Chief Azunna fought for the establishment of the Catholic Church in Okpala parish.
He was born in 1908 in a small village called Umuogbe in Ngo Okpala Local Government Area of Imo State of Nigeria. He was a polygamist.
In 1939, Chief Azunna met the white Irish fathers who paid him a visit at his house. Through an interpreter they discussed with him how to establish a Catholic Church in Okpala. Even though he had not attended school and was not literate, he managed to cooperate with the Irish fathers using interpreters.
After these discussions with the early missionaries, he donated his land to them in 1938 to build St. Peter Claver’s Seminary. The seminary was built in 1939 under Rev. Fr. Mohan’s supervision.
Chief Azunna’s generosity did not stop there. He later expanded his land gift by many acres so that St. Finnber’s Primary School and Teachers Training College could be built in 1944. Teachers Training College was later transferred to Azaraegbelu in the present Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo state.
In 1944, Chief Azunna worked with Rev. Fr. Mohan, and Rev. Fr. Michael Dohaney to establish many other stations in Okpala parish such as Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Achara, St. Patrick’s Umuohiekabi, St. Paul’s Ibokwe, St. Mary’s Alulu, St. Paul’s Ntu, and C. K. C. Amala etc.
After going deep into Christianity, Chief Azunna chose to marry only his first wife among his several wives.
Today the Catholic Church has gained so much ground in Okpala that St. Peter’s Claver Seminary Okpala, established in 1939, is now famous and has trained many Catholic bishops like Mark Unegbu, Cardinal Ekandem, and Anthony Obinna as well as other bishops, priests, and dignitaries.
Chief Azunna died in 1989 and was buried by the Okpala Catholic parish. He is remembered today at St. Peter Claver’s Seminary Okpala where a building was named “Azunna House” after him.
Christian Ogu, interview by the author, March 18, 2003.
This article, received in 2004, was written and researched by Njoku Chimaobi, a student in the Department of Political Administration, University of Port Harcourt, under the supervision of Dr. Protus O. Kemdirim, DACB liaison coordinator at the University of Port Harcourt and DACB regional coordinator for Nigeria.