His Grace, the Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, is billed to assume office as the 5th Primate of the Church of Nigeria on Wednesday, this week. Others, who have occupied the office since the inauguration of the Church of Nigeria as a Province of the Anglican Communion in 1979, are the Most Reverends Timothy Olufosoye (1979-1988), Joseph Adetiloye (1988-1999), Peter Akinola (2000-2010) and Nicholas Okoh (2010-2020).
The process of becoming the Primate by Arcbishop Ndukuba started with his election by the Episcopal Synod of the Church of Nigeria, which met at St Peter’s Cathedral Asaba on 24th September 2019. It continued with his moving into Abuja, the headquarters of the Church of Nigeria, on 30th January 2020 for the commencement of the handover formalities; and will finalise on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, with his enthronement as the Bishop of Abuja and formal Presentation as the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of all Nigeria at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, Life Camp, Abuja. The terminal activities for the Primacy of Archbishop Nicholas Okoh earmarked to herald the inauguration include a Thanksgiving service on Sunday, March 22, Church of Nigeria’s Standing Committee on March 23 and 24 at St Matthias House (Church of Nigeria’s Secretariat), Gudu District, Abuja and dinner at Golden Bird Event Centre, Wuye District, Abuja on March 24.
Archbishop Henry was providentially prepared for the office and work of a church prelate from childhood. He was born when his parents, the late Mr. Silas and Mrs. Selina Ndukuba were CMS School and local Church Teachers. They lived in the Church Vestry in Isu-Njaba, in Isu LGA of Imo State. It was said that as early as four years of age, the little Henry did not only categorically and prophetically say he would be a bishop, but was also very enthusiastic about church matters. His church and spiritual leadership ability began to manifest at the age of nine when his mother became sick and collapsed and he had to mobilise other little children to pray for her, through which she was instantly healed. This experience got a personal faith in the mighty God rooted in him. His Church leadership dexterity continued to show, when he entered secondary school in a Roman Catholic School (Bishop Shanaham College, Orlu) and distinguished himself as an Anglican student, by rallying other Anglican students and assisting in organising Moral Instruction, Confirmation and other religious activities for them. He continued to be actively involved as a teenager in Church activities as a Chorister, Sunday School Teacher and AYF member.
Owing to his personal conviction, experience and Divine guidance, the incoming Anglican Primate joined the Church ministry very early in life, such that even after some delay in being sent to Seminary school due to age, he was eventually ordained in 1984 in Kano by Bishop B. B. Ayam at a very tender age of 23 (the minimum canonical age for ordination). His climbing of the rungs of the ecclesiastical ministerial ladder was also fast. He has preferred Canon after five years as a clergyman (1989) at the age of 28, preferred an Archdeacon in the next three years (1992) at the age of 31 and elected bishop after seven years (1999) at the age of 38.
The new Primate is not an unknown or new player in the polity and affairs of the Church of Nigeria and has carved out a niche for himself as an unassuming and simple, but very principled and upright man. He is a good team leader – not bossy, but motivating and compelling and ensuring goal accomplishment. He has evinced impressive contentment (particularly in material things), honesty and maturity in his life and functions, having served in different capacities. He has been the Bishop of Gombe for over 20 years and the Archbishop of Jos Province for over two years. He has also served the Church of Nigeria as an Acting Dean of Theological College and Chairman of the Liturgy and Spirituality Committee (responsible for the production and review of the Church’s worship books and devotional/spirituality materials/literature) since 2000 (where I personally served under him as the Desk Officer at the Primate’s Office for almost ten years). He has also been the Chairman of Historical Records and Artefacts Committee (responsible for documenting and preserving the church’s historical records and artefacts and setting up archives for the church) since 2009.
In the sphere of practical ecumenism, Archbishop Henry has fruitfully worked with other Church and community leaders in Gombe State, to ensure peaceful coexistence and community development. He has also been an active part of Luke Partnership, Nigeria Bible Translation Trust and SEED Company that produces spiritual literature and translates the Bible and Jesus film to languages in Gombe State. He is the BoT Chairman of LIST, the registered body working on a translation of the Bible, Jesus Film and Christian literary materials to Nigerian languages, especially the minority languages.
Academically, the Most Rev. Ndukuba had a quality education, has two Masters Degrees from two world-class universities – Systematic Theology of the University of Durham, England (1990) and Christian Education of Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey, USA (1996), winning the 1996 John Havran’s Princeton prize. He served as a Lecturer in St Francis Theological College Wusasa for 12 years (1985-1997) and is an acclaimed scholar, with many academic papers and several books to his credit.
The new Primate is married to Mrs. Angela Ndukuba, who has proved herself a visionary and veritable women leader with numerous achievements and development in the Women Ministries to her credit. She is a very lovely, homely and exemplary Christian mother, like her predecessor and sister, Mrs. Nkasiobi Okoh.
The tenure of Archbishop Ndukuba and wife as the Primate will end on 25th March 2030.
Oh LORD, Strengthen Henry, our Primate, that he may finish even stronger than he is starting.