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Herdsmen's killings: Govt has failed its people -Bishop Fagbemi.

Bishop of Owo Diocese of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Right Reverend Stephen Ayodele Fagbemi, speaks with Rita Okonoboh, on how the diocese has fared in the past 35 years, and the lessons Nigeria can learn in ensuring development.

How has the Diocese of Owo fared in the past 35 years?

Owo Diocese, alongside two other dioceses - Akoko and Akure - was inaugurated around the same time in 1983. Akoko was inaugurated on February 28; Owo was inaugurated March 1, and Akure was inaugurated on March 2. They were carved out of the Diocese of Ondo. Since then, each of these areas has operated as an autonomous diocese, under the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). I am the fourth bishop of the diocese. The pioneer bishop was Right Reverend Abraham Oluwayemi Awosan, who was succeeded in 1993 by Bishop (Dr) Peter Adebiyi. The third bishop came on board in 2000, that is, Bishop (Dr) James Oladunjoye - he retired in October 2017. I was fully enthroned in November 2017 as the fourth bishop of the diocese.

What are some of the achievements Owo diocese has recorded?

The diocese, like any other church, is basically set up for mission, and that is what the diocese has really focused on. The diocese, when it started had only Owo archdeaconry, Idoani archdeaconry, Ifon archdeaconry, Ipele Iyere archdeaconry. However, we now have three more archdeaconries. In 2010, Idoani was made a diocese. We continue to engage in mission, and we have trained many pastors. The structure on ground has also improved a lot. For instance, at the beginning, there was only a temporary bishop's house. However, now, we have a bishopscourt and an office complex, and we will continue to work to improve all the facilities as well. In so many ways, the diocese has grown, and it continues to be a formidable voice within the Church of Nigeria. The work of the women has also been going very well, and, in fact, the women have a shopping complex, aside other ventures, focused on supporting people. The youths have also been very active and dynamic. In many ways, the diocese has achieved many things and we continue to give thanks to God.

Is Owo diocese at a disadvantage when it comes to establishing in an urban area?

Owo is like a semi-urban city and is one of the major cities in Ondo State. Although there aren't much industrial activities going on here, we can still count ourselves lucky. The presence of a university within the city - Achievers' University, and the state polytechnic, and other growing institutions, also contribute to the area. Owo also has the Federal Medical Centre and this also enhances the economic and social activities in the area.

You have spent less than six months as the bishop of the diocese. What plans do you have for it?

With all prayers and expectations, we are hoping that at 35, the diocese can now focus more on playing its role in full, and a major role at that, in the Church of Nigeria. One of the things we desire to do is to ensure that we reach out to the indigenes of the diocese, who are outside Owo, so that they can be part of what is going on (in the diocese), and support. It is also important that Owo Diocese will also begin to address the important issues of this generation. For instance, we will work towards giving more support aimed at the training of more clerics, and then the use of ICT and other technology will be made available to them. We are equally looking at developing our investment and then encouraging the growth of rural churches. Above all, part of our mission for the next phase is to ensure that the church serves its community more effectively. So, we want to reach out to people by bringing them to know the Lord, and providing support and engaging the people even in matters relating to their welfare. So, the aim is that the gospel is taken to them in its full measure. We also hope to improve in supporting youths by providing skills to engage them productively and improve their standard of living. These are among some of the things we are prayerfully hoping and working towards in the next phase of the growth of the diocese.

For the 35th anniversary, we will have a full day activity on March 1, 2018. On that day, we will have a Communion Service at 11am, and after that, a symposium on Owo Diocese Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Then as the year continues, we have different activities planned in the context of the celebration.

In 35 years, Owo Diocese has achieved much. Not everyone would readily agree that Nigeria, at 57, can boast of having done as much as expected, with the huge resources at its disposal. What lessons can Nigeria learn from the diocese, in terms of ensuring development?

I think there will be challenges, whichever way we look at it. However, what Nigeria must look at should be how to develop ways to deal with problems once and for all. For our diocese, whatever the challenges of the past, we have been able to overcome them and move forward. That cannot be said of Nigeria now. The country continues to be bogged down by issues of so many decades that have not been resolved and people continue to talk about these issues without resolving them. And more problems crop up. Take the unnecessary and senseless killings and sentiments some people have attached to it, whereas, government is failing its people terribly. I believe at the moment, our country needs leadership with good vision and the political will to lead the country to where we desire. We pray that we will get there.

How would you rate the support of the people in the diocese?

For the level of the people we have around, there is a lot of goodwill and passion about what God is doing in the diocese, about the future and for them to share with others. Our people are willing to work and they have been very supportive, and we are praying hard that our people will continue to improve in the way of the Lord.

What's your message to the clergy and the laity as Owo Diocese clocks 35?

We have a slogan based on the sermon I preached at the beginning - We shall Arise and Shine. So, we are calling on our people to stand up for what is right. There is no impossibility with God and we believe we shall rise, and we shall shine.
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Publication:Nigerian Tribune (Oyo State, Nigeria)
Geographic Code:6NIGR
Date:Feb 25, 2018
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