounter with him you’ll probably think you had known him for a long time. He is not the type that dismisses people easily. There is no doubt that the Church of Nigeria will miss him greatly.
Born on August 25 1946 in Kaduna Nigeria, Akinde who is originally from Abeokuta, Ogun State seems to be a detribalized Nigerian. And that is evident in his marriage to Bassey Ekeng nee Ewa from the South South of Nigeria in 1972.
But before his marriage he earned his first degree with a second class upper division in Electronics at the then University of Ife. But shortly after his marriage he pursued a second degree in Electrical Engineering in London and then a PhD in Computer Engineering from Sussex in 1978 before he capped it with a Dip.Th (ICT, Ibadan) 2006.
Though he is a member of several professional bodies with vast experience across the globe, Akinde cherishes his Christian heritage more. He began his involvement with the Anglican Church right from his younger days but was formally ordained deacon in December 1979 at the Diocese of Egba-Egbado from where he rose to become Provost of the Diocese of Egba and later Bishop of Diocese of Mainland before he became Archbishop of the Ecclesiastic Province of Lagos in January 2013.
A one-time president of the Computer Association of Nigeria and IT consultant Ministry of Defence, Abuja, Akinde’s track record is simply incredible. His professional views are widely sought in the IT industry and government circles.
He is blessed with wonderful children. His retirement from the Church of Nigeria is being celebrated because of the enormous work he did in the last 10 years in the Diocese of Mainland. In this interview with Gbenga Osinaike and Tunji Oguntuase he speaks about his ministry and life. Below are excerpts:
You are a professor of Computer Science, an erudite scholar. There is this impression that professors especially scientists don’t have anything to do with God. But you are a priest, not just a priest in the Anglian Church but also an Archbishop indicating that you have had a long walk with God. How did you encounter God in the first instance?
That is a very nice question. I must thank God that my parents were Christians not because they went to church but because they were believers who loved God. So we were brought up to love God and to know that we can’t do anything without God. We were made to believe that we need the help of God in all things. We needed to constantly worship God. On Sundays we had to go to Church and perhaps spend the better part of the day in church. We went to Church in the morning and stayed back for evening song. Before I went to school I had to be in church by 7 am before going to school. We were involved in the church culture.
On how I encounter God, I must confess that my encounter with God was ignited by the person who eventually nurtured me in the faith. He is an eminent clergy in the Anglican Church. His life robbed off on me. He was the late Rev Jonathan Adeniyi. He served as a priest and rose to become a Bishop.
My being a scientist is a different sphere of life completely. But I believe that Christianity and intellectualism are not mutually exclusive. Science only gives you the power of analysis. You don’t just take everything without scientific scrutiny. I know if I add water to salt it becomes something different. If it does not give the expected result it calls for investigation. That is the kind of background that science gives. When it comes to technology it is more of applied science. It is the application of science to solve life’s problem. That is why science and technology has to go parri passu.
Nothing in science makes it an exclusive of religion. I never had any problem as a scientist worshipping God. In actual fact I can say that being a scientist enables us to investigate God. And the Bible suggested that the secret things belong to God and he reveals those things to the person he wills. The scientist has the privilege of knowing some of these secret things.
But has it ever crossed your mind to doubt the existence of God?
It has never for once crossed my mind for a second. I believe God is real. I believe He is the controller of the universe. That does not in any way contradict my scientific orientation.
What led you to become a priest?
Well I lost my mother when I was about 11 years old and then my father’s relation had to take some of us from him just to help him adjust to the loss of his wife. For me that was how I came in contact with a highly influential priest in the Anglican Church who nurtured me in the fear of God. He had enormous influence on me in the service of God. Going into ministry for me as an ordained person was like doing the natural thing. I have been in the four walls of the church all my life. I was brought up to believe I had to do something in the church. I was carrying on with my studies while I was doing the work of God. Even when I travelled to the UK where I studied and worked for some time after my first degree at the University of Ife; I was always involved in ministry work.
You are a computer scientist. What implication does the computer have on end of age?
I said it in one of my lectures that aside of Jesus Christ the computer is the greatest gift of God to mankind. The computer has brought instant revolution to man and has made life easier. A time was about 35 years ago that a computer of 35 gig ram was bigger that the size of a wardrobe. But now, you have the phones of the size of my hand with about 500 gig. That is the level of miniaturization. And with miniaturization we have increased speed and bigger capacity. In the past if you want to go to the UK you have to go through Dempstar or Orion and your journey takes about two weeks. But now you can have dinner in Lagos and have breakfast the following day in the UK. I think we have to thank God as human beings for blessing us with this incredible gift. Years ago you have to go through stress before you can call the UK. But today wherever you are, you can link with the UK and any other part of the world just by a touch of the botton. God has been kind. He has given us so much comfort. But we are not paying God with gratitude. And I dare say without the help of God these discoveries would not have been possible. I believe the deep secret of discovery of scientific research have direct link with God.
What would you say about this claim that the devil will use the computer in this end time. The Bible talks about the mark of the beast. Do you think there is a cause to fear?
You have touched a soft spot of my life as a Christian. There are certain things that I believe which science does not approve of. It is the realm of faith. I am still investigating the mark of the beast. But the computer has brought enormous comfort to mankind. There are three unique biometric parameters that determine the uniqueness of man. The thumb print, the lines in the dark spot of our eyes and the contour of the inside portion of the nostril are all unique to an individual. You can’t get people who have similarity of these parts. This tells you that there is a great maker behind these things. But what has happened is that the whole world has been made into a global village through the internet. We all know the enormous benefit of technology but I dare say nothing perverts the innocent minds than the computer. No other tool perverts the mind. It is a normal thing to have a computer. But parents should begin to show concern on what their children do on the computer.
From the internet people can get initiated into white witchcraft. All the oaths can be done on the internet. People are exposed to sexual scenes that pervert innocent minds and this grips the mind of young people. It takes God to deliver people that are hooked to this. If you observe rape and suicide are on the increase and we are yet to get to the peak. Young minds are vulnerable and exposed to all kinds of illicit things on the internet. You can imagine a 21 year old man raping an 80 year old woman. This is possible because a spirit possesses those who get hooked to some perversions on the internet. The professionals have come to conclude that the computer is a great tool and beneficial to humanity but it is a potent tool that can pervert innocent and inquisitive mind.
You have been in the ministry for 37 years. How will you describe your experience so far?
First I would like to thank God for His mercy and His awesomeness. It is a privilege to serve in the House of the Lord. There is nothing He cannot to. Do you know our God is three times holy but we are not even once holy but he chooses to use us for His glory. There are challenges, there are deprivations there are occasions I would love to do what my other colleagues are doing but I had to restrain myself. I recall there was a time I attended a naming ceremony and I just had to comport myself at that ceremony. By then I was still a teacher. But then people watch every step you take and believe as a priest there are certain things you can’t do even if those things are not wrong in themselves. So all along in my being a priest I have had to keep myself under. I believe in Paul’s counsel that if eating meat will make my brother stumble it is better I do not eat that meat.
But what is your position on things like wine, beer and strong drink. Do you think Christians can drink these things?
I will yet refer you to Paul’s counsel. He said it is better for every man not to touch a woman. But in order to avoid fornication every man should have his own wife. Nobody is a superhuman being. But it is best not to touch strong drink than to be carried away by it. I think also that anything that is not done in moderation loses a great proportion of its value. But I strongly believe that the best for any man is to totally abstain from strong drink.
What would you consider as the greatest temptation you have ever faced and how did you overcome?
Well there are temptations every day. I really do not know the greatest of them. But I knew there was a time I had an assignment and I was being tempted to divert the money to my personal use. But I heard a strong voice of warning within me not to. It was so strong and convincing that I could not see myself yielding to the temptation. There is this tendency to believe everybody does it. If somebody gets to a public office there are people who will come to him and tell him this is your time o! We believe nobody will know but won’t God know? And that is why we have problem in our nation.
The diocese which you oversee is ten years this year. How has it been overseeing such large domain?
Well it has been challenging, exciting and there have been some moments of discouragement. But God has been supporting and encouraging us. We had the challenge of providing the necessary infrastructure to make the diocese what it should be. I never had an agenda of my own. I have the culture of going to God every year and asking Him to tell us His agenda. And when he tells us, we key into it I never had problems getting funds as it were because I serve God who provides. We go to Him in prayers and he responds by meeting us at the point of our needs. I have never levied the congregation for any project. God provides using people who willingly come to give to the work. That does not mean we don’t encourage our people to give. We believe God blesses His people.
What has been your relationship with your priests?
Well I believe overseeing people is not an opportunity to Lord over them. We allow God to do the leading and direction. We teach them to depend on God and get direction from him; put their trust in him.
You will be retiring from the service of the Anglican Church in a short while. What are your expectations?
I must confess that I am looking forward to my retirement not because I am tired or don’t want to work but because it is a constitutional provision of our church. I look forward to it with a lot of great expectation and excitement. I won’t have to wake up so early because of a time bound assignment in the church. I am looking forward to a number of things. I love travelling and I think I will do a lot of travelling. But I am beginning to be frightened by the long walk in the airports of some major cities in the world.
But you still look fit?
Yes. But looks could be deceptive. I know I am slightly restless. I derive so much joy working. One thing I know is in the offing is to go into consultancy in my profession as far the profession is concerned.