It was not hard to get across to Venerable Levi Okpara, Vicar of St. Pauls Church, Kirikiri, Lagos. When we started this project, many priests in the Anglican Communion kept telling us to look for him and talk with him. Though he is not a Yoruba man, he is one of the adopted sons of the late Primate. Here, Okpara shares his thoughts on him
God used him to make me who I am today
Papa Adetiloye ordained me a deacon, a priest and preferred me a canon and then a venerable archdeacon on the eve of his retirement. I’m one of the oldest Archdeacon in the whole of Lagos. I attended Vining College, Akure and came back to Lagos by special demand and was made vicar of St. Philips Church, Amukoko. He just saw me and liked me.
He wasn’t a tribal Primate.
He was not tribal. Shortly before he retired a group of Igbo boys rose against him and said they were being marginalized and they were not being preferred. But the challenge then was that there was only one diocese in Lagos area. When he was there it was the whole of Lagos that was under him and there was no way he would prefer people any how. And the fact is that getting preferred then was not done by seniority, it was done as a result of hard work.
You must work for it. In my case papa gave me assignments which I carried out faithfully. And that really impressed him. God helped me to manage a crisis situation in the east and I succeeded. They gave me names and called me his stooge. I tried to explain to them that it was unfair to want to blackmail him because this was a man whose life had been wholly given to the service of God and humanity,
He was concerned about performance
If you can perform even if you are his enemy he will give you what you deserve. In my case I was just a priest and I served conscientiously it was when the Lord used me to quell the crisis in the east that he preferred me a canon. He liked me so much and he would invite me to come and do some things for him. When there was crisis in Okigwe in the eastern part of Nigeria he sent me there. It was a tough mission and I was sleeping under the tree and on the trough that was used to bear corpse to the church. I was there for one and half years. I would come to Lagos and give him reports of progress because there was no GSM and still travel back to the east. I was doing this for the period of one and half years. There was a lot of threat from the warring factions and there were threats to burn the church. As God would have it the situation was restored to normal.
He gave me a white Stoll
I was always going to see him in his house at Lekki in Lagos and later Odo Owa in Ekiti. Every 26 December I must go there to see him. I used to go there three times a year. When he was retiring he gave me a white Stoll and said he was giving me as an extension of his authority and power. I still have the Stoll with me. Anytime I wear it and come out I must be going for something serious. It is old now but I cherish it.
He was not a coward
He was a peaceful man but not a coward. He never accepted defeat. He knew where he was going and what he was doing. There was a church I went and I preached a hard message on repentance they went to report me to him that the man he sent to them had no other message but repentance, Adetiloye said I see, I can see that you have not repented that is why you are reporting him. If you went to him with a big problem he would tell you a lot of stories by the time he is through with you, you would have forgotten your problem.
His prayer life was unique
The man was evangelical. He was the one who started the evangelical inroad into the north. What he did was to create missionary dioceses in the north and get them sponsored from Lagos. He was passionate about the church. He was ready to remove anything that stood between him and the church. He would lie prostrate while praying and he would invite you to lie with him and you could be there for hours. He believed so much in prayer and if you went to him with a problem he would tell you that you have not prayed enough.
He never had any regret in the real sense of the word. We used to call him computer. He was a great historian. When his eyes were failing him he said a pharmacist gave him some drugs for his eyes which affected his memory so he wasn’t remembering things fast and was always complaining and lamenting that the drug had done much damage to him. I never saw him regret his life despite the challenges that he went through. He was always saying there will never be a crown without a cross. That was his language.
His last regret was however that homosexual lifestyle has crept into the church. He had wished he was part of those going to US and Britain to oppose it. He lamented that the church was going down. He feared that Nigeria may be one of the countries that would approve of gay marriage. He was really regretting that the homosexual cancer is eating into the fabric of the church in the US and Europe
He promoted those who wrote petition against him
He was not the type of person that would be stampeded. He differentiated between personality and issues and that was why he would not punish you for acts that were not connected to the work of the mission. For instance he made friends with one of the people who wrote petitions against him. He still went ahead to promote him because he had promised to promote him ever before he wrote the petition.
I saw him some three months before he died. I can’t forget his doggedness his prayerfulness and the fact that he was a good encourager, He did not believe there is anything like failure. He was always prompt at events and functions. He was very neat and once he took interest in you he hardly changed his mind.