John Adepoju Ajani was born in the year 1891. His ancestral home was Isemi-Ile, near Ado Awaye, in Oyo State. His ancestors fled to Eruwa and settled at what is now known as Eekanko compound, Anko Eruwa. His father was Folasade Ajani, the son of Eekanko. His mother, Yiyinola (Nee Olaogun), was the most junior of Folasade Ajani’s wives. His mother hailed from Jagun Fagbohun compound, Anko Eruwa. Ajani spent his childhood in Eruwa and Lanlate.
Young Ajani was inspired to learn to read and write after meeting Mr. Sanusi from Ibadan. He began to learn the Yoruba alphabet and, in 1911, to achieve his own goals in higher learning, he ran away from home to live with a teacher, Mr. Mokolade of Iseyin, who taught in Lanlate. Upon leaving his home, Ajani gave his life to Jesus and was baptized in 1914 by Reverend Agboola, father of the Reverend John Agboola, Jr.
In 1915, Ajani joined Reverend Lockett, an American Baptist missionary, who lived in Oyo. Ajani and his cousin John Eesuola were admitted to the Baptist School in Oke-Saje, Abeokuta. They both worked as farm laborers in order to provide for themselves and pay school fees. Unfortunately, Ajani had to leave school when his cousin gave in to family pressure and returned to Eruwa in order to get married. Ajani moved with him, but later the two ran away from Eruwa to live with Dr. H. McCormick, a Baptist missionary in Ogbomoso.
Ajani completed his standard six in 1923 and attended the Baptist College in 1925. While finishing his education, he taught at the Baptist Day School in Ogbomoso and eventually was admitted to the Baptist Seminary, Ogbomoso in 1932. Recounting these events in 1988, at the age of 97, he fondly mentioned all of his first year seminary mates. He recalled that he was a very neat student and was teased by Miss Ruth Kersey, a missionary at the school, who said he would not have to marry because his room was always the tidiest! He graduated from the school in 1934. d
Despite Miss Kersey’s predictions, Ajani married Christiana Wuraola Olarinde in February 1932. Sadly, she died the following year in December. He then married Grace Omikunle in 1935 and the marriage was blessed with six children. Grace died in 1970.
After graduating from seminary, Ajani became the pastor of Okelerin Baptist Church in Ogbomoso. He was instrumental in spreading Christianity throughout the area and established a number of churches in Zungeru, Keffi, Katchina, and Lokoja. Ajani worked to establish schools as a means of education and evangelism in Ogbomoso when he was transferred to Igosun in 1939. He led his new church in Ejigbo in expanding their evangelical work to Isundunrin, Iwata, to Togo and Dahomey among the Ejigbo people in diaspora. Ajani had a particular interest in the life and health of the children he met. Taking in and supporting the children of relatives and church members, he worked very hard to give children as many opportunities as possible. While in Ejigbo, he contributed immensely to the conversion of Muslim youth.
Ajani was ordained on July 5, 1942. Many years later, he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination at the Baptist Chapel in Orita Eruwa. He was the Nigerian Baptist Convention field worker from January 1954 until December 1966, when he retired. His position as a field worker allowed him to travel all over Nigeria and Ghana. Four years after his retirement as a field worker, Ebenezer Baptist Church invited him to serve as pastor, which he did from 1970 to 1973. In the following years, he was instrumental in founding New Eruwa Baptist Church and the Baptist Chapel in Eruwa.
As the church grew under his leadership, Ajani developed an interest in civil development. He was one of the founding fathers of the Oke-Ogun Progressive Union, a socio-religious organization which organized the establishment of Oke-Ogun Baptist Grammar School, Orita Eruwa. In the wake of its success, he established the Eruwa Progressive Union, a similar organization focused on the development of his hometown. For this, he was installed the “Bobajiroro of Eruwa” by His Royal Highness Bolanle Olaniyan Gbajumola II in 1973. This is a chieftaincy title, and it honored Ajani as an adviser to the king.
In becoming the Bobajiroro of Eruwa, Ajani was viewed in the community as a man of God and one who deserved respect. Ajani remained humble, however, throughout his life. While advancing his education, he met with tutors who were often younger than him. He showed them a great deal of respect, which, in turn, taught the young people to respect the older students in their midst. He enjoyed the good counsel of the youth in his community and was encouraged by J. T. Ayorinde and E. A. Dahunsi, college aged boys at the time, to return to school and receive his degree.
John Ajani was a long time member in good standing of the scout organization. In 1988, the Oyo State government, during the regime of Governor Oresanya honored him with the “Silver Eagle Award,” a merit award for the oldest and longest serving scout in Nigeria.
On Tuesday, October 13, 1992, John Ajani breathed his last at the age of one hundred and one.
Oludele Olugbade A.
Ajani, J. A. “Sharing the Experiences of my College and Seminary Days at the Founders’ Day of Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, May 3, 1983.”
Atilade, E. A. (Archbishop). “Rev’d. Adepoju Ajani Has Gone For His Reward.” This was a poem wrote and read at his burial by Atilade his old schoolmate and friend.
Daily Sketch, No. 9814, Thursday, December 15, 1988. (Daily Sketch was a daily newspaper in Nigeria).
Order of Funeral Service for Baba Rev. (Chief) John Adepoju Ajani - BTH (JP) Baptist Chapel Orita Eruwa, Oyo State, Nigeria.
This article, received in 2007, was researched and written by Oludele Olugbade A., at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, under the supervision of Rev. Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.