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Ayanpoju, Emmanuel Alabi
c. 1906 to 1996
Nigerian Baptist Convention
Nigeria

Emmanuel Alabi Ayanpoju was born to the family of Pa Ayangbekun and his wife, Iya Oniyo (“the woman who sells salt”) at Abaa compound, Ojagbo, Ogbomoso. Emmanuel’s birth date is not known.

Ayanpoju was born into the Alayan family--that is, the family of drummers. His kind of drum, Bata is local and particular to the Yoruba. Emmanuel grew up as a member of the family who specialized in beating the Bata drum every morning for the Soun of Ogbomoso land, who is the paramount ruler of the land. Emmanuel’s family’s house was also very close to the Soun’s palace. He saw himself as an extension of the Soun’s family because he went there every morning for his breakfast and he also received money for personal use there. That money was always being taken away from him by some elders of his family.

Not being enrolled in school, Emmanuel did not have the advantage of western education, and he could neither read nor write. He later took up farming as a profession. He left the Ogbomoso metropolis for a nearby village named Abaa, along Ilorin road, where the Soun had allotted an expanse of land to the family for their service and faithfulness to him.

His love of, and interest for, church activities was without measure, but there was no church at Abaa at that time. On Sundays therefore, Emmanuel and others went to worship at First Baptist Church, Okelerin, Ogbomoso, which is also where he was baptized.

There was no transportation between Abaa and Ogbomoso at that time, so the group was only able to attend morning service because of the distance, which was about six kilometers. At one point in time, Emmanuel and his colleagues formed a large enough group to warrant the consideration of setting up a tent for their own Sunday service. Fortunately, one of the seven in the group could read and write. The first service was held in one of their rooms on April 10, 1952. There were six members in attendance and the amount contributed for the offering was fifteen kobo, which was a generous contribution at that time.

In January of 1953 they requested a plot of land for services, which the Abaa family graciously agreed to, and a tent was erected immediately. It was Emmanuel and one of his elder brothers who gave the land. A little later, Emmanuel suggested that a church be built. He and his brother agreed, and a church building was erected on the same land where the church facility is today. In 1961, the new auditorium was completed and dedicated. Twenty years later, the church began to seem very small and Emmanuel mobilized other men to think big for God. On March 22, 1980, a new church auditorium foundation was laid. Emmanuel prevailed upon his uncle, Chief S.T. Ojo, to donate iron sheets for roofing the new building. His uncle accepted and he even supplied them with iron sheets in excess. Emmanuel threw his weight behind the work, which was finally completed on November 10, 1990.

Emmanuel married Segilola, who bore him four children, one of whom died. Segilola decided to leave Abaa for Ogbomoso, and all efforts to persuade her to come back to Abaa failed. Consequently, Emmanuel’s younger brothers convinced him to marry another wife. The name of his second wife was Serah Adunola; she also bore him four children. Because of his Christian influence, many of his children have occupied various positions in the church, ranging from Sunday school teacher, to choir master, to church secretary.

Because he was a polygamist, Emmanuel did not lead the Church at any time, but he played prominent roles in the life of the Church as a faithful elder. Whenever there was a call for direct labor and service in the Church, he was always among the first to answer. His financial contribution was unmatched. He was always influential in the requests for, and engagement of, student pastors. He also played host to many of these pastors and at a time when white missionaries were coming to minister, he received them with open hands, even though they never stayed overnight. He was a friend to these student pastors and their ministries. Even during the laying of the foundation, when Chief S.T. Ojo donated the iron sheets, he visited and invited most of the pastors who had served in the Church at one time or another.

He represented the Church at various association meetings and was noted for his love of progress. Two other associations were formed out of the Imole Olorun Ntan Baptist association that the Church belonged to: Iwa Bi Olorun, and Ajogun Kristi Baptist Association, to which the Church belongs currently. Whenever the church would host association meetings--which usually lasted up to three days, most of the delegates had their accommodations in the residence of this man of God. The yearly church Thanksgiving harvest service always ended in his house, where the members were entertained. He was on many occasions an honored member of the Men’s Missionary Union of the Church, on the given Sunday of emphasis.

Whenever there was a crisis among the Church members or in the village in general, they usually called on him, or he himself would invite the warring factions to his house to arrange an amicable settlement. God used him to reconcile marriages and friendships, so much so that he was almost nicknamed the “Peacemaker of Abaa land.” He was never made a Baale (Governor of the land) but one of his sons is occupying the throne today (2012).

He later moved to Ogbomoso in his old age on grounds of ill health. When he was in town, he came to the Church services at Abaa every fortnight because he had renounced his membership in the Ogbomoso church, his own church having been established at Abaa. His last service in the Church was on Father’s Day in 1966, which was held on the first Sunday of the month. His attendance at this service was greatly opposed by members of his family because of his poor health, but he refused all of their counsel, and he was recognized and honored, which is a tradition for faithful elders.

Although he could not read or write, he left a legacy, and his contribution to the development of the Church and the association cannot be overemphasized. He died on October 6, 1996. It was estimated at the time of his death that he was ninety years old.

Gbenga Samson Adedokun

Source

1. Amos Ayanpoju (one of his children, on staff at Bowen University Teaching hospital), interview by author, undated.


This biography, received in 2012, was researched and written by Gbenga Samson Adedokun, a student at Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, Nigeria, under the supervision of Dr. Michael Leke Ogunewu, supervisor, and Dr. Deji Ayeboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.