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
PARENTAGE AND FAMILY BACKGROUND
Agori Iwe whose life and work we relate and evaluate in this biography hailed from Okuama, a village of Ewu in the present Ughelli North Local Government Area. His parents were Mr. Iwe and Madam Emedaka Iwe.
For a long time the parents had no male child; those born died, infant mortality rate, especially of male children being very high in those days. In order to preserve the life of her child, the mother, Emedaka, went to her home town, Alagbabri, an Ewu village opposite Bomadi along Forcados River in the Lower Niger. It was thus at Alagbabri that Emedaka had her first and only male child. When the baby boy arrived, he was given the nick name Oguori because he was plumpy and judge like a well fed young pig. His proper name was Oboyovwemu. The mother spent some time with him at Alagbaabri and later, returned to Okuama.
Oguori had a sister born immediately after him by his mother; that sister was Edafigahware. His other relations were emese (half-brothers or sisters). They were Osiobe, his half brother, and three other half sisters Abinea, Umukoko______________.
The man know to history as Agori, was, as pointed out above, named and called Oguori by his parents. When he went to School, and was asked his name by his teacher who was not an Urhobo, the teacher wrote Agoir for Oguori in the class register. Consequently the child called Oguori by his parents became known as Agoir to the world.
Although dates of birth were not formally registered in his village at the time, the year of the birth, as given to the present writer by Agori himself, and confirmed by his age groups – Veneralbe B.P. Apena and David Egbebruke – was 1906. This date is very significant, especially because of the striking similarity between the life of Agori and that of an earlier African Bishop, Ajoayi Crowther. Accordingly, I had written the following in respect of the two prelates in an earlier paper:
|“Ajayi Crowther, a Yoruba, was born in about 1806. He was captured a slave boy and later liberated in Sierra Leone, where he was educated and subsequently ordained in 1843 a Clergyman of the Anglican Church of which he became the first African Bishop when he was consecrated on St. Peter’s day, 1864. Agori Iwe, on the other hand, is an Urhobo. He usually put his year of birth in about 1906. Educated at Warri, at St. Andrew’s College Oyo, and at St. Paul’s College Awka, he was ordained in 1938 a Clergyman of the Anglican Church of which he became the first Urhobo Bishop when he was consecrate on St. Andrew’s day in 1961”. (See S.U. Erivwo, “Prelates and the Problems of Church Leadership: The Examples of Ajayi Crowther and Agori Iwe” in Neue Zeitschrift fur Missionswissenschaft, 37-1981/4, p. 241.|
The years of their birth 1806 and 1906 respectively, and the days of their consecrations, St. Peter’s Day and St. Andrew’s Day could not have been by mere coincidences, especially when one studies and compares their episcopates, and realizes that Peter and Andrew were brothers. At any rate, the present work is not a comparative study of the life of Ajayi Crowther and that of Agoiri Iwe. That exercise I had done in the work referred to earlier on. But it is significant that Agori Iwe was born in 1906, a century after the birth of Ajayi Crowther. For those who already know the biography of Ajayi Crowther, it is important that in studying the life of Agori Iwe they also bear this fact in mind.
Agori’s parents were peasant farmers, and adherents of Urhobo traditional religion. Indeed, Agori’s mother, who lived to extreme old age refused for a long time to be converted to Christianity. It was often said that Agoir made it clear to her that if the mother refused to accept Christianity, he would have nothing to do with her funeral.
There is a sharp contrast here between Ajayi Crowther’s mother and Agori Iwe’s mother. The C.M.S. party of 1846 to Beokuta, whose members included Townsend, Gollmar, Samuel Ajayi Crowther and their helpers, met Crowther’s mother who in the joy of a happy reunion with her soon, easily accepted Christianity. The woman and her daughter were baptised on 5th February 1848 by Samuel Ajayi Crowther. Samuel’s mother was significantly given the name Hannah, at her baptism, an obvious allusion to the Biblical Hannah, wife of Elkanah and mother of the Seer, Prophet, and Priest, Samuel.
Unlike Ajayi Crowther’s mother, the mother of Agori Iwe resisted Christianity for a very long time. She probably felt that she had been too long an adherent of Urhobo traditional religion to change her religion and learn new habits. Not even the threats by her son, that he would have nothing to do with her funeral, it she died, an unbeliever, moved her. Only Evangelist Adam Igbudu’s intervention succeeded in effecting Emedaka’s conversion to Christianity on the eleventh hour.