OKRIKA LODGE - NO. 4578 (1923)
Okrika Lodge No. 4578 E.C. was the fourth Lodge under the English Constitution that was warranted in the then Eastern Region. The first was Calabar Lodge No. 3434, warranted on the 1st of February 1910, the second was St. John’s Lodge (Onitsha) No. 3780, warranted on the 30th October 1916 and the third, Port Harcourt Lodge No. 3881, warranted on 22nd July 1918. The petition to form Okrika Lodge was sponsored by members of Port Harcourt Lodge, in 1923 and the same year on the 17th September 1923, the warrant to form the new Lodge was issued by the Grand Lodge.
The petition was signed by ten Founding members namely; Ernest Davidson, P.M., P.G.S.W (Nigeria) P.A.G.D.C (England); Frank Bateman Jones, P.M; P.D.G.S of works; Bishop A.W. Howells, P.M, P.D.G. Chaplain; William Reeder, P.M., P.D.G.W; Arthur Harold Cole, P.M. P.D.S. Wks; John Fredrick Williams, P.M; P.D.S. Wks; Cecil May; Herbert H.R. Garrick; John Henry Davies and Frank Eugene Pratt.
The desire of the Founders for a second Lodge in Port Harcourt was primarily to serve the needs of the African Brethren resident in and around Port Harcourt. This is because Port Harcourt Lodge which was consecrated in 1919 catered for the expatriate members, who were mostly British.
The consecration ceremony of Okrika Lodge took place at the Port Harcourt Lodge Masonic Temple on 9th February 1924. The consecrating Officer was A.H. Cole P.D.G.W. a member of Calabar Lodge No. 3434. For three years, Okrika Lodge held its Regular Meetings in the Port Harcourt Lodge Temple under special arrangement with the “Mother Lodge”. However, through voluntary contributions from members, the present building was erected, the Foundation stone of which was laid by Bateman Jones, P.D.G.W., on the 27th February 1926.
Available records in the Lodge show that between 9th February 1924 and December 1925, Okrika Lodge recruited and initiated 28 persons including joining members. The first Master of the Lodge was Cecil May; the first Senior Warden was Rev. Herbert Garrick and the first Junior Warden was John Henry Davies, who held the rank of P.G.D.C of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. The first three initiates of the Lodge were Lucis Arthur Barnes, initiated on 23rd February 1924, fourteen days after the consecration of the new Lodge and by the 27th day the twins of Hon. Arthur Mark Pepple Jaja and Thomas Eramus Spiff were initiated on 8th March 1924. The first joining member was Arie O. Walker, who hailed from Travellers Lodge No. 3726 E.C. on 23rd February 1924. The founding fathers were very much active in their Masonic duties. Multiple workings were regular features of their meetings, and these made it possible to initiate, pass and raise six members between 23rd February, 1924 and 29th November 1924.
By the approval of the Grand Master, a crest was adopted for the Badge and Banner of the ‘Lodge’. The Founders’ Jewel is a miniature of the Crest, the base or groundwork of which is the six pointed star which forms part of the Badge adopted for Nigeria after the Amalgamation of “Northern” with “Southern” Protectorate. It is not the double triangle of the “R.A. Degree” thought at first sight; it may possibly be taken for such. The Bar of the Jewel is of the usual pattern with a riband of orthodox blue, the riband bearing the emblem of office of the Founders who may hold appointments in the Lodge during the first year.
Port Harcourt, where the new Lodge was established derived its name as a compliment to the Secretary of State for the Colonies who held office when the Town first became the Headquarters and Southern Terminus of the Eastern Division of the Nigerian Railway. While the name of the new Lodge, “Okrika” is taken from the Island of that name in the Delta of the River Niger. “OKRIKA” in the vernacular means to “Stand Firm” and took its rise from the Native Tribe whose proud boast was that of not having been conquered in battle and whose war-city is perpetuated in the name Okrika, hence “Stand-Firm-Okrika” has been adopted as the motto of the new Lodge of African Brethren stationed in Port Harcourt. The new Lodge has no direct geographical relationship with the Island save that, Okrika is emblematically depicted in the crest by an Island in a wide River, three Palms being strewn in the Island. The centre Palm emblematically represents the Master and the two Palms at or near to the right and left, denote the two Wardens of the Lodge.
The Palms and luxuriant vegetation of the Island being emblematic of the natural wealth of the country in which the new Lodge has been established. The small surf boat or native canoe, shown on the right of the Island represents the old time means of transporting natural wealth of the Island, while the steamship denotes the progress made by the skilled Craftsmen, whose work has made it possible for Ocean liners to “berth” where native canoes were formerly in use. The seven Palms strewn in the lower part of the Crest (together with the three strewn on the Island) represent, emblematically, the ten original Founders of the Lodge and also point out that while the Master and his Wardens are paramount in the Lodge they receive the support of the Founders as a whole. Each Founder being depicted by a Palm denotes equality in the grand Design, and serve to remind us of that natural equality and mutual dependence in which we enter our existence.
The “Elephant and Palm” inset in the lower Palms-preserved in our Jewel, the old (now obsolete) Badge of Southern Nigeria, reminds us of those days in the “Southern Protectorate” before the Ocean going steamers replaced the Native Canoes in the Niger Delta, before the hands of the more expert craftsmen, who brought rude matter into due form, and had so wonderfully developed and adapted the natural resources of the country to the uses and services of mankind. The “pillar” on the left emblematically represents “Strength”, that on the right “Stability” or taken conjointly, strength and stability denote firmness. Thus the motto and Badge of the Lodge teach us “firmness” of purpose, “Stability” of character, strength and determination to establish the “Okrika Lodge” on a Foundation that will “Stand Firm”, when time with those represented in the Crest shall be no more.
Okrika Lodge has actually lived up to the expectations of its founding fathers. Conservation and high level of selection process and procedure in admitting members have been the practices, such that from inception to date only 224 of both living and dead were successfully recruited and initiated into the Lodge. This is to ensure that the established standards and discipline are seriously maintained. When the first By-Laws were agreed to and confirmed in open Lodge on the 29th day of March 1924, initiation fees to cover three Degrees, the cost of Grand Lodge Certificate and a year’s subscription was Twenty-one British Pounds. Joining members from an English Lodge two Guineas, joining member from Sister Constitution was three Guineas, while annual subscription was fixed at one Guinea, payable in advance by quarterly installments. A number of Brethren belong to Lodges under more than one constitution. Indeed, this shared allegiance sometimes leads to unconscious introduction of practices alien to another, it however has a compensating advantage of ensuring that the three constitutions co-exist in amity and this has not led to a fall in standards and disciplines in Okrika Lodge.
During the years 1967-1970, the problems created by the Nigerian Civil War restricted the movement of persons and generally affected Masonic activities throughout the Eastern States of Nigeria, Okrika Lodge was no exception. In 1968, the reigning Master, Justice A.I. Aseme, removed the Lodges’ Charter for safe custody when Port Harcourt was threatened by the invading Federal Troops. It is interesting that during the Civil War, and by the special dispensation from the District Grand Lodge, through the late Justice L.N. Mbanefo, the then Assistant District Grand Master, meetings of the Lodge held in exile in make-shift Temples, in different Towns. And, as each town was threatened by the Federal Troops, the Lodge shifted to safer ground.
After the civil war, Justice A.I. Aseme returned the Charter, pure and unsullied, and the Lodge resumed Masonic activities in its Temple. As a result of the war, almost the entire Lodges’ properties were looted, but for the commitment of the members and financial support from the District Grand Lodge, a great majority of the Lodges’ furniture and equipment were either recovered or replaced.
Port Harcourt Lodge, the mother Lodge of Okrika Lodge, had a similar experience when it became difficult for it to function in Port Harcourt as a result of having lost a lot in terms of Jewels and furniture to the war. But for a restoration fund created and Okrika Lodge, the daughter Lodge, offering every assistance which facilitated the first regular meeting of Port Harcourt Lodge in their Temple, after the civil war on 21st January 1972.
It is worthy of note that Okrika Lodge has vigorously been leading the campaign towards the spread of English Masonry in Rivers State with the strong support it gave to the formation of Ionic Lodge. This is borne out of the desire to establish English Lodges outside Port Harcourt.
The Lodge celebrated its Golden Jubilee in April 1973 during the reign of A. Alaye-Benibo. To date a total 87 Masters have passed through the Chair. Except for the period of the Nigerian Civil War, especially 1970, the Lodge has never ceased to function. Brethren of the Lodge, especially Past Masters are known active participants in District Grand Lodge activities. Okrika Lodge has produced four ADGMs and one DDGM: They are late J.D. Manual, late H.E.B. Green, who was later appointed Deputy District Grand Master for Nigeria, late Chief Dr. O.G. Banijo and Eze C.W. Orianwo. These are true and worthy sons of Okrika Lodge, who merited their appointments through hard work.
To improve on the structure bequeathed by our founding fathers, the Temple was renovated and extended in 2007 at the cost of N5.4 Million Naira, to provide a convenient banquet hall. This edifice was commissioned by the Adediji Adedoyin, the then DGM on 15th March 2008. It is gratifying that the members of the Lodge were all enthusiastic about the project and seriously committed to the cause, for which a Roll of Honour will be established. The Roll of Honours shall consist of names of eminent Masons of Okrika Lodge and members of other English Lodges as well as, eminent Masons of other recognized Constitutions who made substantial financial contributions towards the rebuilding of Lodge Temple. The Roll of Honour shall perpetuate the name and memory of every eminent Mason dead or living, and donations made.
On the 29th October 2011, a new Mark Master Masons Lodge No. 1927 was consecrated in Port Harcourt sponsored by five members of Okrika Lodge, the first of its kind in the area. The petition bore the names of High Chief Gogo I. Fubara, Isaac I. Dike, Rawlingson G. Cookey, Dr. Sofiri Joab-Peterside and Charles A. Pepple.
Lodge Venue and Meeting Days
Fourth Saturday of every
month. Installation January.
Masonic Hall 1,
King Amachree Road formerly Club Road,
Mail: P.O. Box 66 Port Harcourt 500001, Rivers state.
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