Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos, who turned 64 on June 1, 2023, is a beacon of service to the Catholic faithful and Christians at large. His 40 years of priesthood – 25 of those years in a bishopric capacity – stands him out as an example, for both clergy and laity alike, of a servant of God worthy of emulation. He reached his new milestone on the strength of vision, hard work, and progress for the Church. In the past five years, the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos has completed a number of educational projects, provided succour through tough periods of recession and the COVID-19 pandemic, and shown leadership in the body of Christ. The Church has gone through an expansion in the number of parishes, priests, and reforms. Discharging his Evangelism and Episcopalian duties with unflagging passion and utmost dedication has made Archbishop Martins a symbol of the conscientious worker in the Lord’s vineyard. At 64, he is full of gratitude and yearns to do more. Characteristically, he has a positive outlook on life as he reflects on the goodness of God. He states: “In general, the days of our lives are about God being gracious, God being good. I feel a sense of gratitude to God all these years for the family that God gave me, my parents who were there during the basics of life, to all the priests and people that I have met all these years who have been part and parcel of my development and growth. I have been blessed in many ways.
And so, 64 is a time for gratitude.” His reflection on the state of the world has a tinge of nostalgia: “I grew up in a neighbourhood in which every child is everybody’s child. In other words, every boy is the son of every elderly person, and every girl is the daughter of every elderly person. That was the kind of environment in which I grew up, which is a closely knit community in which people look out for one another, know one another, and want to do things for one another. That was the community in which I grew up. I am sure that there’s still a measure of that in our time, but certainly, it’s not as closely knit as I did experience it as a child.” Nonetheless, the passage of time and the radical changes in the world have brought other opportunities. As he notes: “The opportunity for communicating is a lot more than it was at that time.” Of this, the Archbishop draws a very apt anecdote: “I remember when I was growing up, what we had in our house was a rediffusion, only one station, it didn’t change to anything else. Gradually, we began to have other kinds of radios. Now, we have such a wide array of possibilities for communicating with one another. That’s also a great thing that we must thank God for at this time; even though it has its challenges, it’s a grace to thank God for.”
Indeed, the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos under his leadership, has made the most of the communication technologies of the day, from revamping The Catholic Herald Newspaper and turning it into a vibrant weekly publication to the use of social media for evangelism and the employment of cable TV for broadcasting of Mass during the Covid-19 pandemic and till date. Above all, however, his concerns are about people and their welfare, especially in the face of the myriad of challenges facing Nigerians. One such concern, incidentally, came up in the week of his birthday, namely, the removal of fuel subsidy by the new Nigerian government and the attendant consequences. The Archbishop’s viewpoint on this burning national issue, as always, is pragmatic, avuncular and faith-inspiring: “Our people should recognise the fact that these challenges are there at this point in time. We wish they were not there. We wish it could have been done differently. We wish it could have been different than it is, but it is where we are now. So, let us recognise the fact that nothing lasts forever, apart from the grace of God.” Similarly, he offers a piece of advice to government: “We all knew right from the start that if subsidies were going to be removed, there were also going to be steps taken in order to ensure that people do not feel the impact in such a rash way as we are feeling it now. Government needs to correct itself by ensuring that it does what is necessary to make life bearable for people.” For the servant of God, there is still work to be done, and he is not relenting in his continuing service in the Lord’s vineyard.