ALIOHA’S LIFE AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO PENTECOSTALISM IN IGBOLAND (1912-1997)

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1     Background of the Study

Many great religious men are unnoticed on accounts of political events, yet they help shape the fortune of church history and the prospect of the kingdom of God in many communities.

George Mnoromchi Alioha, who lived between 1912-1997 was such a hero. Alioha was born at Ohokobe Afara Umuahia, Umuahia North (LGA) of Abia state in Nigeria. He received his primary education and conversion to evangelical Christianity at Old Umuahia in Abia State. He was the first convert of Augustus O.Wogu- the human founding father of AG Nigeria- in Old Umuahia. He was also the first lay minister of AG Nigeria.

Some books have been written that summarize the founding of some Pentecostal churches in Igboland. Some others are biography of some clergy men and lay people that helped in one way or the other to propagate the doctrines of their churches and establishment of new churches.  With Alioha, no book has chronicled the story of his life and especially his contributions to Pentecostalism in Igboland.  Few comments about him are found scattered in few books, but they do not form a wholesome portrait of him. It therefore became necessary that a work of this nature be embarked upon to reconstruct and x-ray his life with the view to highlight his contributions to Pentecostalism in Igboland, which made this research perculiar. 

The contextual factors of Old Umuahia community before Pentecostalism “hit” her in 1931 helped prepare Alioha for his life-journey as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Geographically, Old Umuahia is located within the capital territory of Abia State in Umuahia North LGA at kilometer 5 Umuahia Old-Aba road from Umuahia town.  Seven villages make up Old Umuahia (Azubuike 2007:29).  They believed deeply in God, gods and spirits and regarded sin as anything that is against the community.  They had a very rich cultural heritage which was vividly expressed in their colourful traditional marriages, new yam festivals, reception of new born babies and Okonko.  They depended much on agriculture.  They reared goats, sheep, fowl and other economic animals.  Palm oil was produced in large quantity and even transported to the northern parts of the country for sale.  Afor-Ibeji which was their popular market towered above other markets around.  Onyema (1993:76) commented that Afor-Ibeji market was a centre of business transactions for the Aro, Abiriba, Bonny and Opobo traders. 

Old Umuahia government system was based on the rulership of the village elders who were helped by the Okonko group of able-bodied men drawn from the seven villages of the community (Azubuike 2007:29). It was the first seat of the colonial government in Umuahia and therefore attracted every index of colonial presence like schools, churches, security agents and their attendant infractural facilities (Onyema 1993:77).

It was at St. Silas Old Umuahia that Alioha attended his primary school and later taught there.  He lived at Old Umuahia, though it is not his home town.  He spent most of his entire life there.  He was converted to evangelical Christianity, started his ministry, attended Bible school, taught at the Bible school, all at Old Umuahia.  So such as place helped form him to become what he was in the Pentecostal circle in Nigeria and particularly in Igboland.

Alioha’s life in Igboland as a pastor; first AG Assistant District Superintendent of Igboland, first manager of Nigeria AG Schools, Chaplain at Evangel High School, Old Umuahia; Bible school teacher and School counselor positively affected Pentecostalism in Nigeria, and especially in Igboland.

This was evidenced in the strong emphasis he laid on the doctrine of Baptism in the Holy Spirit, power evangelism, exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit; brotherly love and interactions across denominational lines, holy living and being ready for the second coming of Jesus Christ.

1.2     Statement of Problem

Pentecostalism broke into the realm of history as recorded in Acts 2 with its attendant spirituality. Since then, Satan, the archenemy of God and the church uses some churchmen to teach, propagate and practice false doctrines that are contrary to the truth.

The church has down through her history tried to curb these excesses. With the present contemporary state of the church in Nigeria in Pentecostal circle, the excesses seem to be pronounced that true Pentecostal spirituality is tagged “Old Testament” and those who go by it are termed outdated in character and unfit for the mold of the modern world.

      These excesses which include monetizing anointing, pride of being a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ, life void of true biblical holiness and other factors challenged the researcher to engage in this study of reconstructing and x-raying the life of Pa Alioha. It is with the aim of tapping from his Pentecostal spirituality which helped him succeed. The lessons learned from what he contributed to modern Pentecostalism in Igboland and the areas that he failed will help correct Pentecostal excesses found among the adherents of Pentecostalism in Nigeria, and improve where he failed.

It is also not good for adherents of a movement to be ignorant of the roots of their movement and how it has faired down through the years. With brief reconstruction of the origin of Pentecostalism in Igboland, which Pa Alioha participated in, and the motivating factors and theology that propelled him, the ills of the excesses in Pentecostalism in Nigeria would have been made glaring and recommendations proffered from biblical and contemporary data.

1.3     Purpose of Study This study reconstructs the life history of George Mnoromchi Alioha and show how he contributed to different facets of Pentecostalism in Igboland, with the aim to correcting Pentecostal excesses and limitations found in Nigeria these days. With this aim on mind, the Old Umuahia context which formed Alioha psychologically and spiritually would be highlighted.

ALIOHA’S LIFE AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO PENTECOSTALISM IN IGBOLAND (1912-1997)