Homepage
Home Read stories Africa maps The Project Resources Our Writers News

Omatsola, Aghogin
1867 to 1969
Nigerian Baptist Convention
Nigeria

Aghogin Omatsola was born in October of 1867 in Usele town in Warri, in the South Local Government area of Delta State, into the ruling royal family of Olu Ikengbuwa II, of the Warri kingdom. His father, Omatsola, had two brothers, Lori and Idudun. Apart from Aghogin, the other children of Omatsola were Kutemi, Batere, Ibobi, Tuedon, Ghaye, Jala, and Ebosa. Aghogin was not allowed to attend school at a young age because he was his father's favorite. As the first born, he was initiated into the rites and rituals of his kingly ancestors, but he later developed a burning thirst for learning. [1]

In 1890, at age twenty three, he ran away to Calabar with the help of some of his European friends and his Itsekiri relations in Sapele, in search of learning. He travelled in one of the cargo steamers bound for Calabar through Sapele Port, and arrived safely in Calabar. Early in 1902, Omatsola was enrolled as a pupil at the Hope Waddell Institute in Calabar. In six years (1902 to 1908), he completed his primary education. After his studies, he was recommended to the police by his principal, Dr. MacGregor. Later, he was employed by the police as an inspector, but he stayed on this job for only three months because his soul rebelled against the kind of atrocities being practiced in the force. After consulting with his former principal, he resigned, returned to his people, and entered into full-time gospel ministry. [2]

In 1909, Omatsola informed his relatives and friends at Sapele of his plan to return home, and elaborate arrangements were made immediately for his reception by the Sapele community. Before he left Calabar for Sapele he had been appointed by the Christian Movement Society (CMS) to serve as their agent and teacher at Sapele, and he accepted the offer. As soon as he got to Sapele, he became the agent and teacher in the CMS church and school, which, incidentally, was the only Christian denomination in the area. Those with whom he was closely associated in the mission work were chief Egbejule, Mr. J. A. Thomas, prince E. Etchie, prince E. Etuwewe, E. O. Down, Mr. Simate, and Mr. I. T. Palmer. Due to Omatsola's leadership and keen spirit of service, the CMS experienced tremendous growth. [3]

In 1910, Omatsola married Ikpere Sansan, who hailed from Obaghoro town. The marriage was blessed with two children: Anirejuoritse and Eworitsemogha. The CMS mission was under the leadership of Pastor Ologundudu, and Omatsola was one of his assistants. While evangelism was at its peak in the area and plans were being made to carry the flame of Christianity into the villages and hamlets in and around Sapele in the name of the CMS Church, a dispute arose which divided the church. [4] This dispute had to do with the misappropriation of church funds and the undermining of the integrity of the Itsekiris and the Urhobos by some of the Yoruba dignitaries of the church. Later in 1916, Omatsola was appointed as a leader of the church that separated from the CMS mission. At that time, attempts to resolve the problems were still being made by the Rev. James Johnson, but all these efforts failed.

Early in 1917, Omatsola broke away from the CMS mission to form an independent church organization, leading the members to build a church through voluntary and communal labor. [5] In 1918, he dedicated the first church building with pomp and pageantry. After a period of prayer and fasting, he started to search for a denomination to become affiliated with, and led a delegation to visit Lagos. Of the denominations that were contacted (the Methodist Church and the First Baptist Church), it was J. R. Williams, of the First Baptist Church, Lagos, who responded promptly to their request. The group therefore became affiliated with the First Baptist Church, Lagos, and became known as the First Baptist Church, Sapele, with Omatsola as the spiritual leader. This was how Omatsola became affiliated with the Baptists. [6]

Omatsola was a church planter. The period between 1917 and 1920 was a period of steady growth and expansion, as he planted Baptist churches and established schools in the districts and suburbs of the area. These churches included the First Baptist churches at Sapele, Onyeke Inland, Asagba, Okuagbe, and Ugbimidiaka, all of which were founded in 1917. Others, founded between 1918 and 1920, included the First Baptist churches at Koko, Kokori, Ogiedi Oviri, and Obiaruku. [7] He also planted churches and schools in other areas between 1922 and 1969, including: the First Baptist Churches of Oginibo, Ogidigbe, Eku, Warri, Ugbukurusu, Adagbarasa, Obitukpagha, Gbokoda, Ogheye, Orere Iyanagho, Oyeke Waterside, Sakpoba (Benin City), Ugborodo, Ovade, Fi Ajagolo, Elume and Okpara. [8]

In 1920, Omatsola Aghogin attended the Nigeria Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, and was ordained as a Baptist minister in the First Baptist Church, Lagos on April 3, 1921. [9] It was reported that he was so dedicated to the work of spreading the gospel that his household and even his health suffered from neglect. He took pleasure in working long days, trekking long distances on foot, and travelling by canoe or bicycle as needed, all for the purpose of evangelism. He was recognized as the pastor and proprietor of the First Baptist churches and schools, but he often delegated responsibility to the head teachers and to some of the other teachers in the schools, who would act as church leaders in his absence. [10]

In 1921, Omatsola started Baptist work in the Benin area with the assistance of a prominent Benin man, Obadiah Odiase Emokpae. He taught Baptist doctrine and linked the believers with the American Baptist mission headquartered in Lagos, which led to the opening of preaching stations in and around Benin. He also established new churches at Gelegele, Ofunama, and Nikonogha, and planted churches and schools in Eku in 1926. He travelled several times to these areas to encourage the Christians and to baptize. The Rev. Ejovi Aghanbi was of great assistance to him because he was in charge of the churches and schools planted in Eku. [11]

Omatsola believed in staff training, and he created sponsored opportunities for promising teachers to attend the Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogbomoso, and in some cases, the Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone. He also contributed to mission work by writing several books and by translating the Broadman hymnal into Itsekiri. [12]

Omatsola was a peacemaker. In 1941, there was a misunderstanding between the First Baptist Church in Sapele and the American Baptist Mission. The problem revolved around the issues of polygamy and prohibiting polygamists from holding church offices. Omatsola was more interested in the salvation of the souls of his people than in church offices. Because of his mission-mindedness, he was afraid that the new converts, who were mainly polygamists, might leave the church and go back to idol worship. For that reason, he was resolved to keep such people in the church and to allow the issue of polygamy to be peripheral. However, around mid 1942, when the dispute could not be resolved, Omatsola and others in his district's churches and schools decided to break away from the American Baptist Mission. He resolved to stay with his people and to continue to minister the word of God to them. The members who wanted to remain with the Nigerian Baptist Convention left the First Baptist Church in Sapele to start the Bethel Baptist Church, also in Sapele. [13]

Omotsola kept working with the First Baptist Church in Sapele, and in 1953, he was declared general superintendent of the First Baptist Mission schools in Sapele, based on the report of the inspection tour of the schools conducted by J. S. Sule, the supervisor of schools for the Delta Province. Omatsola was a strict disciplinarian, but also a loving father who gave sound training to his children and others who later turned out to be great achievers, such as: Rev. Ejovi Aghanbi, Mr. Pinnock Onosode, Mr. E. O. Erebor, Mr. S. O. U. Onohwihwakpor, and others. [14]

In late 1964, the conflict between the Omotsola group and the American Baptist Mission was resolved, and the group was re-integrated into the Baptist Mission. An elaborate reconciliation service was organized to receive Omatsola and his members back into the fold. [15] After the reunion, he was granted retirement by the church, on grounds of old age. While retired, he continued to attend church worship services and he was even able to read the Bible without wearing glasses at the age of 100. His children lived a meaningful and fulfilled godly life. [16] On January 15, 1966, he officiated at the wedding ceremony of Miss Gladys Urowoli Omatsola, his first grand-daughter.

He died on May 28, 1969. He had conducted the morning devotion with his family and had gone to rest after breakfast. At noon he was invited by his steward for lunch, but there was no response, and it was discovered that he had died. [17]

His first grand-daughter, Mrs. Gladys Urowoli Tetsola (J.P.) paid the following tribute to the memory of her late grandfather:
My grandfather's life was like a book, a very interesting one full of great events and accomplishment. His grandchildren usually referred to him as "Baba Kporo" meaning big father. Baba Kporo was a principled person; all his activities were well programmed. He exemplified commitment and service to humanity. His soul-winning activities were mainly done on foot, trekking long distances with his team. Baba Kporo was a prayer warrior and believed strongly in prayer. Members with problems came to him for prayers and intercession. Baba Kporo introduced prayer sessions to the programs at the palace of the Olu of the Warri Kingdom, Ginuwa II, when he was invited. I knew grandpapa as a great teacher who translated Bible stories and important Bible passages into Itsekiri, which he patiently taught to his children, grandchildren and church members. Grandpapa was a rare man, one who stood for excellence and truth in all that he said and did. He lived an exemplary life and led by example. He was a leader who saw the light and held it high, sending it to the lands around him and even to the sea (the river delta areas). Baba Kporo was a symbol of unity. He could disagree, only to agree later, depending on his convictions on certain issues and on the situation on the ground. Baba Kporo had the wisdom of knowing where to stop in any situation, as well as the gift of knowing how, when, and where to stop in times of crisis and provocation. [18]

Mercy Aninoritselaju Orikri


Notes:

1. John Anirejuoritse Omatsola, The Life and Times of Rev. Aghogin Omatsola (a.k.a. "ADOLD") 1867- 1969 (102 years). The Pioneer Pastor of Baptist Work in Delta and Benin Provinces (Now Delta and Edo States) (Lagos: Functional Publishing Company, 2003), 13.
2. Ibid, 14.
3. Ibid, 14.
4. Ibid, 16.
5. Ibid, 17.
6. Howell E. Milford, "Nigerian Baptist Convention Leaders and their Contributions" (Ph.D. diss., South-Western Baptist Theological Seminary, 1956).
7. Omatsola, 20.
8. Amromare, J.E. Writings.
9. Ibid.
10. Omatsola, 20-24. [2009 ?]
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid, 27.
14. Ibid, 28-29.
15. Ibid, 28.
16. Ibid, 32.
17. Ibid.
18. Ibid.



Sources:

Omatsola, John Anirejuoritse. The Life and Times of Rev. Aghogin Omatsola (a.k.a. "ADOLD") 1867- 1969 (102 years). The Pioneer Pastor of Baptist Work in Delta and Benin Provinces (Now Delta and Edo States). Lagos: Functional Publishing Company, 2003.
Tetsola, E. A., ed. Highlights of Delta State Baptist Conference at 10 (1993-2003). Lagos: Bil-Phillyson Nig. Enterprises.


This story, received in 2010, was written by Mercy Aninoritselaju Orikri, Ph.D. candidate, for a seminar convened at Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso in November 2009 under the supervision of Dr. Michael Leke Ogunewu and Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.