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A Chat with Chief Okpokwu & Ichie Ochoko


Emma Igboka & Pascal Ilouno

In an attempt to find out how the Catholic Church started in Abor, Emma Igboka and Pascal Ilouno set out in search of those early Christians who are still alive and practicing Catholics.

Among those interviewed were Ichie Anthony Ochoko of Dinigweze Village, Abor and Chief Lawrence Okpokwu, Aninefungwu 1 of Abor. When asked on how the Catholic Church came to Abor, Ichie Ochoko who was born in 1923 said that the Catholic Church in Abor was older than him. He also added that he started school at Ugwunecheoha, a place which served as school and church, in 1931. He recalled that there was practically the absence of writing materials in those days. He also recalled how they used pieces of sticks to form the English Alphabets in the ground. However, Ichie Ochoko recalled that both the church and the school were relocated from Ugwunecheoha to the present site of St. Peters around the year 1935.

Speaking on the history of the Church, Chief Lawrence Okpokwu recalled that it was Chief Onyeama of Eke who invited the missionaries and asked all the Chiefs under his kingdom to embrace the Catholic Church which they did. Chief Okpokwu recalled that it was Chief Ngwunwagu Onodugo who received them in Abor. The 95-year-old Okpokwu said that the Catholic Church was established before his birth, adding that St. Theresa Church was initially at the present site of St. Theresa College before it relocated to its present site.

Chief Okpokwu stated that he attended primary school at Eke along with Rt. Rev. Dr. M.U. Eneje, though the late bishop was his senior. He recalled that he is what he is today because of his uncle, Late Simon Okpokwu, who was in Eke then and who saw him through the primary school. In like manner, Ichie Ochoko paid special tribute to late Gabriel Adimorah of Agulu saying that when he dropped out of school that it was Mr. Adimorah who paid his school fees in Primary 5 and 6 and later he was employed as a teacher to assist late Mr. Patrick Nwobodo at Umuavulu Abor, in 1944.

Chief Okpokwu, former Manager of the Nigerian Coal Corporation and Chairman of the Civil Service Commission during the C.C. Onoh era, further said that he remembered Fr. Davey very well, among all the early priests. The reason is not far-fetched; he was baptized by Fr. Davey. Still speaking on the early missionaries that influenced him, Chief Okpokwu stated that they included the Blessed Michael Iwene Tansi, Nwanegbo and Obeleagu who were at Onitsha, adding that apart from Onitsha, the other parish is St. Paul Parish, Eke. St. Paul Parish Eke, according to Chief Okpokwu, took care of all the church stations in the old Udi, Enugu, Agwu divisions and Gboko in Benue State.

It was really pleasurable and educating speaking with these two respectable nonagenarians on the early Catholic Church in Abor and environs.

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