When a leading American politician, William Jennings Bryan, posited that destiny is not a matter of chance but a matter of choice, a thing to be waited for and achieved, he was stating the obvious. His Grace Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, the new Catholic Arch Bishop of Lagos Diocese fits into the reasoning of Bryan.
The likes of the man of God would always achieve their own destiny through sheer dint of hard work, commitment, dedication and strong desire to reach the pinnacle in their chosen vocation.
Most Rev. Adewale Martins is in the news because he has been privileged to join the league of great men favoured by destiny to be the chief shepherd of the Lagos archdiocese.
By virtue of his installation he becomes the fourth Catholic Archbishop of the archdiocese with over 110 parishes, 200 priests, 800 religious sisters and a population of three million faithful which is more than the population of some states of the federation.
Although he commands great respect amongst the priests, his elevation to succeed His Eminence, Dr. Olubunmi Anthony Cardinal Okogie, who presided over the diocese for 39 years, is seen as a thing of joy in the Catholic community.
Thus, the installation ceremony which took place at the Holy Cross Cathedral in a Pontifical High Mass presided over by the Papal Nuncio to Nigeria, Most Rev. Dr. Augustine Kasuija was witnessed by representatives of the Vatican, Nigerian government officials, distinguished Nigerians and the Catholic faithful from across the country and beyond.
Born on Monday June 1, 1959 by parents Gregory Obasola and Victoria Oluremi Martins who were both teachers from Ake and Ijemo in Abeokuta South local council of Ogun State, he was the third child and second son of the family. He began his primary education at St. Augustine Roman Catholic Mission School, Itesi Abeokuta and on completion, went to St. Theresa Minor Seminary, Oke-Are, Ibadan, for his secondary education from 1971 to 1976.
Excellent traits exhibited at the minor seminary gave credence to his call to priestly life and service. His parents had no options than to accept his vocational choice when he signified his intention to continue the programme of formation for the priesthood in the major seminary under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Lagos.
He was therefore enrolled at the seminary of SS. Peter and Paul, Bodija, Ibadan in 1976 where he had a Diploma in Religious Studies from the University of Ibadan in 1978 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from the Pontifical Urban University, Rome in 1983, with First Class honours. He was ordained a deacon at the Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos in December 1982 with seven of his classmates popularly known as “The Class of Eight” by then Bishop Okogie. Again, the Eight were ordained priests on September 18, 1983 at the Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos.
As a priest, Martins worked as an Assistant Administrator at Holy Cross Cathedral from October 1983 to August 1984 and was later transferred to St. Gregory College, where he worked as a teacher and chaplain from September 1984 to September 1986. During this period, he also doubled as the priest-in-charge of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Maroko as well as chaplain to Holy Child College.
LEADERSHIP learnt that his natural flair for teaching, which he inherited from his parents and enjoyed as a hobby, took him then to his next posting, SS. Peter and Paul Major Seminary to assist in the formation of future priests where he was appointed Graduate Assistant in September 1986, in the Department of Philosophy.
The indefatigable Martins was promoted lecturer in 1988 after obtaining a Masters’ Degree in Philosophy at the University of Ibadan. At the seminary, he held several positions of responsibilities including bursar, registrar and secretary of appointments and promotions committee from 1994 to 1996.
Not satisfied with the feats attained, Martins who ranked amongst the most pious priests ever ordained in history went to University of St. Andrews’ in Scotland where he also obtained a Master of Letters’ Degree in Philosophy in 1997. Still thirsty for more knowledge, he enrolled for a Doctorate Degree programme in the University of Edinburgh and had submitted his proposal when God’s call came to him again through appointment to be the first Bishop of the newly created Diocese of Abeokuta, which was excised from the old Archdiocese of Lagos by the Holy Father, Blessed John Paul II.
He was installed as the bishop of Diocese of Abeokuta on January 24, 1998 and grew the diocese from nine parishes to over 30.
Since certain responsibilities are required from a man of his status, Mr. Christopher Nze, the President of the Catholic Artistes and Entertainers Association of Nigeria (CAEAN), urged Archbishop Martins to continue from where Anthony Cardinal Okogie had stopped, in both spiritual and physical developments of the Archdiocese.
CAEAN reasoned that since the Cardinal had worked hard in his 39 years of Episcopal mission in the Archdiocese to put it on the world map and ensure its growth and development his successor should try to surpass that feat by supporting the activities of social communications that was vigorously pursued by his predecessor
Attesting to the intelligence and integrity quotient of Martins, the Archbishop of Benin City and Vice President of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Augustine Akubeze told the people of Lagos and Catholics that they have nothing to fear on account of the exchange of baton.
“Bishop Martins has been called and chosen for service, not as a duty, but what God wants. This position demands a great measure of service. You are to be courageous and yet simple. Every call has a purpose attached to it, and just like St Paul, you are to proclaim the good news and give sight to the blind.
“You share in the three offices of Christ: Priest, Prophet and King. You should be the voice of the poor and learn from Jesus and how he succeeded in his mission.
“The work here is more daunting than what you have in Abeokuta. It is remarkable to know that your appointment is coming at this time, just like Abraham who travelled far to respond to God’s call.”
For Mrs. Anthonia Okonkwo, an ardent Christian the new Archbishop must be prepared to be the voice of the voiceless like his predecessor in office and pay attention to the plight of the down-trodden in the society.
The priest of international repute lamented that, “The problem is that in our country people try all sort of ways to earn their daily bread and unfortunately, it has come to the point that some think that to earn their daily bread one of the ways is by founding a church. It’s offensive that churches should be founded for the sake of anyone’s daily bread.”
On the idea of unification of churches, hear him: “I totally buy, accept and subscribe to position of the Church concerning ecumenism. And indeed, by the grace of God, for something like nine years, I was the chairman of the Episcopal Committee on Ecumenism and all of those years, have given me an opportunity to build up my own interest and ability to participate in the whole process of ecumenical dialogue. So, it is a great thing and the command of Christ that all may be one.”
Martins appealed to Nigerians to remain united irrespective of the provocations from the Boko Haram sect whose menace in the Northern part of the country is geared towards wiping out Christianity in the region.