One amazing fact about my life is the zeal to write and read biographies, histories, and the fact that I like New Historicism text of all sorts, research about my home community and remaining an ardent Baptist boy. The answer is not far-fetched, I am the first maternal Grandson of Revd John Adegoke Okesiji, JP who is becoming a nonagenarian in few days. It is another time to appreciate God for longevity of life in my ancestry as I knew his own father, late Pastor Majaro Moses Afolabi Okesiji, who passed on in 1991.
I am almost stocked with him in my journey of life, I had the first three years of my life in the parsonage of First Baptist Church, Okelerin, Ogbomoso, Oyo State. Whenever, we were on vacation, we are sure of a road trip to Ogbomoso. This became addictive that while I was an undergraduate, I would leave Ilorin for Oyo, spend some days before heading to Ibadan. I would presume that all these led to the thought of documenting his biography.
In my early twenties, I see out to carry out a biography project where I tried exploring the life of my Baba Agba. It was a great opportunity as I saw many elderly people paying glowing tributes to him. I spoke to Traditional Rulers across different towns in Oyo State; I spoke to his contemporaries and some of them have passed on now. I mined historical facts from his library in the dead of the night and with my love for New Historicism, I wrote his biography even with dialogue and monologue amongst other literary techniques. You can imagine my imagination.
At this time, I discovered him the more, being a retired clergy, he narrated virtually all his life, I took notes and my endless inquisitive nature came to the fore. It was at this time that I saw that I had an Astute Administrator, Church and Community Historian per excellence around me. I took some cogent life lessons from him and this prepared me for my own smooth sojourn on earth.
Being always around him, he has shared various experiences with us. On one of the occasions, Baba Agba implored us to love our home community and uplift it in our own little way. It seems like he was passing down the instruction given to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 11:19 which reads, “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
He was part of the committee that wrote the first edition of “Iwe Itan Okeho” meaning the History of Okeho. His contribution to the book was on the evolution of Christianity in the town. As of now, I am glad to have also been involved in writing two other books on Okeho, one is the updated History of Okeho by Professor Segun Gbadegesin, the Asiwaju of Okeho and a book co-edited by Dr Kunle Ojedokun and Mr. Noah Balogun. Asides this, I have done other creative works such as Onjo Olukitibi, a play and lots of poetry.
As an astute church administrator who served in various capacities as Pastor and the peak of this was his 31 years sojourn as the minister in charge of First Baptist Church, Okelerin from where he served in the Western States Baptist Conference; Member of the Western States Schools’ Board; Chairman, Board of Governors, Nigerian Baptist theological Seminary, Ogbomoso; Chairman, Ogbomoso Baptist Association and Conference Secretary, Oyo East Baptist Conference. Others are Founding Chairman Board of Governors of Joint Baptist Pastors’ School, Oyo currently known as the Baptist College of Theology Oyo and Secretary, Christian Association of Nigeria that paid visit to a lot of Northern states during various religious insurrections and the Oyo State Pilgrims Welfare Board amongst others.
All these engagements gave him the opportunity to have amassed a lot of historical documents and he was in various Historical committees that led to books which are reference materials within the Nigerian Baptist Convention. These books include the History of Oyo East Baptist Conference; The History of First Baptist Church, Okelerin, Ogbomosho; The History of First Baptist Church, Isia, Okeho; The History of Alaafia Oluwa Baptist Church, Okeho; Oyo-Okeho Baptist Association 1858-2008.
I will conclude this tribute with this recent occurrence, Professor Simon Ademola Ajayi of the Department of History, University of Ibadan, a prolific Baptist Historian, who guided me while writing Baba Agba’s biography wrote a piece recently; Baba Agba read it and noted that a fact was inaccurate, he got one of the documents from his library that has the details of what transpired at the convention level that year. He still makes himself accessible to the current generation and God has endowed him with a sharp memory even till date.
Your sphere of influence might be largely ecumenical but you have made your worthy contributions in your hale days, you have bestowed a good name upon many generations. In our little way, we have given you many roses and here we are thanking God for giving you an opportunity to become a nonagenarian in the land of the living. Congratulations, our Baba Agba at 90!
Olutayo Eyitayo IRANTIOLA