A Tribute by Charles OGAN
“A Bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife,
vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach.”
- 1 Timothy 3:2.
His Lordship, Rt. Revd. Tubokosemie Robinson Abere (JP), is an excellent example of he that lives by this charge: A bishop without blemish, husband of one wife Zipporah, diligent in his work, modest in his conduct, compassionate in his heart and knowledgeable in the faith. A rural evangelist and humble missionary, Rt. Revd. Abere is a messenger of the Good news and defender of the faith of salvation.
Born on Friday 18 August, 1950, his parents the late Pa Robinson Iyoyo Abere and the late Madam Elverah Afieboka-Dikibo-Abere raised him through childhood in the best family traditions and values of Okrika people. Okrika was once a city-state and commercial hub in the Niger Delta, Rivers State, Nigeria.
Rt. Revd. Tubokosemie Abere’s life and world view was shaped early in life at the famous Okrika Grammar School (OGS), Okrika for a life of chastity and community service. The result is evident in his personal attainments and milestone achievements in the Okrika Ecclesiastical See of the Anglican Church. Rt. Revd. Abere attended OG S, Okrika from 1969 – 1973. His admission number is 1350. At OGS, he was a good student and was the Chapel Prefect in 1973. Established in 1940, Okrika Grammar School, Okrika was an iconic citadel known for academic distinction. The students were trained according to Plato’s philosophy: education as an intellectual, moral and physical training not only of the mind but also of character. The school had a reputation of providing good academic education based on sound Christian religious values. Sunday worships were taken seriously by both students and tutors.
“Education without God makes clever devils”
- Lloyd George
No wonder the school has a respectable old boys’ register of eminent personalities and professionals, religious pontiffs, temporal Lords, front line politicians, captains of industries and leaders in other spheres. Some of them include Clement Akpamgbo, (SAN), former Attorney-General of Nigeria and Minister of Justice, Turner Isoun, Scientist and former Minister of Science & Technology and Enoch George, an internationally recognized Geotechnical Expert to mention a few.
A graduate of the University of Port Harcourt, Rt. Revd. Abere’s epic missionary journey, started early in his life He was among the first to join the Scripture Union in 1970 and gave his life to Christ in 1971. He was Chapel Prefect at OGS in 1973, Organizing Secretary of the Christian Union at the University of Port Harcourt, 1980/81, and was made a Lay Reader as a student, at the same University by Rt. Revd. Samuel Onyeukwu Elenwo of blessed memory in 1981. He was President of the Scripture Union Pilgrims Group, Port Harcourt Township from 1985 -1989. In addition to activism for Christ, His Lordship was also active in Students Unionism. He was President, National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS), University of Port Harcourt (1980/81) and Acting National President of the body in 1981. He stood up for the welfare of students in Nigeria. Bishop Abere played valuable roles as Scout Master and was part of Nigeria’s delegation to World Scout Jamboree in Japan from July to August 1971. In a show of family intimacy, he bought a Japan’s Air Lines post card during the journey, and sent this note to his father, Pa Robinson Abere, 46/48 Freetown Street, Port Harcourt on 29th July 1971: “Dad, we are on our way to Japan. We left on the 28th July. We arrived at Nairobi to pick up African Scouts and a night stop. How is the family? My mum and others. I am sure you’re your well. Through God’s grace, I shall come back to you in peace….” These divinely cut out roles, prepared him for what he was to become later in life. He had a brilliant career in the Rivers State Civil Service and rose to the position of Deputy Director of Education.
In obedience to his natural inclination for missionary work Rt. Revd. Tubokosemie Abere attended the Trinity College, Umuahia and obtained a Certificate in Theology in 1991. He was ordained Deacon in 1991 and Priest in 1992 by Bishop Samuel Elenwo. He was Installed Canon of St Stephen’s Cathedral Bonny in 1999 and Collated Archdeacon by Bishop Gabriel Pepple in 2002.
Bishop Abere made profound contributions to the growth and development of the mother Diocese of Niger Delta through various positions of trust at Archdeaconry and Diocesan levels. He was Secretary of Okrika and Bonny Archdeaconry Boards at different times., and Bishop’s Chaplain to. Rt Revd. Pepple from 1999 – 2000
Similarly, he was Chaplain, Diocesan Anglican Youth Fellowship (AYF), Diocese of Niger Delta from 1996 – 2003 and helped shape the future of many youths of this country. He served as Curate, Vicar and Archdeacon in many Parishes including St. Cyprian’s Church, Port Harcourt, St. Andrew’s Church, Diobu, Port Harcourt, St. Peter’s Church, 50B Hospital Road, Port Harcourt, St. John’s Church, New Layout, Port Harcourt and St. Mary’s Church, Kalio Ama between 1991 and 2003. Bishop Tubokosemie Abere took his priesthood seriously, lived it purposefully and touched his various congregations emotionally.
The Diocese of Okrika was created at the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria held at All Saints Cathedral, Cable Point, Asaba, Delta State on 11 March, 2003 to comprise the churches in the Archdeaconries of Okrika, Okrika West, Okrika North and Okrika South with St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Okrika as Cathedral. St. Peters Church was built in 1924. It became a Cathedral seventy-nine years later, in 2003.
“The glory of this later house, shall be greater than the former”.
- Haggai 2:9.
Six months after creation of Diocese of Okrika, the Venerable Tubokosemie Abere (JP) was elected its pioneer Bishop during the Episcopal Synod held at the Holy Trinity Cathedral (Jerusalem) Maiduguri, Borno State, on 11 September, 2003. He was consecrated at St. Cyprian’s Church, Port Harcourt on Sunday, 16 November, 2003 along with five other Bishops namely, Rt. Revd. Samuel S. Olayanju, Bishop, Diocese of Kabba, Rt. Revd. Peter J. Imasuen, Bishop, Diocese of Benin, Rt. Revd. Michael O. Fape, Bishop, Diocese of Remo, Rt. Revd. David K. Bello, Bishop, Diocese of Otukpo and Rt. Revd. Jacob O. Fasipe, Bishop, Diocese of Oyo.
The Diocese was inaugurated on Monday, 17 November, 2003 by His Grace, Most Rev. Peter Jasper Akinola then Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of all Nigeria, Anglican Communion. Rt. Rev. Tubokosemie Abere (JP) was enthroned the same day by His Grace, Most Rev. Emmanuel Nglass, then Archbishop, Ecclesiastical Province of the Niger Delta. At the ceremony, the Deed of Relinquishment was read by the Chancellor, Diocese of Niger Delta Sir (Chief) Godwin A. Graham-Douglas (SAN) under the supervision of the then Bishop, Rt. Revd. Gabriel H. Pepple. The service was attended by the then Governor of Rivers State, His Excellency, Sir (Dr.) Peter Odili. The Bishop of the Diocese of Kano Rt.Revd. Zakka. I. Nyam preached the sermon and the text was chosen from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
Rt. Revd. Tubokosemie Abere’s contributions to the growth and development of the Diocese of Okrika are legendary. In 2003, the pristine environment and life in Okrika kingdom were over shadowed by crisis, cultism, killings and destruction. Today, Okrika is a land of peace. Following his heavenly ordained assignment, Bishop Abere rallied churches in Okrika and returned the community to normalcy through evangelism, prayer, fasting and reconciliation. Rt. Revd. Abere brought “his peculiar evangelical style of apostolate to reinforce the Apostolic dynamism of the Diocese”. A rural evangelist, Rt. Revd. Abere penetrated remote areas hitherto unknown, planting churches. At inception in 2003, the Diocese of Okrika inherited about 30 churches. Today under Bishop Abere, the Diocese has about 71 Churches including 33 Missionary Churches, 28 Parishes, 5 Archdeaconries, 4 Deaneries and 1 Cathedral, the St. Peter’s Cathedral, Okrika. In addition to Church planting, Rt. Revd. Abere ensured the religious convocation of the annual Diocesan Prayer Conference, Sunday School Conference and pastoral visits to churches in remote areas to encourage their spiritual and physical. growth. Also, Bishop Abere galvanised all Christian churches and denominations in Okrika to ensure the completion and dedication of the Okrika language Bible (Kirikeni Bibul) aimed at simplifying the WORD of God for the less lettered in the community. The Okrika language Bible translation project remained uncompleted for many decades.
Similarly, under his leadership, the number of priests ordained and trained has more than doubled from about 30 in 2003 to 61 today (including retired clergy, 11, clergy in service 50). These priests are helping to take the Gospel into the creeks and crannies of the Diocese.
A visionary leader, one the first footsteps of Rt. Revd. Tubokosemie Abere in office was the creation of a Diocesan Endowment Fund for economic and spiritual viability of the Diocese. His concern is continuity of the Diocese long after he has left office. Also, a residential estate owned by the Diocese is located off Odili road, a commercial hub in Port Harcourt, while under his watch, the Women’s Shopping complex, New road, Port Harcourt and two Hostel projects by the Christian Men’s Fellowship (CMF) and the Mothers Union (MU) and Women’s Guild (WG) are at various stages of construction near the Federal University of Technology, Otueke in Bayelsa State. These projects are aimed at supporting the growth of the Diocese financially. Bishop Abere has continued to mentor and nurture the Boys Brigade, Girls Guild, Daughters of Hope and the Anglican Youth Fellowship, for good leadership of the Diocese tomorrow
A Bishop with compassionate heart, Rt. Revd. Abere has done a lot for career and welfare of church workers. In his first meeting with Administrative staff of the Diocese soon after his enthronement, he made them understand how important their work is to the growth of the Diocese. He encouraged them to improve themselves educationally and acquire new skills for better competences and performance. This motivated many of them who before then had only school certificate, to become graduates. He rewarded them with promotions and enhanced remunerations. Besides, he always supported staff to attend conferences, seminars and workshops with the limited finances of the Diocese, so as to improve their efficiency. Again, Bishop Abere gladly approved Easter and Christmas bonuses for workers but never took a dime for himself since he became Bishop.
An ordinary man with exemplary character, Rt.Revd. Tubokosemie Abere is Christ’s Ambassador advertising the Diocese of Okrika wherever he goes. To promote mutual support in the Church, Rt. Revd. Abere established linkages and partnerships across Dioceses within and outside Nigeria. Through his efforts the Diocese of Okrika has a linkage with the Guildford Diocese of Church of England, United Kingdom and the Diocese of Ikwuano in Abia State, Nigeria. The objective is to foster mutually beneficial ecclesiastical and other church uplifting programmes and projects.
Respected in the Church of Nigeria and the Province of Niger Delta, Bishop Abere left indelible marks as Chairman of the Board of the Institute of Theology, St. Paul’s University, Awka Anambra state and has been invited to speak or preach at events outside Okrika Diocese. At the General Synod of the Church of Nigeria held in Enugu in September, 2014, Rt. Revd. Abere was invited by the Primate of all Nigeria to preach at the service for consecration of the Bishops of Uyo Diocese Rt. Revd. Prince Antai and Oyo Diocese Rt. Revd. William Alalekugbe. The Diocese of Okrika under Bishop Abere has also hosted both the Niger Delta Provincial and Joint Provincial Council Meetings at St. Peter’s Cathedral in 2009 and Bethel Anglican Church, Amadi Ama in 2014 respectively.
Rt. Revd. Abere was until retirement, Chairman of forum of Anglican Bishops in Rivers State, where his impeccable leadership style increased visibility of the Anglican Church in these parts. He along with his colleagues, mobilized all Anglican churches in Rivers State to honour their own, the Governor and Deputy Governor of Rivers State His Excellency Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, CON, GSSRS, PoS (AFRICA) and Her Excellency, Dame (Dr.) Ipalibo Harry-Banigo (JP), DSSRS.at a Special Thanksgiving Service for Election Victory on Sunday, 7 July, 2019. Bishop Abere also preached at this occasion. His sermons always centered on salvation, faith, reconciliation, peace and progress of the community and country at large.
Similarly, in response to COVID 19 challenges in Rivers state, Bishop Abere mobilized other Bishops in the state to support the Rivers state Government care for the less privileged and the vulnerable in the state. Likewise, in keeping with his character of leadership by example, Bishop Abere approved and personally supervised the distribution of palliatives to indigent and vulnerable parishioners across Okrika Diocese to cushion the deadly effects of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Rt. Revd Tubokosemie Abere is a contented man. Not for him the life of affluence, ostentation, avarice or greed. In seventeen years as Bishop, Rt. Revd. Abere never took one naira as traveling allowance, even though it is his statutory entitlement, but will always approve for others. He also fuels his official cars from his private pocket, except in special circumstances. Whatever will advance the Diocese was his priority. As a result, Okrika Diocese is in good financial standing with the Church of Nigeria, Niger Delta Province and the Superannuation Fund. The Superannuation Fund is responsible for managing pension for church workers.
There are so many dimensions to Rt. Revd. Tubokosemie Abere and a lot of life lessons to learn from the experiences that have shaped and defined him: uprightness, forthrightness, selflessness, integrity, humility and his humanity. He has been a member of the Okrika Community Peace Committee since 2004. He met militants in their camps and traversed the entire kingdom in search of peace. Bishop Abere has a patient listening power, a sense of justice and a passion for fairness and equity. That is the kind of man he is. A peace maker, bridge builder, and Church planter, keen in making the gospel relevant to every part of human life.
Rt. Revd. Tubokosemie Abere has attended many ecclesiastical and theological leadership programmes nationally and internationally. He was a Canterbury scholar in the United Kingdom in 2008 and has attended the Alpha International Leadership Training Programme also in the UK in 2009.
Bishop Abere is happily married to his amiable wife Mrs. Zipporah Abere, a retired Supervisor of Education in Okrika Local Government Universal Basic Education Board. Bishop Abere and wife, share some common characteristics. Both are twins, they are both educationists and most importantly they are humble and have the fear of God in them. They were married on 18 May 1985 at St. Peter’s Church, Hospital Road, Port Harcourt. Rt. Revd. Tubokosemie Abere by all standards occupies an exalted position, but he never lost the common touch. He performed the final traditional Okuru kaka marriage ceremony when he was already a Bishop. He gave money to his brothers to pay the statutory customary rites to his in-law’s family. He did not attend in person, but obeyed the charge of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:21 and Romans 13:1 “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God.” The marriage of 35 years is blessed with three lovely children: Ngeri, Afieboka and Ibinabo and two grandchildren Zipporah Jnr. And Efezino.
Rt. Revd. Tubokosemie Abere is leaving a legacy after seventeen years of meritorious service, and will be succeeded by the Venerable Enoch Atuboyedia, a prayer warrior, evangelist and revivalist. May God grant Bishop Abere and family, a happy and healthy life in retirement and grace to Enoch his successor, so that on His rock, Okrika Diocese will continue to grow from strength to strength.