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Emmanuel Ajayi Dahunsi
1915 to 1979
Nigerian Baptist Convention
Nigeria

Emmanuel Ajayi Dahunsi was born in the year 1915 at Lanloko near Opeji via Abeokuta, the capital city of the present Ogun State of Nigeria. His father Sangodahunsi was a native of Ijaiye in Abeokuta, and his mother Yoyinola came from Anko Eruwa in the Ibarapa area of Oyo State, Nigeria. As his father was the product of the Ifa Oracle (the Yoruba deity of divination), Ajayi's full name was Ifadahunsi, meaning "Ifa sanctioned it." He received the name Ajayi because of the way he was born: a Yoruba would naturally give this name to any child, born "with his face downwards." Ajayi was the third of his father's four children but the fourth of his mother's five, as she had had a son by her first marriage to Daddy Ajani of Anko, Eruwa. That son, her eldest child named Adepoju, became known as the Rev. John Adepoju Ajani. It was through his older brother, Adepoju, that Ajayi trod a path destined to lead him away from the village of Lanloko to fame and greatness. Thus, just before Ajayi was ten, his brother, Adepoju took him away from Lanloko to live with him in Lagos and to began his education.

Ajayi Dahunsi started his primary school education in July 1924 at the Baptist Academy, Lagos. He took the baptismal name of Emmanuel in 1927. He remained at the Baptist Academy until December 1931 when he passed his Standard VI examination. This meant that at a time when he was required to spend nine or more years to read up to Standard VI, Ajayi did it in six and half years, thus setting the pace for his subsequent brilliant academic achievements. In January of 1932, he entered the Baptist College and Seminary Ogbomoso to do a teacher-training course. He successfully completed the course in 1936 and passed the Teachers' Higher Elementary Certificate (now Grade II Teachers Certificate) examination with credits.

Dahunsi was involved in boy scout activities for many years. He started his scouting career as a boy scout of the 10th Oyo Troop, at Baptist College and Seminary in Ogbomoso in 1932. From then till 1936, he was a keen boy scout and rose to the rank of First Class Scout, eventually being promoted to Scout leader and trainer. Years later he became the Assistant Scout Commissioner at Abeokuta, District Scout Commissioner at Ogbomoso, and president of the Oyo State Scout Council from 1977 until his death in 1979. [1]

At his graduation the Baptist College recognized his brilliance and, instead of giving him a teaching position right away, recommended him for further studies at Yaba Higher College, Lagos, Nigeria's only institution of higher learning at that time. From 1937 to 1941, Dahunsi studied physics and mathematics at Yaba Higher College. He graduated in June of 1941, passing the Science Master's diploma examination in physics and mathematics. The year before his graduation from Yaba, he passed the matriculation examination of London University in the First Division, and in June of 1948, he passed the Inter-Bachelor of Science examination of London University in physics, pure mathematics, and applied mathematics.

An outstanding sportsman, Dahunsi's interests and abilities were not limited to the intellectual arena alone. He was a member of the first XI football team of the Baptist College and Seminary from 1932 to 1936 (serving as captain from 1934 to 1936), a member of the first XI at Yaba Higher College, Lagos (1937-1940; captain 1940), a member and captain of the Abeokuta Provincial Football XI (1948-1950). He also was a member of the first hockey team at Yaba Higher College (1937-1940).

On leaving Yaba Higher College in 1941, he worked as a teacher in Baptist institutions. He taught science at the Baptist Academy, Lagos (January to June 1941); he taught mathematics, elementary science and music at the Baptist College, Iwo (July 1941 to December 1945); and he taught science and mathematics at the Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta (January 1946 to August 1950). He left for the United States to pursue further studies in 1950. There, he first studied at Virginia Union University, Richmond, Virginia, from September 1950 to January 1952 and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in natural sciences and mathematics in the First Class Division.

In spite of his success he did not change his earlier decision to surrender his life for the gospel ministry. He was admitted to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, for his theological training (1952 to 1957). There he obtained a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1954 and a Th.D (Doctor of Theology) degree in May of 1957. He taught Greek New Testament at the seminary in Louisville from 1956 to 1957. After returning to Nigeria in 1957, he became professor of New Testament at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, from 1957 to 1962.

From his Baptist College and Seminary days, music had always been one of Dahunsi's deep loves. Not only did he often serve as an organist and choirmaster, but he continued to be an accomplished pianist and organist throughout his life.

In October of 1962, Dahunsi accepted the invitation to become pastor of First Baptist Church, Lagos. He applied the same diligence that characterized his teaching career to his pastoral ministry, leaving a rich legacy of service when he departed in September of 1969.

By October 1969, the Bible Society of Nigeria appointed him to translate the New Testament into contemporary Yoruba from the original Greek. He did this work from October 1969 to June 1975. Those who have read his translation of the Gospels according to Saint Mark and according to Saint John appreciate the excellence of his work. After finished this task, Dahunsi was offered the post of consultant with a very attractive salary, but he declined the offer to honor the request of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC) to become its general secretary on July 1, 1975. During his brief leadership, Dahunsi exercised his characteristic diligence and dignity, transforming the convention and introducing significant innovations. He contributed immensely to the improvement and development of the convention and the Baptist denomination as a whole.

Dahunsi's biographical sketch would be incomplete without mentioning his life partner. On December 30, 1943, Dahunsi married Miss Deborah Ijaduola Omikunle. She had also taken a teacher-training course at the Baptist Women's Training College, Idi-Aba, Abeokuta, and had passed the Higher Elementary Teacher's Certificate. Together they went to the United States in 1950 where Deborah continued her education, receiving a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Louisville in 1954 and a Masters of Religious Education from Carver School of Missions and Social Work in 1956. From 1957 to 1962, Mrs. Dahunsi was content to teach pastors' wives who could hardly read beyond primary school level. When her husband moved to Lagos in 1962, she began her career as a teacher of English in secondary schools, first at the Baptist Academy, Lagos. In 1969, she following her husband to Ogbomoso where she taught at Ogbomoso High School and Ogbomoso Girls' High School until December of 1975 when she voluntarily retired as principal. While her husband was general secretary of the NBC, Mrs. Dahunsi functioned as president and acting executive secretary of the Women's Missionary Union of the convention.

Dahunsi and his wife kept their marital covenant even though the marriage was not blessed with any children. Though a painful experience, they neither condemned God nor fell away from Him, but rather they held to one another and their faith in Christ, faithful until death. They taught everyone that "the marriage vow must be kept at all costs." Their marriage therefore remains, in the minds of those who knew them, a beautiful testimony to the love, mutual concern, and practical helpfulness that God intends to be characteristic of Christian marriages.

During his lifetime Dahunsi held various responsibilities. He served the Nigerian Baptist Convention as assistant recording secretary (1944-1946), recording secretary (1947-1950), and president (1964-1969). He was a member of the executive committee of the Baptist World Alliance (1965-1970) and of its Committee on Study and Research (1975-1979); a member of the central committee of the World Council of Churches (1975-1979) and of its Commission on Faith and Order (1977-1979); and member of the executive committee of the All Africa Conference of Churches. He also served as member of the standing and other committees of the Christian Council of Nigeria and was its president from 1971-1973 and the chairman of the Translation Committee of the Bible Society of Nigeria (1976-1979).

Dahunsi made contributions to many publications, including the Review and Expositor, the Nigerian Baptist, the Nigerian Christian, the Baptist World--he wrote official reports of the Baptist Youth World Congress, of the Baptist World Congress, and of Baptist World Alliance Commissions.

Dahunsi was a rare minister of the Gospel who bore witness to Christ in all areas of his Christian life. He was a gifted scholar, preacher, and leader, painstaking in his work methods, unmerciful with himself in seeking perfection, yet thoughtful of others. He was compassionate towards the poor and he dedicated his life to serving the underprivileged. Even though the Dahunsis had no biological children of their own, they trained many nephews, nieces, cousins and were generous to all those who crossed their path. In his message entitled "Divine Mission" given at a service held on the occasion of Jimmy Carter's visit to Nigeria he said, "You who are charged with the responsibility of leadership become greater channels of blessings as you throw your weight into the struggle to liberate those oppressed everywhere."

Emmanuel Ajayi Dahunsi died in a motor accident on Tuesday, January 30, 1979, while still in active service as the NBC General Secretary. His wife died on July 9, 2001, having survived her husband for twenty-two years. One of Dahunsi's friend's observed that, "While he passed through this world of sin and others his life viewed, he was clean and pure within and without, so others saw Jesus in him. He kept on telling the story; he was faithful and true to the end. People saw Jesus in him through his exemplary life."

Michael Leke Ogunewu


Notes:

1. At the Higher College in Yaba, he was a foundation member of the 19th Lagos Rover Crew which was formed in 1938. Throughout his student days at Higher College, he participated actively in scouting and was one of the few eminent West Africans who attended the First Preliminary Training Course at the Local "Gilwell," the Molete Scout Training Camp in 1939. It was in the 19th Lagos Rover Crew that he was promoted to Scout leader and trainer. At one time, he was three leaders in one. He was the Cub/Scoutmaster for the Baptist Day School, Iwo as well as the Rover Crew Leader of Baptist College. This clearly illustrates his dedication to scouting. While at Iwo both as a Scout leader and a teacher, he was instrumental in the molding of the lives of many of the younger generation of the time. At Abeokuta, from 1946 to 1950 he served as Rover Scout leader of the First Abeokuta Troop while he was serving as a teacher at Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta, He later became a holder of the Gilwell wood badge, (with certificate No. 10751). The wood badge is the highest attainment of a practicing scout leader.


Sources:

Edgar H. Burks, funeral sermon for Dr. Emmanuel Ajayi Dahunsi, delivered at First Baptist Church, Ijaiye, Abeokuta, on February 24, 1979 - NBTS VF. 2230A.
A. A. Ladimeji, "A Message of Appreciation" delivered on behalf of the Board of Governors, NBTS, Ogbomoso at the funeral service of E. A. Dahunsi - NBTS VF 2230 (A).
Osadolor Imasogie, "Emmanuel Ajayi Dahunsi: A Man sent from God to Bear Witness to the Glory of Christ," sermon delivered at Oritamefa Baptist Church, Ibadan, Nigeria, on February 9, 1989, during the 10th year memorial service of Dr. Emmanuel Ajayi Dahunsi- NBTS, VF 2230 (B).
20th Memorial Service Brochure of Dr. E. A. Dahunsi.
Brochure of the inaugural Emmanuel Ajayi Dahunsi Memorial New Testament Lectures, delivered by Prof. George R. Beasley-Murray, October 13-16, 1981 at the NBTS, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, Nigeria. NBTS, VF 2230 (A)
Scouting Biography of the Late Rev. Dr. Emmanuel. Ajayi Dahunsi.
Memorable Sermons in Honour of Revd. Dr. E. A. Dahunsi. Edited by Rev. Dr. S. Ola. Fadeji. Ibadan: Agbo Areo Publisher, 2005.


This article, received in 2010, was researched and written by Dr. Michael Leke Ogunewu under the supervision of Rev. Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.