Chief Igbinedion donates a multi-million Naira Church, Archbishop Akubeze dedicates.

By Padre Mike Nsikak Umoh

Today, September 17, 2022, the Archbishop of Benin Archdiocese, Most Rev. Augustine Obiora Akubeze, dedicated a 3000 Church edifice singularly built and donated to the Archdiocese of Benin by His Excellency, Sir Chief Dr. Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin Kingdom.The Catholic Church dedicated to the patronage of St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church, is located in Okada Town.

In attendance at the Mass were John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Peter Cardinal Okpaleke and 28 Bishops from all over Nigeria. Among the many other dignitaries were the former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the State Governor and his Deputy and senior palace chiefs representing His Royal Highness, the Oba of Benin and many traditional rulers.

Besides the Church building, the Esama also donated a rectory, a vocational school and a convent for the nuns who will manage the school.

Archbishop Akubeze was full of gratitude to the Esama, whom he described as a very detribailised man, for his very large heart. He urged his Children, led by the former Governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, to emulate the legacy of charity for which the Esama is known.

He prayed God abundant blessings upon the Esama, noting that “He who builds a house of prayer by that act endears himself to God.”

Find here full text of Bishop Akubeze’s Homily.

Archbishop Augustine O. Akubeze’s Homily at the Dedication of the Church in Okada September 17, 2022

Them: My House Shall be Called a House of Prayer 1.      Greetings: Your Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Your Graces, My Lord Bishops and permit me in a special way to salute the Vice President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, His Grace, Most Rev. Mathew Man-oso Ndagoso, Archbishop of Kaduna, who is here with other members of the CBCN. My warm greetings to the Monsignori, priests, consecrated men and women, Papal Knights and all other knights and Ladies of the Church, the Laity Council executives and the entire lay faithful, Government officials, Palace Chiefs, Traditional rulers, religious leaders of other faith, men and women of the press, security personnel, and the people of Okada land, I greet all of you. In a very special way, I salute, His Excellency, Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin Kingdom and his family. As we gather to dedicate the Church you single-handedly built, I thank God for your life, and I lift you and your loved ones to God in prayer for His blessing. May what you ask of God be granted to you because of your love and commitment to Him. May your sins be forgiven because of the great charity that you do. May God draw you and your family members closer to Him, so, that you can know him more, love him more, serve him more, be happy with him in this life and spend eternity with Him in heaven. This is our collective prayer for you and your family.2.      My House shall be called a House of Prayer (Mathew 21:13): The Church is a sacred place set aside for the worship of God. In the Church, we come to encounter God in a unique way. From ancient times, people of various religions set aside a place where they have an encounter with the divine being. For us Christians, Christ himself is the head of the Church, he is the altar of sacrifice, he is the victim of sacrifice, and he is the priest that offers the sacrifice. In the Church, prayers of thanksgiving, adoration, worship, and petitions are offered to God.  In the Gospel of Mathew 21:13, Jesus reiterated the words of the Prophet Isaiah 56:7, this statement when viewed from the actual text in Isaiah underscores the fact that the House of God shall be a place of prayer for all nations. The church is a place where our differences melt. In the Church, people of various races, tribes, and social status realize their fundamental equality rooted in their humanity and dependency upon God. The Church is a house of prayer for the wealthy and the poor; the house of prayer for the politicians who lead and the electorate who are led; it is a house of prayer for clergy and the lay faithful. With this in mind, let us learn to respect the place of worship, that is the church. Let us treat the house of God as it deserves. Let us approach the house of God with faith, knowing that it is a special place for encounter with God. Let us pray for those who make the house of God a befitting place of encounter. This is what Esama has done by building this Church. He has provided a special place where people of God, poor and rich, educated and uneducated, can reach God through prayer. Indeed, he who builds for God can never be forgotten by God. He who builds a house of prayer by that act endears himself to God.3.      The Legacy of Chief Gabriel Igbinedion in the Life of the Church in Benin City: Your Excellency, Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion, I greet you once again. I greet you because your type of personality is rare to find in the world. It is difficult to find one as generous as you are. It is difficult to find a man who brings together people of different faith as much as you have done. It is difficult to find a detribalized man as much as you have shown the world. It is difficult to find a man who can have a healthy blend of culture and faith. It is difficult to find a man who respects the traditional institutions and still respect the Catholic faith he has embraced. It is difficult to find a man who is consistent in his act of charity. It is difficult to find a man who started from a humble background and who has risen to be counted among one of the top richest men in the world and still remembers his root. Esama, who hails from Okada has never forgotten his humble beginning. It is difficult to find a man who has transformed the name of his community as much as Esama has done for Okada. Everywhere in Nigeria, the motorcycle riders are called Okada riders, a name gotten from one of the first private commercial airlines established by Chief Igbinedion, Okada air. There is only one man who got the first license to establish a private university, and that is Chief Igbinedion. In the history of Benin Kingdom, it is difficult to find a man whose charity has reached more people as much as Esama. In the history of building churches and other places of worship, it is difficult to find a man who has built more churches and mosques as much as the Esama of Benin Kingdom. Indeed, Esama has brought honour to Benin Land, and has brought honour and respect to the great Benin Kingdom. He has brought honour and respect to the people of Okada. He has brought joy and happiness to many people. He has brought food to many people through his ever-expanding business empire that employs so many people. He remains one of the few elders in our land who continue to invest in the life of the future generation. We see this in the schools and universities he has built and continues to build.The Catholic Church in Benin City and in fact, the entire Nigeria will never forget the Esama for all his good works. Today, we are here to dedicate the Church he built as part of the requirement for us to get a new diocese to serve the faithful of Okada and Iguobazuwa and environs. This house of God is a magnificent piece that sets the pace for others to follow. To Esama we say, thank you and God bless you for your generosity. You have not only built a church here, but you have also decided on your own to build an Educational Centre which you have named after me, and which we just commissioned before this mass. We say thank you. Considering the size and the standard of this magnificent school you have built for the church; it is our desire to put it into optimum use. Chief Esama, we know you as a man who always seek the best in whatever you are involved with. To make the best use of this school which you have just built, it is important that the school be transformed into a boarding school so that children from all over Edo State and beyond will find their way to Okada for their secondary education. We pray that God will continue to keep you alive and empower you financially to see this dream come true.  You have also decided in your wisdom to build a convent for the religious who will administer the school. We say thank you. You have also built a residence for the priest and bishop who will govern the proposed diocese, for this, we say thank you. You have also built an administrative building, that is, the Chancery for the yet-to-be-created diocese, and we say thank you. We pray to God, that you will live to see the day the diocese is created and erected.We read in the Sacred Scripture how David prepared materials for Solomon to build the Temple of God. 1 Chronicles 22: 5 says and I quote:  For David said, “My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorified throughout all lands; I will therefore make preparation for it.” So, David provided materials in great quantity before his death.King David prepared materials for the young Solomon to build but he knew that Solomon may not be able to get the materials to build a befitting house for God. And we further read in 2 Chronicles 2:7,“So now send me an artisan skilled to work in gold, silver, bronze, and iron and in purple, crimson, and blue fabrics, trained also in engraving, to join the skilled workers who are with me in Judah and Jerusalem, whom my father David provided.”Within this context, I will like to say, Esama has not only provided materials for the building of the Church like David, but he also built it like Solomon. In Esama, the two jobs of Kings David and Solomon melt into one. In other words, he has done what David and Solomon did. For this we greatly commend him. It is also important to point out the need for the children of Esama to draw and tap from the wisdom and disposition of the Esama. To the children of the great Esama, I, therefore, say, your father has bequeathed to you a legacy of generosity, a legacy of passion for the work of God, a legacy of transformation of society and humanity, a legacy of uniting people of every religion and tribes, a legacy of consolidating on what exists. You must not allow this to end with your father’s earthly life. The success of a man is often judged based on the greatness of his successor. Science has shown us that there are many hereditary factors that are transmitted from parents to children. I, therefore, believe strongly that all the good qualities of Esama we have enumerated have also been transferred to you. Build on your father’s legacy. The name of Igbinedion opens many doors today because of your father’s hard work. I urge you not only to sustain what he is leaving behind but also to build and improve upon it. Do not allow any project, vision, or dreams of your father die after he is gone. You owe it to him and humanity to build on what he will leave for you. Build on his care for the poor; build on his ability to unite people, build on his generosity to the Church and people of various faith. As Scripture tells us, charity covers or better still, charity wipes away sins (1 Peter 4:8). The more charitable you are, the more you endear yourself to God’s heart. We must always keep in mind that we are as rich as what we share, and we are as poor as what we keep to ourselves. Esama’s wealth is not to be counted based on what he has stored up for himself but based on the many lives he has touched positively. I, therefore, strongly beg and appeal to the children of Esama, led by His Excellency, Chief Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion, to lead the family in the sustenance and building upon the legacy of the Esama. As we read in the Scripture, everything was prepared for Solomon to be a good king, but he allowed many things to distract him. He brought in gods of other religions, and after him, his son Rehoboam could not manage the kingdom, the kingdom was split, and Israel was never the same. Today, we collectively pray that the work of Esama will outlive him and that it will be sustained and built upon by the next generation of his family. To the children, I say, draw closer to God in your faith, make God your protector and shield, consult God in your prayers, avoid anything that will offend God, and promote anything that makes humanity and our society better. We assure you of our prayers and support in this direction.4.      The Readings (First Reading: Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; Second Reading: Acts 4:32-37; Gospel Reading: John 2:13-25): In the First Reading we listened to the text that narrates how the priest of the Temple, Ezra read the law to the people. He read it in such a way that the people understood the law. When they understood the law, the people repented. After repentance, they discovered that the joy of the Lord is their strength. In the Church, we must learn to listen to the Word of God when it is being proclaimed. We must listen when the homily is being delivered. In today’s world of social media distraction, we should never allow ourselves to have divided attention in the church. Whenever we enter the Church, we should drop every distraction. Stop viewing your Facebook account, your Twitter, your Instagram, your email, or your WhatsApp. The Church is the place of listening to God, and not the place to read newspapers or to complete unfinished discussions that started outside the Church. The Psalmist assures us in the Responsorial Psalm that the law and the Word of God revive the soul, give wisdom to the simple, and gladden the heart. If we are inattentive in the Church, we miss the opportunity to receive all these benefits from God. The Second Reading relates to us how the early Church administered material goods and used them for the purpose of the Gospel. The faithful brought their material possession to the Apostles who used them for the need of the Church. The primary reason why the Church needs money is outlined in the text. The money given by the faithful is to be used to build the house of God, to use it for worship, and to provide for the needy in our society. All these Esama has been doing, and we thank him for this. There are many of us who can also do the same according to our capacity. Never be passive when you are called to support the work of God with the material resources given to you by God. The zeal for the house of the Lord should burn in each one of us. This zeal should move us to always respond to things of God, knowing that this earth is not our permanent abode. Heaven is our destination. The kindness we show on earth will determine the way God will treat us after we depart from this world.5.      Conclusion: Dearly beloved in Christ, as we dedicate this Church today, this house of God, this place of prayer, we ask God to bless the donor, Chief Dr. Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion and his family. We also invite the people of Okada to come and worship God in this beautiful Church. We invite the members of the Charismatic Renewal and the Legion of Mary to embark on massive rural evangelization of Okada land. We direct that the Vicar for Evangelization in conjunction with the Dean of the Deanery of Iguobazuwa, and the Parish Priest of the newly dedicated Church to work out a plan to ensure that many faithful will be able to come to this Church. This might require house to house apostolate that is well coordinated. This might require getting good buses to transport the people from their homes to the Church here. We welcome anyone who will assist us in making it easier for the people of Okada who may be living far from this Church to be able to access this Church through free transportation. It is worthy to note, that to honour the Esama, I had written to him to propose three names in the order of his preference, and from these names, I will choose the name to be given to this Church. From the names presented to me, I have decided to choose the first on the list, and therefore, this Church shall henceforth be called St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church Okada. All those who invoke God through the intercession of the Patron Saint of this church may their prayers be answered.Today is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice in it and be glad. We have taken a giant step towards actualizing the vision of getting a new diocese with this dedication. Let us intensify our prayer that our request to the Holy Father for a new diocese will be granted soon. To Chief Gabriel Igbinedion and his family, we say, the Church will always keep you in our prayers. We entrust you to the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary who always knows how to ask Jesus Christ to bless his disciples. May God bless the Igbinedion family. May God bless the land of Okada. May God bless all of you who are here today to witness this dedication. May God bless the many generations of people who will worship in this Church. May God bless his words in our hearts and make them bear fruits in our lives through Christ our Lord. Amen.