In March 2019, when the 93rd birthday of Revd Dr S.T. Ola Akande was held in Ibadan; my Grandpa, Revd John Adegoke Okesiji was a guest at the event. Upon getting back to his base in Oyo, he told me that Baba Revd Akande celebrated his birthday yesterday but he is now advanced in age. I smiled thinking to myself that my 90+ year old Grandpa is feeling youthful, I promised to call Baba Akande to congratulate him, I did but he did not hear me well on that occasion.
My journey into relating with a lot of elders in the society started from my relationship with my Grandpa. He gave us access to all his friends; he handed us over to them and he requested for periodic updates about them from us. These are some of the highpoints of our relationship with him- children and grandchildren.
Having known Baba Akande through him, I was able to consolidate my relationship with Baba about 14 years ago when I decided to undertake the writing of my Grandpa’s biography titled, “True Calling: Life and Times of Revd JA Okesiji, JP”. The project started about 2 years into his 80th birthday and it was not completed till he was 82 years old.
In the process of writing, Baba Okesiji was so sure that Baba Akande would definitely write about him since their journey into the seminary began at about the same time in 1952. Although Baba Akande cut across the various divides in his pastoral ministry; Revd Okesiji was largely a church Pastor. However, they had reasons to work together in the denomination as a whole.
Despite Revd Akande being in the Degree class while Okesiji was in the Certificate class; they all had a good relationship as they all played ball together. Revd Akande said to me, “Johnny Okesiji and I were footballers. He was a defender and I the goalkeeper. They do punish me a lot. The goal margin could be between eight to twelve goals while we might not score one.”
These are the words are excerpts of Baba Revd Dr Akande’s tribute in honour of his friend in the biography-
My first association with Revd Okesiji was in January 1952 when we travelled together from the Motor Park at Akesan, Oyo to the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogbomoso to begin our theological and pastoral training. I had arrived from Ghana where I completed my secondary school education and where I had taught in a school for two year. When we arrived at Osupa, in a truck that carried us to Ogbomoso and had come down with our luggage, I began to look for a carrier who would carry my luggage to the seminary. I had just come from a country where such service of a carrier (alabaru) was readily available.
As I stood there calling for alabaru, Johnny Okesiji looked at me with surprise, wondering where I thought I was. He grabbed his own luggage, put it on his head and made straight to the seminary. On seeing what he did, I had no other choice but to grab my own luggage too, and to make for the seminary. I regarded that experience as my “first suffering for Christ.”
We were together in the single men’s dormitory for three years while he pursued the Certificate in Theology course and I pursued the four-year programme of Bachelor of Theology course. Revd Okesiji later came back to do the Bachelor of Theology degree programme.
Across the years, during our services together, I observed him to be a great Preacher, a great administrator, a leader in the Western State Baptist Conference for many years and a worthy member of the Convention Executive Committee when I was the General Secretary of the Convention. He had a forceful way of making his contributions to the discussions. Revd Okesiji would be remembered for the many, many years that he spent in the pastorate of Okelerin Baptist Church, Ogbomoso.
While speaking to Revd Okesiji, he mentioned that it was a privilege to be a part of the Convention committee to announce to Oritamefa Baptist Church, Ibadan that Revd ST Ola Akande would have to take over the leadership of the Nigerian Baptist Convention as the General Secretary upon the death of Revd Dr E. Ajayi Dahunsi in a ghastly motor accident. However, he would remain in the pastorium of the church for some time.
Revd Okesiji saw Baba Revd Akande like his elder brother, as he was 2 years older and they maintained their friendship until old age constricted them into their residence and immediate locale. But Okesiji left 2 months ahead of Akande as a forerunner of his brother. They were sold out for the sake of the gospel and God compensated them on many sides. They were one of a kind, they brought recognition to the largest Baptist convention in Africa; glory to Awe and Okeho in Oyo State respectively and to the world at large.
We are here to celebrate these Great God’s General who bequeathed godly heritage unto their lineages and they are now enjoying their deserved rest.
Rest on Revd Dr Samuel Titilola Oladele Akande,JP, MFR