Life and Work of Agori Iwe (Foreword/Preface)

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


Bishop Agori Iwe, whose biography is contained in this work, lived from about 1906 to 1979. He was born at a time Christianity was beginning to spread in the Western Delta chiefly as a result of the work of Bishop James Johnson and his agents of the Niger Delta Pastorate Church and of Henry Proctor and J.D. Atkin of the Niger Mission.

Agori Iwe accepted christianity when the new faith arrived at their town of Okuama in the riverine area of Urhoboland. Even when later, his father, insisted that the members of his family who were converted should recant and return to the traditional religion, because of the anger of his tutelary divinity, Agori and his brothers refused, and chose rather to leave their father’s compound and Okuama. This was how he and his other relations migrated to Warri. In that event, God was working out His purpose for Agori Iwe. From the story of his life contained in the biography, it is clear that God chose him from infancy, and marked out for him a path of greatness.

His training at St. Andrew’s School Warri, St. Andrew’s College Oyo, and his ordination course at St. Paul’s College Awka adequately prepared him for the ordained ministry. His work in Eastern Nigeria exposed him to the nature of the church as inter ethnic, and his later training at St. Aiden’s College, Birknhead, in England, revealed to him the nature of the church as international. By the time he rose to the exulted office of Bishop, the first Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Benin, he had been so groomed that his leadership was bound to succeed.

Indeed, it would appear that those who recommended him for the espicopany were convinced that in him were the qualities needed to weld people of different ethnic groups together. For, the Archbishop’s Advisory Committee charged with the responsibility of recommending a candidate to the House of Bishops, stated in its report: “One of the problems facing the new Diocesan would be to weld the two parts of the Diocese together, and to get the different clans to work amicably for the extension of Christ’s kingdom”.

And for the period (1962-1979) Agori was Bishop of Benin Diocese, a Diocese made up of different ethnic groups and formed from two Dioceses (Ondo-Benin, whose background was the Yoruba Mission, and the Diocese on the Niger, of the Niger Mission), the Bishop welded the different ethnic groups together.

He encouraged evangelism, and held the Evangelist Chief Cornelius Adam Igbudu, the founder of A.A.P.S. (Adam’s Anglican Preaching Society) in very high regard.

A disciplinarian, Agori did not spare the rod to spoil the child, at home, in school, or in the church. He was awe and fear inspiring. This made him to appear to be a threat to some workers. His huge size was itself intimidating. But those who knew him truly and worked closely with him knew that he was a father indeed, always appearing with his beaming smile.

It was inevitable, that Agori but the nature of his position as disciplinarian, would step on toes of some people, and he did. But no matter, the short comings, he may have had, especially when certain members of the Anglican Church in Benin Diocese had to be excommunicated by him as a result of apparent charismatic excess, which he saw were undermining the authority of the church, he did whatever he did in the conviction that the first law in heaven is order. His action in also disciplining also go down well with some members of the church

Like any human being, he may have had his weaknesses. But when his achievements are surveyed vis-ά-vis  his weaknesses, the verdict cannot but be that he was almighty man of valor, a successful soldier of Christ, a worthy ambassador of the kingdom.

Agori was always first. He was the first trained Schoolteacher in Urhoboland, the first trained catechist in the same area, the first ordained priest among the Urhobo and Isoko people, and the first Bishop of Benin Diocese.

All these aspects of the work and life of Bishop Agori Iwe, you will find in his biography which Ven. Prof. Sam. U. Erivwo has written.

The purpose of reading and studying the lives of great men is to be inspired by them. I have no doubt, that Agori Iwe: Life and Work will inspire all who diligently read and study it. It is a significant addition to our knowledge of great men of God who had lived and worked in the church in Nigeria. I warmly recommend it to Pastors, Preachers, Teachers, Scholars, and the general reader who wishes to know about the church.

Nathaniel, Warri

May 1998


This is a brief biography of Bishop Agori Iwe. He was trained by the Church and for the Church. He served his Lord and Master as a School teacher, Catechist, Pastor, and Bishop. Throughout his ministry on earth, he served his master constantly and with undivided loyalty. Only few can equal his leadership qualities. He was loving, but firm; he taught his flock unceasingly to be dedicated to the cause of Christ, and in his last Synod the theme of which was “The Christian’s, Only Weapons are Prayer, Faith, and Love” he left the flock Christ entrusted to him in no doubt that he who called them is faithful and is able to keep them to the end. In his words “True, in this world there will indeed be much tribulation, but our hope is set on the knowledge that Christ bids us to be of good cheer for he has already overcome the world. Yes our war is not fought with weapons of flesh, yet they are strong enough to demolish fortresses, these are PRAYERS, FAITH, AND LOVE”.

It is a short biography of this faithful soldier of Christ, who fought and won that we here present to you, inadequate as the biography may be, in the hope that reading the story of the life and work of Agori Iwe, will stimulate and encourage you to try to fight the good fight of faith yourself, and follow his good examples. May the good Lord bless you as you read it.

Sam U. Erivwo

30th July 1997

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