A Record of Opinions

Urhobo Historical Society

Sam U. Erivwo, Ph.D.
Originally Published in 1998 
Reproduced in URHOBO WAADO by kind permission of Professor Sam U. Erivwo



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1. COURAGE: The late Rt. Rev. Agori Iwe was a very courageous man. His courage is seen in every sphere of his work and life. It should be noted here that when he was made a Bishop of Benin Diocese, Benin City where he had his Bishop’s court is second to none in idol worship and secret society, especially Ogboni fraternity. At christian burial, where the deceased is an Ogboni member but unknown till his death, the Bishop made sure that the Ogboni did not interfere with his burial so long as the Children agree that their father should be given Christian burial

These are records of series of attempts made on his life, but prominent among others was when a group of assassins came at mid night. He shot in defense and killed one of them. His courage made him to effect discipline on those who erred both Clergy and Laity alike. He did not mind whose ass is gored. He stood on justice.

2. DISCIPLINARIAN:  It was proverbial that the late Bishop was a disciplinarian. On matters of discipline his children were not left out. He made sure that they did what was right and inculated high discipline on the children.  It must also be noted that the Church under his episcopacy was very disciplined. The tenets of the Church were well adhered to, Mission Teachers were well handled and they were encourage to keep the Christian faith in the school and the church. The teachers in their stations were Teachers and Catechists.

3. PRAYER: The late Rt. Rev. Agori Iwe was a man of prayer and had strong faith. As his Chaplain, I remember an occasion when I was sick, he was told of my sickness, he quickly came, prayed for men and I moved out of the fire side and went about my duties. His faith could not be overemphasized, it was not diluted, the statement of Joshua, “Choose this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, I will serve the Lord”, was always in his lips. Though he came from a pagan background, he never in anyway reflected on what he had forsaken for the sake of Christ.

4. GENEROSITY: The Rt. Rev. Agori Iwe was know for generosity. Even while he was an Archdeacon in Ughelli, his door was opened to everybody. He treated his sisters’ and brothers’ children as his own. There was no discrimination. Among the early people that were educated in his place, they owed their education to him. He made sure that the only sister’s children were all educated and every one was staying with him.

 The generosity was not limited to relations alone. Members children were always staying in the Vicarage. He was always feeding people in the Vicarage as in the Bishopscourt not minding the cost. The wife Mrs. Ruth Iwe is a very kind woman, as generous as the husband that she was not weary of well doing. She is so opened and supported her husband attitude that nobody was turned back at the gate.… RT. REV. JP. O. DAFIEWHARE

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Agori Iwe as I knew him, was an elegant handsome man of fair complexion, love inspiring personality and friendly disposition. He hailed from Okuama town in Eghwa (Ewu) clan, in the riverain area of the Urhobo-land in the Delta state of Nigeria.

He was an impressive broad minded religious leader of his time, with a sense of bearing and devotion to duty. He dedicated himself and life to the service of God from his youthful age and did not deviate from it. He was a symbol of peace, humility and love in winning the lost souls back to Christ.

He was a product of St. Andrew’s College, Oye-a renowned Anglican Institute for the training of teachers, catechists and clergymen. Agori Iwe made optimum use of the training and facilities this great institute offered him. He acquired technical know how in typing and bookkeeping and put them into practice when occasion demanded them in his office. He also acquired technique in translation. He was a translator of a rare calibre. He translated and compiled the first portable Urhobo prayer Book from English to Urhobo Language. He also translated St. John’s Gospel and some other books of the Bible into Urhobo. In some of his translations Eghwu dialects figured out prominently.

He was the first Urhobo trained catechist and priest and his area of work spanned across the length and breadth of the Urhoboland. He had to reach some of his flocks by trekking, cycling or padding, beaming with smiles and cheerfulness.

He was the manager of the Anglican (C.M.S.) Schools in his domain. He was a good administrator and upheld the policies and tenets of the Anglican communion in his territory.

In appreciation of his good services, the Anglican church Authority sent him to Britain for higher studies in the church work and administration.

Agori Iwe worked in many other places outside the Urhobo tribe. He worked in the Ibo-Land when he returned from Britain. He was stationed at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, coal Camp, Enugu. After some years he came back to Urhobo land on transfer to revive his earlier work. Not long after he was promoted to the rank of Archdeacon and made the Archdeacon of Warri Archdeaconry.

Agori Iwe had no inordinate desire for wealth. He did not enrich himself with the income of the Church. He kept the true accounts of the Church money wherever he worked. He rendered his services without asking for rewards. He was satisfied with his wages.

He had no inordinate ambition for promotion. He was a faithful steward with a clear vision of his calling and sense of bearing. God blessed him and rewarded him with constant meritorious promotions in all the cadres or ranks and files he attained in the church. He was a teacher, a Catechist, Archdeacon and Bishop. He was the first Bishop of the Benin Diocese.

He was a man of great foresight. All Saints’ Pro-Cathedral Ughelli was a child of his brain work. He was an apostle of peace, contentment, good influence and wise counsel. He served God and humanity in faith and truth. We remember him fondly for his sincerity and beaming smiles.

Chief Daniel Ojije Ohwovoriole


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I knew Agori Iwe in 1928 at Otovwodo Ughelli when I was living with my aunt Late Mrs. Atarhe Omosiyevwe. I attended the C.M.S. School Otovwodo, where Agoir Iwe was the head teacher. Other Teachers in the School then were late Samuel Akita Asaboro and one Peter Oborayeruvwe. We were four kinds living with my aunt.

Agori Iwe loved his pupils and had great concern for them. In the evenings, he went round the homes of his pupils in Otovwodo. Our mother Atarhe would always tell us to read our A B C D the Queen Premier in the evenings as Agori Iwe would be going round. Whenever he visited he saw us holding or reading our A B C D. the four of us were Ezekiel Omosiyevwe Kakitie Okorigba, Omokoro Duvwioma and myself.

Agori Iwe was a great disciplinarian. Any pupil who misbehaved at School, and any who was reported by the parents of bad behaviour at home was severely punished at School. The sight of his can was a terror in the School.

In 1933 he was posted to Owhrode C.M.S. Church as a Catechist to lead the Ughievwen group of Churches; which were not more than ten very small Churches. He then translated some hymns into Urhobo some of which he taught us to sing off head. Late Pa Philip Abi Oghenekaro assisted him in the process of translation of hymns into Urhobo. Agori Iwe was humble. He accepted to serve in any station to which he was sent, thereby planting the gospel of Jesus Christ in Urhobo. In his time was C.M.S Church Egini started now the headquarters of Udu District.

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Rt. Rev. Agori Iwe As A Manager of Schools

 By 1940 Agori Iwe has become the manager of C.M.S. Schools in Urhobo land. He encourage many Communities to build Schools, and hand them over to the C.M.S. management. He appointed, posted and disciplined erring staff. His outstanding quality was his personal knowledge of every member of the teaching staff. He knew them by name, or by the Stations to which they were posted. For his intimate knowledge of the staff, no staff left his station without his permission. Therefore, no staff was seen roaming or running after other business. The head of the School Station was made the Church Agent of their station. During the introduction of the Free Primary Education in the then Western Region of Nigeria, many towns and villages built their Schools and handed them over to the management of the C.M.S., owing to the ability of Agori Iwe in the running of Schools. He was the founding father of many of the Anglican Grammar Schools in the Delta and Benin Provinces. Those in the Delta are James Welch Grammar School Emevor, Anglican Girls Grammer School, Ughelli, Anglican Grammer School Okpara Waterside, Uron Grammar School and A.G.G.S Ozoro. The first three modern Schools for the Anglican were sited at Oleh, Oreokpe and Ewu, under Agori Iwe’s management. We will remember him for pioneering the planting of Educational Institutions in our land.

When he was made the Bishop of Benin Diocese, he became the Proprietor of all the Anglican Primary and Post Primary Schools and Teacher Training Colleges in the then Midwestern State. He appointed Education Secretaries and Administrative assistance to supervise the teacher Training Colleges, Post Primary and Primary Schools under his Proprietorship. The reports of Secondary and teacher training colleges were given at Synod meetings of the Benin Diocese.

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“The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few”. About seven years after the consecration of Rt. Rev. Agori Iwe, the need to have more Priests arose. The Bishop prayed, selected and ordained many non stipendiary Priest all over the Benin Diocese. At a stage too, the Bishop appealed to Archdeaconries to sponsor the training of priests to the theological Colleges as the Diocese had no funds to do so then. Such an appeal was made to the then Urhobo Archdeaconry. Ughelli District took the challenge, and they made an appeal to one of their illustrious sons Chief Michael Ibru who sponsored the training of Rev. Canon A.O. Kaku.

 Agori Iwe was a man of foresight. On his retirement he recommended the creation of Benin, Asaba and Warri Dioceses. These Dioceses are growing by leaps and bounds. He was a great teacher, Educator, and Evangelist. He knew his workers through and through.

  Rev. Canon J. A. Oghenekaro.

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As a young C.M.S. teacher and, later, principal, in the early 60’s, I saw very little of Bishop Agori-Iwe, proprietor of the Mission schools. Not particularly tall, I considered his sheer size, height and all, overpowering, overbearing and, indeed, forbidding. There used to be talks about his nerve shattering thunderbolt shouts at some unfortunate erring employees. Secretly, I avoided meeting him; but fate drew us near each other, inexorably, in a way.

 A Church mega-force in the mission education system would just not stomach my style of administration in a school where I was principal. I feared that one day things would come to a head and there would be a head-on collusion. Eventually, there was: I had stepped on his powerful toes, and it required the school Board of Governors to settle the matter. When, however, the board completely exonerated me from any wrong doing and seemed that tat was the last straw: my case was taken “upstairs” to summarily disciplined and posted me away to another school as a classroom teacher. That was a terrible jot in my young career as a teacher, what should I do? Could I go before that awesome presence to plead my cause, bearing in mind the fact that he had seen and known so little of me? I did not even allow the delegates of the conference of CMS principals, led by the late Very Rev. A.W. Bovi, to go into it. I decided to suffer in silence.

When however more and more damaging stories about me continued to make the rounds, I decided to brave it and go to see the Bishop to explain myself. Yes, I should brave it, but I had to go with my wife, for a good measure. We did not see him, and I was not unhappy about it. I finally decided to write. And I did. Then (mirabile dictu:) a letter came from the Bishop within a week! This letter completely overwhelmed me for its simplicity, frankness, christian charitableness and humility. Here was the Bishop writing to his “Dear Paul; acknowledging his letter of explanation, deprecating the discipline and ignoble transfer as “a very unfortunate incident for which we are all sorry”; asking poor Paul to “forget all the past and settle down to work”. Perhaps as an earnest of his good will, the Bishop went further to pray that “God may help your work, so that the school may grow to the glory of God and to the blessing of the children.” He did not stop there. He pleaded, “please forget and forgive, these are temptations of the devil.” Finally, he threw in into the bargain a Pauline blessing as a parting gift. “God be with you”.

This letter changed my whole attitude towards the man, a man I had been fearing and avoiding. So, he was not, for all his size, a tyrant? He had a heart, a Christlike hear, of penitence? Who was I a young employee, a classroom teacher, to be treated with such civility; tenderness, understanding and dignity? Who with such civility; tenderness, understanding and dignity? Who would have thought that man, a Bishop, could apologies to his employee?

I will continue to remember the memory of this great man of God, whose prayers and blessings for my future seemed to have been answered, for did the subject of this piece not later excel? as principal in a private proprietory school; did he not proceed to excel in the civil service as Secretary of the Bendel State Board of education, Director of the Headmasters Institute (HIB) retiring at the apex of his public service as Chief Inspector of education? was he not sought after and hired as the first Education Manager of the Delta Steel Company Ltd (DSC) Ovwian/Aladja, who established its educational system and that unmatched Technical School? I consider the late Rt. Rev. Agori-iew, first Bishop of Benin Diocese, a real great man.

May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace.

The Rev. Canon Paul Eviano Ozako
Administrative Secretary
Bishop’s court, Ughelli

*Mirabile dictu (Latin) = Wonderful to relate, most unexpectedly.

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Trained in St. Andrew’s College Oyo as a catechist and after his divinity courses in Awka College and ordination as a priest, and having ministered as such for many years, he was consecrated as the first Bishop of Benin Diocese on St. Andrew’s Day (November 30th 1961) in St. Andrew’s Church Warri. The name St. Andrew rings in his ministry and he distinguished himself like Andrew who first found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus (John 1 v 41 & 42). He found and brought many souls to the saving grace of Jesus.

He distinguished himself as first in many ways: the first Urhobo Priest, the first Urhobo Bishop and the first Bishop of the Benin Diocese. At his consecration, Archdeacon W.D. Burne had this to say of Agori Iwe; that he is a Bishop whose initials are A.I., and in all respect he is A.I. in distinction. He foresaw that the new Bishop Agori Iwe would distinguish himself as AI in many ways. He was a man of great stature. Like Saul the first kind of Israel. “…When he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward.” (I Sam 10 v 23). This was the man whom the Lord had chosen and there was none like him among all the people. (I Sam 10:24). He was presented and consecrated by the Most Rev. C.J. Patterson C.M.G., C.B.E., M.A., D.D. the Archbishop of the church of the Province of West Africa. After his consecration that colourful morning of Wednesday 30th No. 1961 he took up his duties and for the 15 years as a Bishop of Benin Diocese (1961-1976) he distinguished himself in many areas.

As an Administrator

The newly created Benin Diocese was an amalgamation on two halves; one from the Ondo Benin Diocese and the other from the Diocese on the Niger (The Benin Archdeaconry plus the West of the Diocese on the Niger.) This area comprised many ethnic of groups namely: Eod, Ishan, Yoruba, Urhobo, Itsekiri, Ukwani, Isoko, Ijaw, Aboh, and Ibo. It was a very vast area of the Midwest Region and parts of the South Eastern States. It required physical energy and divine wisdom to administer the new Diocese. From his headquarters in Benin he carried out his episcopal duties. He toured the length and breadth of the Diocese for 15 years. He successfully welded the two halves of the Diocese into one. The churches grew in number, the congregations increased, the clergy multiplied and at the end of his reign, three Dioceses emerged from the one amalgamated Benin Diocese namely: – Benin, Asaba and Warri Dioceses.

Primary schools and secondary schools were opened. Both old and new ones all over the Diocese were very well equipped, staffed and managed. The church accepted the responsibility for the welfare and running of the educational institutions. The academic standard was high, the discipline in schools was good. The moral behaviour of pupils, students and staff was rooted on Christian ideals. The government of the Midwest took over schools in 1970. He, as the proprietor of all the institutions, handed over the schools to the government for financing inspection and administration. They were handed over whole and intact, with high academic standard. The compounds and physical structures were beautiful and in good repairs at the time of the hand over by the church, and the take over by the government. Bishop Agori Iwe was a seasoned administrator and he brought this to bear on the administration of the schools and churches. He is worthy of the conferment of the honour on him – Member of the British Empire (M.B.E.) and Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (C.F.R.). He succeeded in his administration because he was a man of high discipline.

As a Disciplinarian

In matters of church discipline he is also par excellence. There was order, which is the bedrock of discipline, in all the churches. He guided the flock aright to the green pastures and led them with the Word of God. Any strayed sheep he brought back to the fold. He did not hesitate to discipline the laity and the clergy who erred in matters of doctrine and practices. He saw to it that he exterminated erroneous doctrine and teaching of the christian faith wherever and whenever it reared its ugly head which is masqueraded with Christian robes. Drastic steps were taken against any acts of rebellion from any quarters. As the chief shepherd and ruler in the church in the Diocese of Benin, he guarded the faith as the chief minister of the Word and Sacraments in his Diocese. He presided over the church in Benin Diocese and kept the congregations under control with complete respect from all the sundry. He enjoyed a favourable reputation from the government circle and other established traditional churches in the Midwest State. He shepherded church effectively with love and tender care.

It is to his credit that the church under his care at his time did not experience any wide spread acts of rebellion and indiscipline.

As touching Hospitality

In this regard he is also AI. A very hospitable bishop. He extended hospitality to anyone who visited the Bishopscourt from parts of the diocese. He once humorously remarked that his stipend was more than that of any permanent Secretary of the Government because what he received from the church members was really much. This much again, he expended on lavished hospitality. Mrs. Agori Iwe takes all the credit in this respect. She and her team of maid servants were always preparing the refreshment and meals for the strangers and visitors. The fire never went out from the kitchen. This is most amazing. The Bible says, let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware. (Heb. 12:1 & 2)/ this rings true in the heart of many strangers and visitors to the Bishopscourt in Benin. In no small way has Mrs. Agori Iwe won souls to Christ. Many have been attracted to the Lord by their contact with her home. Hers was a shining example of what a christian home should be. A real family of the household of Christ. She and the Bishop practised hospitality ungrudgingly to all. (cf. 1 Peter 4 v 9). As they received they employed for others as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

They were soul-winners who caught sinners to bring them to the Saviour. They so lived that people were attracted to the Lord. He had a clear understanding of what his basic gift is and went through is ministry for the lord achieving maximum effectiveness with minimum weariness. By his management Agori blended the people and their activities together in a way that successfully contributed to the growth and development of the Benin Diocese. The first Diocesan bishop of Benin Diocese, was AI.

Rev. Canon F.M. E. Vese (MON)

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