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After an isolated presence in the late 1920's,[1] the Bahá’í Faith began in Nigeria with pioneering Bahá’ís coming to Sub-Saharan West Africa in the 1950s especially following the efforts of Enoch Olinga who directly and indirectly affected the growth of the religion in Nigeria.[2] Following growth across West Africa a regional National Spiritual Assembly was elected in 1956.[3] As the community multiplied across cities and became diverse in it's engagements it elected it's own National Spiritual Assembly by 1979[4] and had 1000 Bahá’ís in 2001.[5]

Early years[edit]

Richard St. Barbe Baker lived and worked in some of the southern provinces of Nigeria in 1927-9 extending his Men of the Trees project of environmental conservation and as a Bahá’í since 1925.[6][1] Wide scale growth in the religion across Sub-Saharan Africa was observed to begin in 1950s and accelerated in the 1960s.[7] In 1953, Shoghi Effendi, the head of the religion, planned an international teaching plan termed the Ten-Year Crusade. During the teaching plan Mr. and Mrs. Alí Nakhjavání drove by car with two African pioneers from Uganda to open new countries to the religion. The first pioneer settled in what was then French Equatorial Africa, and then Enoch Olinga went on to British Cameroon.[2] By 1954, growth in the Bahá’í Faith in Cameroon resulted in five young Bahá’ís who pioneered surrounding areas, each becoming a Knight of Bahá’u’lláh including Ghana, and Togo. Meanwhile a Bahá’í book belonging to Olinga, Paris Talks, became the basis of a Baha'i Church in Nigeria in Calabar which operated in 1955-56. Concurrently in 1956 there were over 1000 Bahá’ís across North-West Africa[8] resulting in a regional National Spiritual Assembly including Nigeria[3] with Olinga as the chairman with its seat in Tunis.[9] The church was disconnected from the Bahá’í community but applied the Bahá’í teachings with virtually all of the Cameroonian men on one large palm plantation. The church was established, flourished, and then collapsed utterly unrecognized and unknown to the Bahá’í pioneers and to the international Baha'i community until one of the founders tried to return the book. Both leaders of the church later officially joined the religion and helped form the first Local Spiritual Assembly of Calabar in 1957 and served in other positions.[10]

Development of the community[edit]

By 1964, while associated with the regional National Spiritual Assembly of North West Africa, Nigeria had a Local Spiritual Assembly in Aba, Afikpo, Akpabuyo, Aningeje, Asata Enugu(?), Calabar, Ibadan, Lagos, Nyaje, Owom, and Sapele, and smaller groups of Bahá’ís in Ebute Metta, Ikot Okriba, Ojok, Old Ndebeji, Onitcha, and Oron, and isolated Bahá’ís in Abakaliki, Abeokuta, Kontagura, Kwa Falls, Mbeban Village, and Umuahia.[11]

After a Nigerian Civil War in 1967-70, the Bahá’ís of Nigeria elected its own National Spiritual Assembly by 1979.[4]

In 1982 the Bahá’ís of Nigeria hosted one of five continental Conferences called for by the Universal House of Justice.[12]

In 1983 a National Bahá’í Children's committee developed several materials for Bahá’í schools in Nigeria including lessons for children on "Bahá’í History", "Living the Bahá’í Life", and "Bahá’í Teachings".[4]

In 1984 a West African Center for Bahá’í Studies presented papers at University of Ife, in Ile Ife.[13]

Founded in 1986, by 2004 the Bahá’í Justice Society had members in several countries including Nigeria.[14]

In 1996 Nigeria assisted in the election of the São Tomé National Spiritual Assembly.[15]

Modern community[edit]

The Bahá’ís of Nigeria maintain a diversity of schools like the Harmatan Bahá’í school in Uyo,[16] nursery schools and development projects in six communities in the fields of literacy, child education and farming.[17]

The National Spiritual Assembly has appointed a National Baha'i Office For The Advancement Of Women in Lagos.[18] The Bahá’ís of Ibadan and Idi-Ose held interfaith conferences with Christian, Hindu, and Moslem women, on "Women, Equality and Religion".[19]

The Operation World estimates for the Bahá’í Faith in Nigeria are around 1000 in 2001.[5]

Notable individuals[edit]

Richard St Barge Baker was a well known forest conservationist and in 1927-9 he was the Assistant Conservator of Forests for the southern provinces of Nigeria.[20][21]

Suheil Bushrui, who has done work on Perennial philosophy and is a noted scholar on Khalil Gibran[22][23] and inaugurator of the University of Maryland Bahá’í Chair for World Peace[24], first taught in Nigeria at University of Ibadan before leaving for Lebanon in 1968.[25]

Helen Elsie Austin lived in Africa as a US Foreign Service Officer from 1960 to 1970, serving as a Cultural attaché with the United States Information Agency in Lagos, Nigeria.[26][27]

Kiser Barnes was first elected as a member the Universal House of Justice in 2000. Barnes was a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria from 1980 to 1993, where he taught the Law of Business Associations, Law of Contracts, and International Economic Law and earned a Masters in the Philosophy of Law in 1984 and was a member of the Auxiliary Board for the Propagation of the Baha'i Faith in Nigeria from 1981 to 1990, and the Continental Board of Counsellors for the Protection and Propagation of the Baha'i Faith in Africa from 1990 to 1993.[28]


The Baha'i Faith In Nigeria, Dialogue & Alliance, Winter 1992, p104, by Loni Bramson-Lerche. Bramson-Lerche received her PhD from the Université Catholique de Louvain (Belgium) in contemporary history and religious studies. She has taught at universities in West Africa and Europe and has several publications in the field of Bahá’í Studies.[29]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Universal House of Justice (1986), "In Memorium", The Bahá’í World of the Bahá’í Era 136-140 (1979-1983) (Bahá’í World Centre) XVIII: Table of Contents and pp.619, 632, 802-4, ISBN 0853982341, 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mughrab, Jan (2004), "Jubilee Celebration in Cameroon", Journal of the Bahá’í Community of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 20 (5), 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Compiled by Hands of the Cause Residing in the Holy Land. "The Bahá’í Faith: 1844-1963: Information Statistical and Comparative, Including the Achievements of the Ten Year International Bahá’í Teaching & Consolidation Plan 1953-1963". pp. p. 22, 46. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 MacEoin, Denis; William Collins. "Children/education (Listings)". The Babi and Baha'i Religions: An Annotated Bibliography. Greenwood Press's ongoing series of Bibliographies and Indexes in Religious Studies. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Republic of Niger for August 29". Operation World. Paternoster Lifestyle. 2001. Retrieved 2008-05-18. 
  6. Community, Bahá’í International (October-December 2006), "We are what we eat, globally", One Country 18 (03), 
  7. "Overview Of World Religions". General Essay on the Religions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Division of Religion and Philosophy, University of Cumbria. Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  8. Effendi, Shoghi; Hands of the Cause residing in the Holy Land (1963). "North West Africa". Bahá’í World 1954-63. Bahá’í International Community. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  9. Francis, N. Richard (1998), "Enoch Olinga -Hand of the Cause of God, Father of Victories", Bahá’í Faith Website of Reno, Nevada, 
  10. Lee, Anthony A. (November 1997), "The Baha'i Church of Calabar, West Africa: The Problem of Levels in Religious History", Occasional Papers in Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Studies 1 (6), 
  11. The Bahá’í Faith: 1844-1963: Information Statistical and Comparative, Including the Achievements of the Ten Year International Bahá’í Teaching & Consolidation Plan 1953-1963, Compiled by Hands of the Cause Residing in the Holy Land, pages 22 and 46.
  12. Justice, Universal House of; collected by Geoffry W. Marks (1996). Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963-86. Wilmette, IL: Baha'i Publishing Trust of the United States. pp. pp. vii (Table of Contents). ISBN 0877432392. 
  13. Lerche, Charles O.; ed. Anthony A. Lee (1985). Circle of Peace: Reflections on the Baha'I Teachings. Kalimat Press. pp. pp. 57. ISBN 0933770286.,M1. 
  14. "Main Page". Official Webpage. Bahá’í Justice Society. 2004-07-04. Retrieved 2008-05-18. 
  15. Justice, Universal House of (1996-02-11). "Letter To all National Spiritual Assemblies". Newspaper and Magazine articles, pre-1997. Bahá’í Academics Resource Library. Retrieved 2008-05-18. 
  16. Foxhall, R (2007-12-23). "Photos from Uyo". Photos from Uyo. UNjobs Association of Geneva. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  17. Community, Bahá’í International (2006). "In the Field: Some Examples". Bahá’í Topics. Bahá’í International Community. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  18. Osted, Denise (2004-08-27). "Women's Organizations - Nigeria". Global List of Women's Organizations - A Subdivision of Fullmoon's Web. Denise Osted. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  19. Community, Bahá’í International (2006), "Women, Equality and Religion", One Country, 
  20. St. Barbe Baker, Richard (1985). My Life, My Trees. Forres, Scotland: Findhorn Press. ISBN 0-905249-63-1. 
  21. "The Spirit of Agriculture". Educational & Deepening Material:Bahá’í Studies Series and Seminar Papers. Bahá’í Publishing Trust of the UK. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-18. 
  22. "Baha'i scholar receives interfaith honor". Baha'i scholar receives interfaith honor. 2006. Retrieved 2008-05-13. 
  23. Moravian College. "Scholar and Humanitarian Suheil Bushrui to share vision of peace". Press release. Retrieved on 2008-05-13.
  24. "Center for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM)Welcomes Dr. John Grayzel". GVPT News. Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. Febuary, 2006. Retrieved 2008-05-13. 
  25. International Community, Bahá’í (July-September 2003), "From literature to peace: a scholar who strives to be a bridge between cultures", One Country 15 (02), 
  26. "Selected profiles of African-American Baha'is". National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States. Retrieved 2008-04-06. 
  27. "Standing up for justice and truth", Bahá’í World News Service, 2004-12-05, 
  28. "Biographies of Co-Chairs, Faith Participants and Other Invitees". World Faiths and Development - Dialogue. The World Bank Group. Retrieved 2008-05-18. 
  29. "Biographical Notes". The Journal of Bahá’í Studies 08 (02). 1998. Retrieved 2008-05-18. 

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