Akeredolu, Jeremiah Olatusi
First Anglican bishop of Akoko diocese.
Jeremiah Olatusi Akeredolu was born on November 15, 1915, to Prince George and Sarah Akeredolu in the Ilekalu ruling house of Ikare Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria. He was the third child of the marriage, and his grandfather Oria (ori-owa–head of the throne) was said to have predicted that Olatusi would become a high priest of Ifa. As God ordained it, he became a high priest in the church instead.
He experienced a lot of trials and tribulations early on in life. He was one of the first recipients of the earliest form of western education in Akoko when Mr. Oseni, a C.M.S. catechist from Owo, started “home lessons” around 1920. His name is the very first on the school register in the first primary school established in Akoko on January 6, 1921, by Rev. Lennan, a Jamaican missionary who later became archdeacon.
His father died in May of 1924 and the burden of his education fell on his uncle, Akintola, who also died suddenly eight months later. When that happened, Akeredolu had to drop out of school to work on the farm. In August of 1925, Mr. Daniel Latunde, who was an older cousin and a postmaster in Lagos, decided to take him to live in Lagos. He was enrolled at Bethel African Church School, Ebute-Metta, and he became a choirboy at St. Jude’s Anglican Church, Ebute-Metta (now a cathedral). In 1927, he returned to Ikare to live with his maternal uncle Aguda, who had offered to train him at home.
Once again, this uncle died four months later, and he concluded that the door to his education had been definitively closed. He returned to the farm until 1929, when his mother felt she could cope with his education, which had been one of his father’s wishes. He did schoolwork in the morning and did farm work in the afternoon. In 1930, while working on the farm, he broke his left leg. He developed tetanus, and battled for his life for the next two years, being taken to various healing homes like Joseph Babalola’s revivals in Ikare, and the Akure dispensary (now the general hospital). His leg eventually healed, and he returned to school in 1932, being placed in standard four. However, due to his brilliance and thanks to the sympathy of his old teacher, Mr. M. A. Osanyin (later bishop of Ekiti), he was made to sit for a special test. Having achieved a high score, he was eventually placed in standard six. To the surprise of many, he finished his primary school education in December of that same year (1932). He was then posted to St. Stephen’s Primary School, Ikare as a teacher, by the venerable L. A. Lennon, and he also doubled as a Sunday school teacher in the C.M.S. Church.
He was there until 1936 when Bishop Melville Jones, the diocesan bishop of Lagos, was on a pastoral visit to the Akoko District. On that occasion he was accompanied by his wife, who happened to look in on a children’s service, and was impressed by young Olatusi’s efficient management of the approximately 300 children. She told her husband, who immediately gave him a note to give to the principal of St. Andrew’s College, Oyo, recommending him for the catechist course in 1937.
He left St. Andrew’s College in December of 1938 and was posted to St. Peter’s Church, Ogori (now in Kogi State) as a school master catechist. He built a new church and was reported to have been responsible for the conversion of the Atta (king) of Igbirra land, who was a committed Muslim. He left Ogori in 1943 and went back to Oyo for the first class catechist course. On December 23 of that year, he married his longstanding sweetheart, a former pupil of his, Margaret Abigael Tanimola, whom he had met in 1933 while teaching at St. Stephen’s Primary School. The marriage lasted forty-three years, as she died in 1990. Alaba, his fourth child, is a senior civil servant in Ondo State, and is also an archdeacon in the Akure Anglican diocese. (2010)
In 1944, he gained admission to Melville Hall, Oyo, to study theology, in view of becoming a clergyman. His contemporaries included the late archbishop Timothy Olufosoye, the venerable Okufulure, and the late venerable J. K. Famewo. He was commissioned a deacon on December 11, 1946 by Bishop L. G. Vinning at the cathedral Church of Christ, Lagos. He was made priest in the same church in 1947, and was posted to Ile-Oluji. A memorable event during his tenure there was the crowning of the Oba, the Jagun Odundun II, which took place in the church. This was done during a grand service led by Bishop A. B. Akinyele, attended by Rev. Canon Awosika, the Olubadan of Ibadan, who happened to be the younger brother of Bishop Akinyele.
In 1961, he was transferred to St. John’s Church Aroloya, Lagos, as vicar, and was made the superintendent of Badagry District. Bishop A. W. Howells eventually made him canon of the Lagos cathedral. He was thereafter transferred to Kaduna as canon resident of the cathedral, diocesan secretary, and rural dean of Kaduna deanery, at the request of Bishop J. E. L. Mort, of the newly created diocese of northern Nigeria in 1957. He was also chaplain to the Nigerian Army and Air Force, and in addition to his many other achievements, he supervised the design and construction of the cathedral of St. Michael’s, in Kaduna.
In 1961, having received a scholarship, he went to St. Augustine’s College of Theology in Canterbury, England for a course leading to the diploma in theology. He received the highest marks at the end of the course, winning a prize of 400 guineas to purchase a set of books, and a second scholarship permitting him to study human relations at the Ecumenical Institute of Theology in Geneva, Switzerland.
In 1964, he accepted the nomination to go to Owo parish in Ondo diocese, where he served as vicar of St. Andrew’s Church (now cathedral), Owo, archdeacon of Owo archdeaconry, and financial secretary of the diocese. This was his longest period of service in one place (1964 to 1978), and it was during his tenure here that he was elected chairman of the House of Clergy in Nigeria, at the provincial conference.
He became the archdeacon of Akoko in August of 1978, following the death of the former archdeacon, the venerable Olowomeye. He drew on his deep knowledge of the people to find resolutions for their problems. Here he was elected a bishop, and was consecrated on February 25, 1983, at St. Stephen’s cathedral, Okealuko Ondo, and enthroned at St. Stephen’s cathedral, Ikare, as the first Anglican bishop of Akoko diocese. He retired in December of 1985, but was soon afterwards invited by the military government of Ondo State to be the chairman of the State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board, a post he held until 1992, when he relinquished it due to old age.
In addition to being a prince, he was recognized for his contributions and was made a member of the Oba-in-council by the Olukare. He authored several books on religion and society, most notably:
The Churchman’s Manual; Iriju Rere (in Yoruba)
Pilgrimage for Evangelism; Introduction to Christianity (into Akoko)
The Church and its Denominations in Nigeria
Early Morning with Jesus Christ in Jerusalem
One Paternal Blood on One Throne
The Anglican and Sectarian Churches in Nigeria
The Holy Land of Israel and Christian Pilgrimage
He passed away peacefully in his sleep on July 16, 1998. His life of triumph over adversity is encapsulated in Matthew 10: 22, “He who endures to the end shall be saved,” and it is an encouragement for all to never to give up, for help is on the way.
The author shares the same ancestry with the bishop, and knew him personally. Akeredolu related part of his life story directly to the author before he died.
Rev. George Aduloju, interview by author, February 11, 2009. (Reverend Aduloju knew Akeredolu for over seventy years, and they shared the same ancestry).
Biography in the funeral service pamphlet for Jeremiah Olatusi Akeredolu, September 12, 1998.
Akeredolu, J. L. Our Paternal Blood On One Throne. Owo: Temidire Press, undated.
This story was written by the venerable Tayo Aduloju, cathedral priest, Cathedral Church of Christ, Lagos, who is also a postgraduate student in church history, Department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. The story was edited and submitted by Rev. Dr. Samson Adetunji Fatokun, senior lecturer in church history and Pentecostal studies, Department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria and DACB liaison coordinator.