Stephen Abioye Adeoye was born around July of 1910 in Olakunwon Compound, Koso, Iseyin, Oyo State. His birth coincided with the grand finale of the major Egungun festival of the town, although there were no spiritual connotations attributed to people born during this festival. Noting this sort of thing was just one of the major ways of determining someone’s date of birth. His parents were Pa Adeoye, of the Agunloye ruling house of the Iseyin royal family, and Mama Ariwoola of Alhaji compound, Malete, Iseyin, which meant that Adeoye was born into a royal family. He was the last to be born in the family, and his siblings included Raji, Salamotu, Siyanbade, Aderoju, Olapemo, Olayanju, and Aderinola.
Being a prince and a potential (Oba) king, Stephen Adeoye was “tied to his father’s apron strings,” for fear of losing him. He was not able to start his schooling until he was about seventeen years old, and he actually had to run away from home (Iseyin) in 1925, in order to start his education. Initially, he went to Lagos, but he later returned to Fiditi. In doing so, he clearly rejected his father’s wishes, even though his father was ready to give everything to see him become king of the land. It also showed that he was thirsty for western civilization, as he had gathered that there was little or no importance attached to western education in his home town at that time. At some point during those adventures, Adeoye gave his life to Jesus Christ and was subsequently baptized by immersion. In 1927, Adeoye finally started his schooling, and was enrolled at the Baptist Day School, Fiditi. It is worth noting that Adeoye worked to support himself in school at a time when the people of the community into which he was born did not value education. To a large extent, one could say that Adeoye was a wholly “self-made man.” He completed his schooling to standard six in 1934, after which he served as both pastor and teacher at the Oge Baptist Church, in Saki, from 1936 to 1937.
His uncle, Pastor James Mokolade Ladosu, had earlier encouraged him to get pastoral training at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogbomoso. While he was serving at Saki, Adeoye came in contact with an American missionary, Rev. Donath, who was instrumental to his sitting for the entrance examination of the seminary–which he passed–in 1938.
On November 14, 1940, Adeoye was married to Christiana Ebun Afolabi, a native of Fiditi. The union was fruitful and they were blessed with the following children: Oye Adeoye (deceased), Adeola Olaleye, Oyebimpe Aremu, Olayinka Ogunniyi, Abiodun Ajagbe, and Akintunde Adeoye. He was survived by fifteen grandchildren.
In 1940, Adeoye became the pastor of Igosun Baptist Church, Offa, in the present Kwara state, and served in this church until 1948. During his pastoral service at Igosun, he led the church to plant a new Baptist church at Oyan, and to start a new Baptist school at Igosun. After about nine years at Igosun, Adeoye decided to further his education. He entered the Baptist College at Iwo in 1949 and completed his studies in 1951 as a grade II teacher. While studying there he supervised the ministries of the Baptist churches at Ogburo, Obada, and Agberire.
In 1952, Adeoye was posted to Ibido Baptist Church, where he served briefly before being transferred to Ijebu Ife Baptist Church, Ogun State, in 1953. He served there for about six years under the guidance and admonition of Rev. Dr. J. T. Ayorinde, a onetime general secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. In January of 1959, Adeoye accepted the invitation to the pastorate of Araromi Baptist Church in Lagos. He spent most of the latter part of his active ministerial life in this church, serving it for about twenty-three years. Some of the achievements of his tenure there would include: the renovation of the church auditorium, the construction of a new parsonage, improvement in the payment of tithes and offerings, construction of a multi-purpose hall (named after the founder and pioneer pastor of the church, Rev. Dr. Mojola Agbebi), the acquisition of numerous musical instruments and the outfitting of the choir, the planting of two new Baptist churches at Maroko (Victoria Island, Lagos) and Ilasamaja (Lagos mainland); the founding of the Araromi praying band; ordaining the first group of deacons and deaconesses in the church on October 9, 1966, and the creation of a musical group, the Hosanna Gospel Singers, for the church.
In addition to all of the above, Adeoye played a very significant role in the membership drive of the church, helping it to retain old members and to attract new ones. During his pastoral ministry, many soldiers and policemen living in the nearby barracks joined the church. He was able to achieve this largely because of his rigorous visitation program. He was considered the “pastor of all,” without respect to the status of church members. Some still have fond memories of their encounters with him, especially during his visitation to their houses. Many are proud to have been baptized by him, and others will proudly say that he was the one who named all their children. He was also known as a peacemaker, and he was used of God to stabilize many families that were in difficulty.
In the mid 1970’s the stool of the kingship (Aseyin) of Adeoye’s home town (Iseyin) became vacant. He was nominated as one of the candidates, being a prince from one of the royal families. When he was approached and asked to formally declare his interest for the position of Oba (king) of Iseyin, Adeoye responded by saying “I have chosen one (gospel) and have renounced the other (kingship).” Consequently, he did not contest for the Aseyin stool.
After serving as the pastor of Araromi Baptist Church for about twenty-three years, Adeoye notified the church of his intention to retire in December of 1982. In response to his notification, the church organized a fitting retirement service for him, which was held on February 12, 1983. The preacher of the day was Rev. Dr. S. T. Ola Akande, the general secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention at the time. To express its appreciation, the church gave him the official car and all the household furniture in the parsonage.
Though retired, Adeoye proved that he was not too tired to still do the work of God. He relocated to his hometown of Iseyin after his retirement. At this stage of his life he expressed his strong desire to see the churches in Iseyin grow, especially the Baptist churches. To achieve this, Adeoye decided to visit these churches in turn, on a weekly basis. Basically, he was going around to encourage them not to relent in all their outreach efforts. He continued to visit all these churches until he was unable to walk very well. Eventually, he was confined to the First Baptist Church, Koso Iseyin.
Stephen Abioye Adeoye died on July 27, 1993. His last wish to his children and relations on his death bed was, “Let every one of you preach the gospel wherever you may be, both in words and deeds.”
David Olusola Idowu
Olawore, J. A. and T. A. Yemi Tella. History of Araromi Baptist Church, 32 Moloney Street Lagos, 1903-2003. Lagos: Jackson Press, 2003.
——–. Interview by author, October 4, 2009.
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.