|Urhobo Historical Society|
|THE LIFE AND WORK OF AGORI IWE|
FIRST BISHOP OF BENIN DIOCESE
Sam U. Erivwo, Ph.D.
|Originally Published in 1998 |
Reproduced in URHOBO WAADO by kind permission of Professor Sam U. Erivwo
Agori, according to his own testimony, attended the village school, at Okuama until 1920 when he moved to Warri and later attended St. Andrew’s C.M.S. School Warri: This school was founded in 1911. Agori’s name was on No. 10, in the School’s Admission Register.
He completed his primary school education at Warri, passed and obtained his standard six first School Leaving Certificate in 1922. In consequence of his excellent performance Agori was appointed a teacher in that School in 1923.
To have passed the First School Leaving Certificate so well in 1922 and be appointed a teacher in his alma mater was a feat on the part of Agori Iwe. For, according to Rev. J.O. Binitie even in the 1930’s only four Schools were in Warri: Government School; C.M.S. School; African Church School; and Roman Catholic Mission School. “And”, says Binitie, “a regular feature of the First School Leaving Certificate Examination at the time, was like the West African Coast, where many [Europeans] went and only a few returned” (J.O. Biniti, Interviewed at Warri, 16 Dec. 1969).
In 1924 Agori was selected and sent to St. Andrew’s College Oyo to be trained as a grade II Teacher and a Catechist. The first two years 1924 and 1925 were devoted to his training as a school teacher, while 1926 and 1927 were devoted to theological training. When he came out, he was in 1928 appointed a pioneer school teacher in Urhobo church District.
Having worked in the Urhobo church District from 1928 till1937, he was sent to St. Paul’s Training College Awka to do an ordination course after which he was ordained a deacon in 1938. He served his curacy in Eastern Nigeria at St. Simeon’s Anglican Church Nnobi, in Newi District, under Rev. H. Oggi. He was here until 1940 when, after he had been priested, he was sent back to Urhoboland. He was placed in charge of Urhobo C.M.S. churches as superintendent in 1942. At that same time he became Manager of C.M.S. schools in Urhoboland, working under the general supervision of Archdeacon W.E. Burne who was at the time based in Warri. By 1947, the population of St. Luke’s Otovwodo, had so increased, that Agori decided that the School be this purpose, he secured a piece of land measuring one mile square from His royal Higness Ohaisi II, the Ovie of Ughelli (see M.E. Opharomavua, “Bishop Agori Iwe…” A Long Essay for Bendel State University, 1985, p.9).
The land acquired by Agori Iwe for the C.M.S. (later, Anglican) Church, was part of the Aghwar’ode (Bas Bush) of Ughelli, where those who died in the strange circumstances were buried. The C.M.S. parsonage, later named St. John’s parsonage, was built there, by Agori. According to the witness of Agori’s widow Mrs. Ruth O. Agori (Interviewed, 9 Jan. 1988) when the movement from Otovwodo to Ovwodawanre was to be undertaken, many people warned Agori about it, and discourage the movement because, as mentioned above, the place was part of the Awharodo of Ughelli. But Agori defied those warnings and moved the headquarters from Otovwodo to Ovwodawanre. Many of the trees, according to Agori’s widow, were felled by Agori himself, and because he had a double barrel and was a hunter, he shot at owls which infested the new station, and through their hooting instilled fear on the members of the Agori house hold, which were the first set of human beings to live in Ovwodawanre, after the movement there of the C.M.S. headquarters in 1947. The school children of St. Luke’s primary school, (including the present writer) were from time to time employed to up-root storms, and work on the new school ground to create a foot ball field and other pay grounds for the school.
As a result of the nature of Ovwodawanre, as Ughelli Bad bush, demonic spirits as aziza were frequently encountered. Mrs. Ruth Agori Iwe recalled an instance when aziza carried one Native Authority school teacher, who lived at Ovwodawanre, to the burial ground in the bush at night. The following morning, a search party had to be despatched into the bush to search for him until he was found sitting alone at the burial ground (cemetery). We cannot agree more with Agori’s widow that it was by God’s name and power that her husband was able to move the C.M.S. station from Otovwodo and establish it a Ovwodaware, a place which, as at the time of writing has become the Headquarters of Warri Diocese, where the Bishopscourt is built. Agori served in training in St. Aiden’s College, Birkinghead, Liverpool, England. When he returned from Britain in 1950, Agori was again posted to Igboland. He was placed in charge of Enugu Church District until December 1951. In 1952 he was sent back to Urhobo as Superintendent of the Urhobo District Church Council. He occupied this position until 1954 when he was appointed Archdeacon of Warri Archdeaconry.