ABA, Nigeria — It was in 1998 that Nigerian saints lined the walkways to a piece of property on a beautiful hillside in Aba, Nigeria. President Gordon B. Hinckley was coming and they were waving and singing songs of praise to God on high. President Hinckley was smiling broadly and waving back. Most had tears of joy in their eyes or running down their faces.
The newest temple in the Church now sits on that piece of property.
Before the doors of the Aba Nigeria Temple were opened to the public on June 18, okadas (motorcycles used as taxis), taxis and buses were arriving with members of the Church and guests. Some arrived the previous night. The members had waited excitedly since Feb. 23, 2002, when the groundbreaking ceremony took place. The men came in white shirts and ties, the ladies in colorful African dresses with beautiful headpieces.
For two days prior to the public open house, approximately 100 media representatives, as well as nearly 800 prominent government, business, education, religious and tribal leaders, came to the special open house showings of the 121st temple of the Church.
Elder Sheldon F. Child of the Seventy and president of the Africa West Area addressed the media before their tour of the temple. He expressed gratitude for their coverage of the temple open house. He said, "We hope you will leave here with an understanding of why we build temples."
In explaining what is taught in the temple, Elder Child stated, "In the temple members are taught the purpose of life, where we came from, what we are doing here, and where we are going."
Elder Child also explained that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ and that the temple is the House of the Lord.
The media briefing was attended by representatives from national newspapers, including The Guardian, This Day, Punch and The Sun. Representatives of national television and various radio stations, as well as numerous local newspapers, attended this briefing.
Clement Nwafor, the deputy governor of Abia State, was deeply touched by his experience in the temple. As he departed the temple and was surrounded by a large group of people, he said, "This is the restoration. This temple will be one of the greatest blessings in Nigeria. It is going to lift our spiritual life in Aba. I am grateful for President Gordon B. Hinckley. I believe the Church is true and that Gordon B. Hinckley is a prophet."
The first large stake group to arrive and enter the gates was from the Owerri Nigeria Stake. Friday Udonsi, a member for seven years from the Owerri stake, emotionally said, "I am so glad God led me to this Church. I thank Him for letting me see this kind of building in my lifetime. I felt such Spirit that I am overwhelmed."
Ekanem and Monica Udoh from the Rumoumasi Ward, Port Harcourt Nigeria Stake, were so excited to express their feelings: "We have been anxious for this experience ever since the temple was announced. It is beyond our comprehension. There is so much Spirit."
Emeka Ubani, a civil servant, said, "I came to honor an invitation extended to me by a friend, who is a member of your Church. This place was completely beyond my imagination. I was almost tensed up with emotion. I have never felt this way before. If human beings can erect this type of place, what will heaven look like?"
Before commencement of the construction of the Aba Nigeria Temple, people of Okpu-Umuobo, Umuchihi, and other villages were yearning for the construction of the Okpu-Umuobo Road and bridge, which had been cut off by a gully caused by erosion. These communities were the food basket of urban Aba. Fortunately for members of the Church and other local citizens, the Church completed the new bridge and road, now called Temple Road. According to Brother Nathaniel Jonah, serving on the temple sub-committee for public affairs, "The new road is a model masterpiece in Aba and eastern Nigeria. The environment around the temple has attracted land developers and more modern buildings, shortened commuter distance, and increased produce availability.