By Nana Grey-Johnson
The Anglican Diocese of Gambia has consecrated and enthroned the Rev. Fr. St. Obed Arist Kojo Baiden as its Diocesan Bishop, the eighth in succession since the creation of the Diocese in 1935. At colourful twin ceremonies, respectively on June 17th and 18th of June 2023, the people carried out the mandate for a new prelate to assume the mantle on his election and confirmation at the Special Synod of the Diocese held on Friday January 27, 2023 at Christ Church, Serrekunda. In keeping with the provisions of its Diocesan Constitution and Canons as well as that of the Provincial Constitution, the vacancy in the See was being filled following the statuary retirement of the 7th Bishop the Rt. Rev. James Odico on April 10, 2022.
Presided over by the Dean of the Church of the Province of West Africa (CPWA), the Archbishop of the Internal Province of West Africa (IpWA) and the Diocesan Bishop of Guinea, His Grace the Most Rev. Jacques Boston, Synod voted to elect the 38-years old Rev. Kojo Baiden from Ghana over the sole contender for the position the Rev. Canon Anthony Eiwuley (also a Ghanaian). A win was secured after three rounds of voting, the first two of which turned out insufficiently at 34-22, and 36-20 to meet the two-thirds majority requirements of Canon. The third ballot, however, emerged with a vote 38-18.
Bishop Baiden inherits a presbyterate comprising Dean the Very Rev James Cole, Canon the Rev Jacob Okiki Cole, both of the St Mary’s Cathedral, his seat of office, and a complement of five male and two female priests serving across a seven-parish diocese in Banjul, Fajara, Serrekunda, Brusubi, Lamin, Farafaenni, and Basse, along with a number of lay readers ably assisting.
Fr Kojo Baiden was born on July, 30, 1984 in Sekondi in the Western Region of Ghana, sandwiched between two siblings, Rita and Harry, of their parents Joseph Lloyd Kofi Atwer Baiden of blessed memory and Grace Adjoa Esounabroba Etwire.. Kojo started formal education at the Queen Elizabeth II Pre-School in Sekondi, proceeded to West Ridge Primary School, and completed his basic education in 1996 before gaining admission to the Old Hospital Junior Secondary School.
Three years later, with the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) under his belt, Kojo went to the Ghana Secondary Technical School (GSTS) in Takoradi where his eyes were set on science and medicine. There, a best friend triggered the fulfilment of the dream of Kojo’s childhood to become an altar boy; and that he became at the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Adiembra.
Having served as a sanctuary server for about a year, Kojo’s ambitions grew beyond just serving at Mass: he desperately wanted to become a priest. Kojo was so determined to fulfil this dream that he turned down his offer of admission to the Ghana Secondary Technical School (GSTS) in order to go to the St. Mary’s Minor Seminary in Apowa. His parish priest, the Rev. Fr. Raphael Kwamina Eshun, took him to the Minor Seminary to sit for the entrance exams but, where unfortunately, the new intake of seminarians had already been admitted. Kojo, determined to become a priest, was prepared to stay home for a whole year. He became a full-time altar boy and serving at Mass every day without fail, and, indeed, something of an assistant to Fr. Eshun who took him around on his outstation and pastoral visits. When he was not serving, Kojo was taking classes in basic computing and acquiring much foundational knowledge in ICT.
His break came in January of 2001 when at last he gained admission into the Seminary to begin his priestly formation. In 2005, Kojo proceeded to the St. Paul’s Major Seminary in Sowutuom, Accra, and would use this time as a Spiritual Year seminarian to decide on his vocation. Upon the successful completion of that stint and on the recommendation of his spiritual director, the Rev. Fr. Rd. Francis Arthur, Kojo went on to pursue philosophical studies covering 18 major disciplines. Success in that endeavour was followed in 2008 by the pursuit of theological studies at the St. Peter’s Regional Seminary in Cape Coast and from where he graduated with a first class bachelor’s degree in philosophy, religion and sociology.
During his theological training at St. Peter’s, Kojo was also selected to pursue a post graduate diploma in education. Having nurtured the desire to become a lawyer largely with the encouragement of a cousin, the Rev. George Aikins Ampiah Bonney Jnr., a lawyer himself and a Methodist minister, Kojo decided he would expand beyond just being ‘a man of the cloth’ into secular professions. He gained admission to Mount Crest University College, Kanda, Accra, to study law and graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB).
Kojo was ordained into Holy Orders as deacon on August 11, 2013 but at St. John the Divine Anglican Church, Winneba. Bishop Emeritus of Cape Coast, the Rt. Rev. Daniel Sylvanus Adotei Allotey laid hands on him at a service during a Special Diocesan Synod, the same that elected the bishop coadjutor, the Rt. Rev. Victor Reginald Atta-Baffoe, as successor to the Rt. Rev. Alottey.
The Rev. Kojo Baiden was posted to Christ Church Cathedral, Chapel Square, Cape Coast where he served close to a year before his ordination into priesthood on May 10, 2014 at St. James Anglican Church, Elmina, by the two Bishops Allotey and Atta-Baffoe. Rev Baiden went from there to serve as assistant priest at Christ Church Cathedral, also attached to St. Andrew’s Church, Greenhill. Apart from his assignment as the first diocesan chaplain to the Guild of the Maidens, he became a personal assistant to Bishop Atta-Baffoe.
Under the USPG Exchange Programme, Bishop James Odico in The Gambia requested the Bishop of Cape Coast to release Fr. Kojo to him for a year. On Kojo’s arrival in Banjul, Bp. Odico appointed him assistant priest at the St. Mary’s Cathedral, Independence Drive, Banjul, where he worked with the Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Rev. James Sigismund Cole. He was later re-assigned priest-in-charge of St. Paul’s Church, Fajara, stepping in for the now late Venerable Mother Priscilla Modupe Johnson, the wife of the also late Primate Tilewa Willie Johnson, while she was on sick leave in America.
Soon, he received further assignment to take up the position of director at the Diocesan School of Evangelism to help train new priests and lay readers for ministry. Rev. Kojo superintended the training and formation of five priests, one deacon and seven lay readers while meeting the task of revising the Liturgy for the Diocese that the bishop formally launched on Pentecost Sunday, 2020.
In October of 2016, through the benevolent assistance of the Rt. Rev. Odico, Kojo gained admission to The Gambia Law School for the bar vocational training. The completion of that course kicked off the second leg of his bar professional training in the Ghana School of Law. The Rev. Kojo came back to The Gambia to be called to the Gambian Bar as solicitor and barrister of the Supreme Court of The Gambia on March 14, 2018, having emerged the second-best student in the BL course and best student in the law of evidence class. He returned to Ghana in November 2017and on October 5. 2018, was also called to the Ghana Bar.
Hitherto, upon the expiration of the initial one-year assignment, Bp. Odico had sought and obtained the approval of Bp. Victor of Cape Coast for an extension of Rev. Baiden’s contract even with the proviso that this would not lend to any further extensions since the young priest had been slated for appointment as the diocesan registrar and legal advisor in Cape Coast.
However, all plans were to be overtaken by events on April 11, 2022 when the then-metropolitan archbishop and primate of CPWA, the Most Rev. Jonathan B. B. Hart of Liberia, appointed Fr, Kojo Baiden the vicar general of the Anglican Diocese of Gambia following the canonical retirement of Bp. Odico on April 10, 2022 at the age of 70. With this new order came the responsibility of a six-months mandate to prepare the Diocese for a Special Synod to elect a diocesan bishop. The rest of the story is now history with the Rev. Baiden’s election on January, 27, 2023 to shepherd the See of Gambia.
Bishop Baiden’s professional experience spreads across law, business, teaching ethics, corporate governance, banking law and regulation, contract law and company and commercial practices, legal aid, bank secretarial, legal advice, recoveries and credit management, all crowned with membership in the Chartered Institute of Bankers of both Nigeria and The Gambia. Currently pursuing a master-of-science course in project management at the University of London, he is looking toward specializing in project financing and project sustainability.
His thoughts having gone out far and wide among his people, he in his Vision statement as Bishop-Elect had underlined thematic pillars with a focus centred on spirituality, the Anglican identity, evangelism, empowering clergy with intellectual, human and pastoral capacity, investments for self-reliance, impact at the heart of the secular, youth empowerment, collaboration, and the inculcation of a new paradigm shift from “This is how we do it’, to “Giving Change a Chance.”
In his homily delivered to a packed Cathedral of worshippers from home and across international and West African communities at a moving service of consecration, Saturday, the Rt. Rev. Dibo T. B. Elango of Cameroon anchored his teaching in Isaiah (61: 1-7), on the tasks of the shepherd, in Timothy (3:1-7) on the qualification and standard that a leader must uphold, in John (21:15-17), on love and the things concerning the kingdom. Bishop Dibo reminded Bishop Elect Baiden of Jesus’ defining call to Peter on the depth of love a shepherd must reserve in the overall mission to bring comfort to the troubled, release for the captives, by upstanding as a symbol of solutions and unity and one totally dependent on the Lord’s direction through the Holy Spirit.
At the service of enthronement Sunday, the Bishop of Cape Coast the Rt. Rev. Dr. Victor Reginald Atta-Baffoe, who, by and large, is credited with the forming of Obed in ministry, leaned on robust scriptural text in 2 Corinthians 2: 9, ‘My grace is sufficient for you.” Under the theme, the Rt. Rev Atta-Baffoe mapped out the terrain ahead by enjoining Bishop Kojo Baiden to know that God prepares those he calls, and that he must be careful not to limit God but to take him at his word. He reminded the young prelate that our weaknesses cannot be compared with the overwhelming power that Christ has, and told him to develop the right attitude, using his failures and losses to enrich his ministry, and, lastly, never to give up no matter the obstacles.
With his family, his wife Mother Naomi Obaapa Adjei Konadu Saint-Baiden and their two boys Ace Quintavius Keiron Patrick Saint-Baiden (Nana Kow) and Aiden Quincy King Henry Saint-Baiden (Oheneba Yoofi) listening on, Bishop Kojo asked for their prayer and that of the congregation as was he was installed and enthroned by the Cathedral Dean the Very Rev James Sigismund Cole, that he may be unto all a faithful pastor and true father in God for the honour and glory of Christ our Lord, who has purchased us to Himself with his most precious blood.