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Orikri, Johnson Aguaraburueye
1911 to 2004
Nigerian Baptist Convention
Nigeria

Johnson Aguaraburueye Orikri was born into the family of Mr. Orikri Erighre and Mrs. Origho Orikri in Erho Abraka, Ethiope East Local Government Area of Delta State, in 1911. He had a humble beginning and experienced the loss of both his parents at a young age.

In 1921, he started his elementary education at the Baptist school in Erho-Abraka when he was about ten years old. He was later taken by his eldest sister, Mrs. Emetejirhe, to Warri, where he successfully completed his primary education at Saint Andrews Anglican Primary School, Warri. Unlike some of his friends, he had no opportunity of acquiring a secondary education at that time. He therefore took an appointment as a probationary teacher with his Elementary Standard VI Certificate and taught for six years in several schools: Sapele, Ovwere, Eku, and Erho-Abraka, to mention a few. In 1946, he gained admission to the Baptist College at Iwo. Despite his age, he had to start from the preparatory class level, but he successfully completed his coursework there in December of 1950. [1]

In 1951, he entered the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary at Ogbomoso, and obtained a Bachelor's degree in theology. On December 27, 1953, he married Roseline Ojovwadjebre Umukoro in a ceremony led by Rev. Dr. E.M. Howell at the First Baptist Church, Oginibo. The marriage was blessed with children who are dedicated to the service of God. [2] One of his children said the following:
Papa, who we cherished, brought us up in the path of Christ and of admirable character. He taught us the ways of life: how to speak, sit, eat, walk, and all sorts of good things. His advice and encouragement served as a source of inspiration in our entire endeavor to be good children. He was one who never complains but accepts life the way it is. The neatest and most composed man I have ever known, he was always smiling, and he was a peacemaker. What exemplary character Papa had! [3]
In January 1955, he was called to serve at Bethel Baptist Church, Sapele, and was ordained into the full-time gospel ministry on November 26, 1956, after which he was a pastor there for six years. In 1961, he was called to the First Baptist Church in Warri. He led the church to plant the following churches and preaching stations: Rhema Baptist Church, Ugboroke; Alpha Baptist Church, Okurode; Salvation Baptist Church, Edjeba; Love Baptist Church, Ugbuwangue; Unity Baptist Church, Ugbori; El-Shaddai preaching station, Ogonu, and the Ogulah preaching station. He also revived and strengthened the First Baptist Church, Effurun; the Burutu preaching station, and the Faith Baptist Church in Orhuwhorun. In addition, he served the Baptist Mission in other capacities: as assistant chairman of Bendel Conference (now Delta and Edo Conference) and as moderator and adviser to the associations in Sapele, Warri and Effurun. He also served in some convention committees, such as the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC) executive committee and scholarship committee, [4] and also as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Bible College in Eku (now the Baptist Theological Seminary, Eku). [5] His daughter-in-law is currently a member of the faculty in that institution.

Orikri was a man of God who believed that man should be zealous in the service of the Lord. He taught discipleship to the members of his church because he was a man of foresight who believed in training people. He led the church to sponsor people for theological training at various levels. Some of those who benefitted would include Rev. C. F. Ugbede, Rev. Ogighoro, Rev. Oweh, and Rev. J. A. Ighokparowho. One of the abovementioned pastors, Rev. C. F. Ugbede, is now the pastor of First Baptist Church Warri. [6]

Orikri was a man who feared God and appreciated God's mercy. He was a sincere, faithful, peaceful, and honorable person who was never greedy for the things of this world, being satisfied with his position. He loved the members of his church and took time to visit them, without respect to their social class or tribe, and never subscribed to tribalism in any form. He nurtured two important figures: deacon J. O. Onotata (his son-in-law), who was the first African national president of the Men and Boys Organization of the Nigerian Baptist Convention; and S. O. Abraham, who was the first chairman of the Sapele Association Men's Missionary Union. [7] He was a strict disciplinarian and a humble man who lived a responsive and responsible life. He always preferred to take care of his own needs instead of depending on others to do so. He loved peace and worked to reconcile feuding families, church members, and others. "He was a gentle man; he loved mission and also encouraged pastors." [8]

He led the church to contribute generously to the home and foreign mission fields. Ekpon asserts that he was gentle, humble, and dutiful. Being a peace-loving person, he initiated and organized a peaceful move when there was a conflict between Rev. J. E. Amroma and Rev. P. E. Ofuoku regarding the movement of the Delta Baptist Conference secretariat from Eku to Okerighwe-Sapele. Through the grace of God, he mediated successfully between the warring parties and brought peace to the situation. His wife, Mrs R. O. Orikri, described him in this way:
My husband was a loving, forgiving, peaceful, and faithful husband. He supported me in the Women's Missionary Union (WMU) work as WMU Director for ten years. He also encouraged me to further my education, both in secondary school and in the University. In all the fifty-one years we spent together, he loved me. Whenever I overreacted on certain issues, he quickly forgave me. Also, he taught me to rely on the promises of the Lord (Psalms 46:1, 56:3, Jer. 33:3, Gen. 18:14a, Nahum 1:7). He never absented himself from the convention session and ministers conference at the Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, or from the Delta Baptist conferences while he was in active service, nor in the early years of his retirement." [9]
In 1992 he retired from serving the First Baptist Church in Warri, where he served for thirty-one years. In 1993, a retirement service was organized for him and his family at the same church. In appreciation of his services, the church had a three bedroom apartment built for him. Even in old age, he was still active and energetic, and able to serve as a counselor to the younger generation of ministers.

Orikri died on August 29, 2009, after a brief illness, and was buried on October 30, 2004. "Even though he is dead, he left a living legacy for his children, his family members, and all who came into contact with him." [10]

Mercy Aninoritselaju Orikri


Notes:

1. Funeral program for Rev. J. A. Orikri, First Baptist Church, Warri, October 30, 2004, p. 3.
2. Ibid.
3. Paive Ruby Ese (daughter), interview by author, October, 2009.
4. Isaac. E. Ekpon, interview by author, November 10, 2009.
5. Ekpon, interview.
6. Agbobu Chukweku, interview by author, October 24, 2009, Ogbomoso.
7. Ekpon, interview.
8. Ekpon, interview.
9. Roseline O. Orikri, interview by author, September 14, 2009, Erho Abraka.
10. J. A. Awolowo, interview by author, November, 2009, Warri.


This story, received in 2010, was written by Mercy Aninoritselaju Orikri, Ph.D. candidate, for a seminar convened at Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso in November 2009 under the supervision of Dr. Michael Leke Ogunewu and Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.