Being A Speech Delivered By the Governor Of Abia State, DR. Alex C. Otti, OFR, on the Occasion of the Centenary Celebration of The Seventh-day Adventist Church In Eastern Nigeria on November 4, 2023, at the Enyimba Sports Stadium, Aba.
It is with great sense of humility, profound gratitude and joyful fulfilment that I welcome everyone to this historic, once-in-a-lifetime event; the climax of series of soul lifting activities to celebrate the 100 years anniversary of the official establishment of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Eastern region of Nigeria, comprising many of the towns and cities in present day South East and the South South regions of the country, operating collectively under the umbrella of the Eastern Nigeria Union Conference.
We must begin on a note of appreciation to God Almighty for His immense blessings on this great institution particularly within the Eastern Nigeria, across the country and all over the world. We are particularly grateful that it has pleased Our Father in Heaven to sustain and grow the seed planted by the faithful labour of Elder David Babcock, John Jacob and in particular, Jesse Clifford who brought the faith to this great city and worked very hard to spread it across nearby towns and communities.
The works of several leaders who laboured diligently in the last 100 years to grow this divine institution and strengthen the faith of God’s people in Eastern Nigeria from Abua in the present day Rivers State to all the major towns and communities within this region deserve our collective appreciation.
Pastor L. Edmonds is also worthy of our honour on a day like this for his diligence and devotion in driving the spread of the Adventist faith, following the departure of Pastor Clifford. The church grew rapidly under the leadership of Pastor Edmonds for the simple reason that he never allowed the torch of the Gospel passed down to him to grow dim.
Commendations are also due to our indigenous pioneer leaders, especially Pastor B. I. Tikili, a man of many firsts, the first convert to the faith, first ordained African minister in this part of the country and later, first indigenous pastor in charge of Aba District; Pastors P. E. Onwere, R. O. Wosu, and A. E. Ukaumunna also demonstrated great leadership and administrative skills in shouldering the responsibility for the growth of the faith in Umuocha, Umuobiakwa and Umuakpara Districts respectively in the very early days.
We honour the work of God through these outstanding individuals because it is proper to do so and to challenge those of us who now carry the torch of the Adventist faith that the journey of the next hundred years has already begun.
It is also appropriate at this point to appreciate the immense contributions of hundreds of thousands of ordinary men and women, the faithful individuals and groups, who contributed most generously through unwavering sacrifices in time, treasures and talents to drive the growth of the faith across our various communities.
The most enduring work of this great institution, to which my late father, Pastor Lazarus Weze Otti, gave much of his adult life, is centred on selfless service to one another and to the larger human community, and an unflinching commitment to the teaching, preaching and living in accordance with the unchanging Word of God.
I consider it a great privilege to have been raised to live the faith in my family and professional endeavours, carrying on with the principles and values that I imbibed watching and listening to my father at home and from the pew, learning from several other men of God in big and small congregations, and at important events and gatherings like this.
My decision to go into public service is in clear furtherance of the conviction I picked up as a child that the best way to live is to serve others in selflessness, and with compassion.
Today’s convocation is in grateful thanksgiving to God for what He has used this mission to achieve in several communities across this land in education, health and other social services since 1923.
I was excited when I read earlier in the week that our dearly beloved General Conference President, Pastor Ted N. C. Wilson, is working on a plan with local church leaders to invest more in education in communities within the Eastern Nigeria Union Conference. I was particularly thrilled by his remark that “education is the foundation, not only for personal growth, but also for spiritual growth.”
The global Seventh-day Adventist family is indeed blessed by the firm and excellent leadership of Pastor Wilson, who is ably supported by his dear wife, Nancy. It is quite comforting to learn that Pastor Wilson is dedicatedly walking in the shoes of his father, Pastor Neal, who led this mission from 1979 to 1990, faithfully committing himself to teaching and drawing men from all parts of the world to the truth of the Gospel.
The life of the Wilsons is an invitation to all of us, to not only work for our individual salvation, but to see that everyone in our family, our friends and neighbours are brought to the light of the Gospel through the force of our personal examples as modelled by our fathers and the men we celebrate today for their contributions to the growth of this mission in the region and across the world.
I would be the first to admit that things are a lot tougher today when it comes to living in faithful obedience to the teachings of the sacred Scriptures on account of several external influences including the destabilisation of family life by the pressures of ungodly forces, economic hardship and even the seemingly innocuous distractions of technology.
Even then, we must realise that all through history, serving God has always been about sacrifices, a daily struggle to overcome temptations and stay faithful to the virtues that make us Christians.
Our gathering today presents us a unique opportunity to once again reconsider our priorities, especially in the light of the theme of this centennial celebration, “Almost Home.” It is our duty as Adventists to be conscious of the time we are living in and always be mindful of eternity because the earth, with all its attractions and glory, is not our home.
As the early Adventists realised, the best way of preparing ourselves for eternity is by making the most of the gifts and resources available to us to improve the lots of others, working steadfastly to advance the Kingdom of God through our works and how we apply what we have been given in thanksgiving and service, especially to the poor.
As the governor of this great state, elected by God’s children of all denominations and spiritual leanings, I am always conscious of the fact that I am nothing but a steward who must discharge the functions of the office in fairness to all people, applying the resources available to me to fight the menace of poverty and material wretchedness, sad realities that have weakened the faith of many.
As I mentioned to Pastor Wilson and the senior leadership of the church during a visit to my office earlier in the week, our government, just like the church, is very much interested in education, which in my experience and conviction, presents the surest path to overcoming the burden of poverty and the bondages that come with ignorance.
We shall therefore collectively explore proper channels of partnership where the government can work with the church and other interested organisations to expand the frontiers of learning for millions of our young ones whose future, I am very passionate about. Our government will also be keen to partner with the church in other social service areas, particularly health and poverty alleviation, especially for our women in rural communities.
In line with the above, my doors will always be open to engage with the leaders of the church and those of other faith from time to time on areas of shared interests as we work in unity to serve God’s children in love, and without discrimination for reasons of faith and religious beliefs.
I am greatly inspired by the legacies and footprints the SDA has left in several communities in Nigeria and in this region over the past hundred years. I am even more optimistic that the years ahead hold much more bountiful promises for the faithful and all who are connected to this church.
We are therefore invited to approach the future with courage, optimistic that the task ahead will be far more challenging and would require everything we can muster. Our confidence, however, should come from the knowledge that the same God who supported and guided our fathers will not abandon us.
Once again, I welcome our august visitors, particularly the GC President, Pastor Ted Wilson and the wife, Nancy, to Aba, the heartbeat of Abia State and the historical city where the Adventist faith first berthed in this part of the world. I am glad that Aba is rising once again and shall in no time regain its traditional reputation as a city that supports the growth and development of individuals, businesses and institutions, without fear or favour.
27. Thank you for listening and may the enduring light of God continue to direct our journey here, and in the hereafter.
Dr Alex C. Otti, OFR
Governor, Abia State.