An Interview with Father Felix-Kingsley Obialo

by Gordon Nary



Gordon: When you received your vocation, with whom did you first discuss it, and what was their advice?


Father Felix-Kingsley: I grew up with missionary priests. There were very few Nigerians in our Diocese then as it was. When the thought of becoming a priest first came, I had a chat with the first Nigerian priest that I knew and who was my pastor then. He must have suspected that I was being called. He asked me to join the altar servers and from then the idea grew. This priest later played a great role in my life mentoring me and all. Unfortunately, he died few years ago. He was like a father to me. May God rest his soul.


His name: Rev Msgr. Prof Felix Adeigbo. Initially, I was reluctant to go to the seminary because I have an uncle who was in the seminary but did not make it to the priesthood. Msgr. Adeigbo counseled me and advised that I must never use another person’s experience to judge my life. He emphasized the fact that each person is called differently. Over the years, I have come to understand that vocation is like a process. Each one of us has different unique roles to play in the process.


Gordon: Where did you attend seminary, and what was your favorite course, and why was it your favorite?


Father Felix-Kingsley: I attended Seminary of Saints Peter and Paul, Bodija, Ibadan, Nigeria. My favourite course was African Philosophy. I loved it because until that time all we seemed to learn was knowledge from other climes. It was so exciting to be exposed a body of knowledge that was African. That stirred up a lot of curiosity and interest in me.


Gordon: What was you first assignment and what did you learn there? Father Felix-Kingsley: The first assignment was to research great African thinkers and showcase their main thoughts. I learnt that knowledge is not the exclusive preserve of anyone. If you work hard at anything, you would excel at it. Cognitive behaviour is a very hard job but not many people like to engage in it.


Gordon: What is your current parish and approximately how many parishioners do you have?


Father Felix-Kingsley: St Richard Catholic Church Jericho G.R.A. Eleyele, Ibadan, Nigeria. Our parish is a two church parish. The main station has about 300 congregants. While the outstation has about 150 parishioners.


Gordon: Please share with our readers some information on the hunger crisis in Nigeria, its causes, and the United Nations is helping to address this crisis.


Father Felix-Kingsley: I have to periodically share my allowance with the poor and hungry who approach the parish from within and outside of the parish. This unfortunately is not peculiar to me. There are priests across the country who do so to assist the poor and needy. There are others who help from among parishioners and non parishioners. Some generous parishioners bring food to our parish food bank and we share this periodically with the parish welfare committee and St Vincent de Paul Society.


I saw this hunger crisis coming years back with the incessant attacks on farmers across the country. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Then inflation started. Then the Covid-19 pandemic. And of course, we have been battling corruption. Another reason is the drop in international oil prices which has affected Nigeria because oil is our major source of income even though the government has been trying to encourage and develop other sectors of the economy.


I must also mention the exchange rate. Nigeria is a highly dollarized economy. Any drop in the value of our currency, the naira against the dollar affects a lot of things. I really don’t know much about what the United Nations is doing to help the Nigerian hunger situation. But I will appeal that the UN should come to the aid of Nigeria by assisting the Federal Government of Nigeria to reduce the hunger situation. Our government is trying to encourage entrepreneurial activities to grow the economy and so reduce poverty. The UN can partner with the government to make this happen. Our debt profiling is rising. Let those involved give Nigeria some break. The UN cannot afford to allow a humanitarian crisis to occur in Nigeria.


Gordon: How is the hunger crisis affecting children?


Father Felix-Kingsley: As expected, children are the worst hit. I was involved in a yet to be published study last year. One of the reasons for absenteeism in schools by kids is hunger. Some had to fend for themselves or engage in family economic activities in order to eat. It is very pathetic. You must have heard that Nigeria occupies the unenviable position of the poverty capital of the world. That captures how the hunger situation has devastated our children. I pray that something positive happens in our country soon. I pray that the numerous efforts of both government and non governmental agencies yield positive results soon. People are really suffering in Nigeria.


Gordon: What impact has the hunger crisis had upon your parish?


Father Felix-Kingsley: It has affected participation and commitment to church activities. The generous ones are fatigued. More people come to seek help in our parish. We also have people who have persevered in generosity or have learnt to be their brethren's keeper. Nigerians are survivors. That has helped us to avoid mass depression due to hunger.


Gordon: Thank you for an exceptional and incisive interview, I am asking all of our readers to pray for you and all the children in Nigeria.


Father Felix-Kingsley: Thank you very much for having me. Nigeria needs tons of prayers.