PERSONALITY OF WEEK: WHAT INFORMED MY CHOICE OF PRIESTHOOD – FR. IBUDE, CELEBRATES 30TH PRIESTLY ANNIVERSARY
Reveals What Led To His Becoming A Priest
Explains Why He Is Building For The Lord, Calls For Support
Insists On His Earlier Understanding Of Re-Incarnation
Narrates How His Name Was Used For Ogbanigbe Cultural Festival At Idumuje Unor For Defending His Parishioners
Says Affirmation During His Seminary Formative Days That Priests should Marry Was Meant To Throw Up Controversy
Underlines That Ordination Does Not Make You Saint Automatically
Hints On Building A Private University/Retreat Centre
Declares That He Has No Problem With Proliferation And Commercialization Of Churches In Nigeria
The interview was part of the activities lined up to mark his 30th anniversary in Priesthood. But after the encounter, its outcome became more revealing than earlier envisaged.
Aside from proving to Ika Weekly Newspaper crew that he is an embodiment of spiritualism and intellectualism rolled into one, Rev. Fr Victor Ibude, used the opportunity provided by the interview to give a graphic description of how he joined the seminary and his existential journey as a Catholic Priest in the past 30years
He also touched on controversial and critical issues that include but not limited to; church doctrine and administration, hidden benefits of proliferation and commercialization of churches, the relevance of charity, his forthcoming book presentation, provided answers to why he is building for the Lord as the burning desire to build a private university/Retreat centre.
You cannot for any reason afford to miss this carefully crafted account of a man of God who truly loves God and humanity as well as enjoys liberal approach to human challenges.
Ika Weekly; Padre, it is a tradition at Ika Weekly Newspaper that we allow our guest to introduce his/her self. So, we graciously request that you start by telling us about yourself?
Father: I am Rev. Fr Victor Ibude. I was born on the 11th of May, 1967 in Agbor town. I schooled in Odili Primary School, Agbor and my secondary school was at Ika Grammar School, Owa. After my secondary school, I proceeded to the Major Seminary in Ekpoma in the year 1985. Then, after my one-year program in Ekpoma, I proceeded to Ibadan for my Major Seminary training. I was there for seven years. Then, I was ordained in December 4, 1993. That is what I can say.
Ika Weekly: Thank you so much Father for the response. Now, before the Seminary experience, how was your growing up like?
Answer: In my secondary school, class three I formed what we call the Block Rosary Crusade in Agbor. And our own group was called Centre 6. It was the only English-Speaking Block Rosary Group in Agbor. Then while in secondary school, Class four to be precise, I began another group which I eventually gave a name to when I was in my first year in the Seminary. The group’s name is called Pages of the Blessed Sacrament. It is dedicated to the Youths. So, these were the things I did while growing up.
Ika Weekly; Padre, our readers would like to know what prompted your choice of priesthood?
Father: It was as a result of an event that occurred during my West African Examination Council (WAEC). When I had my first WAEC, I did not pass all my papers. Then, I went to Lagos where I showed my result to my siblings. I was enrolled to attend a lesson. While attending the lesson, I was still active in church. My elder brother, Edward reported me to my elder sister, telling them that I was too ‘churcheous’ and not focusing on my studies.
So, there was a conference over the matter and during the discussion, I told them that my result was already known to me. So, I mentioned what I would score in the forthcoming examination. My brother decided to do a bet with me that if I should score any distinction, he will give me twenty naira (N20).
At the end of the day, when the result was released and I had distinctions, my brother wrote me a letter telling me that God wrote the examination for me. Then since God wrote the examination for me, I decided to go and thank Him by going to the Seminary.
Ika Weekly: From your profile, you appear more academic inclined than church administration. Is that assertion correct and what informed the decision?
Father: You are right. Actually, my elder brother Godwin was my teacher. But he was a difficult one. In my Primary 6, he was dealing with me with belt. When eventually, he got admission to go and study in Italy. After he left in my primary 6, I started reading on my own. I began enjoying reading. I read so many books. When I was in secondary school, there were no more books to read in the house. I decided to write my own books. So, from my class one in secondary school, I started writing fictions but none of them survived because my mother burnt them.
It was in class two in the secondary school that I delved into music. I diversified into music because of my contact with one of my classmates in secondary school Tunde. He loved music. I loved Don Williams. We got into music. From that class 2, I started composing my own music and I formed my own group that I call ETO. And this present popular musician, Alariwo of Africa was then a member of my group. The Seminary also terminated my music career.
Ika Weekly: So, tell us, do you still dance or sing?
Father: I still dance, I still sing but at a micro level.
Ika Weekly: Father, there is this story that when you were wrapping up your programme at the seminary, you were asked if Catholic Priests should marry and you nodded in affirmation. Are you saying in effect that while you were in the seminary, all through the years, you weren’t aware that they don’t marry or the answer was meant to throw up controversy?
Father: Yes, I was trying to throw up a controversy. In my class 6 in the seminary, I was having difficulties with the system. Like I said, I was into music. So, my life was a social life. They were already telling me that I was too social. That is not the life of a priest. But I was not giving it up because that was what I liked. So, it was clear to me that those in charge were not comfortable with it. And the only thing they could do was to send me away but how they were going to send me away, I didn’t know.
So, when the examination came, they asked me the question and I said it was a way of them telling me to go. I was not even afraid of going in the first place. So, that was why I did that.
Ika Weekly: Father, do you believe in the existence of witchcraft?
Father: If there’s Devil, there must be witchcraft.
Ika Weekly: There was this reported witchcraft related incident that you encountered at Idumujie-Unor. Can you refresh our minds on what happened?
Father: Actually, this happened after Reverend Father David Mario came to a crusade in the Parish. After he was gone, the people started seeing visions of their enemies. Even from among the members of the town, we started hearing that somebody was making a confession that she was a witch. Before long, she started pointing at people. Among the people she pointed to, five happened to be from my church. I myself didn’t see the connection between the outsider and my church members being part of a coven.
So, I objected. And because I objected, the town, especially the youths rose against me. And they actually used my name to compose music during Ogbanigbe (cultural festival). They also threatened to deal with me. That was why I had to run away.
Ika Weekly: So, at the middle of this crisis, what was the position of your parishioners? Were they in support of the town or they were behind you?
Father: First, they were behind me but after the town threatened them that whoever supports Father, will pay a fine, a goat and a carton of beer, they left me immediately. We spent about eleven months over the issue.
Ika Weekly: So, you were actually left alone?
Father: Yes, I was left alone.
Ika Weekly: So, how was the case finally resolved?
Father: When we got to court, it was clear because some people from the town were arrested because of the case. So, their own lawyer invited us for a peaceful resolution-telling us that if this case continues, even their king would be invited. With that, I opted for settlement.
Ika Weekly: We thank God for the peaceful resolution. Now, going through your profile again, it was documented that you have written over fifty books and you’re targeting hundred or even more. Looking at the history of the Catholic Church, it was people such as St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Thomas Aquinas and others that achieved such a feat. Who among these people inspires you?
Father: Well, I don’t have any person I’m looking at. I’m doing my own thing.
Ika Weekly; Few days from now, you will be celebrating your 30th anniversary as an ordained Priest of the Catholic Church. Kindly x-ray the journey so far?
Answer: Well, the journey has been a serious one. There was a time when I had some challenges. At that time, there were issues that were provoking me. One, as a priest, I found out that the word Father was no longer a name but a demand. People make demands of you. I was not sure I could carry the load of the challenge of people’s demand. That was one. The second one was discovering that ordination does not make you a saint automatically. I thought passion dies with ordination. That was when I decided I wanted to go to the monastery. And I actually went to the monastery. I was in the monastery for about a week because I was studying their spirituality. After that, I decided I was going to live a monastic life. I asked for permission but they refused. That was how I didn’t go to the monastery.
Ika Weekly: And you couldn’t have gone there on your own?
Father: I could not.
Ika Weekly: Father, in one of your books, you discussed reincarnation which of course, happens to be one of the doctrines preached against by the Catholic faith. Our readers would like to know how you arrived at that teaching? What were the facts used to back up your claim on it?
Father: Actually, as a Catholic and a Christian, I was going with the waves that the church does not believe in reincarnation. However, I actually wrote my first work on reincarnation when I was in secondary school class five. The title was the wonders of reincarnation. Now, I learnt from my parents. My father was not a Catholic. He believed in Cherubim and Seraphim. They taught me and my siblings how each of us were incarnates of somebody who was gone. The stories were so clear to me and that was how I started getting interested in the fact that these people are giving us facts that you can see.
So, why are we having doubts about this? Eventually, when I entered seminary, I decided to give myself into understanding that philosophy of reincarnation. I started researching it. Eventually, my final study in philosophy was on reincarnation.
Then what was my conclusion? My conclusion was that there exists reincarnation. That was where the issue was. How did I come to that conclusion knowing that the church does not believe in reincarnation? Luckily for me, because of my test, I came across the work of Saint Paul in 1st Thessalonians 5 v 23, where St. Paul talked about the tripartite nature of man.
All the while, we talk about the dual nature of man. Man is soul and body. We don’t talk about the third part of man which is the spirit. So, when I came across this version of St. Paul of man being three and not two, the whole mystery of reincarnation became so clear. Reincarnation happens in reality not because of the soul but because of the spirit.
Ika Weekly: So, as we speak, what’s your position on it?
Ika Weekly: It’s still the same.
Ika Weekly: Is the church still comfortable with your discernment?
Father: As for the church’s position, it is still not clear about the whole idea because the church essentially is the people in it. And the people in it are theologians. Theologians are the people studying it. So, it is a work in progress. We’re still studying, we’re still doing our research and we’re still writing on it.
Ika Weekly: father, there is this saying that Nigeria is a country that is highly religious but morally prostate. This is made worse by the proliferation of churches. What set the stage for this challenge and how can we get it resolved?
Answer: Well, Quoting John Cardinal Onaikan, when he was asked about the issue of church proliferation, he came out with the notion that it would have been worse if there were no churches. That was his position and if you look at it, the churches are still relevant. Places where there are no churches, say I’m in the village, without church if people are left on their own, they tend to be worse off. The church has succeeded in making us better.
Ika Weekly: So, are you saying that you have no problem with the proliferation of churches in Nigeria?
Father: No, there is no problem.
Ika Weekly: What about commercialization of churches?
Father: Commercialization of churches has an advantage too. We the Catholics, without this Commercialization of churches, I don’t think we would have been challenged to be evangelical, charismatic. They have their relevance. Look at Europe and America where the churches are not as challenged as we have it here, you could see that the churches there are dying. So, it is to our own advantage.
Ika Weekly: looking at responses so far, will it be wrong to describe you as someone that is liberal in thinking?
Father: It will not be wrong.
Question: despite the challenges, the highs and downs, the hiccups and all that in the past thirty years of your existential journey in priesthood, you’re still a priest. What keeps you going?
Ika Weekly: Well, I would say its my prayer life. I have a very rigorous prayer life. I have a basic prayer system. Like every day, I spend one hour in church. It’s a practice I learnt in secondary school and I kept doing it.
Ika Weekly; Padre, don’t you think that in the basic order of things, you ought to be heading one of the mega parishes in the diocese?
Father: Of course.
Ika Weekly: So, what prevented such an appointment from coming?
Father: I’ll say that the administration is the issue. Every administration has its pattern. The administration has its own way. So, it goes that way. Everybody runs according to what he thinks is best.
Ika Weekly: Information reaching us shows that you’ll be celebrating your 30th anniversary with a book launch. Can you give us an insight of what the book is all about?
Father: Part of the issue you raised about why at 30, I’m still in the village. These are the issues I’ll be looking at. Trying to evaluate administrative patterns in the church. So, these and other issues. And you know, presently the Pope is under attack. The case of his liberal attitude to gay group. These are the issues I’ll be addressing in that book.
Ika Weekly: And you feel that the church will not see it as being antagonistic?
Father: For sure. It is going to be seen as antagonistic. That’s the truth.
Ika Weekly: Then, let’s talk a little on your scholarly habits or measures. I read your profile where it was underlined that you are a professor. With such intimidating knowledge, how do you still cope in a remote village?
Father: Actually, I have been given opportunities to be a regular staff in the Universities. The College of Education offered me a regular appointment but I rejected it. I told them I want to do part time in everything.
Ika Weekly: What’s the reason behind that decision sir?
Father: The freedom I’m having which includes the opportunity to write, you know when you’re involved in full time academic/education, you don’t really have freedom for yourself. I need freedom to be able to do my own thing. To be private.
Ika Weekly: So, you’re comfortable being on part-time arrangements?
Father: Yes. Sure
Ika Weekly: Recently, you called for the establishment of a specialized university within the Ika nation. What informed such a call?
Answer: Actually, I started thinking about having a retreat center where people can go to rest, to be on their own because in Agbor we don’t really have that. So, that was how the whole thing started. After that, I now realized also that there is a lot of knowledge that has not been encapsulated in this part of the world. We have so much to offer. Also, we don’t have anywhere to go for a holiday here. If I’m thinking of going on holiday, I’m always thinking of leaving the vicinity. But why am I going out? It’s because I can hardly find places to go around here. So, this is the idea behind it.
Ika Weekly: Father, kindly explain for the benefits of our readers the relationship between church and tradition/culture. What is the relationship?
Father: The church in itself accommodated culture. It is called enculturation. And for some time now, I’ve been doing what is called inculturation mass where you incorporate tradition into the mass. I’ve been having it in many of the parishes that have stayed because the church made provision for this. It’s just that we Africans don’t seem to be open to these things. We the blacks don’t seem to appreciate what we have.
Ika Weekly: From this particular challenge identified, let’s look at the wider society; the moral decadence and other social vices. Do you think the church is doing enough to change the narrative?
Father: Well, I’ll say we’re doing something. We’re just not doing enough.
Ika Weekly; lets come back home to your parish. It is a common knowledge that you are building for the Lord. Now we ask; why are you building for the Lord?
Father: For some time now, I have been into building for the Lord. I find myself being disposed by the grace of God and I’ve been building. Coming here, I said I should continue with the whole process.
Ika Weekly: Before now, was there a church building?
Father: Yes of course. What I am building currently is a befitting place of worship.
Ika Weekly: What level are you now?
Father: I have reached 4000 blocks. That is what I have now on ground.
Ika Weekly: What message are you sending to good spirited Deltans, parishioners, Nigerians and of course the global community?
Father: Like the Bible says, God says; You are building your own house but you haven’t built my own. So, we should, like David think first of God. Like when David thought of God in the book of Psalms, God was appreciative of him. That was why God blessed him. So, we should be able to think about God. Giving him all the glory, from there we can go on. This church is my main priority. After that, it will be the University.
Ika Weekly: So, you have intentions of building a university?
Father: of course.
Ika Weekly: On the platform of the diocese or from an individual point of view?
Father: From an individual point of view.
Question: And you feel that you will have the much-needed support to achieve such a project?
Ika Weekly: What is your relationship with the Chief Shepherd of the Diocese?
Father: He is my shepherd. He is my Lord. That is the point from which we go.
Ika Weekly: You made mention of the Bishop that ordained you a priest? Are you still in Contact with him?
Answer: Yes. To the glory of God, he celebrated 50 years anniversary this year. He is in Enugu. My last books, I titled it Ejiofor. It was my autobiography and is dedicated to him. So, yes, I still have relationship with him.
Ika Weekly: Father, looking at the number of years you have put in as a priest, If given the opportunity, what reform or reforms would you like to introduce? Do you think the current formation of priesthood is still in perfect order?
Father: when we were in Seminary, we were told that the system is auto formation. It is you who forms yourself. You only do the deeds of the authority. And if that is emphasized very well, I’m sure it goes a long way. Like me, that was the strict with which I went to the seminary. You have heard it before. I had no ambition to be a priest. I came here in thanksgiving to God.
So, I had that freedom. Because of that, not just socially but spiritually, I was myself. This group I formed, Pages of the Blessed Sacrament, i continued with my prayer. Every three o’clock, I went to the Blessed Sacrament to pray. We were supposed to be sleeping at three but I will leave my room to go to church to pray. So, if it’s is emphasized well, it will go a long way to helping them actually.
Ika Weekly: Thanks for this clarification. Sir, we recently observed that you are very active in the world of charity. What informed that decision?
Father: Well, growing up. Like in primary school, I used to follow the African Culture where your siblings and relations usually eat together. When we cook rice, it’s a special day. Each time they come; my siblings will expect me to share my food with my age mates. It makes me uncomfortable because why will I be sharing my food? Why don’t they have their own? At that moment, I was challenged. Charity was difficult for me but from that background, I was forced to give up what is mine.
From that moment also, I started learning. I had to learn on time because it was becoming an issue. From there, I started learning how to give out to the poor. I started giving to the extent that when it was time for my first WAEC, that was one of the reasons why I didn’t pass my first WAEC. The money I was given for Agric practical, as I was on my way to pay it, I met a beggar. I took the money and gave to the beggar. So, that has been the background.
Ika Weekly: Then, let’s look at it from a larger scale this time. How do you get the funding to do all this charity?
Answer: Okay. When I started unveiling the idea of social welfare, it was the time when I was in St. Dominic’s Otolokpo. That was in the year 2000 to about 2002. We had second collection during the church service on Sundays where the money is put in a special account. We even had an account in the bank. Whoever needs money will come, we give them loan and those we can give free, we gave. That is how we actually got money officially.
When I got to St. Columbus, Agbor, it became wider. So, we continued. Social Welfare was popular. People were coming from other parishes to St. Columbus to request for money. And we were giving. Second collection is the one the church has so I used it to meet the needs of the people instead. For instance, someone wants to go to school but there is no money for school fees, foodstuff, and hospital bill. Those are big money. You need a chunk of money you can lay your hand on. So, that is why I created a club for social welfare. In St. Columbus, it was very successful. We were doing well. We were making money. I even went to the point of including second collection after marriage. You know marriage thanksgiving for newly Weds.
Ika Weekly; What plans are you putting in place to make this effort self-sustaining?
Father: That is why I am making plans for a university. When I have a university, I will continue with whatever I’m doing.
Ika Weekly: looking at the past thirty years, what are those achievements that are very close to your heart and you would want to share with us?
Father: There was a book I published. I called it Jackson. Jackson was a story where I was telling my experience in the Lord’s vineyard. In my first parish which was St. Michael’s Okpanam. That was in 1996. I was there for about two years. So, between 1996 till 1998, I used to have a full house. Boys and girls just come to the house. They find it as home.
Among those who lived with me, I have twelve (12) that I can remember. Among the 12, three are Reverend Fathers today, three are Reverend Sisters today, three are married women in the church and three are married men in the church. So, they are like the twelve apostles. That was why I had to write that book Jacksons. Just to tell about the origin of my experience. How i knew these people and how they came about living with me.
Ika Weekly; Now, as a way of announcement, when exactly is your 30th anniversary celebration coming?
Father; It will come up on Sunday 10th of December, 2023 and the time of the mass is 10am in Alishimi, Agbor.
Ika Weekly: Sir, Nigerian youths particularly in Delta are currently at a crossroad occasioned by lack of quality education and unemployment. What advice do you have for them?
Father: For a long time now, I have something I call my NGO? The aim of the NGO is to help solve matters that are within my reach. If I am driving along the road and I see that there is something on the road, I will stop and remove it. I have been preaching it and have also been living by it. Do something for somebody. Charity is our African philosophy. It’s just that we have lost it. And if everybody is good to the other, everybody will be comfortable. Nobody will be stealing. People are stealing because we are not appreciative of what we have.
Ika Weekly: So, what advice do you have for our leaders?
Father: Everyone should seek the face of God.
Question: Sir, do you have anybody in mind that you want to appreciate for being able to get to where you are now?
Answer: Well, I want to pick out one of the boys I brought up in Idumuesa. He is Tudebi Chinaza Tudebi. aka Approval Worldwide. He is in Italy presently. He is very concerned about me. At a time, he said I should go and look for a cook that he will pay because I have been doing everything myself. He is very concerned about me. He just sent me a hundred thousand naira (N100,000). So, I want to appreciate him and others like him who are also contributing to help me succeed.
Ika Weekly; Thanks for the time, Padre.
Father; you are welcome.