Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Senator Ndoma-Egba, recently fulfilled a vow he made to God when he was 11 years old by building a Catholic Church. Bassey Inyang writes
While Nigerians were busy celebrating the 2018 Democracy Day on May 29 to mark the country’s return to civil rule in 1999, a significant event was taking place in Akarabong community, Ikom Local Government Area of Cross River State. A building was being dedicated at a Catholic mission in the community. The church was built by an illustrious son of Akparabong, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), the current chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The history of what eventually materialised into the new church building has its foundation in a very bizarre incident that happened to Ndoma-Egba when he was just 11 years old. The day was March 8, 1956. However, he commenced the construction of the new church building in 2003.
According to Ndoma-Egba, that incident compelled him to strike a deal with God at that very young age. He said God had fulfilled His part of the deal on many occasions so many years ago, and as a loving God, waited patiently for him over the years to fulfil his own part of the deal.
Ndoma-Egba told the story of the building before the clergy, among them, the Archbishop of Abuja Diocese of the Catholic Church, His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan; the Bishop of Ogoja Diocese of the Church, Most Rev. Donatus Edet Akpan; the Pioneer Parish Priest, Rev. Father Mathew Odah Otuji, other reverend fathers, and reverend sisters, the church laity, and thousands of guests.
He said, “Your Eminence (John Cardinal Onaiyekan), that song, just before my speech, ‘When you make a vow’ is because I made a vow. And that is why we are here today. I will give you a very short background to that vow. I did not grow up in the village, but I use to come here on short holidays with my uncle whose wife is sitting right in front. And there was an incident at home where I was falsely accused. And my uncle did not give me a chance to defend myself. I was 11 years old.
“That incident defined my life. Maybe that is why I became a lawyer to fight for justice. But, like they say, in every bad thing, there is fruit if we are patient, and if we look carefully. The bad side of that incident led to a worse incident, because I was crying and my late eldest brother was passing by. He took me in that situation to visit a friend of his, and he and his friend were drinking what we call ‘ ogogoro’ or ‘kai kai’, or ‘ufofob’ or ‘omire’ or ‘push-me-I-push-you.
“And I took a shot of that lethal drink on an empty stomach. But, it did something to me. It gave me the courage to face my aunty who made the false allegation. And I said to her, I pray that God keeps you alive to see me become a man! When the effect of the ogogoro cleared, I realised that I may have made an empty boast. So, I rushed to this old church here and told Father Otuji that the old church should be preserved. It must not be pulled down so that it will tell the story of our humble beginnings. And I rushed to the church, and I said Father God, I may have boasted emptily, but please let’s do a deal. Make me a man and I will build you a church. God has kept his own side of the deal. He has kept his side of the deal for a very long time. At 22; I was a lawyer, at 23; I was on a federal board; at 27, I was commissioner when we had 19 states, and it’s been on and on.
“However, God was patiently waiting for me to keep my own part of the bargain. This project was started in 2003. Along the way, I ran out of money, and my dear wife decided to take it over. She took it over and here we are today.”
At this point he digressed. Ndoma-Egba told the obviously captivated congregation, “I have seen newly married couples. Let me say to the men who are married today, and the men in this church, going forward to marriage, If God blesses you, bless your wife double because the day you are in need, she will be the first standing, and perhaps the last standing.”
It is imperative to state that the old church building, St. James Catholic Church, Akparabong, which Ndoma-Egba pleaded with the Rev. Father Otuji to preserve, derives its history years ago when it was established in 1958. But, despite the initial challenges it faced due to the existing influence of the Presbyterian Church in Akarabong, which already had a primary school, it was used for evangelism.
Nonetheless, the catholic faithful in Akarabong never gave up until they had a Roman Catholic Mission, which metamorphosed to the present Our Lady Queen of Peace parish that was dedicated by Most Rev. Donatus Edet Akpan.
Describing how the church was rechristened, Ndoma-Egba said, “My Lord Bishop of Ogoja, to show you that my prayers are always heard, my wife and I preferred two names for this church, either, Our Lady Queen of Peace or Our Lady of Perpetual Help. We prayed about it, and God through you answered our prayers. You answered our prayers. You chose the first name we preferred.”
After the first Bible reading taken from 2 Samuel 7: 1-17 and read by Ndoma-Egba, and the Second Bible reading taken from Acts 7: 44-50 read by his wife Amaka Ndoma-Egba, as well as the Gospel reading taken from Mathew 21:12-17, Onaiyekan proceeded to deliver the homily.
Onaiyekan said the building of the church was an indication that Ndoma-Egba, like King Solomon, understood the importance of building for God a place of worship. The Archbishop stated that the building of the church was a form of reciprocation of what God has done for Ndoma-Egba, but most importantly, he stressed that what the donor has done should serve as an example for those whom God has blessed, to always extend such blessings to others, especially the church.
He said God was happy with Ndoma-Egba for building a house for him, where the people could worship, and uplift themselves spiritually.
After the dedication of the church by the Bishop of Ogoja Diocese of the Catholic Church, the pioneer parish, Father Otuji expressed appreciation to God, Ndoma-Egba and his wife, Onaiyekan and all others who contributed immeasurably to make the dedication of the new church building, a dream come true.
The occasion was spiced with the celebration of the birthday of Amaka Ndoma-Egba in the church. Ndoma-Egba stated that the day was carefully selected for the dedication of the church as a unique gift and blessing to his wife whose birthday falls on May 29, adding that she has been a pillar of support.
He said, “I had thought and thought what kind of birthday gift I should give to a woman who is not just the mother of my children, but my partner, my soulmate, and my support. What could I give her? The only gift I could give her was to dedicate this church on her birthday, so that she and the church will share the same birthday.
“My dear wife, the love of my life, before God, before His Eminence, before all the priest and reverend sisters, before my people of Akparabong, before my friends, I love you, I thank you. As your husband, let me add my blessing in public. You have the blessings of your husband.”
Those who attended the dedication service comprised top government dignitaries, including the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Uguru Usani Uguru; and Third Republic governor of the state, Mr. Clement Ebri.
Former Senate President David Mark sent a goodwill message.
Mark, a family friend of the Ndoma-Egbas, who was unavoidably absent, sent in his goodwill message which was read by the chairman of the NDDC. The message read, “Hearty Congratulations:
“It is with a deep sense of gratitude, respect and pleasure that I write to congratulate you and your family for this wonderful edifice built and donated by your humble self and amiable wife to Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church Akparabong, Ikom, Cross River State to serve God and humanity.
“Fulfilling your childhood promise to build a Church for God certainly is a mark of good upbringing. Having known you and what you stand for over four decades, I am not surprised that you made good your promise to build a House for God.
“I know you will continue to uphold these values and attributes which have earned you high regards, trust, respect and confidence of anyone who comes across you. You have been steadfast, result-oriented and patriotic. You always make the difference among Nigerians. You have continued to leave your footprint anywhere you go.
“By providence, our paths crossed in Calabar when you were about going to Bauchi for your National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in 1978. Innocuously, we exchanged contacts, but we never met again until 2003 when fate brought us together as Senators of the Federal Republic under the same platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It was a happy reunion after so many years.
“By 2007, fortune smiled at us again when we were re-elected by our constituencies to the senate. With the support of our colleagues and the grace of God, I was elected President of the Senate and you were elected as Deputy Senate Leader.
“In a manner akin to a repeat of history, both of us returned to the senate in 2011. This time, I was returned unopposed as the president of the senate while you were elected as senate leader, as I fondly call you, Leader of the Senate. Your deep knowledge of the law, mastery of legislative processes and procedures was unparalleled.
“Your oratory prowess and high sense of political dexterity in the 6th and 7th Senate, made us proud. Unarguably, you led the Senate excellently to the admiration of both friends and foes.
“Despite our age differences, our bond of friendship and brotherhood was never and will never be compromised. Our bond of friendship and family ties was further strengthened in 2008 when you became the Godfather of my last son, Papa Mark Mark.
“You have over the years, risen to the occasion of service to man and country with an attitude of selflessness and service to the common good of our countrymen and women when it mattered.
“On this auspicious occasion of the dedication of this ultra-modern edifice by His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan, I wish you God’s grace and a blissful ceremony. I pray that this singular effort of yours would be the needed elixir for the promotion of the work of God and upliftment of our society.
“On behalf of my family and the good people of Benue South Senatorial District, I wish you many more years of fruitful service to our fatherland. God bless you abundantly.”
Having fulfilled his promise to build a church for God, Ndoma-Egba went ahead to announce his plans to pioneer the building of a parish house, a residence for the priests of Our Lady Queen of Peace.
He stated, “When I made a pledge to build this church, I told God I will build this church singlehandedly. The only support I got was from my wife. But, when His Eminence and the bishop; when they marry people, they say they have become one. So, I singlehandedly built this church. The church is still not complete. There are few details here and there. The only one I promised, this is the one I have delivered.
“But, I want to say that if you support us to build that house, the blessings you will receive will be far above the blessings that I have received.”
In recent times, the community has been witnessing the activities of young men who have taken to violent cultism. Ndoma Egba seized the opportunity to admonish them against such evil practice.
He told them, “Let me say to our young men and young women, at 11, I made a pact with God. I can say it anywhere, God has been very faithful. I believe absolutely in God. The reason why I don’t believe in revenge, and I don’t revenge; you do anything wrong to me, I will say I leave it to God. It is because God says vengeance is His. So, why should I struggle to do God’s work when I have my own work to do?
“If there must be revenge, that is God’s work. I have my own earthly work here to do, so I live that to God. But, to the young people, I am here today as a result of an incident when I was 11. I was a child. We are the products of the consequences of the choice we make in our lives. Those of you who have decided to belong to cults, I wish you well.
“But, I hope the day you call to say you are looking for a job, you will be bold enough to include in your CV, that I belong to so-so and so cult. If it is not something you feel proud enough to put in your CV, why worry about it.”
The representative of Governor Ben Ayade at the event, Rev. Father Bob Etta, also spoke in the same vein, and advised the youth to stay-off secret and violent cultism.
Vote of Thanks
Expressing appreciation to all who graced the event, Ndoma-Egba said, “Your eminence, I don’t know how my wife Amaka and I can thank you enough. Last year about this time, you facilitated the blessing of our marriage in the Vatican, and we met the Pope. Today, another very memorable day in our lives, you are here in person, even though as you leave here, you are living for Kenya.
“But you decided to honour us. I am not a priest, I am a failed priest. I tried to be one, I couldn’t be. So, I cannot bless a cardinal. But, it is God that will bless you. My lord, you are no longer tear-rubber Bishop because you have spent some months with us in Ogoja.
“But, I believe that this is the first church you are dedicating since you became Bishop of Ogoja. That again is a great honour to us. The priests who have come to identify with one who aspired to be like them, but failed; Father Malachi does not seize to remind me that, whoever I am, I am a failed priest. I thank you. The reverend sisters, my friend, former governor, minister, everybody; I thank you all, and God will bless all of you in Jesus’ name.”