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Samuel Sunday Jemigbon

Jemigbon, Samuel Sunday
1934 to 2009
The Apostolic Church (AC)
Nigeria

Samuel Sunday Jemigbon was born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother, so he was given the Muslim name "Sadiku" or "Sadiq" at birth. He was converted to the Christian faith in 1948, through the ministry of the Apostolic Church (AC) of Nigeria. He became a member of the church, was baptized, and adopted the name Samuel as his Christian name. Over the years, he rose through the ranks to become the third territorial chairman of the Lagos, Western, and Northern Area (LAWNA), and the vice-president of the Apostolic Church, Nigeria. He held this position until his death on June 17, 2009.

Birth and Family Background

Samuel Sunday Jemigbon was born on March 4, 1934, at Ayeh-Gbede in the old Kabba province of the present Kogi State of Nigeria, into the family of Elewusu Ikuejemigbon. His father, Pa Elewusu, was both a Muslim and a practitioner of traditional medicine. He was an outstanding practitioner and was the chief of the herbalists in his community. His mother Rhoda Omogbonewore, although married to a Muslim, was a Christian, strong in her faith, and a devout member of the Apostolic Church.

Jemigbon has been referred to by some as a "child of destiny," because of the circumstances surrounding his birth. He was the only son, but was preceded in the family by three elder sisters. His mother, Rhoda, after having three daughters, desperately asked God for a son. This was during the great revival, which started in Ilesha in the 1930s, through Joseph Ayodele Babalola. Subsequently, a prophetess named Leah came to Ayeh-Gbede, Samuel's place of birth, for a revival service. During this service, the prophetess was reported to have prophesied the birth of two male children into two families. Samuel's mother and one other woman, Mrs. Rachael Omoboni, each gave birth to a baby boy nine months later.

Samuel was initially not interested in the Christian faith, but rather devoted himself to Islam, his father's religion. He acquired Islamic training through attendance at Koranic schools and became a staunch Muslim who was vehemently opposed to Christianity. He vowed to never enter into a church in his lifetime and did his best to keep this vow by keeping away from churches, even deliberately avoiding passing in front of one. However, in God's time, this antagonist of the church became a promoter of the gospel message.

Conversion Experience

There are variations in the conversion story of Samuel Jemigbon, but all the accounts affirm the fact that he was tricked into the church by a friend, probably with the connivance of other friends. One account has it that a Christian friend of his [1] who expressed an aversion to Sadiku's vow never to enter into any church, conspired with some other friends to trick him into doing just that. He did it by putting Sadiku's exercise books in the church and insisted that if he needed his exercise books, he should go into the church and pick them up himself. Since he needed the exercise books, he had no option, so he entered the church for the first time. His friends had gathered there, and they started making fun of him with a song which they quickly composed, singing in Yoruba "Sadiku wo Soosi" meaning "Sadiq has entered into the Church." [2] However, Jemigbon narrated the experience in his own words as follows:
My conversion to Christianity happened in 1948 after an unforgettable experience arranged by my childhood Christian friend. I hated walking or passing through church buildings and my friend had noticed it. One day, he played a very wonderful trick on me, which led to my conversion. What did he do? When the bell rang for Sunday school on that particular day, he handed me the books he wanted to take to church, which also served for teaching the adult Sunday school class, and told me he wanted to urinate. I did not know he had deceived me because he left me there and took another way to the church. He then sent for me saying that he was already in class, asking me to please bring his books to him. He had instructed the pupils in the adult class that if I came, they should carry me inside (the church). True to their plan, they carried me inside the church and (they) shouted in Yoruba, "Sadiku is in the church; you are a member of Sunday school." I began to weep and was ashamed that I had entered the church. That evening I could not go for my regular Koran class and did not go to the mosque." [3]
This incident, which came as a prank from his friends, made a lasting impression on his life. Initially, the prank was rather embarrassing and unpleasant to him, and it cut him off from his friends for some time. But it was the catalyst for his conversion, as he could not go to his Koranic school or mosque that day because of the embarrassment. However, as the days went by, his mother helped him to get over the ridicule. Also, the incident seems to have gradually opened his eyes to the divine purpose for his life. He began to follow his mother to church, and continued until he was eventually baptized and had become a functional member of the Apostolic Church. At baptism, his Muslim name "Sadiku" was changed to Samuel, and from that time on, he was known as Samuel Sunday Jemigbon. His conversion to Christianity can truly be attributed to divine action.

Education

His conversion to Christianity gave him the privilege of acquiring a western education, and he started his primary education in 1950 at the age of sixteen at the Apostolic Church primary school, Ayeh-Gbedde, completing it at Ayetoro Gbede in 1955. He was then admitted into the E. I. College, Aramoko-Ekiti. He had to work for the school during the holidays in order to earn money for his school fees. Someone in authority at the school noticed his zeal and hard work and decided to award him a scholarship for the furtherance of his studies, in addition to continuing to pay him for the services he rendered to the school. His joy in this regard was short-lived however, as a government policy caused the school to close. Determined to further his studies, he attended an American school, the Metropolitan College in Lagos, on a scholarship given by a Foreign Scholarship Board.

Samuel also studied by correspondence through the famous Rapid Results Correspondence College, obtaining his General Certificate of Education (G. C. E.), Advanced Level papers. While at school, Samuel was a good athlete. He often participated in cross-country races and was the football captain while he was at Metropolitan College.

Call to the Ministry

After completing his studies at the Metropolitan College in Lagos, Samuel became a primary school teacher at Ayeh-Gbede. He taught for some years, but his main ambition was to become the local authority administrative secretary (ADSEC) of his local government--the Bunu/Ijumu/Kabba (BIK) local government area of the old Central-West state, now Kogi state. He pursued this goal vigorously with the support of the well-meaning people of his community. He prepared himself for appointment to that office, but God had a different plan and purpose for his life. Like the biblical Samuel who had heard God's call beckoning him for service, Samuel Jemigbon also heard God's call knocking on his door. One Sunday in 1969, after the morning service, Samuel received a prophetic message while he was at home. Incidentally, this was the same week that the appointment letter for ADSEC was delivered. At the end of the prophetic message, Samuel was given a deadline and told to take a stand.

This was not the first time Samuel would have such a prophetic encounter. Before this, while he was a school teacher, he was said to have met a blind man who told him that he was merely wasting his time teaching, because God had a bigger assignment for him. Such revelations had also been given to many servants of the Lord and others concerning Samuel, even when he was still a Muslim. Sometime in the early 1950s, Pa Jegede, the father of John, one of Sadiku's schoolmates, had told his son (John), to continue being friends with Sadiku, in spite of the fact that both were in opposing camps, Sadiku being a Muslim and John being a Christian. There was opposition from fellow church members who could not understand why John was such a close friend of Sadiku, a Muslim and the son of an herbalist. But Pa Jegede encouraged his son never to break with Sadiku, because he had seen a big chair in front of Sadiku which meant that he would one day hold a chair [or be chairman in] the Apostolic Church. This statement, moreover, was made at a time when there was no such position in the Apostolic Church.

This was a confusing time for Samuel, as he was held between two opinions. For some time, he fought the idea of dropping his lifelong ambition in order to take up what he considered the uncertain career of becoming a pastor in the Apostolic Church. He was disturbed by what members of his community would have to say, especially the Oba (the paramount ruler) who had invested so much in the actualization of his ADSEC ambition. Nevertheless, with the help of the Holy Spirit, Samuel got over his ordeal. He accepted the calling and abandoned his ambitions for the ADSEC position. What he lost then in 1969, however, he got back in the Apostolic Church eleven years later, when he was appointed the LAWNA administrative secretary in 1980.

Samuel Jemigbon married Mary Olanrewaju (née Kaiyeja Alaherin) on September 6, 1965 and the marriage was blessed with children and many grandchildren. The names of their six children are: Oluwafunmilayo, Emmanuel, Oluwafemi, Sunday, Israel, and Oluwakemi.

Ministry and Higher Appointment

Samuel was called into the gospel ministry in the Apostolic Church in February of 1969, when K. P. Titus was superintendent of the area then known as Kabba. He went through all the stages of training required of a minister in the Apostolic Church, first attending pre-Bible school at Ayetoro-Gbede. At the time, this was known as "Tule," a Yoruba word meaning "beginning from scratch." During this time he learned to serve others, becoming the errand-boy of other pastors and learning the rudiments of a successful ministry. His first posting was to the Apostolic Church, Olle-Bunu in 1969. In 1971, he went to the International Apostolic Church Bible College in Kolden, Denmark, obtaining a diploma in theology in 1972.

He returned to Nigeria and to Olle-Bunu, and was ordained a pastor, still in 1972. From there, he was posted to the Apostolic Church, Oke-Adeye, Kabba, in 1973, as a sectional pastor, with four assemblies under his jurisdiction: Oke-Adeye, Agbadu, Aiyeteju, and Egbeda. Through aggressive evangelism, he expanded the assemblies into three district centers. He was also used of God to begin and complete the Oke Adeye district center auditorium and mission house. He was later called to the office of apostle in August of 1976 and was transferred to Oke-Iro, Ilesha, Nigeria in 1977 as the district apostle.

In April of 1980, Jemigbon was appointed the third LAWNA territorial administrative secretary (LTAS), under Isaiah Ghele Sakpo who was the LAWNA territorial chairman at that time. In fulfillment of God's prophecies on his life, the appointment of Samuel Jemigbon as the third LAWNA territorial chairman was ratified on May 24, 1994, by the general executive council of the Apostolic Church, LAWNA territory, Nigeria. This was to fill the vacuum created by the demise of Isaiah Ghele Sakpo on August 2, 1993. Jemigbon was installed on July 31, 1994, and was appointed national vice president of the Apostolic Church in the same year. He was also the chairman of the national literature committee of the church until his death in 2009.

His emergence as the third LAWNA chairman was a testimony to the all-powerful hand of God. Isaiah Sakpo, the incumbent chairman, was elderly and had been sick and too weak to conduct the August 1993 annual LAWNA international convention. The leadership of the church became worried and members of the executive council thought that someone else should be allowed to lead at the convention. One of them had suggested that the administrative secretary be allowed to lead, since he was involved in all the planning for the convention. This was acceptable to all the leaders present and Sakpo prayed for him.

Isaiah Sakpo died on August 2, 1993, during the convention, and Jemigbon continued as acting LAWNA chairman until he was appointed substantive chairman on May 24, 1994. His appointment, although made by the LAWNA territorial executive committee, was confirmed with a prophetic message from J. E. Adebayo, a prophet of the church. It was reported that the Lord, speaking through the prophet, emphatically stated that Jemigbon was the new LAWNA chairman. It is pertinent to mention that prophetic messages, especially those coming from a recognized prophet, occupy a prominent place with regard to resolving issues in the Apostolic Church. The prophetic message from J. E. Adebayo helped to end all speculation about who was to succeed Sakpo. The general executive committee then ratified his appointment and he was inducted as the third LAWNA territorial chairman on July 31, 1994, by the national president of the Apostolic Church in Nigeria, E. E. Okon. He had always been involved in the administration of the church, but his induction as chairman felt like a call to higher service. He was aware of the enormity of the challenges that lay ahead, but with humility and trust in the words of the Lord, he accepted the leadership position.

His appointment as national vice-president of the Apostolic Church followed the same pattern. In November of 1994, for the first time as LAWNA territorial chairman, Jemigbon attended the national executive council meeting being held in Benin City, Nigeria. At that meeting, the position of national vice-president of the Apostolic Church was declared vacant, and the issue was raised for discussion. E. E. Okon, the president, was reported to have said that since he was from the eastern part of the country, the post of vice-president should go to the western part. He suggested that Jemigbon be named to the post, and the members accepted unanimously.

Leadership Achievements

A series of innovations marked his tenure as LAWNA administrative secretary. Before his appointment, the LAWNA secretariat was operating on an ad-hoc basis. His predecessors, like Ade Anjorin, combined the work with that of the Ilesa area superintendent and operated from Ilesa, while C. A. Onabanjo also doubled as the Lagos area superintendent during his tenure. Jemigbon introduced a structured administration which enabled full-time ministerial and non-ministerial staff to be employed in running the affairs of the secretariat. The welfare of the staff was also important to him, so he initiated the building of a cafeteria, a medium-sized council conference hall, and accommodation for members of the LAWNA council and other ministers. Before then, council meetings were held on the raised platform of the old convention hall, but the new conference hall was attached to the convention hall in front of the present national temple, which made the environment more conducive to council meetings.

The office of LAWNA territorial chairman was not totally new terrain for Jemigbon, who had functioned as the LAWNA administrative secretary for fourteen years. His years of service as LAWNA chairman were marked by landmark achievements which testified to his dynamism and dedication to the service of God. On assuming office, he improved on what he had already started as the administrative secretary, and initiated other projects which were successfully implemented.

Administrative Reforms

He was an astute administrator whose tenure led to a series of reforms in all areas of church development. He spearheaded a revolutionary administrative expansion of the church by creating more areas, and by establishing metropolitan areas and districts for easier administration. As part of his quest to make the church a more structured institution, he facilitated the registration of the constitution of the Apostolic Church, LAWNA territory, with the corporate affairs commission in 1998, and also initiated the annual southern and northern meeting of elders. This is a forum where elders from across the territory are allowed to make their contributions to the development of the church. It also serves as a platform for bringing the laity closer to the clergy, thus bridging a communication gap within the ranks and enabling efficient administration.

He was also mindful that youth are future leaders, and thought they should be properly cared for. He addressed the issue of the exodus of youth from the church by creating the Committee for the Welfare of Youth (CWY), which became the official organ for the youth convocation, an event which began to bring young people together, both from within the church and from outside. The convocation met twice a year, in April and August, in the Lagos metropolitan areas, until it was decentralized on the recommendation of the committee.

The relocation of the LAWNA printing press from Ebute-Metta, Lagos, to its present location on the LAWNA international convention grounds in Olorunda-Ketu, was a milestone. Prior to his assumption of office as LAWNA chairman, the printing press had largely existed in name only and had almost been abandoned. As part of the relocation, state-of-the-art printing equipment was purchased, and the press became productive. Today, the church can print virtually all of its own materials and it is competitive in the marketplace. Employment for some members of the church has been created there, and it has become a source of revenue for the church. He also had a mini gas [petrol] station built for the church and created an information technology (IT) department, which produced a Website.

Jemigbon had conceived of the idea of a secretariat while he was the administrative secretary. He had it built, and it was commissioned for use on July 31, 2003. An imposing three story building at the Olorunda-Ketu church base, it houses the national office and various departmental offices of the LAWNA territory. It is also the venue for several high profile meetings and deliberations. With the provision of a secretariat complex, there was a redefinition of pastoral work within the territory and the administrative processes of the church were streamlined.

Considerable progress was also made on the construction of the national temple which is a large building on the Olorunda site of the church, directly facing the Lagos-Ibadan expressway in Lagos. It was initiated because of a prophetic message from Pastor Isaiah Sakpo on August 4, 1957. However, after the foundation was laid by his predecessor on May 10, 1986, it had almost become a reproach to the church because of the ugly sight it created in such a prominent area of Lagos. When Jemigbon came on board, he decided to take this reproach away. He created a separate department for the national temple project with qualified accountants and other experienced professionals to supervise the work, in order to ensure that appreciable progress was made. Although it is yet to be completed, the edifice was partially consecrated for the use of the church by Jemigbon on July 31, 2004, during the 28th annual international LAWNA convention. When completed, the temple will seat 100,000 worshippers, making it the largest single-capacity auditorium in the world. The work is at an advanced stage of completion at present and has attracted international visitors and political leaders. It is the present venue for the annual LAWNA territorial conventions, the minister's conferences, and other international and interdenominational Christian programs.

Jemigbon also initiated the idea of building a guest house for church leaders and ministers during annual conventions, conferences and special LAWNA programs. After securing official approval, he embarked on the project and executed it without any levy on any member of the congregation. The first phase of this project has forty rooms, each built as a small two bed apartment. It was dedicated on August 1, 2001, and provided employment for a sizable number of people. The second phase of another forty rooms is also at an advanced stage of completion.

Other building projects advanced by his administration included the official residences for the LAWNA chairman, those of the administrative and financial secretaries, and the new ultra-modern council hall, which was dedicated in September of 2008. The first all-African leadership conference of heads of the Apostolic Church was held in this council hall after its dedication.

Contributions to Education

He made significant contributions to theological, spiritual and secular education. His tenure witnessed the upgrading of the theological seminaries in Jos and Ilesha to the level of degree-granting institutions. There was an increase in the number of primary and secondary schools across the territory and the Apostolic Church initiated the building of Glorious Vision University (GVU) in Ogwa, Edo State. Construction is at an advanced stage as it is due to secure its license from the Nigerian University Commission (2010).

Before his induction, the LAWNA territory could not boast of any viable Sunday school department, nor could the majority of the assemblies boast of effective Sunday school classes. What can be referred to as effective Sunday school classes only existed in a few areas such as Ilesha, Lagos and Ibadan. On the day of his induction Jemigbon was given a challenge in this respect by the Rev. Wilson Badejo, the general overseer of Foursquare Gospel Church, Nigeria. He worked vigorously with his team to make improvements in this area, encouraging the church to initiate Sunday school classes and departments, or to improve what they had. He publically declared himself a Sunday school student and started attending Sunday school. With the chairman leading in this regard, the message was clear: if the chairman is attending Sunday school classes, no-one should be exempt. This led to a boost in Sunday school attendance throughout the territory, and there is now a Sunday school department in the LAWNA secretariat that has promoted and established vibrant Sunday school programs throughout the territory and the mission fields.

Jemigbon believed in intellectual development and in the training and ongoing education of ministers, always encouraging them to keep up with the challenges of the times. He initiated an annual LAWNA ministers' improvement seminar and also inaugurated a training program called the "Leadership Retreat," which was for senior ministers (district pastors, apostles and area superintendents). He was also aware of the critical role of pastors' wives in the growth of the church, so he inaugurated a training program for them as well. In addition to these programs, he also put together a number of other refresher courses for the development of ministers at all levels. In fact, he died during the second leadership retreat for district pastors and superintendents in the territory. He had declared the retreat open on June 16, 2009, and had pronounced the benediction at the close of the second day, but he died a few hours later.

Evangelism, Church Expansion, and Ecumenism

Samuel Jemigbon was totally committed to carrying out the great commission, and his work led to a considerable improvement in evangelization, especially in the rural areas of the northern part of Nigeria. Previously, the Apostolic Church in the north had more Yoruba churches, as a majority of members were immigrants from Yorubaland, the southwestern zone of the country. This changed as the evangelization of people of northern Nigerian origin intensified. Many people were converted in this region, which had strong Muslim enclaves, and the number of LAWNA areas increased from thirty-two to sixty-seven.

On the international front, more foreign mission fields were added. When Jemigbon took over as LAWNA chairman, the foreign missionary effort of the church was limited to a few countries in West Africa, namely the Republic of Benin, Togo, Sierra Leone, and Ivory Coast. The Republic of Benin later became autonomous. However, as of today, missionaries from LAWNA are working in Uganda, Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa, Liberia, Israel, and the United States.

As an advocate of the unity of the body of Christ, Jemigbon played a significant role in the promotion of ecumenism in Nigeria. He recognized that there is power in unity and he did his best to pursue it. He was one of the trustees of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and was national president of the Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (CPFN), an umbrella association for the first generation or classical Pentecostal churches in Nigeria. His zeal for the propagation and publication of the word of God endeared him to the Bible Society of Nigeria (BSN) and he was one of its major donors. Across the country, the Apostolic Church offers leadership assistance to many of these ecumenical groups. In 2006, to further demonstrate his commitment in this regard, he put the facilities of the magnificent national temple at the disposal of the CAN, Lagos State chapter, for the yearly interdenominational devotional service (IDDS) that it holds every February.

Social Development

In spite of his ministerial commitments, Samuel Jemigbon never neglected his social responsibility to his place of birth, Ayeh-Gbede. Through his intervention, electricity was introduced into the community and he commissioned this service on January 20, 2005. He also made significant contributions to education, youth development, and youth employment there. Jemigbon was a generous man, and many people in the Ayeh-Gbede community considered him a "child of consolation" in this respect, in that he put smiles on many sullen faces. He was not only interested in the spiritual advancement of the people, but was also concerned about their social and economic well-being. He placed widows and widowers in the Apostolic Church national headquarters church on a monthly payroll, an initiative that continued until his death.

Personal Qualities

Jemigbon had an outstanding prayer life and believed that nothing was impossible through prayer. He saw prayer as the vehicle that transports people from problem to promise and from despair to hope. To him, a prayerless Christian was a powerless Christian, and he believed that if you wanted to win the battles of life, you had to pray and fast. "Fasting doesn't kill; it only makes you strong in the Lord," he said. [4]

He introduced the idea of a continual, ongoing prayer chain for the LAWNA territory and for Nigeria. He taught people to pray through his lifestyle, and his prayer ministry helped many people: barren women became mothers, the sick were healed, and many miracles were wrought. It can be said that the secret of his success, both in life and in ministry, was his prayer life.

The Bible was his touchstone in everything, and he used the Bible as an arbiter. He read it, believed it, taught it, and lived it. He believed that in the word of God, there was a solution for every human need. He loved and believed in prophetic messages, and he always implemented them to the letter, which contributed tremendously to his success as LAWNA chairman. Many of his accomplishments resulted from prophetic messages, and he developed the habit of waiting on, and hearing from, the Lord before embarking on any project for Him. He had developed this attitude since his conversion, and even as a youth, he would never embark on any venture without first inquiring of the Lord.

He was an able, broad-minded, courageous, receptive, visionary, unassuming, accomplished, and reliable leader with a high degree of self confidence. However, he knew his limitations and acknowledged them. He never tried to do everything by himself, and often acknowledged talent in others, accommodating their views. He was always receptive to good ideas and counsel, irrespective of the source. His administration was open to advice not only from his colleagues, but also from other officers of the church. Spiritually, his life was a practical demonstration of the five ascension gifts of prophet, apostle, evangelist, pastor, and teacher.

Conclusion

The contributions of Jemigbon to the development of the Apostolic Church in Nigeria and to the church in general were quite significant. He served the church for forty years, from the time he began full time ministry in 1969 to his death in 2009. Samuel Sunday Jemigbon passed on to glory at about 11:15 pm on Wednesday, June 17, 2009. His excellency Babatunde Raji Fashola, the governor of Lagos State of Nigeria, described him as one of the most revered spiritual leaders of our time, a man totally devoted to prayer, someone who was uncompromising in his commitment to and worship of Almighty God, someone who also used religion as a vehicle to promote the good of all people. [5] In the same vein, W. F. Kumuyi, general superintendent of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry in Nigeria, reiterated that his death had created a big vacuum that would be difficult to fill--not only in his family, but also in the Apostolic Church and in the church at large. [6]

Michael Leke Ogunewu


Notes:

1. This friend who was said to have masterminded his entering into the church for the first time was Matthew Ibikunle. Matthew was the son of an Apostolic Church prophet, and he later became a pastor in the Apostolic Faith Church.
2. Funeral Services Program for Pastor Samuel Sunday Jemigbon, 2009, pp.24-33.
3. J. B. Coker and others, The Life and Ministry of Pastor S. S. Jemigbon, The Apostolic Church LAWNA Literature Committee, (Lagos: 2009).
4. Ibid., pp. 70-71.
5. B. R. Fashola, (Governor of Lagos State), letter of condolence written to Jemigbon's widow, deaconness Mary Olanrewaju Jemigbon, dated June 22, 2009.
6. W. F. Kumuyi, Letter of condolence written to the LAWNA territorial executive council, dated June 27, 2009.

Publications:

Jemigbon, Samuel S. The Apostolic Church at 70. (2001).
------- The Vision [and] the Mission. (2007).
------- The Growing Church. (2007).
------- Justification. (2007).
------- It is Well. (2007).
------- The Living Word. (2007).
------- The Holy Spirit at Work. (2007).
------- Adopted Child. (2007).
------- Saving Religion. (2008).
------- [The] Apostolic Movement in Nigeria. (2008).
------- [The] Place of Discipline in the Church. (2008).
------- The Christian Minister. (2008).
------- Power in Oneness. (2008).


Additional Source:

"Pastor Jemigbon passes on to Glory," The Apostolic Church, Lawna News. Vol. 12, no. 39 (May/June 2009): 1.

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.