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Contribution Of Bishop Phillips To The Church And Economic Development In Ondo Community

The period 1873 – 1900, was the period in Ondo history when the Anglican Church Missionaries Introduced Christianity to the traditional community. The missionary enterprise was under the leadership of Bishop Charles Phillips. It was that period that, he and early Christian introduced Cocoa seedling to the Ondo people. It served as a means of supporting of the financial base and income of the people of Ondo. Religion forms the foundation and the all governing principle of life of them, in other words the people had known about the existence of Supreme Being which they variously called Olorun, Oluwa or Olodumare. Bishop Charles Phillips, the superintendent of the Anglican Church in eastern Yorubaland, has his ecclesiastical base in Ondo. He got there in 1877 and served the Church till1906 when he died. It was during his stay in Ondo that he revolutionized the religious and social – economic life of Ondo community.

Yorubaland, has his ecclesiastical base in Ondo. He got there in 1877 and served the Church till1906 when he died. It was during his stay in Ondo that he revolutionized the religious and social – economic life of Ondo community. Economically Ondo was alternative route for Ekiti/Ijesa traders during Ekitiparapo war of 1877 – 1886. The political situation in Yorubaland before the incursion of Christianity into the interior made it difficult for peaceful trade and security which were necessary for national and economic development. The Ijaye wars of 1864 – 1865 and Egba – Ibadan raids of about 1872 made commercial enterprise unsafe and difficult. The roads connecting the rest of Yorubaland with Lagos were those of Abeokuta, Ijebu and Ibadan. All these roads were subject to blockades by the Egba and the Ijebus who were against Ibadan. The British colonial government which had established its rule over Lagos in 1861 had its hope lucrative commerce with the interior thwarted by incessant civil wars in Yorubaland.

Economically Ondo was alternative route for Ekiti/Ijesa traders during Ekitiparapo war of 1877 – 1886. The political situation in Yorubaland before the incursion of Christianity into the interior made it difficult for peaceful trade and security which were necessary for national and economic development. The Ijaye wars of 1864 – 1865 and Egba – Ibadan raids of about 1872 made commercial enterprise unsafe and difficult. The roads connecting the rest of Yorubaland with Lagos were those of Abeokuta, Ijebu and Ibadan. All these roads were subject to blockades by the Egba and the Ijebus who were against Ibadan. The British colonial government which had established its rule over Lagos in 1861 had its hope lucrative commerce with the interior thwarted by incessant civil wars in Yorubaland.

The British colonial government was thus desirous of opening up the Yoruba country in order to make trade with interior possible. The eastern route as it was then called was not used until the foundation of Ondo mission. At the outbreak of the civil war, the political, military and economic history of the Yourbaland became largely dependent on this route. The political situation in Ondo itself attracted the attention of the British Administration under Governor John Hawley Glover in Lagos. Oba Arilekolasi was rejected by his chiefs and was asked to commit suicide, the slaves and the supporters of the rejected Oba resented this.

The people went back to report the enthusiasm with which the Ondo received the Christianity. The report pave way for the solid foundation lay on 29th March 1875 by Rev. David Hinderer, Charles Young, Humsu Wright and William Dada and its subsequent development. They were lodged in the house of Nasi Oluyeye in Igunrin Street. The following year, Oba Jimekun and his Chiefs built a house for them outside Nasi’s compound. The CMS executive transferred Mr. John W. Thomas a carpenter and evangelist to Ondo and in 1877, Rev. Charles Phillips was sent to supervise the work. He arrived with his family on March 29th 1877. The mission had as its motives the desires to spread the message of Christ and to create a completely new social order which would wipe away most of the customs and institutions of the old society. Oba Jimekun the then Osemawe of Ondo and many of his senior Chiefs welcomed the missionary envoys and within a short time, many people embraced the faith; though with some of the customary practices still observed secretly.

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The Ondo people welcomed the missionaries not because they wanted to embrace Christianity per se but because they wanted peace, taking into consideration the fact that the missionaries often – time preceded the institution of the imperial government. The Ondo Chiefs regarded them as agents of the white men’s government in Lagos, whose role ending the civil war was still fresh in their memories. In a more appreciable way, the Ondo people conceived the Idea that the Ondo mission was in a sense the creation of the Lagos government. On 20th September 1875 Oba and the elders of Ondo wrote a letter of appreciation to CMS secretariat in Lagos for bringing peace and evangelism to Ondo. With Charles Phillips’ arrival and settlement in the town, he demanded for another convenient piece of land from the town’s authority. A new piece of land larger than what he had demanded for was granted to him where the first primary school Church and Vicarage were located at Oke Aluko.

The Christians were opposed by adherents of the traditional religion in the town. The converts were victimized, oppressed and threatened. The land allocated to the Christians was evil forest. In it were buried all those who died of diseases like leprosy, small pox. An evil forest was therefore, alive with sinister forces and power of diseases. It was such a forest that the Ondo authorities gave to the missionaries. It was the belief of the non – Christian that the Christian would suffer for small pox and unpleasant death. The land at Oke Aluko where the Church and the Vicarage were located was a significant in the History of Ondo, because it was a dreadful groove of “Orodoko” divinity.

The Governor felt that commercial activities could hardly thrive under the politically charged atmosphere in Ondo and therefore restored the Oba after he (Glover) had had consultations with the chiefs and had pacified the warring groups. Glover assured the people of the support of the Lagos government, if they could sink their differences and allow peace to reign supreme in their town. He similarly warned the Marauding Ife people from Okeigbo to stop harassing Ondo people indigenes. The Marauders had wrought much disaster for over thirty years. Thus, by1872, Governor Glover sent Captain Goldworthy to Ondo to settle the internal unrest. The Captain however did much than settle a dispute, for on his return to Lagos, he went to invite the CMS to Ondo to propagate the gospel. The CMS was quick to respond, probably due to constant support she received from the Governor. In the following year 1873, J.A Maser and Rev. E.O Roper came to Ondo. They were happily received by Oba Jimekun the Osemawe of Ondo who confortably lodged them in the house of Jomu Operusu.

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