Samuel Titilola Oladele Akande, a man who, while in office, was fondly referred to by some of his friends as “the Archbishop of the Baptist Church of Nigeria” is a Nigerian Baptist minister, held in very high esteem by the Baptist communities in Nigeria, Africa, and the world at large. He was the third indigenous general secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. He served the Convention meritoriously in various capacities from 1951 to 1991, a period of forty years. For the last twelve of those years, he was the general secretary. To his many admirers, he is a dutiful minister, a courageous preacher, a talented teacher, and the “best Nigerian Baptist leader ever produced.”
Birth and Parental Background
Samuel Akande was born in Awe in the present Oyo State of Nigeria on March 31, 1926. His father was Daniel Oladele Akande, who was the son of Papa Oyetunde Akande of the Onsa-Olapeleke’s Compound in Awe. His mother was Susainah Ayannihun, the daughter of Ayanwale, her father, and Olanbiwonninu, her mother. Samuel’s father was a Baptist, while his mother was from a Catholic home. In those days, because of denominational bias in the church at high levels, it was almost impossible for a Protestant Christian to marry a Catholic. However, due to God’s providence, the two families agreed to the marriage proposal and Susainah was given in marriage to Daniel in 1923. Three years later, they gave birth to Samuel, their first child.
Education and Early Work
A few years after his birth, Samuel’s parents migrated to the Gold Coast, the present Republic of Ghana, in search of greener pastures, taking their infant son with them. So, Samuel’s education began in Ghana, where he attended the A. M. E. Zion Primary School, the Salvation Army School, and the Aggrey Memorial Primary School until 1937, when he was brought back to his hometown of Awe. He continued his primary education in Awe at the Awe Baptist Day School in 1938, this time under the guardianship of his uncle, Mr. Abodunrin Akande, and his paternal grandmother, Madam Olatoun Ajile, as his parents were still based in Ghana. He completed his primary education at this school in 1943, and went back to Ghana to join his parents. He completed his secondary education at Adisadel College in 1949, receiving a very good grade on the London Matriculation Examination as well as on the Cambridge School Certificate Examination.
Tragically, his mother died in 1948, and his father decided to return to his hometown of Awe with his four sisters. This nearly brought an abrupt end to his secondary education, but Alhaji Shittu Olopoenia opted to be his guardian for the remaining period of his studies, and the Baptist Mission in Ghana, under Reverend W. N. Claxon, offered him a scholarship to enable him to complete his education. However, the scholarship was conditional: after the completion of his education, he was to serve the Baptist Mission as a teacher in one of their schools in Ghana. So, in 1949 he was appointed as a teacher in the Baptist Mission School in Suhum, a town in the southern part of Ghana.
While serving as a teacher with the Baptist Mission, he felt the urge to go into the ministry. He returned to Nigeria and enrolled in the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogbomoso in 1952, to be trained as a Baptist minister. At the seminary, Akande was a very brilliant and popular student. From 1952 to 1955, he was elected editor of the seminary’s magazine, Theologue. He also participated in sports, having been a good athlete since primary school. He completed his theological education with a Bachelor’s degree in theology in December of 1955.
In 1959, while serving as pastor of First Baptist Church, Fiditi in the present Oyo State of Nigeria, the Nigerian Baptist Convention awarded him a scholarship to study in the U.S.A. In America, he attended Wayland Baptist College, now Wayland Baptist University, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, from 1959 to 1962. At the former institution, he obtained a B. A. in English, obtaining a Bachelor of divinity degree from the latter. He returned to Nigeria in 1962 and worked briefly with some Baptist churches as a pastor, later returning to the United States in 1969 on a scholarship from Union Theological Seminary in New York, for his postgraduate studies. He completed an M.A. in New Testament there in 1970, and went on to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for his Ph.D. in New Testament, which he completed in 1973.
The period of time that Samuel spent as a teacher with the Baptist Mission in Ghana presented him with certain opportunities which positively influenced his life. First, it was during that time that he met Miss Comfort Olalonpe Kehinde, the lady who later became his wife. He met her on his first day at Suhum, and during their stay together in the area, they developed a relationship that culminated in their marriage on December 13, 1956. The marriage is blessed with five god-fearing children who presently hold various responsible positions. Akande’s achievements could not have been realized without the prayerful support, devotion, and unwavering faith of his wife, who believes that the duty of a Christian wife is to support her husband in prayer. His wife has been a continual source of courage and encouragement to him.
Another opportunity that presented itself to Samuel during his stay in Suhum was the one that launched him into the Gospel ministry. As a teacher in a Baptist Mission School, Akande was also involved in church activities. In 1951, he came in contact with the late Rev. J. T. Ayorinde from Nigeria, who later became the first indigenous general secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. This meeting happened during a Baptist convention at Tamale, in Ghana. One of the sermons preached at the convention by Dr. Ayorinde was entitled “Preaching the Gospel Around,” and this sermon had a great influence on Akande. After the sermon, he felt the urge to go into the ministry, so he met the speaker and told him that he would like to join the ministry. The Reverend gentleman gave him all the support he needed, and he returned to Nigeria in 1952 to enter the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomosho.
Upon his graduation from the seminary, he was engaged to pastor the First Baptist Church, in Fiditi, Nigeria. It was while serving at this church that he was ordained as a full gospel minister on October 13, 1957. Akande commanded great respect in that church, and he was also seen as a role model by the youths of the town. He was at Fiditi until 1959, when he won a scholarship to study in the U.S.A. Returning to Nigeria from America in 1962, Akande secured a pastoral job at Ago-Owu Baptist Church in Abeokuta, where he had a successful and memorable ministry that lasted four years. During his four years of pastoral leadership at Ago-Owu Baptist Church, the church witnessed tremendous spiritual and numerical growth.
Before his appointment as pastor of the church, some members had been accused of being members of the Ogboni Fraternity, a notable secret cult in the southwest of Nigeria. These people had been excommunicated from the church by his predecessor, but when Akande became pastor of the church, he decided to recall them. He invited the affected members back into the church, thinking that they could be counseled, with the help of the Scriptures, to see the evil effect of cultism in their Christian life. His effort yielded a positive result, and these men later renounced their membership of the cult, living instead for the Lord Jesus Christ and dying committed to his cause. In all, Akande served the Ago-Owu Baptist Church in his capacity as pastor from 1962 to 1965, a period of three years.
Leaving the Ago-Owu Baptist Church in December of 1965, he moved to the Ebenezer Baptist Church on Campbell Street, in Lagos, where he resumed work in January of 1966. At the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Akande was known for his sermons against Christian membership in the Ogboni cult. At the time, membership in secret societies was a serious menace to the churches, as some members still preferred to have one leg in the church and another in the cult. However, Akande’s sermons became quite popular in Lagos in this regard, and churches of other denominations, such as the Methodists and the Anglicans, invited him on various occasions to deliver sermons. In the mid and late 1960s, his name became a household name among Christians in Lagos. He was a regular guest preacher on the television and radio stations in Lagos and Ibadan. He was so loved and so highly respected that many elderly people told him, and their children, that he must officiate and deliver the sermon at their funeral. Young couples who were planning their weddings were besieging his office to consult his engagement diary before scheduling dates for their weddings, because they wanted him to officiate and to deliver a sermon. It was a great period in Akande’s life, and he had to adjust to his new found position as a busy minister of the gospel who was in high demand.
In 1969, while serving as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, he secured another scholarship from Union Theological Seminary in America for his postgraduate studies in New Testament. He was in America from August of 1969 to December of 1973, completing his Masters and Ph.D. programs. Returning to Nigeria in December of 1973, Akande taught at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso. He served as an associate professor at the seminary until December of 1976, when he was invited to become pastor of the Oritamefa Baptist Church in Ibadan.
Although his stay at the Oritamefa Baptist Church was quite brief, the Lord blessed his ministry during those years, and the membership increased tremendously. The Sunday worship services were well attended by both Baptists and non-Baptists, and it was reported that the church was always filled to capacity, to the extent that worshippers who arrived at the church after 9:30 a.m. usually did not get seats. Some would stand throughout the worship service and some would sit with members of the choir, while others would sit on the rostrum around the pulpit just to be able to worship on Sunday and listen to Akande’s sermons. To make his sermons available to members of the church and other interested members of the public, he introduced a unique tape recording ministry, which flourished tremendously. The Sunday sermons were recorded and made available to interested members for a modest fee. He also introduced the printing of these sermons, which were always distributed to worshippers on the following Sunday. All of these factors contributed greatly to the spiritual growth of the members during his tenure as pastor of the church. As a courageous and fearless preacher, his sermons against membership in secret cults, for which he was known in Lagos, continued at the Oritamefa Baptist Church. During one of those sermons on a Sunday in 1977, an eyewitness gave the following vivid account:
The church was packed full. The media, both electronic and print, was highly represented. It is even possible that members of the secret cults were themselves present. Some members were afraid of what might happen to their pastor, given the viciousness with which cultists were known to have dealt with persons, including some pastors, who openly divulged their secrets. After the choir special, Dr. Akande mounted the pulpit. The whole atmosphere was charged. Anxiety filled the whole sanctuary. He fired on, exposing their secrets, denouncing the evil of cultism and then gave invitation. It was in the news all over town. Of course, he was threatened later and told that he would die within seven days! He is still living today.
Leadership of the Nigerian Baptist Convention
From March 1977 through April 1979, Akande served as the president of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, and in April of 1979, he was appointed general secretary. As a reformer and an agent of change, he was determined to leave his mark as a facilitator of positive development in the Nigerian Baptist Convention. His tenure witnessed giant strides in administrative innovations and spiritual development.
(a) Staff Motivation and Welfare
Staff motivation and welfare was high on his agenda. First, he introduced a special and periodical “Appreciation Service”, for church pastors who had served any Baptist Church or the Convention for a period of five years or more. These services, over the years, have served as a source of encouragement to ministers in their work. Congregations have also been using the occasion of such services to really show appreciation to their pastors by presenting them with valuable gifts, written citations, and certificates. Realizing that there was also a need to appreciate retired ministers, he introduced the awarding of “Certificates of Meritorious Services” to ministers of the Nigerian Baptist Convention who have retired from the services of the Convention after years of meritorious service. Prominent among the certificates introduced at the time was a certificate for “Excellence for growth in church membership, baptism, and founding of new churches.” He introduced this in collaboration with Rev. R. L. Locke, the Southern Baptist missionary with whom he also co-founded the Oke-Bola Baptist Church. He also introduced Certificates of Merit to the first one hundred churches on the Honor Roll in their cooperative giving to the Convention. These presentations served to recognize work well done and to help to motivate ministers and members to do greater work. They also resulted in the expansion of Baptist work in Nigeria during Akande’s tenure as general secretary.
He introduced a new self-administered pension scheme to the Convention, which enabled retired Baptist personnel to collect reasonable gratuities at retirement and also enabled their gratuities to be paid in record time. To forestall the exodus of pastors from the Convention into the civil and teaching services, he set up a Salary Review Committee to review pastors’ salaries, recommending to the committee that they present generous proposals that would be in line with the salaries of civil servants. This great achievement was complemented by the preparation, for the first time within the Convention, of a “Booklet on the Conditions of Service for Workers of the NBC.” As a result, the salary scale for pastors became equivalent to that of salary scales for civil service, and the exodus of personnel from the Convention was reduced. It would therefore not be an exaggeration to say that his tenure resulted in better salary structures and improved conditions of service for Baptist pastors and workers.
(b) Evangelism and Church Growth
Akande loves evangelism, and before his appointment as general secretary of the NBC, he was involved in many church planting activities. He was a co-founder, with Southern Baptist missionary Rev. R. L. Locke, of the Oke-Bola Baptist Church, Ibadan (English Speaking), which was later renamed New Reservation Area Baptist Church, and was its honorary pastor from 1979 to 1989. He also co-founded the University of Ibadan Baptist Church, with Professor J. T. Okedola. Apart from the contribution of his pastoral ministry to church growth, the motivation which he gave to pastors and members alike led to the expansion of the Baptist ministry in Nigeria. Specifically, there was a phenomenal increase in Baptist churches and preaching stations, which went from about two to three thousand. The Student Ministries department was also established during his time as Convention secretary. Correspondingly, the Convention started to assume an increasing financial responsibility for student ministry, which helped to foster this arm of the Convention as students were ministered to, cared for, and integrated into the life of the church.
(c) Contribution to Education
Akande was instrumental to the establishment of the department of Religious Studies at Ahmadu Bello University, in Zaria. In 1984, the university approached the executive committee of the NBC about its intention to open a department of Christian Religious Studies, stipulating that the Convention should provide a teacher to head the department and pay a salary for two years. Akande worked assiduously to fulfill this condition, and the department was opened. He also used his position as regional secretary for Africa of the Baptist World Alliance to assist the newly created department to arrange for theological books for its library. Through his influence, 948 theological books were sent to the department from the Baptist World Alliance in America. As the general secretary of the NBC, Akande helped promote intellectualism within the Convention by contributing to the education of many pastors and young students, encouraging a good number of them to further their studies. To make this easier, he matched this encouragement with action by pursuing and securing scholarships for many of them. In 1980, he initiated an exchange program between the NBC and Quachita Baptist University in Arkansas, U.S. A. This program gave many pastors of the NBC the opportunity of overseas studies. Those who benefited from these programs will never forget his great contribution to their lives in this area.
(d) Contribution to Economic Development
Before his appointment as general secretary of the NBC, many properties of the Baptist Mission and of the Convention had been compulsorily acquired by the government. On his assumption of office, he fought relentlessly to get compensation for some of these properties, and it was through his relentless effort that the NBC was able to secure an allocation of land at Abuja, the new Nigerian Federal Capital territory.
An Accomplished Author
Akande is an accomplished and educated author who sought to educate the masses through his many publications. His book “The Courage to Live,” published in 1986 by Macmillan Publishers, Nigeria Limited, is a masterpiece. It contains admonitions on how to advance through life courageously, living a life that is worthwhile. The home is another area that is of special interest to him, and some of his books offer encouragement and admonition to couples on how to sustain their marriages, manage their homes, and bring up their children in the fear of God. He is also an anti-corruption crusader, and some of his works deal with the evil practices of corruption, greed, and excessive love for money which have remained a recurring problem within our society and which have been a bane to the progress of our nation economically, politically, educationally, and socially. Some of his published works include: “Marriage and Home-Making in Nigerian Society” (1971); “What to do when Someone Dies: A Handbook of Information for Families in the Crisis of Death” (1976); “Common Family Problems: Advice and Counsel on Eight Problems in Family Life” (1977); and “An Invitation to become One Family in God: A Study of the Ephesian Epistle” (1977), which are published by the Daystar Press, Ibadan. Others are: “The Doctrine of Eschatology: Its Relevance to our Present Day Evangelistic Programme” (1974); “Prevent a Divorce in Your Marriage” (1981); and “For Better, For Worse” (1986), all published by the Baptist Press, Ibadan.
Akande held many positions within the body of Christ, both at home and abroad. On the home front, he was a member of the Translation Committee of the Bible Society of Nigeria from 1980 to 1991; a member of the Standing Committee of the Christian Council of Nigeria, 1976 to 1991; and president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Oyo State Chapter, 1985 to 1990. He was also appointed by the Federal Government of Nigeria to be a member of the Panel on the Implications of Nigeria’s membership in the “Organization of [the] Islamic Council” (OIC) in 1986, and the Advisory Council of Religious Affairs, from 1987 to 1989. As a contribution towards religious peace in Nigeria, he was co-founder, with Alhaji Abdul Azeez Arisekola Alao, (a Nigerian Muslim leader and a staunch promoter of the Muslim faith), of an organization called “The Christian/Muslim Peace Movement of Nigeria,” in 1990. He held the following appointments at the international level: member, International Society for the Study of the New Testament (SNTS) 1977; member, Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, from 1977 to 1983 and 1984 to 1991; member, Central Committee of the World Council of Churches; member, General Council of the Baptist World Alliance, 1978 to 1992; general secretary/treasurer of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship, and Baptist World Alliance regional secretary for Africa, 1982 to 1992.
Akande is a multi-faceted man: a gifted, courageous, and fearless preacher; an astute and tireless pastor; a forthright theologian; an able and accomplished administrator; a committed and uncompromising leader, and an unwavering Christian. He is a loving husband to his wife and a dutiful father to his children. He is a man of honor, integrity, and the fear of the Lord, and a gospel minister of no mean achievement, who has been an agent of positive changes in his own time. The luster and pride he has brought to bear on the NBC in particular, and to the Christian faith in general, is great. It is no wonder that the entire 1977 Master of Divinity class of the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomosho, who reviewed the activities and performance of Nigerian Baptist leaders, concluded the following: “Though controversial while in office and out of office, yet S. T. Ola Akande is the best Nigerian Baptist leader ever produced.”
Akande served the Baptist communities in Nigeria from 1951, when he answered the call into the ministry, to his retirement from the office of the general secretary in 1991, a period of forty years. During this time, he served as pastor, church administrator, seminary teacher president, and general secretary of the NBC for the final twelve years. A great number of Baptists can testify to the fact that the NBC made great strides forward during those twelve years.
Michael Leke Ogunewu
Olaseni O. Egbeyemi and S. T. Ola Akande, Agent of Change. Ibadan: GLJ General Services Ltd., 1996.
Ademola Ishola and Deji Ayegboyin, “Ecclesiastes, The Preacher, the Church and Contemporary Society,” paper in honor of Rev. Dr. S. T. Ola Akande, Ph.D. at 80, Ibadan: Sceptre Print Limited, 2006.
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.