In these trying times when the Minister of Defense, Major General Bashir Salihu Magashi, has admitted that Nigeria is bleeding from insecurity, several news platforms are surfeit with horrendous items. People abducted. People killed. Hoodlums have the temerity to attack a governor’s home, invade police stations, correctional centres, waste policemen and free criminals. Students are abducted and killed. It’s like a nation beheading its future. Villages are invaded every day, and countless people literally slaughtered. President Muhammadu Buhari has told the United States to come to Nigeria’s aid.
These faceless marauders would ultimately go into oblivion, if they do not get extinguished by the instrument with which they perpetrate their nefarious act. Do they not say that those who kill by the sword also fall to it? No one goes into the good side of history on account of the rivers of blood they have wasted.
In these trying times, we may dig up the good works of notable icons who have become legendry on account of the good works they did when they traversed the earth. When people decide to volunteer themselves as tools for destruction and mayhem, we need to counter their nefarious acts with a reminder of those who did good works and have thus placed their names on the pedestal of immortality. One of such men is Samuel Ajayi Crowther.
History has it that he lived between 1809 and 1891. He was a Nigerian clergyman and the celebrated first African bishop of West Africa. Born in Osogun, Oyo State, he and his family were captured by Fulani slave raiders in 1821 when he was about 12 years old.
Crowther was freed from slavery at a coastal port by the Royal Navy’s West Africa Squadron, which was enforcing the British ban against the Atlantic Slave Trade. The liberated peoples were resettled in Sierra Leone. In Sierra Leone, Ajayi adopted the English name Samuel Crowther, and began his education in English. He adopted Christianity and also identified with Sierra Leone’s then ascendant Krio ethnic group. He studied languages and was ordained a minister in England, where he later received a doctoral degree from Oxford University. He prepared a Yoruba grammar and translation of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer into Yoruba, also working on a Yoruba version of the Bible, as well as other language projects.
The history of Christianity in Nigeria would be grossly inadequate without a copious mention of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther. He etched his name indelibly in the sands of time through evangelism. Bishop Crowther took the gospel to many parts of Nigeria, including the South-East, South-South and North Central. A great linguist, who spoke no fewer than 10 languages. Crowther translated the Bible into many Nigerian languages. He cannot be forgotten. He worked himself into the positive side of history.
However, Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther did not die a happy man because, in spite of the great work he did, he was never appreciated by the Church of England. Several years after his death, the Church in England has tendered an unreserved apology to the Anglican Church in Nigeria, and, by extension, his family. But the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has gone a great length to immortalize the man. The other day, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria visited Osogun to inaugurate a centre built in the town in honour of the great evangelist.
One of the greatest memorials in honour of the great man is a first class university established by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) in honour of the man. Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, was established over 15 years ago. The university is turning out to be one of the most enduring and useful legacies in memory of the great evangelist. Located in Oyo town, Oyo State, Ajayi Crowther University has provided quality education for scores of students who have passed through it. One of the strong points of the university is that it does not limit its training to academics because the moral life of the students is as important as their academic advancement.
Just as the spirit to do good propelled Bishop Crowther, students of the university are guided carefully to turn out as godly intellectuals. Discipline is high on the cards. The university has been blessed with selfless leaders who make personal sacrifices in order to ensure that the institution does well, and ranks among the top-class universities in the nation. The current chairman of the Governing Council, foremost legal luminary, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, has been exceptional in his leadership of the council aside from the donations such as the vice-chancellor’s lodge and scholarships awarded to some students. The chancellor, Chief Joseph J. Afolabi, MFR, has instituted the Josephus Foundation through which he awarded scholarships to no less than 100 students in the institution. The foregoing are clear indications that the university is a social service through which the church gives back to society. Its fees are among the most affordable, compared to other private institutions. To make it even better, parents are allowed to pay in instalments. Little wonder scores of parents have found the place worthy for their children.
The university is a true legacy named after a man who lived to do good. The university currently has its fourth vice-chancellor, Professor Timothy Abiodun Adebayo, who took over seven months ago from Rt. Rev. Professor Dapo F. Asaju. The university has been blessed with good and astute vice-chancellors who have exhibited prudence in their handling of finances.
Adebayo, a Professor of Agriculture, has already begun exploits since assumption of office. The university now has 40 acres of cassava farm on one its four campuses. It also has an apiary, which has already begun to produce honey. There are fish ponds with at least 10,000 fingerlings as well as a mini ranch, plant nursery and upcoming 20 acres of pineapple orchard. In the main campus, Professor Adebayo has started no fewer than three buildings, including a befitting accommodation for some principal officers of the university. He has reinvigorated the water factory through the purchase of a new bottling machine, and bought a new oven for the bakery to enable it make bigger and better loaves. All these are aimed at improving the university’s revenue, and thus lessen the burden of parents who send their children to the university.
Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther would be happy in his grave that his legacies have not been left to rot.