The humble beginnings of the Katsina born Bishop are a great source of inspiration. Having navigated a childhood of Christianity, he eventually became a priest, and today, he is a high ranking cleric. The patriarch recounts, “I had a very eventful childhood, in a loving family of artistically gifted people. My life revolved around the home, the Church, and the school. These three offered more than enough space and incentive for a healthy growth. Every member of my family was very actively involved in the Church, and we enjoyed doing the little we could to help others, and to help the Church thrive in our area.” At 60, the prelate has been 35 years as a priest, with 14 years and still counting in the episcopacy. The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Oyo, Most Rev. Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo, shares inspiring experiences of his childhood, and a spiritually enriching life, as a Priest and Bishop with the acting Editor, Neta Nwosu. Excerpts.
Let us into your childhood
I was born in Funtua in Katsina, Katsina State, to the Catholic family of Pa Stephen Adeoye and Mama Mary Adeola Badejo on July 13, 1961. In 1964, at the approach of the civil war, my parents left the North and relocated to Oyo town ,where my mother is native, only to leave Oyo in December, 1965, to finally settle at Osogbo, where my family home still thrives today. I had a very eventful childhood, in a loving family of artistically gifted people. My life revolved around the home, the Church and the school. These three offered more than enough space and incentive for a healthy growth. Every member of my family was very actively involved in the Church, and we enjoyed doing the little we could, to help others, and to help the Church thrive in our area.
How did your 60th birthday celebration go?
Today, I am 60 years old. So many people, prior to this day asked to know what the birthday programme of celebration would be, but I did my best to discourage any socially elaborate celebration. I asked that everybody pray for me wherever they are, and possibly help me to help needy children, and families because of these tough times. Many have done so, and I am very grateful. I had a wonderful thanksgiving Mass, early on that day, July 13, and went on to other regular tasks of the day. My reason for that is not far-fetched. I have never in life really celebrated loud birthdays, but I do “celebrate big”, my ordination anniversaries. For me celebrations done with prayers are by no means, “low key” as many people like to say. Celebrating my birthday with the holy Mass is the real “high-key” celebration. And I am glad to focus the birthday on the needs of a few needy ones in society. I assure you that nothing can be more fulfilling as a gift.
How has the priesthood been for you so far?
I am now 35 years as a priest. Altogether, the priesthood has been fulfilling and edifying, given the support of my family and all the good people I worked with, and who have helped me. The priesthood is an adventure in holiness of life, a call to friendship with Jesus Christ, and to bringing others closer to God. Every experience is thus spiritually enriching, in one way or the other, especially if we believe what Saint Paul said about us being mere earthenware of clay, holding the wonderful treasure, which is God’s power (2 Cor 4:7). The energy and creativity of working with children, and young people have also helped me a lot. I love to work with young people, even though I was never formally pronounced a youth chaplain at any level. Perhaps, that helped me too. In former years, I jokingly assumed for myself the title KBG (King of Boys and Girls), which some younger priests then fiercely contested. I think that most young people are idealistic, always seeing and thinking beyond their personal interest and security. Getting closer to them helps older people to plan more realistically and plot the correct strategies for a dynamic apostolate. In any case, accompanying youths have brought me great satisfaction, as I have seen them blossom over the years.
Life as a priest and as a Bishop, any difference?
I was appointed Bishop of Oyo in 2007, 14 years ago now. I found that I had a lot more time for personal study, writing and artistic creative work as a priest than I now have. I was “freer” as a priest, in short play soccer wherever I wanted, drink a beer with whomever… etc. Of course, the episcopacy imposes a lot more responsibilities, and I have to respond to the situation as best I can. Many are the things I could do as a priest, but which I cannot now do. That is natural, as you progress in any calling in life. As a Bishop, we are privileged, but we are responsible for everybody at every turn. Such a life has its rewards and challenges, but with God, we are more than conquerors.
Music seems to be the in-thing for you, why?
Music came to me from God and through my family, and so, it is second to my nature. In fact, I often try hard to keep it a little out of the way, so that it does not weigh too heavily on those who might find it “a bit too much”. For me, however, a world without music is unimaginable. Even the Bible teaches that music will play a central role in heaven. Music is just a small part of the artistic talents and skills that God has endowed me with, so, I try to put all that at the service of my mission and calling. That is what I believe everybody is called to do, with whatever talent they have.
What is your thought about insecurity, as it affects particularly your diocese?
A government like we have in Nigeria at the federal level, which manifestly plays politics with the security of its own people, has lost its legitimacy. I share the disillusionment of most Nigerians that a former army general as president, who based his political manifesto on ending insecurity, could be so uncoordinated, and could perform so poorly, in the provision of security, for the citizens. Although Oyo State is somewhat better than other parts of the country, the fear and insecurity is real here too. Perhaps, were it not for the effort of the State Government, and local initiatives, things could have been much worse. Nepotism and uneven application of justice has exposed the insincerity of the Buhari government in security matters.
What is your message to Nigerian political leaders and Nigerians at large?
Nigerian political leaders have generally been disappointing, demonstrating crass addiction to self-interest and self-preservation, at practically every turn. The basic hallmark of leadership, especially political leadership, is service to the nation and to the people. We have seen little of this at the executive, legislative or judiciary levels and Nigerians have been served very few patriotic or people-oriented policies. Just sample the proceedings and decisions of the House of Representatives and Senate in recent times on press freedom, electoral reforms or even on restructuring. What a shame for the giant of Africa! I advise our political leaders and Nigerians, generally, to build up the moral infrastructure of Nigeria. For now, our country suffers a huge deficit of honesty, of truthfulness, fair play and integrity. Let us allow these to affect our relationships and policies. If we don’t, nepotism, selective application of justice and lopsided distribution of resources and appointments will generate the cankerworm that will consume our nation. Every politician should realize that all power is ephemeral, and that history does not forget those who use their position to smear its process, and impede its progress. Rather than sit in office counting destructive years and killing one another for more barren years, they should make their years count, for the improvement of the lives of their people, even against their personal interests. To Nigerians, I say keep pushing, and never give up hope, for only the hopeful shall inherit the earth.