Following the inauguration of the Diocese of Lagos Mainland on August 23, 2006 as the 95th diocese of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the enthronement of the Rt. Rev. Prof. Adebayo Dada Akinde as its pioneer Bishop on the same day, it became obvious that if this potential giant straddled by the legendary Diocese of Lagos and the Diocese of Lagos West must fly, it needed to walk as it were at double quick pace. So much needed to be done to get the new diocese off and running: the bishop had no office property called and no Bishopscourt.
Even the Cathedral was not quite finished, as we know them to be in other places. The amount of work that had to be done looked rather intimidating and could have indeed intimidated a less determined person. The geographical area covered by the diocese was spiritually speaking a harvester’s delight but physically speaking a nightmare. With probably the highest population density of all the dioceses carved out of the old Diocese of Lagos, the territory is largely built up, with scant allowance of virgin land for acquisition for church planting. This was only one of the many take-off challenges faced by the new diocese. The Bishop had to squeeze into an impoverished space on the middle floor of the Cathedral and make do with it as both office and his conference room. Not daunted by any of these obvious handicaps, the Diocesan set to define his mission and vision for the new diocese. His dream was to develop the Diocese of Lagos Mainland into a place where God is truly worshipped and honored by His children.
Space constraints notwithstanding, the Bishop mobilized his parishioners and Clergy towards the attainment of the lofty goals he was inspired to set for the diocese. Perhaps nothing captures this dream the way the diocese’s slogan does. “Fear God, do it right and flourish”. In these seven words are encapsulated the spiritual underpinning of the Diocese. Put differently, the slogan underscores the vital role that righteousness plays in a man’s spiritual and material standing. With this as the focus and mantra, the Bishop and the people rolled up their sleeves trusting in God Almighty to help them build a befitting diocese, spiritually and physically.
There was so much to be done but the Diocesan was under no illusion that he could go about it alone with his parishioners and clergy. At every turn he invoked the power and faithfulness of God who Himself founded the diocese. Through his gift of motivation and ready resort to prayers, large numbers of parishioners caught the vision and grasped the enormity of the challenges facing the young diocese. Many mindsets were transformed for good.
Each time the Diocesan speaks men and women pay careful attention because in him they see a sincere, committed leader who leads by personal example. He puts God first and above any other considerations in all matters pertaining to the diocese. It was a matter of time before the positive impact of this style of leadership began to manifest all over the diocese – more churches were opened, a new diocesan school – Canon James Pearse Anglican College – came into existence, and chapels and chaplaincies were inaugurated in a number of medical institutions including, for the first time, the Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba and the NTA Lagos in Tejuoso.
After barely one year, the need for a diocesan headquarters building became all too compelling. The Cathedral occupies space, which it shares with a number of other structures, thus making space within the compound a bit tight.
Apart from the Cathedral itself, there is the old church building of St. Jude – an imposing Gothic-style structure; a large multi-purpose hall, and a cluster of vicarage houses each occupying sizeable space. The result is that open space within the Cathedral compound is not much. Yet, it is within that little existing space that on August 23, 2007, the sod-turning ceremony for a befitting diocesan headquarters was performed. It was a simple but profoundly faith-driven ceremony. Present on the occasion were the Diocesan who performed the sod turning himself, the Dean of the Cathedral, other Clergymen, the Diocesan Legal Luminaries and a handful of sundry guests.
The entire ceremony lasted a little more than an hour. But within that short period was sown the seed of the gigantic three-storey Diocesan headquarters building. As the Diocesan Bishop recalls, what took place on that day was “a bold act of faith”. Nowhere in the bank account of the Diocese was any amount of money near what would be needed to execute the project. Nonetheless, the Bishop believed strongly that God would make provisions for all that would be needed to start and finish the project. He followed up the sod-turning ceremony by setting up a Diocesan Headquarters Building Management Committee headed by an experienced structural engineer, Mr. Oluwatoyin Adeyinka and consisting of 13 other members namely: Chief C.O. Ikutiminu, Ven. (Prof.) F.A. Fajemirokun, Mrs. M.O. Olukoga, Barr. J.O. Tomisin, Engr. Sunmade Agbe-Davies, Mrs. Wura Akintobi, Mrs. (Arc.) Bukola Ejiwunmi, Arc. David O. Onwura, Mr. Emma Okpala, Mr. Biodun Akinsilo, Engr. Ken Igbokwe, Prince John Okoli and then, Ven. G.N. Chukwunenye (now Bishop). The bishop also appointed another six-member team to join the committee including himself, the synod secretary and Dean of the Cathedral, Ven. Luyi Akinwande, the Bishop’s Administrative Assistant, Ven. (then Canon) Emeka Onwuakpa, the Diocesan Architect, Mr. Adeleke Ajayi and the Diocesan Surveyor, Sir Biodun Akinyemi. Altogether, there were 20 persons charged with managing the Diocesan Headquarters project. Each of these persons came with a rich background. The Bishop could not have made a better selection in constituting the Project Committee. He went for the best and led them to accomplish the goals he had set for them!
In a letter addressed to the newly appointed committee members on April 17, 2007 and signed by the Synod Secretary, Ven. Akinwande on behalf of the Bishop, the Diocesan brought to their attention “the current situation where our Diocese has no headquarters building and consequently has to use facilities belonging to the Cathedral Church of St. Jude.” He further wrote: “Our need for such building is therefore urgent…The above committee has been put together to work urgently towards the achievement of the objective of constructing the said headquarters building in the shortest time possible.”
Although by the time the foregoing letter was written ‘a site and a drawing proposed for the building’ had been obtained, hardly any of the members would imagine that the phrase “in the shortest time possible” could be just 12 months from the day of foundation laying.
On May 1, 2007 the Diocesan Bishop inaugurated the Committee in a brief but solemn ceremony. In his one-page address on that occasion, the Bishop said, “one of the vacuums crying to be filled is the provision of a permanent and befitting Diocesan secretariat.” Turning to the members he said. “Prayerfully, we have combed the entire Diocese and have come to the conclusion that God is calling on each of you to kindly accept to serve our Diocese and thereby do God’s will as a member of the Diocesan Headquarters Building Project Committee. Good people of God, this is a divine and sacred call to God’s service in our generation and in this Diocese. I call upon every one of us to give our very best to the successful implementation and conclusion of this project.”
Picking up the gauntlet, the committee swung into action. The foundation laying ceremony for the three-storey building was performed on August 4, 2008. For all the members of the project management committee the Bishop’s challenge was an opportunity to do something big for God and for the diocese. Committee chairman, Engr. Toyin Adeyinka puts it this way. “All projects have their peculiar challenges. But we must thank God and our Bishop for his choice of committee members. With experienced engineers architects, surveyors and other professionals, the committee’s job was made less difficult by the Bishop.” The chairman said the committee was privileged to have three architects including Mrs. Bukola Ejiwunmi, a former President of the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) and a retired Permanent Secretary in Lagos State who diligently served as the Project Supervisor. Engr. Adeyinka was full of praise for committee members for their co-operation and commitment; and for the Diocesan for what he described as “his encouragement and resourcefulness”.
“Without the Bishop’s style of leadership,” he said, “We would not have been able to get the project completed in such a short time. He is a leader who knows how to get the best out of people without necessarily stressing them. He would come to our meetings and motivate and preach to us the role that God is using us to play in achieving the task before us. He has indeed used his experience, vast knowledge, godliness and good will to great advantage.”
Other members of the committee agree with their chairman. For Arc. (Mrs.) Ejiwunmi, “God is to be thanked for giving us a Bishop who motivates, who depends on God for guidance in all that, he does in the Diocese.”
As the Consulting Architect and Project Manager, she said managing funds and the workers was the greatest challenge the committee faced. But she thanks God for His provisions. The Synod Secretary and Dean of the Cathedral, Ven. Akinwande equally attributes the speedy completion of the project to God’s provisions and the Bishop’s resourceful management of funds, men and materials. “The Bishop has been a very good manager of resources. People who gave in support of the project did so because of the inspiring and principled manner the Diocesan has carried on,” the Dean said. “To have done the project in one year is evidence of what God can do if leaders are committed and faithful,” he added.
Another member of the committee, Ven. Emeka Onwuakpa has this to say: “The speedy completion of the project would not have been possible without the leadership, spiritual and inspirational qualities in our bishop. He sets the pace and is always motivated to follow suit.”
Did committee members ever find any issue particularly divisive? None, they said. The chairman commended the members for their maturity in evaluating issues.
Today the Diocesan headquarters building stands as an eloquent testimony of what is possible when God is leading. In just five years the Diocese can now boast of a high quality and profile College, a hospital, a well-stocked book centre, and above more than 50 parishes and worship centres, up from about 36 at inception. Through the Kingdom Seed project, initiated by the Diocesan and enthusiastically embraced by most parishioners church planting and equiping has received a premium.
The Women and Girls Organisation has grown apace under the spiritual leadership of the Bishop’s wife (Mama Mainland), Mrs Bassey Akinde. Preparation for the take off of the construction of the Archbishop Akinde Christian Events Resource Centre has reached advanced level.