In June 1952 the administration of the Church of Scotland Mission adopted the name “The Presbyterian Church of Eastern Nigeria”
Judex Okoro, Calabar
It was pomp and ceremony as the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria clicked glasses to mark over a century on the shores of Nigeria to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.
The church, which stands out as one of the positive legacies of colonialism in the country in particular and the continent of Africa in general, has over time contributed not only to the growth of Christianity in the country, but has also made profound imprints in the health, education and allied sectors of the society.
The church had its genesis through the missionary exploits of the Reverend Hope Masterton Waddell, an Irish along with his visionary colleagues from Jamaica who were sent to Nigeria by the United Secession Church of Scotland.
Prior to this, in December 1842, the chiefs of Old Calabar led by King Eyo Honesty II and King Eyamba V invited missionaries to Calabar for socio-economic and religious purposes. The team on the April 10, 1846 was christened the Calabar Mission and nurtured by the United Secession Church, the United Presbyterian Church, the United Free Church of Scotland as well as the Church of Scotland.
As the mission work progressed through divine providence, in June 1952 the administration of the Church of Scotland Mission adopted the name “The Presbyterian Church of Eastern Nigeria” and on June 19, 1960, it altered its name to “The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria.”
From its humble beginning in Calabar in 1846, the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria has been firmly established with congregations spread across every nooks and crannies and extending beyond Nigeria to the Republics of Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso as well as Mali. Speaking in Calabar during 172 years anniversary and 23rd General Assembly, the Prelate/Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church, Most Rev. Nzie Nsi Eke said the church is growing stronger just as they were determined to expand its contributions to the religious and socio-educational and socio-economic development of the country. “This is the shared heritage we celebrate today. Over the years, that initial seed has grown into The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria with ten synods, 64 presbyteries, 400 parishes, 66 mission stations, 1,100 ordained clergy and more than 5000 ruling elders both men and women. April 16, 2018 marked 172 years of Presbyterian Witness in Nigeria. “Also, the missionaries came with a printing press in 1846 which became known as Hope Waddell Press (now Presby Press Ltd), the first printing press in Nigeria. The Press helped in printing documents and Bible lessons since 21st August 1846 and is still in business.”
He further said the church is involved in the education, health and agricultural sectors of the country and is in the final stage of commencing its university, adding that the university christened Hope Waddell University, is named after the first missionary, Hope Masterton Waddell, and to be sited at Okagwe Ohafia, Abia State.
“The Presbyterian Church has been involved in the education sub-sector through the numerous primary and post-primary schools established and run by Parishes, Presbyteries and Synods. Prominent among these include Duke Town School (1846), Hope Waddell Training Institution, Calabar (1895), Union Girls Secondary School, Ibiaku (1948), as well as Ohafia Girls School (1958), amongst others.
“Some of our schools like Hope Waddell has produced great Nigerians like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe the first president of Nigeria, Dr Akanu Ibiam first governor of Eastern Nigeria, Sir Denis Asadeby, Prof. Eni Njoku, Prof. Kalu Ezera, Chief Mrs Margaret Ekpo, Alvan Ikoku, Ojo Maduekwe amongst others.
“Further to our commitment to the education sub-sector, the church operates two Theological Institutions in Abia and Akwa Ibom States which are affiliates of universities.
“The Church is at the final stage at the take-off site for the commencement of Hope Waddell University in which Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) has done its first visit to the site in Okagwe Ohafia, Abia State.
“The proposed university aims to produce a new generation of leaders and citizens who are broadly educated, spiritually equipped, and passionately committed to excellent service delivery in Nigeria and beyond to the glory of God,” the Prelate stated.
In his message to the Presbyterian community in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari commended the church on the milestone and its contributions to the nation’s development, adding that church remains a pivot of change.
Represented by the Head of Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo Ita, the President Buhari said: “This gathering is historic in view of the significant role the church has played in the existence of our great nation and as a people. The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria remains a pivotal agent of change in our Nation and beyond.
“We also commend the church for her contribution in the Agricultural sub-sector, particularly the Presby Farm Ltd as well as the Yakurr Farms. The Church is encouraged to take advantage of the various opportunities provided by Government to empower Nigerians to venture into Agriculture to guarantee food security”, she said.
In a keynote address, the Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State charged Presbyterians as well as the Church in Nigeria to get involved in the political development of the country in order to help sanitize it.
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The governor, who was represented by the Commissioner for Women Affairs, Dr. Grace Ekanem Edet, called for an end to killings in the country.
“Immorality has assumed an epidemic proportion even in the body of Christ; the church must come together and form a moral majority in the country. Christians must not continue with the saying that politics is dirty; therefore, they can’t get into its murky waters because if you refuse to get involved, the water will get murkier.
“In certain parts of the country, Christians are afraid of going to their places of worship for fear of being slaughtered, the herdsmen crisis must be tackled headlong Christians must not be made scapegoats of ancient animosities. A situation where Christians are slaughtered and the perpetrators are not apprehended is very sobering.
“The church must preach love, mutual respect and brotherhood, we must ask Government to be responsive in the concerns of the poor. We must work hard to build a fair and equitable nation founded on a broad moral foundation, all we need as a people and a nation is wrapped in the word of God”, he said.
Speaking during the official opening of activities to mark the General Assembly, the governor of Cross River State Prof. Ben Ayade, represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Tina Agbor, said the theme, ‘Living by the Word of God’, served as a wake up call to all Nigerians in view of the present situations in the country.
He said: “I wholeheartedly buy into your vision and assure you of our total support to make sure that the Hope Waddell University and the Presbyterian Guest House projects come to fruition.
Speaker of the House of Representative, Yakubu Dogara, who was represented by the member representing Karu, Keffi and Kokona Federal Constituency, Gaza Jonathan, said sin was the underlying factor that had led to pain and suffering worldwide.
Dogara said, according to the scriptures in Romans 6 verse 23, the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Today we are plagued with death at all fronts as a country, from Benue to Plateau, Nassarawa to Zamfara and beyond, this calls for all Christians to rise and fan the fire of prayers in their various altars, that the Lord may look upon us and heal our land.
“I won’t stand here and politicise these deaths, no human being can create life so no human being has the right to take life. My prayer is that as we walk towards the election period, it is the will of God that must be done in Nigeria,” he said.
He commended the people of Cross River, saying it was their studiousness, hard work and perseverance that had given them the number of federal appointments they had in the present administration.
He, however, said if Nigerians humble themselves, pray, seek the face of God and turn from their wicked ways, then would the Lord hear from heaven, forget their sins and heal their land.
Rev. Otu Ekong Ekut, who represented the Prelate of the Methodist Church in Nigeria, said it was important to make the assembly an assembly of prayers in order to salvage the nation from persistent killings as well as values reorientation in the country.
“We need to pray for the killings of Christians to stop, we want peace in Nigeria, we want good governance so that our people will be free from poverty, and it is a shame that the poverty index shows Nigeria as one of the poorest nations in the whole world. We want to hear the end of corruption, we don’t just want to hear fights but the building of institutions that will stem the tide of corruption in Nigeria.
“Our national values should be returned, values like the truth that has been killed in public places, we must serve God and humanity in spirit and not in deceit and hypocrisy,” he said.
Rev. Sifo Nepai from the United Presbyterian Church South Africa, said it was a shame that the church in South Africa has had a stronger relationship with the churches in Europe and other parts of the world than with West Africa.
While commending the Church in Nigeria for its growth and contributions to Nigeria’s development, he asked for a better relationship between the churches in both regions.