WHO WAS THE BISHOP ADOLPHUS AMABEBE (RTD.) JP?
The life of the late Bishop Adolphus Amabebe was a remarkable journey marked by resilience, faith, and unwavering dedication to his calling. Born in 1939, into a family that faced societal challenges due to cultural taboos surrounding twins, his early life was a testament to overcoming adversity.
His educational journey, fraught with financial struggles, reflected the determination to acquire knowledge. From the St. John’s Anglican School to St. Paul’s College Awka, he navigated challenges, working as a fisherman and odd jobs for twelve years before finding his way into the teaching profession.
Adolphus’s transition from a secular career to a religious vocation marked a pivotal moment. Ordained as a Deacon and later a Priest, he served diligently, witnessing the Nigeria Civil War’s impact in Amassoma. His theological studies furthered his spiritual commitment, leading to his appointment as Archdeacon and later Dean.
In 1999, Adolphus’s journey took an elevated turn when he was elected, confirmed, and consecrated as the Bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Niger Delta West. This position, once unthinkable for a child once rejected due to cultural beliefs, showcased divine intervention and grace.
As Bishop, Adolphus prioritized the growth of the clergy, establishing the Rev. D.O. Ockiya College of Theology and Management Sciences. His leadership extended beyond the church, as he chaired the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) in Bayelsa State.
His life was not without challenges, as seen in miraculous survivals from accidents. In 2003, a car accident left him with a broken arm, and in another incident, a boat mishap saw him resurface fully clothed, clutching his briefcase, attesting to divine protection.
In his later years, health challenges emerged, leading to his passing in 2023. His legacy, however, lives on, marked by a journey of faith, service, and an enduring impact on the church and society. The late Bishop Adolphus Amabebe’s life is a narrative of triumph over challenges, divine calling, and a commitment to the greater good.
Adolphus Amabebe was born on November 16, 1939, to Michael Kungbowei Amabebe and Mrs. Alice Amabebe, along with a twin sister who sadly did not survive in Camerouns. His mother, Alice, originally from Azuzuama community, faced banishment to the Evil Forest due to the taboo associated with giving birth to twins. Despite societal pressure, his father, Michael, a courageous fisherman from Koluama community, vehemently opposed this unjust practice. He challenged and threatened legal action against anyone attempting to harm his son or mistreat his wife. This courageous stance played a crucial role in ending the killing of twins in Koluama and its surroundings. Michael passed on in 1958.
At the age of eight, Adolphus Amabebe began his formal education at St. John’s Anglican School in Eniwari, situated in the Bomo Clan of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, present-day Bayelsa state. His academic journey commenced with Class IA. In his memoirs, he reflected on the challenges of education during his time, highlighting that it took an average pupil nine years to complete primary school, spanning classes IA, IB, II, and Standards I to VI. Access to education was particularly difficult for those without significant financial means.
To support his education, he served his uncle the late Mr. S.J. Orunimighen, a teacher, and accompanied him wherever he was transferred for his teaching assignments. Through hard work and dedication, Adolphus Amabebe successfully passed his Standard IV class in 1953, progressing to Standard V in 1954. Notably, his school at that time, St. Luke’s Anglican School Korokorosei, concluded at Standard IV, lacking Standard V and VI classes. It’s worth mentioning that only two schools in the entire Southern Ijaw District—St. Stephen’s Anglican School, Amassoma, and St. James’ Anglican School Ekeu (now Ekowe)—offered Standards V and VI.
He got admitted to Standard V at St. James’ Anglican School in Ekeu in 1954, which was closer to his community, Koluama. Among his classmates from Koluama were individuals such as Samuel Ikporo, Gelsthrompe Ugbeinbo, Johnson Olotu, and Jonathan Dick Ogbeyan. His time at the school was significant, marked by the experience of being a boarding student for two years.
In 1955, at the age of fifteen, he successfully passed the first school leaving certificate (Standard VI) examination. However, financial constraints prevented him from advancing to a secondary school in 1956. For the next twelve years, Adolphus engaged in fishing and various odd jobs to sustain himself. Fate eventually led him into the teaching profession, where he served as a pupil teacher in several communities in the Niger Delta. Later, he transitioned from the secular profession to a missionary path.
Around 1965, he secured admission to the renowned St. Paul’s College in Awka, Anambra state. There, he underwent training as a Catechist, successfully completing the program in 1966 and was commissioned a catechist in 1967.
Following his time as a pupil teacher, Adolphus Amabebe dedicated himself to studying independently to pass the GCE O and A Levels exams. This achievement opened doors for him to attend St. John’s College in Diobu, Port Harcourt, where he pursued short courses in 1971 and 1972, leading to the acquisition of the Teachers Grade II Certificate.
In the years 1973 to 1975, he furthered his education at Trinity (Union) Theological College in Umuahia, Abia State, Nigeria. Engaging in a three-year theological program, he earned a Diploma in Theology (Dip. Th) in December 1975. Later, in 1979, Adolphus got admission to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, for a postgraduate course leading to a Master of Arts in Religion with a Major in Historical Theology and Exegetical Theology as Minor. He successfully completed the program and obtained his M.A. degree on May 23, 1980.
Adolphus Amabebe embarked on a successful career as a pupils’ teacher and a clergyman of God. Initially, he was employed as a pupil teacher in Southern Ijaw County under the Universal Primary Education Scheme. He was first posted to Minibie in Akassa Clan, where he taught for the initial term from January to April. Subsequently, he moved to Ekeni – Ezetu, where he dedicated four years and eight months of service, teaching from April 1959 to December 1963. Following this, he was transferred from Ekeni – Ezetu to Amatolo in Ogboin Clan, continuing his role as a teacher under the Universal Primary Education Scheme.
In 1964, Adolphus Amabebe transitioned to a missionary role as a full-fledged catechist within the Anglican communion. His first posting was at St. Marks Anglican Church in Ogidiama (now Otuogidi in Ogbia Kingdom), where he served for four months from January to April. Subsequently, he was assigned to St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Amassoma, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, where he worked from 1967 to 1972. During this time, he witnessed the hardships and brutalities of the Nigeria Civil War (1967-1969) in the Amassoma community.
Undeterred by the challenges, Adolphus Amabebe remained steadfast and focused in the Lord’s vineyard, actively contributing to the spiritual well-being of the community. After obtaining a certificate in theology in December 1975, he was ordained as a Deacon at St. Paul’s Church, Diobu, Port Harcourt. Subsequently, he underwent examination and, in December 1976, was ordained as a Priest at St. John’s Church, Rumuokwusi. From 1976 to 1978, he served as a Curate at St. Cyprian’s Church, Port Harcourt, under the leadership of Venerable O. D. C Brown, who was the Archdeacon of Bonny at the time. Following his return from the United States, he was posted to St. Stephen Anglican Church in Bonny, where he continued his service as a curate.
During this period, the Very Rev. I. I Oyet, who had returned from the United Kingdom (UK), resumed his position as the provost of the Cathedral of St. Stephen’s Bonny and appointed Adolphus as the Chaplain of the Cathedral.
In 1982, Adolphus was seconded to Christ Church Interdenominational in Port Harcourt. Later, he was posted to St. Luke’s Church in Nembe (now the Cathedral of St. Luke), where he served as the vicar/superintendent between 1985 and 1986.
In 1987, Adolphus was appointed Archdeacon and posted to St. Peter’s Church in Yenagoa, overseeing Yenagoa Archdeaconry as its pioneer Archdeacon. He served in this capacity for ten years, and in July 1996, Ven. Adolphus was swapped with Venerable B.A Obuoforibo of Okrika Archdeaconry by His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. J. A. Adetiloye, the Archbishop Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, during a provincial meeting at St. Cyprian’s, Port Harcourt. Ven. Adolphus Amabebe served in Okrika Archdeaconry for two years.
Subsequently, he was promoted to the position of Dean of St. Stephen’s Cathedral Bonny and was officially posted to the cathedral in 1998. Thus, he was addressed as “The Very Rev. Adolphus Amabebe” during his two-year tenure as the dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Stephen’s Bonny, Rivers State.
On the 22nd of November, 1999, Adolphus Amabebe was elected, confirmed, and consecrated as Bishop at the Archbishop Vining Memorial Cathedral, Lagos. Following this, the Diocese of the Niger Delta West was formally inaugurated on Sunday, 28th November, 1999.
To the glory of God, Adolphus Amabebe, once a seemingly hopeless twin boy rejected by all during a time when twin children were considered taboo in society, has now been accepted by all. God has elevated him to a position that human effort alone could not achieve. As the Scripture says, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the head stone of the corner” (Psalm 118:22). Truly, “this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23-24).
In accordance with the binding constitution of the Anglican Communion, every ordained priest is required to retire at the age of 70. The late Rt. Rev. Adolphus Amabebe adhered to this rule and formally concluded his duties as a Bishop of the Anglican Communion on the 31st of December, 2009, upon reaching the age of 70. Despite his retirement, his passion for God remained unwavering.
Following his retirement, Rt Rev Anga Fred Nyanabo assumed the role of supervising Bishop of Niger Delta West. Subsequently, a new Bishop was elected by the Anglican Communion of Nigeria on January 5, 2010, at the Ibru Ecumenical Centre, Agbaha-Otor. The elected individual was Rt. Rev. Oko Jaja.
Late Rt. Rev. Adolphus Amabebe continued to preside over religious ceremonies such as dedications, baptisms, and Holy Communion at his private altar (house fellowship) located in his residence in Yenagoa. Additionally, he actively participated in Anglican church services on many Sundays, often attending the Rev. D.O. Ockiya Anglican Church (Nembe Church) in Edepie, Yenagoa, Bayelsa state, to fellowship with fellow believers.
It is noteworthy to mention that the Anglican Communion displayed remarkable benevolence towards Rt. Rev. Adolphus Amabebe and his family even after his retirement. They diligently attended to his financial needs by ensuring his monthly earnings were consistently and promptly paid. Additionally, the Niger Delta West Diocese implemented a feeding policy for the retired bishop, with various Archdeaconries taking turns to execute this generous gesture every month. Furthermore, the Mothers’ Union and Women’s Guild extended their hands of fellowship, providing both material and spiritual support to the retired bishop until his passing. In every aspect, Rt. Rev. Amabebe never lacked for physical and spiritual care.
The Rt. Rev. Adolphus Amabebe entered into matrimony with Mrs. Daisy Amabebe (Nee Osaisai) in 1967, and their union was consecrated on the 22nd of November 1977 at St. Cyprian’s Church, Port Harcourt. She remained a steadfast and supportive wife until her demise on the 6th of April 2022. This marital bond has been blessed with children and grandchildren.
CONTRIBUTION TO CHURCH GROWTH
During his tenure as Bishop of the Niger Delta West Diocese for a decade, Rt. Rev. Adolphus Amabebe achieved significant strides both spiritually and materially, leaving an indelible mark on the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).
One notable accomplishment was the substantial growth in the priesthood, exceeding 100%. This was achieved through the establishment of the Rev. D.O. Ockiya College of Theology and Management Sciences at Emeyal II. This institution played a crucial role in training and retraining pastors, contributing to the enhancement of evangelistic efforts. The pioneer Rector and Training Officer of the center was Ven. Friday Eretoru.
He has consistently demonstrated a keen sensitivity to God’s guidance. Despite his formidable personality and esteemed status, he remains vigilant, patient, and devoted to prayer. This attunement to divine guidance is evident in the protection and guidance he has received throughout his life.
On Sunday, July 1, 2007, Rt. Rev. Adolphus Amabebe, the Bishop of the Niger Delta West, officially inaugurated the renovated St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Yenagoa, dedicating the edifice to the glory of God.
Sometime in 2001, Rt. Rev. Adolphus Amabebe established the investiture of new knights within the diocesan council. Furthermore, on August 15, 2006, he successfully organized the second investiture of knights. Demonstrating his commitment to spreading the gospel, on June 5, 2008, during his tenure as the Bishop of the Niger Delta West, he played a pivotal role in the creation of two new dioceses: the Ogbia Diocese and the Northern Izon Diocese.
In the year 2000, Rt. Rev. Adolphus Amabebe assumed the role of the inaugural Chairman for both the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) in Bayelsa State. He fulfilled this responsibility for two consecutive tenures, efficiently managing human, material, and financial resources to the appreciation of devoted believers in our Lord and Redeemer, Christ Jesus.
In 2006, the then Governor, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, appointed Rt. Rev. Adolphus Amabebe to lead the Bayelsa State delegation on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This appointment was made in the absence of a dedicated Pilgrims Board at the time.
Furthermore, in 2007, Rt. Rev. Adolphus Amabebe received the induction as a Justice of Peace (JP) by the Bayelsa State Government. Subsequently, he actively participated in various peace and conflict resolution initiatives within and beyond the state.
Rt. Rev. Adolphus Amabebe’s remarkable service in the ministry reflected a destined journey of forty significant years. He served as a commissioned Catechist for 6 years, followed by 24 years as a Priest of God, and eventually, he spent 10 years as a Bishop. This cumulative period of 40 years bears symbolic significance in Biblical literature. In various accounts, the number 40 signifies God’s transformative presence in the lives of His servants and the people of Israel across the Old and New Testaments. For example, Noah sought refuge in the Ark during the forty days and forty nights of the flood (Genesis 7:10-12). Moses began his ministry and led the Israelites out of Egypt after forty years (Acts 7:23, 30-36). Elijah, known for his signs and wonders, served for forty years. Notably, Jesus Christ fasted for forty days in the wilderness before initiating His ministry. These instances illustrate the spiritual significance and transformative nature of the number 40 in biblical narratives.
There are noteworthy instances where divine intervention played a crucial role in preserving his life. In February 2003, while en route to the Diocese of Katsina in Katsina State for the Church of Nigeria Standing Committee Meeting, he experienced a severe car accident near Tombia Junction Edepie, resulting in a broken right arm (humerus). Additionally, during a journey to Ekowe for an Episcopal Visit, he encountered a boat mishap in the Epie Creek, near the former UAC building in Yenagoa. Submerged for about five minutes, he miraculously resurfaced fully clothed in his cassock, with his shoes laced and briefcase still clutched in his hand. All these incidents, by the grace of God, he survived.
Despite facing challenges and experiencing failures in his early efforts to please God, Rt. Rev. Adolphus Amabebe, upon encountering Jesus Christ and deciding to follow Him, could not have foreseen himself becoming a Bishop of a Diocese. The transformation in his life serves as a testament to the unexpected and remarkable things that can happen when one decides to follow God. It underscores the idea that when you attempt great things for God, you can expect even greater things from Him. Rt. Rev. Adolphus Amabebe has, indeed, accomplished significant feats for God and humanity, reminiscent of the transformative journey of Peter the Rock.
Rt. Rev. Adolphus Amabebe harbored an unwavering passion for reading and writing, evident in his various publications such as “Words of Inspiration,” “Exegetical Essays,” “Basic Christian Values,” “Special Services Series Guide,” and more. Additionally, he found enjoyment in activities like swimming and fishing, further reflecting his diverse interests and pursuits.
Late Bishop Adolphus Amabebe (Rtd.) JP, who had taken ill, was admitted to the Federal Medical Center in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state. Unfortunately, he passed away due to natural causes on the 10th of October, 2023. His final resting place will be in his hometown of Koluama II on the 15th of December, 2023. He will be remembered for his unwavering zeal for the kingdom of God.
He is survived by; Ms. Deborah Amabebe (Daughter), Sir Braveman and Lady(Dr) Iniye Wodi (Daughter), Ms. Gbodokumo Susan Amabebe (Daughter), Mr. & Mrs Tonbira Cyprian Amabebe (Son), Mr. & Mrs. Ikiolamo Amabebe (Son), Engr. (Mrs.) Nimi Amabebe-Sokari (Daughter), Mr. & Mrs. Ebi Kingsley Amabebe (Son), Mr. Kuro Rowland Amabebe (Son), Seventeen (17) grand-children, his sister madam Kawu Amabebe, cousin Chief J.T.C. Leghemo and a host of relatives too numerous to mention.