Government Must Curb Impunity – Archbishop Martins
When he was ordained priest along with seven of his colleagues on September 18, 1983, Alfred Adewale Martins, the 53-year old new Archbishop of Lagos, never thought he would succeed the man who ordained him, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie. Martins was just 24 years old then and was still learning the ropes, wondering how far he would climb the ladder of a spiritual journey of deep and undiluted life of celibacy. As fate would have it, it took him 29 years to literally inherit Okogie’s ‘extra-large’ shoes.
From next month when he officially assumes the new post, Martins will notch another milestone as the spiritual leader of the Catholic community in the Lagos Archdiocese, a role Cardinal Okogie played for 39 odd years.
For Martins, the successful journey to the top was not accidental. Martins whose parents were teachers and hailed from Abeokuta, Ogun State, was destined for greatness. As a young seminarian, he exhibited good leadership and personal qualities that caught the attention of the formation team in the Seminary which appointed him as Senior Prefect for the 1982/1983 academic session. He eventually graduated with a first class in his Bachelor of Theology degree examination. After fulfilling the requirements for the diaconate order, he was ordained a deacon at the Holy Cross Cathedral, December 18, 1982, with seven of his classmates popularly known as “the class of eight” by Cardinal Okogie. The eight of them had a very rare record of starting their major seminary training together and getting ordained priests together on September 18, 1983, at the Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos.
After his secondary education, at the St. Theresa Minor Seminary, Oke-Are, Ibadan, Oyo State, Martins became convinced that the call to priestly life and service, which was getting louder by then, must be genuine. So, 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 and was therefore admitted to the Seminary of SS Peter and Paul, Bodija, Ibadan in 1976.
Following this training, the newly ordained Reverend-Father Martins was assigned to work after his ordination as an assistant administrator at Holy Cross Cathedral, from October 1983 to August 1984. He was later transferred to St. Gregory’s College, Obalende, Lagos, where he worked as a teacher and chaplain from September 1984 to September 1986. While at St. Gregory’s, he doubled as priest in-charge of St. Theresa Catholic Church, Maroko, also in Lagos, as well as chaplain to Holy Child College, Obalende. Later in September 1986 he was seconded to his alma mater, the SS. Peter and Paul Major Seminary, to assist in the formation of future priests.
To further enrich his knowledge in his field of specialisation, Martins secured admission to the prestigious oldest university in Scotland, the University of St. Andrews where he earned a master of letters degree in philosophy in 1997. Upon completion of his studies in St. Andrews, he was enrolled for the PhD programme at the University of Edinburgh. He had just submitted his proposal when he was called by the Holy See as the pioneer bishop of the newly created Diocese of Abeokuta, which was then carved out of the Lagos Diocese.
Thus, he had the privilege of being the pioneer bishop of Abeokuta Diocese, leading Catholic faithful in Abeokuta from inception, building a young local church with only nine parishes and eight priests to a vibrant and dynamic one.
With an unmistakable humble and gentle disposition, Martins, did not immediately strike one as an interviewer’s delight. But throughout this interview, which lasted for about an hour, Martins was very eloquent on spiritual and mundane matters that not only affect the Catholic Church in Nigeria and Christians in particular, but Nigerians in general.
Politically conscious like Okogie, Martins faulted the basis of the Nigerian federation, saying that the country should retrace its steps to what obtained in the past, to sort out some of the problems hindering its progress such as a centrally controlled police force and the issue of revenue allocation on the basis of derivation. He could not understand why, for example, state governors in Nigeria should be regarded as chief security officers of their respective states when they do not possess the tools to assume such a responsibility. Curiously, this has been the argument of state governors in the current political dispensation, which has witnessed a growing call for true federalism.
Martins has the potential to be a firebrand critic and people’s advocate like Okogie of old. For instance, he carpeted the Ogun State government for attempting to subject educational institutions owned by the Catholic mission in the state to multiple taxation, asking the state government to see the mission as a partner in progress, since educating the citizenry is a primary responsibility of government. The new Archbishop of Lagos shares his thoughts with Raymond Mordi and Stella Sawyerr, senior assistant editors and Paul Kuyoro, photojournalist.
Full interview can be read in the current edition of TELL Magazine, edition 31.