Origin Of Christianity In Nigeria

The origin of Christianity in Nigeria can be traced back in the fifteenth century through the Capuchin and Augustinian and monks from Portugal that sailed through the Atlantic to the shores of the region.

With Catholic being the first denomination that came to Nigeria by the Portuguese, the mission was not successful as the missionaries were more active in the natural resources of the land and slave trading as seen in the case of the Portuguese navigator, Henry that was more interested in the golds but came only with Christianity whereas the village heads were after mirrors, guns and ammunitions which made Henry’s mission a failed one.

Most of the missionaries that came to Nigeria in the fifteenth century ventured into slave trade and took many slaves on ship to some parts of America, France, Spain, Portugal and other European nations and resell them to their new masters.

Then in the seventeenth century, Christianity was reintroduced again with the Europeans coming along with Western education, and other interesting items that started getting the attention of people, turning them away from their traditional religion to Christianity.

Prior to that, in the sixteenth century, the Itsekiri kingdom was the first place that Christian religion was successful installed, as the then son of the Olu of Warri. He was baptized and took the name Sebastian. He later succeeded his father and become the Olu of Warri which played a huge role of the missionaries success in the land.

It was difficult installing Christianity successfully in Africa as the converts started seeing the Europeans lord themselves, passing judge and excommunicating anyone that they think has rebelled against the church – this made some converts to establish their own churches, breaking off from the missionaries.

It also failed in some parts as some locals saw weirdness in this new religion like worshipping some unseen gods like once or twice a week in a closed building and singing some strange hymns.

One of the major reasons that delayed the establishment of Christianity was the fact the whites disregarded the already existing tradition and tagged it immoral, as well as destroying what has been there for them even before the whites sailed in to Nigeria.

In the eighteenth century, Christianity gained grounds in Nigeria after slave trade ended in 1833 by the British while the slaves were freed and sent to Freetown, Sierra Leone with new name and new religion.

The British government enforced new laws which included slave trade as an illegal trade.

It was said that the slaves started returning back home from Freetown to their various homes preaching the new religion to one another.

A notable name, Samuel Ajayi Crowther was a Yoruba slave captured by the Fulani and sold to the Portuguese when he was twelve years old – when he gained his freedom, he was made the first African Bishop by the Christian Missionary Society.

Most of the missionaries died through malaria while others traveled back to their land with the believe that the people would continue spreading the gospel across the nation; that, which was a success.


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