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Akingbala, Emmanuel Oyewole
c. 1908 to 2000
Nigerian Baptist Convention
Nigeria

"History is full of leaders of diversified gifts who at one time or another, creditably or otherwise, played their part while others, still living, continue to struggle to stamp their feet on the sands of time. Consequently, it is when such leaders have left the stage that spectators who watched them, make their comments on how the actors have fared." [1] One such leader was Emmanuel Oyewole Akingbala, a Baptist minister who contributed immensely to the Baptist church in Nigeria.

Akingbala was born in Pakoto village near Ifo, which is on the Lagos-Abeokuta express road, around 1908 into the family of Gabriel Akingbala and Eunice Yeyefunke Akingbala. Gabriel Akingbala, in line with the marriage tradition at that time, had four wives, of which Eunice Yeyefunke was the second. Emmanuel Oyewole Akingbala was the only child of his mother and was largely cared for by her. His parents were farmers. They migrated from Ago-Owu, in Abeokuta, to Pakoto village with the sole aim of fully concentrating on the farming profession. The father, Gabriel Akingbala, later became the Baale (village head) of Pakoto. His paternal grandfather, Olukeyinsi Akingbala, was a famous warrior in ancient Egbaland. Akingbala spent his childhood in Pakoto village. Like most people in that area, the Akingbala family was first exposed to Christianity through the Anglican faith. However, the family later switched to the Baptist church as a result of the denomination's more frequent visitation. He was baptized on April 17, 1927, by Rev. A. L. Olopade at Ago-Owu Baptist Church.

In 1920, Akingbala started primary school in Pakoto. He demonstrated a high level of enthusiasm and brilliance, and earned the opportunity to be enrolled at the Baptist Boy's High School, Abeokuta. He later attended the Baptist Academy in Lagos, where he completed his Higher Elementary (Grade II) teacher training in 1932. While he was still a student, Akingbala taught in the elementary school section of the Baptist Academy in Lagos from 1929 on. He continued to teach in this section after his graduation in 1932, until 1936. It seems that Akingbala was fully aware of his calling into the full-time gospel ministry while he was still in the teaching profession. This is evident in the fact that during his tenure as a teacher at the Baptist Academy, he organized (in collaboration with his colleagues) crusades in Kosofe, Pakoto, and Ikeja, which led to the planting of Baptist churches in those areas. In 1936, Akingbala was transferred from the Baptist Academy in Lagos to the Baptist School in Apapa, where he also started Calvary Baptist Church. Eventually, he responded to the calling of full-time gospel ministry, and he was admitted to the Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogbomosho in December of 1938. He resumed his training at Ogbomosho in January of 1939, and completed his course of study in December of 1941, earning the Advanced Certificate in Theology.

After his graduation from the seminary, Akingbala was posted to Igede Ekiti, where he worked as an itinerant pastor for the Baptist Association there. In May of 1942, he moved to Kaduna, where he began the most enduring phase of his ministerial career, a phase that eventually changed the face of Christianity in the northern part of Nigeria. He was encouraged to move to Kaduna by Rev. I. A. Adejumobi, the pastor of the Baptist church there, who also doubled as the Nigerian Baptist Convention field worker. Adejumobi also advised him to apply to the Baptist School in Kaduna as a teacher. He applied for this post and was subsequently employed in May of 1942. Although Akingbala was employed to teach as well as to administer in the Baptist School in Kaduna, he was also employed as assistant pastor to Rev. Adejumobi.

In December of 1943, Rev. Adejumobi accepted a call to the pastorate of Awe Baptist Church. On the eve of his departure to Awe, Rev. Adejumobi persuaded Akingbala to take up the pastorate of the church in addition to his primary assignment as headmaster of the school. Akingbala was reluctant to accept this offer, as he did not feel up to the task of stepping into the shoes of Rev. Adejumobi, whom he considered to be a powerful man of God. As a result of Rev. Adejumobi's pledge of moral support, prayer, and counseling, he finally accepted the call into the pastorate of the Baptist Church of Kaduna in December of 1943. Akingbala relinquished his position as headmaster of the school, but continued to serve as a teacher under headmaster Mr. Olu Shokunbi for another two years. He resigned his teaching appointment in 1945 so as to fully devote his time and energy to the service of the church. Akingbala was ordained into full-time ministry by the Nigerian Baptist Convention in 1945.

Akingbala was dedicated to service and was unconcerned about his salary. This can be seen in the compensation he received, especially from 1938 to 1944. As a certified Higher Elementary teacher at the Baptist school in Apapa, Akingbala received a monthly salary of £5 ($10). After training for another three years at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogbomosho, he was still placed on the same salary structure of £5 per month. In fact, the salary was about to be reduced around the time he resigned to relocate to Kaduna, in May of 1942. When he arrived in Kaduna, he remained on the same salary scale of £5 per month until June of 1944, despite the fact that he served as pastor of the church and as teacher in the school. On the advice of Rev. Adejumobi, the church raised his salary to £6 per month, backdating the increase by six months. However, after Rev. Adejumobi left, the authorities of the church went back on their promise, demanding instead a refund of the arrears paid! This led to a serious argument in the church committee, and it later resolved to draw up a salary scale with an annual increase that would come up to a maximum of £10 per month.

In 1947, Akingbala left the shores of Nigeria for the United States to pursue further studies through a scholarship from the Nigerian Baptist Convention. While in the U.S., Akingbala studied for four years at Virginia Union University and Oberlin Graduate School of Theology, returning to Nigeria in 1951 as a graduate pastor. On his return from the U.S., Akingbala was recalled by the Baptist Church of Kaduna to serve as their pastor. This invitation was a trying one for several reasons: his relationship with the church before he had traveled to America was not a cordial one; another pastor had been appointed to oversee the church in his absence, and had only managed to endure the situation there for about one year; also, the church at the time was financially weak, but trying to demonstrate great faith in seeking to hire a graduate pastor. He could have rejected this invitation, but he accepted it as a good soldier of Christ, determined to brave the odds. The church found itself in great debt as a result of a capital project it had embarked upon, and this became a period of financial hardship for Akingbala. In 1953, he had to ask the church to pay his salary on a weekly basis, and he taught the church about tithing. This eventually yielded a positive result, as there was a great improvement in the finances of the church. Soon, the numerical strength of the church also improved tremendously, so much so that the church auditorium located at plot M 7 Hadejia Road, could no longer accommodate the members. The church moved to N 5 Ahmadu Bello Way in 1959, and donated the former place of worship to a newly organized Baptist church. It was from this point on that the church assumed the name First Baptist Church, Kaduna.

While Akingbala worked at the Baptist School in Kaduna, Rev. Adejumobi shared his passion for mission with him. Before leaving, Adejumobi had already been witnessing about Christ to some Muslim friends and to traditional chiefs in the area. Akingbala developed this vision, which resulted in the planting of over thirty Baptist churches in Kaduna and its environs. He also led the church to plant churches in other places outside Kaduna, notably in Idoma land, where about a dozen Baptist churches were planted.

The growth of the church in the 1960s and the 1970s was highly unprecedented. It is on record that Akingbala baptized 687 new converts into the membership of the church from January of 1964 to December of 1977, which is an average of about fifty-two new converts every year. The church also experienced development in the area of structural growth. In 1965, the church erected an eight-room structure for its educational ministry, and named it after Rev. Adejumobi. The auditorium of the church was extended by forty meters in 1966, and a new parsonage was built in 1975.

Emmanuel Akingbala married in 1931, and his wife, Mrs. Victoria Akingbala, was actively involved in the formation of the Women's Missionary Union of the church. She also assisted her husband in other areas of ministry in the church.

When the federal government of Nigeria created states in 1967, many civil servants were redeployed to their states of origin. This had a negative effect on the numerical strength of the church, and the remaining members became worried about its future. During this period, Akingbala remained focused and consistent in his ministry, and the size of the church increased again, to almost triple what it was before the redeployment. Also, during the difficult and terrifying days of 1966 (coup d'état and counter-coup), he protected many people who were being hunted down. He did this at the risk of his own life and of that of his family, helping many people to escape from the hands of their adversaries.

In 1972, to show their gratefulness for his service among them, the church organized an appreciation service to mark his thirty years of meritorious service. This shows that the church began the dating of his ministry amongst them right from the time he started teaching in the primary school (May of 1942), and did not deduct the four years he was abroad.

Akingbala experienced some trying moments in his ministerial life, and some are worth mentioning. During his pastoral work in Kaduna, Akingbala was denied his monthly salary for a period of three years for preaching against alcoholism, smoking, and polygamy. A majority of the members refused to give their tithes and offerings, to the point that the weekly collection of the church went down from an average of £5-7 to only 7-19 Shillings. During this period, those who sympathized with him gave him financial support, which supplemented the meager income earned by his wife, on which the family depended for their daily living expenses. In the third year of the crisis, Akingbala told the church that the Lord had revealed to him that they would repent within a very short time. True to this revelation, only weeks after, the members involved pleaded for forgiveness and began to give their tithes and offerings again.

After thirty-nine years of ministry in Kaduna, Akingbala retired from active service in December of 1981. The church celebrated his retirement with a weeklong festivity, which was well-deserved. When he came to Kaduna in 1942, there was one church, but he left about thirty churches there, including about twelve outside of Kaduna, especially in Idomaland. He also led the church to reach out to the eastern part of the country. While serving in Kaduna, Akingbala served as an adviser to many Baptist associations. He also served as one of the vice presidents of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, a position he occupied until 1971, when he was elected president of the convention for a period of six years. He was a member of evangelistic crusades organized by the American Southern Baptist Convention to Malaysia and Thailand in 1965, was part of the team that went to Nairobi and Mombasa in 1970, and was one of the people sent to Accra by the Nigerian Baptist Convention in 1964--all for evangelistic assignments.

After his retirement in 1982, Akingbala relocated to the University of Ibadan, where he lived with one of his children, Prof. Shola Akingbala. Akingbala proved that he was not tired of serving the Lord as he continued to teach in the Sunday school class, in the church training program, and at camp meetings. His last major public appearance was in April of 2000, when he was honored during a convention session of the Nigerian Baptist Convention.

Emmanuel Oyewole Akingbala died on Sunday, November 5, 2000. He was survived by Mrs. Okanla (daughter), Prof. Funsho Akingbala (son), and Prof. Shola Akingbala (son). He was buried on Friday, December 1, 2000. The preacher at the burial service, Rev. Dr. S. Ola Fadeji, described Akingbala as the last of the titans of his generation. He further stated that Akingbala was faithful, purposeful, dedicated, committed, self-disciplined, self sacrificing, a resourceful manager of men, money and materials, and a powerful and fearless preacher. There is no doubt that "within the Baptist family in Nigeria, (Akingbala) possessed a dossier that commands love and admiration. In the propagation of Christianity, especially of the Baptist denomination, his name is certainly written in gold." [2]

David Olusola Idowu


Notes:

1. "Akingbala's Virtues Extolled, [he is] Buried." The Nigerian Baptist 79, no. 1 (January 2001).
2. "Akingbala: A Missionary, A Teacher." The Nigerian Baptist 79, no. 1 (January 2001).

Sources:

Ajayi, Simon Ademola. Emmanuel Oyewole Akingbala: The Adventures of a Nigerian Baptist Pastor. Ibadan: Hope Publication, 1999.
Atanda, J. A. ed. Baptist Churches in Nigeria: 1850-1950. Ibadan: University Press, 1988.
History of First Baptist Church Kaduna. Kaduna: Baraka Press Limited, no date.
"Nigerian Baptist Convention." The Nigerian Baptist 49, no. 6 (June 1971).
"Rev. E O Akingbala Retires After 39 Years of Service." The Nigerian Baptist 60, no. 8 (August 1982).
"Akingbala's Virtues Extolled, [he is] Buried." The Nigerian Baptist 79, no. 1 (January 2001).
"Akingbala: A Missionary, A Teacher." The Nigerian Baptist 79, no. 1 (January 2001).


This article, received in 2009, was written by David Olusola Idowu, a Ph.D. candidate at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, and submitted by Dr. Deji Isaac Ayegboyin, DACB Liaison coordinator.