It is a week to remember as Asaba people buried one of it’s most famous and controversal citizens. The streets of Asaba was full of visitors, from far and near as they all trot in to bury a man who was larger than life. And Just like he lived, father chukwuma’s burial was a mix of Catholic rites and good old Asaba Tradition. And Just as he lived, Father Ahaba wouldn’t have had it any other way. Fada Chukwuma was laid to rest on August 31st 2010. It was the final leg of a journey that started a long time ago. Oh, what a journey it was!
July 29, 2010 will not be forgotten in the minds of the parishioners of St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Asaba and the entire Asaba community in Oshimili South Local Government Area of Delta State. That day news of the death of late Rt Rev Monsignor Christopher Chukwumah filtered into Asaba and its environs.
Asaba people and the church community will never put aside the role of this legend because of his strong will in representing the church in a title-taking committee meeting that brokered an agreement with Asaba traditional authorities on the conditions for the influential Alor title for Catholics. Late Chukwumah ensured that the rites were devoid of any acts which would be offensive to Christian conscience and way of life.
Monsignor Chukwumah was born 85 years ago to the family of late Ogbueshi Chester Ford James Okolie and Mrs. Anna Nwanze Chukwumah. He has his early education at the St Joseph’s Catholic School and thereafter, taught for a period in the same school. He further left for the Minor Seminary in 1943 at Oke Are in the class of 13 seminarians while the total enrolment from class 1-6 was 36.
Because of his educational quest, Chukwumah proceeded to the Major Seminary at St Paul’s in Benin, Edo State after his senior Cambridge Examination.
Until his death, he was known for his sharp incisive analysis of complex situations and spurious scriptural quotations in Latin, Shakespearean lines and random traditional observations, qualities that made his sermons a source of great inspiration to Christians at masses.
Late Monsignor was ordained priest on January 1, 1952 in his country home (Asaba). On the day of ordination, all the major seminarians travelled to Asaba. Rt Rev Dr Reddington of the former Diocese of Jos ordained him. Chukwumah became the second Asaba priest after late Monsignor Ugboko Patrick. He was the last seminarian to be ordained before St Paul’s Major Seminary was moved from Benin to Bodija, Ibadan, Oyo State.
Present at the historical ordination of Rt, Rev Monsignor Chukwumah were Late Chief N.O Edozien, father of Chief Gilbert Oni Edozien (Ugo Bu Eze), Hon Justice, Chike Idigbe, Mr. & Mrs. P.D Ofili, Ogbueshi J. Ilo Okwudiafor, Obi J.I.G Onyia, Ogbueshi J.T Ogbolu, amongst others. Immediately after his ordination, he spent days in the old priest’s house in Asaba with Very Rev, Fr Coleman as priest.
As a rare gem both in the church and the community because of his erudite incisive interpretations of the doctrines of the church and ability to back them with relevant rules and new trends in the liturgy of the church, he was posted to Ughelli and later transferred to St Paul’s Seminary where he became the first Nigerian priest to teach in the new Junior Seminary at Benin City. From Benin, he was transferred to Aragba in Abraka area Delta state at the insistent demand of Rt Rev Monsignor Eramah Being an energetic priest, he assisted Eramah in changing the existing mud and wattle classrooms to more durable concrete structures. In lgarra, Akoko Edo, he took 27 stations and schools to enviable heights and in a super human and legendary manner and laid the foundation for nine small churches within one year.
The tireless and obedient monsignor, in the course of his priestly career, had the opportunity of developing a wide intellectual and moral outlook courtesy of his international exposure. He left Nigeria in 1962 for Ireland for a four -year post graduate course at the National University of Ireland (UCC). This particular course included a three year degree programme in Mathematics and Mathematical Physics and another one year postgraduate course in philosophy and higher diploma in Education.
He narrowly escaped death from the hands of the military in 1966 when he returned to Nigeria about a week after the military coup d’etat at the Lagos International Airport, where he was mistaken for late Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu because of his name. By an act of providence he was saved from being detained after convincing the soldiers that he was a different Chukwumah.
Late Christopher Chukwumah as a result of his rich store of wisdom was a man of justice and truth and very calculating but faced difficulties as he faced the bull by the horn damning all consequences and risks to take stunning decisions. He was transferred to Asaba in 1973 where he performed his duties creditably.
In 1983 Chukwumah was ordained a monsignor and later appointed vicar- general by Bishop (Dr) Anthony .O. Gbuji of the then Diocese of Issele-Uku to assist him in the governance of the diocese. He became the Episcopal vicar of the clergy of the diocese and chairman of the Priest’s Welfare Committee. As former chairman of the land committee, he had been a great instrument to the church by consolidating possession of its lands without fear or favour.
Other achievements of Monsignor Chukwumah include the establishment of Regina Mundi Private School, Multipurpose Hall, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church building at Cable Point, recovery of the Catholic Mission building and the chapel within St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, (West-End) from encroachers. He was the bastion of plots of land now occupied by OLA Sisters, St. Patrick Secondary School (West-End), St. Brigid’s Secondary School, Ogbeolie Primary School, (Cable Point), Ogbeafor Primary School and the Church of Assumption (Zappa). In 1995, he complied a Pilgrim Book of Prayer with over 30 prayers, 20 songs and the order of mass.
Chukwumah, who was the longest parish priest that headed St Joseph’s Catholic Church Asaba from 1973-2006, championed the cause of the poor and oppressed with great zeal. There is no doubt that Monsignor Christopher Chukwumah, who was committed to mother earth on August 31, 2010, exudes sympathy, love, charm while his high sense of humour gave him an attractive personality of the “good old chap”. Indeed, he is a kind and hospitable papa.
Views on Msgr Chukwurah by his admirers:
Chaplain Dr. Oni Edozien JP. Amb (BSN) said that the exit of Rt. Rev Msgr Christopher Chukwumah indicated that an icon in the Lord’s vineyard was gone at 85. He declared, “Glory to God! Do not weep. He left footprints; our idol is marching on, Halleluyah!!”.
Oni Edozien (Ugo Bu Eze) said “Chukwumah Okosisi, Dike Éjieje Mba”, was not just a reverend father but served the Christian community with courage, candour, confidence and faithfulness.
According to Oni, “We have heard the sermon and have seen the monsignor’s work, especially with victims and captives. The Monsignor is a cross bearer”.
He maintained that Monsignor Chukwumah was a great achiever, repository of knowledge, a source and pillar in the church of God in Asaba, adding that he built the Catholic church in Asaba. St Joseph Catholic Church is the mother of all the Catholic churches in Asaba and its environs and nobody can share the glory, Chief Oni stated.
Ambassador Edozien also holds that Chukwumah who is fondly known by his admirers as FADA Ahaba, Agaba! Ogbueshi! Is the Diokpa (OKPALAKA EZE) of Umuezei Quarters and the entire Asaba, the first and the top.
Hear him say “Rt. Rev Msgr Christopher Chukwumah, parish priest of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Asaba Okpal eze taking his exit, my prayer is that our Lord Jesus Christ grants the Church and Asaba, the grace and serenity to behold and to cherish this colossus, an institution bequeathed to us”.
May his soul and the souls of all dearly departed find peace in the warm bossom of the Lord.