BOSSEY: I Feel Fulfilled And There Is No Regrets At All
How has spending 35 years in the priesthood been?
IT has been very beautiful with all the challenges that go with it. It has not all been rosy, but with God, everything has been fine because with Him, if you carry a heavy load, it becomes light, as He is the one carrying the load and you are only an instrument in His hands. So, it has been very wonderful and challenging. Without challenges, life will be boring. It has been beautiful in all the areas I have worked.
What motivated you to become a priest?
As little children, there are little things that motivate us and as time goes on, greater motivation comes and you begin to know this is the reason you do certain things. Initially, I was interested in doing this work of God through the European priests. I enjoyed sitting at the back of pick-up vans and my mates and people would say ‘he is sitting with oyibo’ (Whiteman). But the greatest motivation, as I discovered later, is to serve the people in the church; to bring them up to know God and not just through prayers or societal work alone. But identifying myself with the people like Jesus did. I think those were the real motivations because right from the beginnings, right from when I can reason, I began seeing this whole idea in me.
How did your parents and family feel when you told them you were going to be a Reverend Father?
Africans generally do not allow for a smooth sail in such things because they see you as one that would get lost. They know you won’t marry or have children, or have a family. So, it was not an easy one. Convincing them was a problem, but sometimes when you have a strong belief, a conviction, no matter whether your family agrees or not, there is a stage at which they cannot say no and they will just identify with you. Definitely, they did not take it easy, but here I am, I have spent 35 years. By the time they see you growing up, they will identify, though they won’t say no or yes. At least they come for your programmes and then say; okay we leave you to God.
How has your experience been serving in Igarra in the last nine years?
What motivated me into the work is helping the society and I have a passion for that right from the beginning. I always have an idea of how I can better my environment. Even when I used to come here in those days, I used to think of how to develop the place. I always felt this place could be better than this. It is not that those that were here were not working, they were. But you see, there are a variety of gifts, which God gives to us and everybody uses his own to better the people.
When I came here, it was like a forest but I just told myself that something had to be done. When I was coming, some of my friends even said let us see whether he will plant flowers on stones. But here we are, I have more flowers here than in any other place I have been. The people have been wonderful and were prepared for me and we have achieved all this together. I believe the way you lay your bed is how you will lie on it. Sometimes, I think there is still much to be done. Igarra is an old parish in this dispensation of Auchi Diocese and they have a lot of land, but for a while, the land was lying fallow. However, thank the Lord we are now using most part of it, though we need to use the whole land in order to justify the reason it was given. And my friends have been assisting me. There is a college here now, as well as a primary school and by next year, we will do our first WAEC and NECO.
Any regrets choosing to be a Catholic priest?
No regrets at all. There is this thinking of people talking about being born again in the African sense (reincarnation). If it is possible, I will still want to be a priest. It has helped me to work with people of different categories. I started my work from Holy Cross Cathedral as a young priest under Father Abiode, Father Gregory, Father Ofei and Father Ogbonwu. All of them are of blessed memory. We were together and from there as an assistant priest, I was moved to St. Joseph, Igueben, where I spent two to three years. I was moved to Udaba near Anegbete, a riverine area. I had wonderful experience there and that was where I learnt how to paddle a canoe and swim because you need to be able to do these things before you can stay there successfully, unlike now that the Comrade Governor has constructed the roads. Then, there was no road and electricity though they are all there now. The Comrade Governor has really done what Napoleon could not do.
I’m always surprised when people say the governor has not done this or that because one person cannot do everything. My Bishop emeritus, Bishop Ekpu said it is not every good thing you want to do that you can do; just do the best you can. So for me, Comrade Oshiomhole has opened up areas that you think can never be opened. I thank him because that is our role as priests — to praise those that have done well. Now I can leave here and say I am going to Udaba and in one and half hours I will be there. But in those days, you would spend six hours and you would still not be sure whether you would get there on time because your vehicle may break down on the way.
I worked for seven years in Udaba, very wonderful people. I was the doctor, as well as the priest, the nurse and the administrator among the people who are Muslims, pagans and Christians among others. I was busy for seven years and from there, I was taken to Ubiaja, where I worked for another six years. From there, I was moved to Abudu, where I spent only 11 months before being moved again to Agenebode my hometown. I had always wished to work there and God opened up the place and we built a college and also established a pure water factory, which is about the best in that axis and these are not without challenges because you are with your people.
I left there thanking God that I went to my town and the college and pure water are eye openers to that area. From there, I moved to Uzaiure, where we also built a primary school. For me, education is the first whether you like it or not and sometimes our public schools are not playing that role and since they took schools from the missions, there have been problems and the only way we can bring back the sanity in the education sector is by building new ones since they have refused to give us back our schools. We didn’t receive any kobo from government as compensation when they were taking over the schools. There is no regret at all and by God’s grace, I feel fulfilled. I have been here for nine years.
Who are your role models in the priesthood?
Father Vharles Nasamu. He was a classmate of Father Uba Ofei, Monsignor Olege and Very Rev Fr Thomas Obozua now late. They are all great guys and of course, Professor John Anyia, who was my rector in the seminary. They are all wonderful role models for me.
There is this allegation that some of the new generation priests are no longer going into priesthood for the calling but to make wealth. What is your take on this?
Well, these reports are here and there, but I wouldn’t know if that is true. The road to priesthood is difficult and tortuous; so to think people will go into it just to amass wealth, is something I wouldn’t understand. The whole process is like that of a camel going through the eye of the needle. There are better, easier and legitimate ways to amass wealth. So, to think that somebody will go into the priesthood to take care of his family and then abandon his oath of service to God and humanity is unbecoming.
It is true that our generation is different from older ones. It is also true that they are children of their own generation, while we are children of our generation. We are from the same society in which today, children can start to riot because there is no food on the table. I see this generation as one that has a culture of violence, just as the materialism culture is also going on. And of course, today’s children are children of their generation. So, if they deviate, it may be little but not to the extent that what is propelling them to priesthood is to amass wealth because if you want to become a Catholic Priest just to make money, then you are making a mistake.
What are your plans for the future?
After 35 years, God has been so wonderful. Regarding plans for tomorrow, there is no doubt that where I am going is shorter than where I am coming from. My future plans is for God to sustain me in what He has been using me to do by staying in His house and doing this work of evangelism, even though not as actively as before because the body is no longer as it used to be. In those days, I was a youth chaplain for 10 years when we established the Catholic Youth Organisation of Nigeria (CYON) in Emmanuel Seminary in Benin City, where we had a meeting of all Catholic youths from the country. It was formerly called Youth Movement then CYON.
The Bible says serve the Lord thy God in the days of thy youth and I thank God that I tried my best. But whatever we do, whether in the youthful days or whatever age is by the grace of God. I pray that God should sustain us so that I can continue to encourage the younger ones that are coming up to be able to fit into whatever we have done because there are still many of these young ones who are very sharp and agile. When an old man looks back and sees children following him, he would say, ‘Oh, Lord if you take my life now I won’t mind.’
Nigerians believe that the Church has not done enough to give direction to political leaders, but rather, the clergy has become part of the problem of governance in Nigeria.
Political leaders have their agenda, which is the opposite of what the ordinary man desires and that is why there is a problem. Sometimes while preaching, you see some people reading newspapers; others have earphones and doing all sorts of things. It is not that the Church is not doing its work. Rather, politicians have their own agenda, which they usu