Early Beginning of Adventist Mission in Southeastern Nigeria
By Nwarungwa, J. C.
Edmond Naku of Otari in Abua region severed a prison sentence in Ghana (then Gold Coast). When was release from prison, he came back to his hometown, Otari with the Adventist message in 1912. Full of passion and enthusiasm for the imminent return of Jesus Christ started witnessing to his new found faith to his family and friends within the community. Soon he started a church.i
Later, Jesse Clifford decided to do a follow-up on his friend Edmond Naku. In 1915, he came to Nigeria through Port Harcourt and Bonny and trace him to Otari community. It was a wonderful reunion for them that strengthened the faith of Edmond. After this meeting, Jesse Clifford started preaching the Advent message within Abua region and later came down to Ahaoda area then to Elele.ii
While Jesse Clifford was at Elele, Pastor William McClement of Ireland, took charge of the work in Western Nigeria in 1919. As a result of the growth in membership, the church headquarters in America became interest in formal organization of the work in Nigeria. Then, Nigeria Mission was organized by 1930, and William McClement became the first president. He move to Accra in 1943 when the mission fields in West Africa were grouped into one administrative unit and he became the first president.iii
The year 1923 was significant to the establishing of the Adventism in the Eastern part of Nigeria beginning in Aba and started spreading to other parts of the eastern Nigeria. The little effort of Pastor Jesse Clifford and his wife, Catharine which was sited at Umuola, Aba now covers all the Eastern states of Nigeria: Abia, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebony, Enugu, Imo, and Rivers.
Pastor Jesse Clifford and his wife of England arrived Aba May 1, 1923 from Ivory Coast (Cote D’Voire) where they were serving as missionaries. Pastor William McClement was in charge of the Adventist work in Nigeria when Jesse Clifford arrived Aba. Jesse Clifford came to Aba on the report of Pastor McClement who sent a report to the headquarters of the church concerning a religious unrest in Ibo land as it has to do with the Garrick Braide Movement and the burning of Juju. When they came to Aba, they
were challenged with the presence of several small groups of Sabbath keepers. These groups were zealous about their Sabbath faith and needed someone to teach them more.iv
iSeventh-day Adventist, Otari District Organization Program, Rivers West Conference, 27-10-2018. ii Ibid. iiiDavid O.Babalola, Sweet Memories of our Pioneers. p.57. ivibid, p. 7