by Olutayo Irantiola
In 1998 when Revd John Okesiji, JP was retiring from the pastorate of First Baptist Church, Okelerin, Ogbomoso, Oyo State after 31 years of meritorious service, he expressed his gratitude to God and he made a Yoruba chorus, his theme song for the rest of his life-
Mo yin Jesu logo (2ce)
Ipe to pe mi,
Ipe ayo ni,
Mo yin Jesu logo
This short piece will be a few lessons that can be learnt from his life-
- He was full of Respect: He was very comfortable with using the respectful “e” in Yoruba language for everyone- his children, grandchildren and his church members. Of his 92 years on earth, nobody mentioned that he was a rude person.
- He created opportunities for others: An elderly retired teacher spoke of him during the funeral and said Revd Okesiji, then as a student at Baptist Boys High School, Oyo was the Pastor assigned to the small church. When there was an opportunity for him to nominate people for advanced studies, he nominated a few teachers that had been helpful in the propagation of the gospel. Another example is a member of his church who signified interest in becoming a Pastor gained admission to the Joint Pastors School, Oyo and Rev Okesiji implored the church to sponsor him even up to the Bachelor’s degree in the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary.
- He was an avid reader: Revd Okesiji was not someone that secrets can be hidden from on the pages of a book or newspaper. He had a well-stocked library with books ranging from history to culture, language, theology amongst others
- He encouraged everyone to grow professionally: His first grandson attempted to write a book which is a biography of Revd Okesiji’s life. The old man did give him an opportunity to do it and it was a success. Equally, another grandson explored doing a video biography for him and he accepted as well. Thereafter, he introduced him to others willing to tell their stories. That is Rev Okesiji for you. He says, “it is not about the various certificates that you acquire but what you do with the one that you have that matters most.”
- He never forgot his roots: The renowned Pastor from Okeho never forgot his home. He used his time; treasure and talent to help in the development of Okeho, some of his efforts include the financial contribution to the building of the Town Hall and the Onjo’s Palace. He used his network within Ogbomoso to get approval for the Post Office in Okeho. He was a founding member of Okeho Council of Elders, Okeho; he wrote the Okeho Anthem. He was instrumental to the road construction from Lafihan- Rest House Street by the Oyo State Government amongst other noble initiatives.
- He loved his extended family: Revd Okesiji had a lot of siblings and he did his best within his capacity to support everyone from his siblings, to their children amongst others. He supported everyone to achieve their optimal potential without expecting anything in return. It would be good to add that this endeared him to his relatives who are even Muslims.
- He dressed well: As a Pastor leading First Baptist Church, Okelerin. He was a dapper Pastor, always looking good. He mentioned at a time that he was required to do that because his church played host to many Government functionaries; it was one of the most reputable Baptist churches in the country and many prominent indigenes of Ogbomoso are members of the church. He ranked so high in his dressing.
- He was the Chief Maintenance Officer of the little he owned: Revd John Okesiji was the Chief Maintenance Officer of the little he owned. His house, his car and many others possessions were well taken care of and he did not allowed anything around him to rot, this made him use a Peugeot 504 salon car from 1984 till 2010 thereabout. He never changed the engine of the car neither did any mechanic have a reason to work on it.
- He was thrift: Revd Okesiji was never broke to the point of not being able to attend to his responsibility to his family. At retirement, he earned a very paltry sum of money but never broke. His few investments in the stock market, although gone awry, and gifts from people kept him afloat to cater for him and his wife.
- He appreciated everything: He never saw any gift from anyone as his entitlement; he would get others to appreciate the person on his behalf.
- He was extremely considerate: While he was working, the church had the intention of changing the settee in the pastorium, he told them, “I visit my members and I see what they seat on in their respective living room, there is nothing wrong with the settee, we will keep using it like that.”
At a family event, he told his grandchildren that he would not disturb them for anything because all that he needed to achieve in life has been achieved- building houses; buying cars etc. He said, “These are the things you are working towards; as such, I cannot be a burden to you.”
- He was firm: Despite all these, he was a firm man. He knew when it was right to correct and chastise. He would not just keep mute when he saw what was evil. He did this during his ministerial career and even with his children.
- He was involved in the academic life of all his descendants: Until his death, he was kept abreast of the academic report of his descendants. Everyone had to seat up remembering that Rev Okesiji was one of your academic advisors. He monitored everyone’s progress till his final days.
- He advocated for healthy living: He had an appetite for healthy living. Without any Doctor’s advice, he stopped consuming soda (minerals) when he turned 50; he always followed his doctor’s pieces of advice and he took lots of fruits. This made him loved by all the fruit sellers at Odo-Oba while he was working and even in his Oyo neighbourhood upon retirement.
- He visited people: There was no distance too far for Rev Okesiji to go when he was young; he visited all those that he had a relationship with and when he grew old that he could not do it again, he assigned the role to his children and grandchildren to call and visit the families of his friends and associates.
- He was hospitable: While he worked, the pastorium was the playground of many children in the neighbourhood. They feasted and had fun at his cost. Thereafter upon retiring to Oyo, those who had the opportunity of visiting him were treated to nice meals.
- He had detailed records: There are 2 instances to typify this. The wall clock in the Pastorium of First Baptist Church, Okelerin when he was the pastor is still there to date. He had separate files for what he bought and what the church owned. This made it easy for him to identify his personal belongings from the church property. Two, a Professor of History at the University of Ibadan wrote a book about the Centenary celebration of the Sunday School division of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. After Revd Okesiji perused it, he found an inaccurate part. He spoke to the Professor and sent him the document published when the Sunday School was 50 years.
- He was not tired: Revd Okesiji was energetic till death. He loved callisthenics and he was religious about it. He took a daily walk around his neighbourhood in Oyo town; he was a Sunday school teacher in his local church till the COVID-19 lockdown began and his eventual return to his maker. He was not a fan of indolence and he never condoned it. He was mentally alert till the very end, he told everyone, who cared to listen, various historical facts. He never experienced memory loss.
- He prepared for his departure: Rev John Adegoke Okesiji, JP, had a premonition of his departure through some of his activities. He had doled out his suits and his 2 baptismal garments; he had given his books to the school he was the founding Chairman, Baptist College of Theology, Oyo; he went as far as telling his children about his departure and where he would love to be interred, he mentioned the name of the Pastor that he desired to preach at his funeral amongst other symbolic actions. These and many more signs are too enormous to ignore.
- Walked in the steps of his Father and he marched and surpassed him: He was the son of a Pastor who was eventually called into the full, gospel ministry. He was blessed to have worked in various Baptist churches and eventually at the Second Baptist Church founded in Nigeria in 1855 and he earned great reputation from the church. He became a Theologian brand and he was well-known across the country and beyond for his exploits.
It would interest you to know that they both died on Sunday. His father died at the age of 94, his first son, Revd Okesiji was 63 years old; his first granddaughter was 36 while his first great-grandson was 8 years old. At the death of Revd Okesiji, his first daughter was 64; his first grandson was 37 and his first great-granddaughter was 8 years old too.
Finally, his father was buried in the premises of the church he founded at his retirement, Immanuel, Baptist Church, Lafihan, Okeho and the son was buried in the premises of First Baptist Church, Okelerin, Ogbomoso, Oyo State. He marched and surpassed his father.