Can a knight be de-knighted?
A knight can be de-robed. When you join and keep the rules it is okay, but when you join and do unknightly things, you will be de-robed. We have had that in our Grand Commandery here. Even the man de-robed was our Grand secretary.
What did he do?
He did not live up to expectation. There were a lot of things involved. If you want to be a good Catholic, during the aspiration period there are certain places you cannot be found. Otherwise, you have to explain why you were there at that particular time. If we say you must not commit adultery and fornication and you are running a brothel, you may not be committing adultery or fornication directly, but you are now aiding and abetting, because of that you are disqualified. We have disqualified a lot of people because the business they are doing for a living is not actually a good way of making a living.
Can a knight take alcohol?
Everything has a limit, there is a way you eat food that will make other people hungry. The way you eat may make you commit sin. Remember the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man did not go to hell because he was rich; a rich man can make it to heaven. The Lazarus story tells us that we can be rich yet go to hell. If we use our riches for charity then heaven is our gain. If the rich man had remembered Lazarus who was feeding on the crumbs that fell from the table, if he had settled Lazarus while he was on earth, Abraham would have seemingly told Lazarus: "That was the man who fed you when you were on earth, just put your hands in the water and let drops of water touch his lips."
If a knight can take a little alcohol does it support having a beer parlour?
As I have said, even at that, do not tempt God. You cannot be selling what you do not take; if you do, you will be tempted.
So setting up a beer parlour as you said can lead to so many things - one thing leads to another.
Interviewees' responses: "I don't drink because of one or two reasons: one, it is bitter; two, if one drinks and you say one thing or the other, the people around you will attribute it to drunkenness. I hate the comment: "He is drunk."
Second person: "I can say one of the greatest blessings I ever had in my whole life was that I was in Germany for a good number of years and I never got involved with drinking. In Germany, the children have their own cup-size. The Germans don't drink water but I never got involved and I don't condemn those who drink in moderation. The bible condemns everything done in excess, even gluttony is over-feeding. One Pope said when you do anything remember a counterpart of yours who can't afford it. The extra beer and food you take could go to another person. So everything, as you said, must border on moderation.
Who will take on the main issue - the enrolment drive?
We've started that. Archbishop Gabriel Abegunrin has gracefully agreed that we go to the parishes and evangelise. We have gone to 12 parishes and we have 50 aspirants who want to come. But that is not our standard yet, until when they are initiated that is when we know that these people are ready to come in. But right now, we are going round parishes and some parishiones are saying they want to join. We will invite them to our meetings and tell them the rules. They keep on aspiring until after the six months expiration. Having finished that, we will conduct the three-stage examination for them. If they are able to pass the three stages, we will initiate them.
No financial implications?
There is no organisation that lives without money. The Yorubas say, "Obe to dun owo lo pa." When you see a knight well dressed and you like the knight, it is not because God made him like that. He needs money to do that.
Even the sword can be very expensive?
The sword is expensive. The clothes are expensive; everything around is expensive.
Can a poor man join the knighthood?
A poor man can join, it depends.
Where will he get the money to buy the full robe?
One of us has been in for close to 12 years and he has not been able to buy the full robe. That has not disqualified him as a knight. There are some modern knights who can assist their colleagues who cannot afford these things. A knight can buy the robes for others.
Why haven't you gotten your own (directed at the person)?
I was not based in Lagos then. Besides that, as we are seated here, we all have different responsibilities. What we have discovered in Ibadan is that most of us are retirees who have no pension. "Like me, I worked with Odua, got retired, no pension and after leaving the place nothing. None of my children is working, they are still schooling, I have to sell my land to pay my child's fee in Hungary.
Did you get married late?
I wouldn't say that, I got married at 33 years old (identity withheld).
Another interviewee: I am 74 years old and my children are still schooling, no jobs for those who have graduated. It is not easy; that is Nigeria for all of us. The Knight is not only for the rich, it is for everybody. But it depends on how you are able to manage yourself. Like you said, I will say it is not also for the poor. And that is why people in Lagos behave differently. Oyo State is for civil servants and Lagos is for business people. When the people in Lagos are spending money, you will be afraid to move near them. In Lagos, when you have problems, you get help. In the knighthood, we talk more on charity. We do charity a lot.
Any other thing?
Evangelisation, we are very grateful to the Archbishop for giving us the green light to go out and talk in the parishes. But I think we may also wish to mention that before then we also made some efforts at evangelisation drive because we went to Abeokuta diocese at the instance of the Bishop there; who used to be our spiritual director before he was made a bishop. And he has always been very supportive. We have been spreading our tentacles to various parishes in Abeokuta to get more members.
Anything to add to that?
One thing, but it is not directly connected to that but we should not lose sight of it. The Bishop Emeritus Alaba Job has been very supportive to this organisation. Actually, if not for him the knighthood would not have seen the light of the day. He supported and approved of it. There is need to mention his assistance and the position of this knighthood. He was the first warden president. He is an encyclopaedia of the Knight of St John in Ibadan.
Can you give us an insight?
What actually happened is that when I and my family relocated from Kaduna in 1993, we were here for three years. It was in 1996 that I inquire and they said there was one in Lagos commandery. So I attended their meeting in Lagos so they told me they had a standing committee already for evangelisation for the papal knight. So we went into it. I gathered some people, Bro. Okpekpe, now the present warden president, Late Ojogwua Patrick, we were all worshipping at Church of the Ascension. I gathered them together and we were going together to Lagos for monthly meetings as aspirants. Lagos commandery 447 helped us to build up the Ibadan commandery. In 2003, we were inaugurated as a commandery.
It means there are other states or cities that do not have Knight of St John?
Many towns. We were only in Ibadan then, later, Akure, Ado Ekiti and Ilorin. Those were the ones we had then. But now, we have in Ondo, Ikare and two in Ado Ekiti; we are spreading. We want to have more IN Ibadan - one or two commanderies; that is what our membership drive is all about.
(One of the interviewees is a product of the membership drive. He has an uncle who is a knight of St John in the village. He always tells Pius, "Come and join us." And Bro. Pius and his wife go to Ado Ekiti to hold meetings with them.)
Do you have young ones in your midst?
Really, we don't have many young ones because the young ones are looking at it as expensive. Let me tell you a story: I approached some young men in my church, they said, "Look at you, you have built a house; you have finished training your children and you are retired and you are now a knight. That is what I want to do. I want to build a house, I want to train my children and retire before I can join the knight." I said before you do that your age is over. He asked me when I was able to join and I said, "I joined when I was training my children.”
And how can that be put right?
Actually, it is the commitment one has in the church. The objective of any family is that the family should know God better because at the inception, our patron St John the Baptist is known for his commitment, humility, forthrightness, courage, truth and it cost him his life. So, we are very proud of our patron. The Catholic Church is very proud of him because he was the fore-runner of our Lord Jesus. He was the one who said, "...that is the Lamb of God." He was not disturbed that his followers left him. He said he must decrease while he increased. So, actually, the knighthood is a family affair - the husband, the wife and the children.
But it is only the husband that will be called Sir?
The wife, we call our wives "Sisters" because blood is thicker than water. When you call somebody your sister the tie is closer than calling her "my wife." When you call her your wife people know she is from another family but when you say "my sister" - remember in the biblical Abraham - wisdom. The wife is addressed as "Lady."
Do they have their own uniform, too?
Yes, the Ladies have their own uniform, the children have their own uniform and the knights have theirs.
The fact is that a family makes a society, when you are saying Nigerians are bad, you don't trace the fault from the top, you trace from the family. If the family is truly Catholic and we have 4,5 families in the knight in a village and they live out their Catholic life that society must experience a change. A change for better. The wrong notion that our young ....this thing that its actually the state of the nation that ... if somebody is working in a company and he is paid well, he cant be afraid of raising the children and responding to his social and religious duties.
One of the challenges we have been having during this evangelisation drive is that some people want to know if our organisation is not meant for old people alone and we have since realised this. During our last election we made efforts to encourage the younger ones to take positions of prominence and during this our evangelisation drive, we also make the congregation aware of the fact that we are rejuvenating, we have younger people to take over from us; we are all moving nearer our graves every day and the organisation should not become extinct. That is why we need younger people to come and take over from us and carry on. Father Felix Adedigba mentioned this in his parish. He said the younger ones should come and take over from us.