Samuel Nnanna Nwankpa was born in 1916 in Umuagbai Ndoki, located in the Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers State. His parents, Peter Nwankpa Uwaonyenani and Hanna Mgbahu, were both Christians. Both were members of the African Missionary Church established by Isaac R. Benneth, a missionary from the Gold Coast (present day Ghana).
Nwankpa held a variety of jobs before going into the ministry. In all of these jobs, he felt a deep longing for something else and later identified this feeling as God’s calling. In 1956, he applied for the position of church agent in his local Methodist mission, led by Rev. F. C. Vincent. He was accepted in October of that year, with an initial salary of one pound, ten shillings.
In the summer of 1959, he took the entrance examination for a catechist training program at Bible College, Umuagbai (now known as the Methodist Lay Training Institute). When the results were posted in July Nwankpa discovered he was the only applicant who had successfully passed. He studied there from 1959 to 1961 and began his work as a catechist in Umuagbai in 1962. He worked there until 1965.
Nwankpa was accepted for ministry in the Methodist Church of Nigeria in 1966, just before the Nigerian Civil War broke out. He was trained at Trinity College, Umuahia, and was thereafter stationed at Agbobu in the Ihube circuit of the Archdiocese of Enugu between 1969 and 1972. He was ordained a priest on October 5, 1972 in Lagos and was immediately posted to the Port Harcourt circuit thereafter in 1973. As a priest, he was very active and cooperated with the local community to reconcile, reestablish, and reorganize the churches destroyed and dismantled by the war. In 1979, he took the title of presbyter and played a foundational role in the inauguration of the Diocese of Port Harcourt.
By 1982, the diocese had been successfully inaugurated. Nwankpa was elected the pioneer synod secretary of the Diocese of Port Harcourt and was given the honor of being the first elected presbyter to become a member of the Conference of the Methodist Church in Nigeria. As synod secretary of a new diocese, he worked quietly and diligently. With the cooperation of the administrative secretary and the diocesan bishop, Right Reverend J. B. Poromon, Nwankpa was able to get records up to date. Although a quiet worker, he was known as a strict leader.
As a presbyter, he was always meticulous in ensuring that members in each circuit where he worked did their work to the best of their ability and on time. He was noted for promptness, brevity, clarity, and thoroughness in writing sermons and encouraged these characteristics in others.
Nwankpa did more traveling than most other ministers in the diocese and served in almost all the circuits in the diocese, including Port Harcourt, Taabaa, Kono, Okwale, Ndoki, and Wesley. Much of his work in these areas was in support of women, as he felt that many activities and burdens of the home lay with them. This attitude won him the support of many.
After his retirement in 1993 he continued to work tirelessly. In fact many thought that he worked too hard and compromised his health. He fell ill, but soon after his recovery he went back to work, which included writing booklets. The Right Reverend Poromon was editing one of his manuscripts at the time of Nwankpa’s death. Even with his busy schedule, Nwankpa still attended all synods and each of the diocesan anniversaries.
In appreciation of his wonderful service to the church and the community, Nwankpa received many certificates and awards. He was named a life member of the Bible society of Nigeria; he was awarded the Wesley Merit Award from the Wesley Circuit Diocese of Port Harcourt, and was in good standing within the member order of the Diocese of Port Harcourt. The last and most significant of these honors was being named part of the “Order of the Diocese of Port Harcourt (ODPH)” during the fourteenth diocesan anniversary thanksgiving service in 1996.
Nwankpa lived a simple, diligent, and humble life worthy of emulation. He was content with what he had and never begrudged anyone anything. He died on Sunday August 12, 2001.
Ojika Abana Beatrice
“Funeral program of the late Very Reverend Samuel Nnanna Nwankpa, (ODPH),” Methodist Church Nigeria, Diocese of Port Harcourt.
This story, received in 2007, was researched and written by Ojika Abana Beatrice, under the supervision of Dr. Protus O. Kemdirim, DACB liaison coordinator at the University of Port Harcourt and DACB regional coordinator for Nigeria.