The Very Rev Alfred Wodeha Bovi, born 16th August, 1913, to Pa Ihriovorsioma Otitigbegha Obovi, son of Ugbome of Emega family of Otuloho Street, Uruto Quarters and Madam Susanna Onobrenuefe Amaka, daughter of Akpogwha of Urezu family, both of Ozoro, a year after the planting of Christianity in Isoko. He was the first of 5 Children, baptized by Rev Asieku in 1926 and confirmed by Bishop Lasbury in 1936. He began his Elementary School in C.M.S, School (now St, Paul's) Ozoro in 1924 reading up to Standard Five. He then went on in 1930 to read for the Standard Six Certificate at the C.M.S. School, Uwheru, the only Standard Six C M.S. School in the area. Providentially, he served as houseboy to Mr James Welch, a White Missionary, Manager of C.M.S. School, later Dr James Welch, lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Ibadan in the 60’s the young but great James Welch Grammar School, Emevor, established in 1957, was named after his master.
When young Alfred left his parents in 1930, he did not imagine that he was embarking on a long Odyssey of Quest and Conquest. He might have thought that he would just obtain the coveted Standard Six Certificate and become a pupil teacher, and indeed, he became one at home in 1931. That was a life ambition achieved. But because Wodeha who came from the Emega family of Otufoho Street, Uruto Quarters of Ozoro, certainly exhibited that intellectual brilliance for which that family has since been known (this family produced the first Ph.D. scholar in Ozoro), he was sent to the famous Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, in 1932 on a C.M.S Scholarship, where he passed his Senior Cambridge Certificate in 1936 with an exemption from London Matriculation. Brilliant and good-natured, Wodeha was to continue with one scholarship and another in his Educational Career for he obtained the same C.MS. Scholarship to the Teacher Training College, Awka (1938 - 39), to the University College of Gold Coast, Achimota, Ghana (1947 - 49); for the lnter-BA., to the same University for the B.A (Hons) in History (1951 - 54) capping it up in 1954 - 55 with a Federal Scholarship for the Post Graduate Diploma in Education in the University of Southampton, England. United Kingdom.
Alfred As a Sportsman
Rev Bovi was not just a bookworm, He was a great athlete, for at the Elementary School, he won prizes in each Race, High Jump and the Sack Race, in the Secondary School, he did High Jump, 100 Yards and 400 Yards Races and Lawn Tennis. He shone even more in the Teacher Training College and the Universities (his record in Pole Vault was not broken for 17yrs. in Awka College, no wonder the Rev. E.D.C. Clark under whom he taught in D.M.G.S., Onitsha (1945 -47), himself a great lover of Physical Training and Sports, made him his only assistant in Physical Training. It is an irony of fate that this vivacious man was later struck down by an illness and needed the help of long-suffering wife and friend to bestir himself. As the Principal in James Welch Grammar School, he was very good at encouraging the athletes to do well in all competitions like Zone F. or even football for that matter. Whenever the school lost in any sports or games, his usual saying would be ‘we lost gallantly in the true spirit of sportsmanship and that what matters most was participating’.
Rev Bovi was a great teacher. He taught both in the old Mid-West and Eastern Regions, He started as a pupil teacher in 1931 In C M.S. School, Ozoro as School Certificate teacher in Isoko Central School, Oleh, 1937; as a Higher Elementary teacher in same school (I.C.S.) 1940 - 45; Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, 1946 - 47; as an inter-B.A. teacher in Okrika Grammar School, Okrika from 1949 - 51. When be graduated, he was Principal, St. Michael's College, Oteh, 1955 - Jan. 57, James Welch Grammar School, Emevor, 1957, 1965 - 72; Anglican Girls' Grammar School, Ughelli, May - September, 1960; Okpara Grammar School, Okpara Waterside 1964 and Urhobo College, Effurun, 1973 - 74 from where he retired. He was later offered contract teaching job in Anglican Girls' Grammar School, Ozoro and Nana College, Warri from 1974 - 80. His relationship with his staff and students was on a personal basis. He knew each student and teacher by their names. He was gentle but strict with his students. Needless to say that he was well admired and respected by his students and indeed his fellow teachers alike.
Late Very Rev Bovi did not marry early, and it seemed more bother to his towns people and friends than to himself. He was later married to a girl who it could appear; God was taking his time to prepare specially for him. Emma Dolor Bovi, beautiful in mind and body, a Sarah and a Ruth, has been to him a wife, a friend, and a mother all rolled together. She cheerfully, affectionately and patiently went through the last years of his Illness stoically as if the ordeal was sweet. If care, if matrimonial love and bliss could heal her Alfred, Wodeha, Papa House (as she was fond of calling him), Oga, would have been alive today. Yet, though married so late, God in His infinite mercy blessed them with six children, five girts and a boy, all graduates except one who is still an undergraduate and a grand son.
A Man of Many 'Firsts'
He was the first Isoko graduate, the first principal of James Welch Grammar School, Emevor, Okpara Grammar School, Okpara Waterside, the first Vicar of St. Peter's Anglican Church, Igbudu - Warri, the First Provost of St. Andrew's Anglican Cathedral Church, Warri.
Bovi As a Musician
Late Very Rev Bovi perhaps more than any other Isoko man, revolutionised and standardised Isoko Church Music. As Headmaster at the Isoko Central School, Oleh (1940 -44), he composed alluring native tunes (Native Airs) to many existing Isoko Hymns and Canticles He based them on original Isoko and Urhobo Soul and Folk Music from Opiri, Udhe Akwakwa, and Igoro He taught his pupils how to translate tunes into Tonic Solfa. He made the Isoko man sensitive to music sound and harmony He made him articulate and versatile in music production. He was never ashamed to dance with the pupils and students as they sang.
Honour And Service Awards
It is gratifying that in spite of his wanting "always to serve, not asking for any reward or rest", his enormous services in education, in social and national life (he was a foundation member of the defunct Isoko State Union and President of his town's Union) were not lost on his people. And so he was honoured with a Merit Award by the Isoko Development Union (1990), the Distinguished Service Award by the Isoko Social Club (1991). One State Government after another honoured him. He was appointed member of the State Disciplinary Committee on teachers disciplinary matters (1971 - 72). As Principal, he was among a few others sponsored by the State in 1970 on an educational tour of Schools in England. Government appointed him into the Educational Committee of the Isoko Local Government Area several times. The Church ordained him Priest and Canon in April 1969, and installed him the 1st Provost of St. Andrew's Cathedral, Warri in June,1980. He lived a life of service to humanity through his vocation as a teacher and a priest. He was a spiritual inspiration to all who worked with him, who were his students and worshipped with him. He strived and taught his students the value of morality, love, justice and equality. Alfred Bovi's achievements are not quantifiable. They are not earthly, visible possessions, which is to many a pity, but they are in the hearts and successes of his many pupils, teachers and students, his wife and children, which is divine.
May His Soul Rest in Peace