” A man of remarkable stature and bodily strength, being over 6ft high and 18 stone in weight; his disposition was gentle and kindly”. This quote from Times of London far back as 19th March, 1954 gives a description of the First Igboman to be ever ordained a Bishop. His name, Alphonso Chukuma Onyeabo.
Our #FlashbackFriday is dedicated to Bishop Onyeabo, a pace setter and erstwhile achiever.
• He was born in 1879 in Onitsha and hailed from the Royal family of Onitsha (Umuezearoli) Ezeolisa kindred of Umuaroli .
• His mother who was from a famous family in Umuasele village Onitsha was the elder sister of the late Rev. George Anyaegbunam and a first cousin to the Ibegbu family of the same village.
• He attended C.M.S school Onitsha, and after passing the then standard five exams with credits, went on to the CMS College Asaba in 1897.
• He was educated at St. Andrew’s Training Institute, Oyo College before the creation of separate diocese for the eastern region.
• He became a cathecist afterwards and from 1904 to 1909, taught in places around Onitsha and the Midwest.
• By 1909, he was made a deacon on 22nd of August.
• He was a member of the Translation Committee of the First Igbo Language Conference mandated to translate the Bible and other religious books into lgbo language. The Committee was chaired by Archdeacon Dennis, and besides Onyeabo, there were six others, including Archdeacon Dennis.
• In 1914, he was ordained a priest and later became the Superintendent of Owerri District, establishing many churches in the process.
• By 1937, he was consecrated a Bishop on 11th June at the St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. The officiating Archbishop was the late Archbishop Cosmo Lang and late Justice Louis Mbanefo was an eye witness to his consecration
• He worked as Bishop on the Niger Delta from 1937 to 1948, with his base as Aba.
• He passed away on 14 February 1954 Valentines day. Earlier in the year, Her Majesty the Queen had conferred on him the Honour of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
As the London Times newspaper put it, “Bishop Alphonso Chukuma Onyeabo indeed was a wise administrator and counsellor to both Africans and Europeans alike. He had deep knowledge and understanding of his own people among whom he had great authority”.