On the 17th of March, Nigerian Orthodox Christians observed the feast day of St Patrick. He is the nation’s patron saint after the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is even recognized by Nigerians in diaspora and other countries like Ireland, United States, Canada, Britain, amongst others.
St. Patrick is said to have lived in the 5th century. At 16, he was captured and enslaved by Irish pirates. There he spent 6 years looking after animals. Somehow he succeeded in his escape plan and returned home in Britain. Later on, the Saint went back to Ireland for evangelical purposes.
As pronounced in Irish, “Patricius”, means the father of the citizens. Indeed he was a father figure to many and that is why ages after his death, his life and efforts are commemorated. St Patrick is the primary patron saint of Ireland. History records that he was the one who chased all the snakes in Ireland away during a fasting exercise. He used the shamrock to show the likeness of the Holy Trinity. Till date, the shamrock is a national symbol in Ireland.
The “Apostle of Ireland” as he is popularly known is credited with the conversion of Nigerians into the Christian faith. Today, the catholic denomination alone takes up 14% of the nation’s population (about 20 million people). St Patrick converted a lot of people in Ireland. And by the 1900’s, Ireland missionaries had begun to interact and convert the Nigerian people. They were present and working long before the imperial regime. With the recent decline in clergy life in Ireland, Nigerian priests are now largely assigned to work there.
By March 17, 1932, St. Patrick’s Society for Foreign Missions had started to provide education in Nigeria. A prominent Ireland figure then was Roger Casement. His compassion and charity for oppressed Africans was unprecedented. The Irish nationalist and enforcer of social justice was executed in Dublin, 1916.
In 1961, as Ireland launched their embassy in Lagos, St Patrick was declared the patron saint of Nigeria. St Patrick’s day celebration serves as both a religious and a cultural holiday. Eoghan McSwiney, Ireland Embassy, Abuja said;
“The Embassy organizes high-profile St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the capital Abuja, and in Lagos, as well in Accra, Ghana. We are joined by friends and colleagues from the diplomatic corps and from the highest levels of the Nigerian public and private sector.”