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Ajayi Crowther University and Osoogun

Published by The Nation on Mon, 25 May 2020

By Femi MacaulayIt is commendable that, from September, Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, Oyo State, will have a campus in Osoogun, where the celebrated cleric after whom it is named was born and captured by slave dealers in 1821. The private university was established in January 2005.Following a decision from the Governing Council meeting heldviaZoom Video Conferencing app on Friday, May 15, 2020, the University is to registerits presence at Osoogun town, to further immortalise the Anglican Sage, recognising his works, refined values, achievements and sacrifices, the university said on its website.According to the universitys website, The Vice-Chancellor, together with the Bishop of the Ajayi Crowther Anglican Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Kemi Oduntan, and a native of Osoogun, Dr. Sola Ojenike, visited this site to earmark parcels of land, about 40 hectares landmass for the Ajayi Crowther University, Osoogun campus.This campus will host the Centre for Anglican Communion Studies, Centre for Mission Studies, Department of History and Archival Studies,Entrepreneurship Centre and Faculty of Agriculture which is to take off in September 2020.The plans include the Crowther Museum and Archive and a mausoleum for Bishop Ajayi Crowther whose remains need to be reburied in his home town Osoogun.This development is significant, coming after the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) had chosen the Crowther monument site as one of the countrys 100 most important monuments during the centenary celebration of Nigerias amalgamation in 2014.Rt. Rev. Oduntan brought the collaboration between the university and the community to my notice. He is a passionate promoter of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther. The Baale of Osoogun, Chief Moses Osuolale, warmly received the Vice-Chancellor of Ajayi Crowther University, Rt. Rev. Prof. Dapo Asaju, signifying the communitys backing.I visited the Crowther monument site some years ago when I attendeda Thanksgiving/Holy Communion Service in the village to mark the yearly Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther Day Celebration. The Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, has declared October 3 Crowther Remembrance Day. I saw the storied tree. It is said that Crowther and other captives were tied to this tree before they were sold into slavery.Nearby, there were ruins of a place said to be Crowthers home, where he was captured. There was no architecture in the ruins. A signpost said to have been erected by the Iseyin local government to indicate touristic intentions had no visible inscription. Crowthers statue stood at the centre of the village. The state of a secondary school named Bishop Ajayi Crowther Memorial High School showed neglect.In October 2013, the Bishop Ajayi Crowther Diocese in Iseyin, Oyo State, organised a fundraiser for the completion of a new building for the Bishop Ajayi Crowther Memorial Anglican Church in Osoogun. The old church, built between 1958 and 1960, was in a dishonourable state. The new church is still work in progress. The truth is that the church needs financial support for completion.The birthplace of the illustrious cleric who in 1864 was ordained as the first African bishop of the Anglican Church at a ceremony in England should have a befitting church. It is a testimony to Crowthers quality that in the same year he was also given a Doctorate of Divinity by the prestigious University of Oxford.It was in Osoogun, in present-day Iseyin local government area, Oyo State, that his life began as well as the story of his life. It was in his village, Osoogun, that Fulani slave raiders seized him in 1821. He was eventually sold to Portuguese slave traders at the age of 12. The young Ajayi of Yoruba ancestry was rescued by the British navy and taken to Freetown, Sierra Leone.Crowther described his enslavement as the unhappy, but which I am now taught in other respects to call blessed day, which I shall never forget in my life. In his progression to priestly prominence, he took an unlikely path, helped by unlikely destiny helpers. For him, slavery turned out to be a springboard to celebrity.It is noteworthy that in 2015 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, publicly expressed remorse for the sin against Crowther at a thanksgiving and repentance service in England.Welby is the leader of the Church of England and the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion. His apology on behalf of the Anglican Church spoke volumes about Crowthers place in history.Welby said: We in the Church of England need to say sorry that someone was properly and rightly consecrated Bishop and then betrayed and let down and undermined. It was wrong. He also said in his sermon: In spite of immense hardship and despite the racism of many whites, he evangelised so effectively that he was eventually ordained Bishop, over much protest. He led his missionary diocese brilliantly, but was in the end falsely accused and had to resign, not long before his death.Crowther died of a stroke in Lagos in 1891, which was possibly connected with his desolation. We are sorry for his suffering at the hands of Anglicans in this country, Welby said.Described as extraordinary, Crowther played an undeniably effective evangelistic role in the early days of Christianity in Nigeria. Not for nothing is he regarded as the father of Anglicanism in Nigeria. Today, well over 70 million Christians in Nigeria are his spiritual heirs, Welby said in tribute to his pioneering efforts.Crowthers achievements are remarkable, considering his unremarkable beginnings. Following his conversion to Christianity and his baptism in 1825, he adopted the name of a prominent British clergyman of the Anglican Church Missionary Society (CMS). He studied in England and attended the Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone, where he advanced his exceptional interest in languages, which became of immense use in evangelism. He made history when he was ordained as the first African bishop of the Anglican Church.Crowthers language skills produced the first Yoruba translation of the Bible, which was completed in the 1880s, and a Yoruba version of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. These projects demonstrate how seriously he took his Christianity and his evangelism. He also produced primers for the Igbo language and the Nupe language.Osoogun is a place of history; and Crowther is a man of history. The Osoogun campus of Ajayi Crowther University will make the community visible, and should help develop the village. Other projects to promote Crowthers significance should spring up.
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