Jove Ejovi Aganbi was born in 1894 in Eku, Nigeria, into the family of chief Agadama Aganbi and Mrs. Ahurhu Aganbi of Abraka, in the present Delta State of Nigeria. Chief Agadama Aganbi was one of the paramount chiefs of his day, and he had five wives. Ahurhu had Ejovi and Uwevwieghrevwa, and they were her only surviving children. Before Ejovi was born, Ahurhu had suffered the loss of many children. Consequently, the name Ejovi, meaning “let him live,” was given to the only surviving son. When Ejovi was born, he was very sickly. One day he became unconscious, and all hope was lost. People were actually waiting for his burial when a joyful shout came from the crying mother and other women. He had woken up!
Education and Conversion
At a certain point in time, a British administrative resident officer had requested that one of chief Aganbi’s sons be trained by the government, as a reward for his services to the community. Chief Aganbi quickly gave him Ejovi, because the boy’s frequent ill health had become worrisome to him. To his mother Ahurhu, the husband’s decision was painful, so she called upon God daily, asking Him to protect her son. At that time, students were forced to attend church every Sunday. Initially, Aganbi was very uncomfortable with this requirement, but he was eventually led to Christ in 1909. One Saturday, after his conversion, while he was in his garden farm, he knelt down and prayed that after the completion of his education, God should use him according to His will, in the service of God and humanity.
The opportunity to go to school turned out in his favor. Thanks to the good diet and the hygienic school environment, coupled with adequate and effective medical care, he grew up to be healthy and robust. He got his first School Leaving Certificate in 1909 thanks to his brilliant performance in school, and he was employed to teach at the Anglican school, near Eku, becoming the pride of his parents.
In 1926 Aganbi married Mary Omovie. The marriage was blessed with a daughter named Susana in 1932, but she died three years later, in 1934.
While he was teaching at Sanubi, he was involved in the destruction of an idol, which led to his arrest and a public flogging. Consequently, he left for Sapele, where he came in contact with Rev. Aghogin Omatsola, who motivated him to become a Baptist and a pastor. He did become a Baptist, and he was trained as a pastor at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, from 1927 to 1934.
After graduation from the seminary, Aganbi was posted to Lagos, but he objected to this, opting rather to be a minister among his people. He emphasized that his people in Eku, the Agbon clan and the entire Urhobo people, were without the salvation of Jesus Christ, and he wondered why he should leave them in such a condition. His declining of the posting to Lagos offended the authorities, and he was asked to leave the seminary, receiving no financial help from either the Mission or the seminary, which was contrary to the practice at the time. However, Aganbi had made up his mind to minister among his own people in Eku, so he returned home in 1935, making Eku his headquarters for trying to reach other villages. He began his work in Eku with great zeal, traveling around on foot and by bicycle, establishing churches and coordinating the work of the mission in Urhobo land (Delta State). He trained laymen to read and write, in order to make them more effective in the service of God.
Furthermore, Aganbi made survey visits to towns and villages where there were Baptist churches, and to places where he felt churches should be established. He then established churches and schools in those places, and elders were appointed as overseers. He also functioned as one of the managers of the schools in the area for quite some time. When Dr. and Mrs. Casin (missionaries of the Southern Baptist Convention, USA) visited the Sapele District Association, they were told about the good work that Aganbi was doing in Urhobo District 11 at Eku. Consequently, other missionaries of the Southern Baptist Convention started coming to Eku. Whenever they came, they were usually lodged in private residences, so Aganbi initiated the building of a mission house in Eku. He saw to its completion, and it served to provide accommodation for the visiting missionaries.
Through Aganbi’s efforts, a Baptist school was founded in Eku in 1934. He also established churches and schools at Igun, Ovwere, Kokori Inland, Erho -Abraka, Sanubi, Ugono-Orogun, Edjeba, Asagba, and Obiaruku, all in the Delta area of Nigeria. He also organized weekly evangelistic campaigns in the streets of Eku and was involved in personal door-to-door evangelism. Through his evangelistic efforts, many souls were won to Christ and many churches were planted.
It was through his personal efforts that the Baptist hospital was brought to Eku. He explained to the missionaries and to the Nigerian Baptist Convention the importance of having a hospital in that place, and the approval was given. The Baptist hospital in Eku started as a small clinic, and Dr. H. B. Canning was the first medical doctor to work there.
Aganbi translated songs from the Broadman Hymnal and the Baptist Hymnal into Urhobo. The Urhobo Christians will always remember him for that, as he did such excellent translation work.
Aganbi was a man of benevolent, gentle, humble, and peaceful disposition who positively impacted the lives of others. He was an intelligent, talented, and prayerful servant of God who used his energy, possessions, talents, and time for God, and he worked well with others.
He encouraged and motivated people to go to school and learn. In those days, when the formal education of girls was not encouraged, Aganbi encouraged people to have them educated along with the boys. He would organize breakfast and study in his compound for students in higher education, in order to encourage and motivate them in their studies. He also supported some of them financially out of his meager salary.
Aganbi used the pulpit and other means of educating people about health and sanitation. He also educated students and teachers about health and sanitation in the schools. His life’s motto was: “Service to God and humanity.” His selfless life and service caught the attention of many people, and many patterned their lives after his. Some of the people whose lives were touched by this servant of God are: Rev. E. A. Ejovi, Rev. P. E. Ofuoku, and Chief J. E. Ukueku, among others.
Aganbi died on September 25, 1957, at the age of sixty-three. Aganbi had been used by God to bless many lives, and although he is now dead, he lives on in the hearts of many people today. In recognition of his service to the church and to humanity, two schools and a church were named after him in Eku.
Isaac Ese Oghene Ekpon
Arawore, E., History of the Church in Urhobo Land (Ugheli: Akpovire Printing Press, undated).
Ejovi, E. O., Rev. Jove Ejovi Aganbi: The Selfless Man (Ikeja: Functional Publishing Company, 2003.
Ofuoku, P. E., A History of Eku (Ikeja: Functional Publishing Company, 2004).
Tetsola, E. A., Highlights of Delta State Baptist Conference at 10 (1993-2003), (Ikeja: Functional Publishing Company, 2004).
This article, received in 2010, was written by Isaac Ese Oghene Ekpon at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, under the supervision of Dr. Michael Leke Ogunewu, and the rev. Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.
Aganbi, Jove Ejovi, Nigeria, Nigerian Baptist Convention