- Cardinal Dominic Ekandem and the Growth of the Catholic Church in Nigeria by Cosmas K. O. Nwosuh
This is a well-researched and well-presented book for anyone who not only wants to know a great religious leader and statesman, Cardinal Dominic Ekandem, but also understand his impact on the history of the Nigerian Catholic Church and the making of the members of its hierarchy in modern times.
The author strives to preserve a balance in his presentation of Ekandem, not wanting to construct him as superhuman. Thus, at the secular level, we are shown an Ekandem who has been recognized with several local, national, and international awards (p. 459). His detachment from the pursuit of personal material possessions is exemplified by his concern about the lifestyle of his episcopal colleagues (p. 280).
Regarding Ekandem’s weaknesses, the author presents a man who often was not prepared to forgive his offenders (p. 257), had a penchant for favoritism with an “apparent high-handed manner of approach” (p. 261), and used “the episcopal office as bait” to win “over the influential and trenchant critics” among the diocesan clergy (p. 261). Nowhere, however, is Ekandem’s weakness perhaps better demonstrated than in his role in generating the crisis that affected the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus; he and then-bishop Brian Usanga—fueled by ethnic bias—saw to the deposition of Mother Gertrude Nwaturuocha, the Superior-General of the Congregation and to her subsequent exile (pp. 174–96).
The book has a number of weaknesses; three are worth noting. First, there are obvious gaps and omissions. The book does not address the “virus” of tribalism even in the ranks of the Nigerian hierarchy for whom Ekandem was “shepherd among shepherds” and “primus inter pares” for almost two decades (pp. 270–83). For example, the author has devoted little attention to the reasons (possibly ethnically based) for the choice of the foreign-based Saint Patrick Society, rather than the Nigerian-born members of the Nigerian Province of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, for the seminary-formation of the new Missionary Society of Saint Paul (pp. 329–45).
Second, there is a lack of clarity regarding the story behind the exile of Bishop James Moynagh, S.P.S., from Calabar and why Ekandem was silent on this matter concerning a key figure in his life. This lack of clarity could leave room for unnecessary [End Page 184] speculation, especially given Ekandem’s very close, fraternal, and working relationship with Usanga, Moynagh’s successor (pp. 172–96), who, according to the author, is “parochial and provincial in outlook and mentality” and “never failed to grab the limelight whenever the opportunity presented itself” (p. 173).
Third, the book is overly qualitative; a few quantitative details are suggested but not sustained (pp. 79–87, 97–98). Perhaps that is the nature of the author’s discipline. A history book like this should provide details such as the number of priests ordained by Ekandem, the number of educational and welfare institutions he established, and the names of members of particular religious organizations who came to work in the dioceses that he was charged to lead.
In conclusion, the book’s weaknesses do not in any way outweigh its significance. A much-needed and very timely scholarly work, it will undoubtedly benefit students of religion and politics, especially those studying the role of the Catholic Church in Nigeria’s politics and beyond. The abundance of relevant information will shed light on the current status of the church hierarchy’s endeavor to live up to its claim to be the country’s voice of the voiceless. As Nigeria continues to grope for good leaders and governance in both the secular and religious realms, the book provides rich and cautionary insights on how religious leaders can be, in theory and practice, the voice of the voiceless in and beyond...