Samuel OreOlorun Aladesida was one of the few members of the African laity who contributed immensely to the growth of Christian work in his locality. He contributed to the growth of Baptist work in Lagos, where he lived and worked, as well as in Owo Ondo State, his place of birth. Beyond that, he made an immense contribution to the progress of ecumenical mission in Nigeria by promoting ecumenical work among the various Christian denominations. His contribution to mission and evangelism was very significant.
Family background and upbringing
Samuel OreOlorun Aladesida was born on April 1, 1932 in Owo, Ondo State, Nigeria. His birth was special to his parents, especially the mother, because he was the first and only child for them. His father, who died a month after Samuel was born, was named Adafen Adesida. His mother’s name was Esther Ijabadewa Ologan (now Obaseki). The responsibility for taking care of the young Samuel “OreOlorun,” meaning “gift of God” fell to his mother, who relocated to Lagos hoping that she could take better care of him there. The move to Lagos afforded some relatives living in Lagos the opportunity of helping to nurture him, along with his mother, up to school age level.
On reaching school age Samuel and his mother returned to Owo so that he could commence his primary school education. He was registered at the Methodist Primary School, Fajuyi Road, Owo, Ondo State, as Samuel “OreOlorun” Aladesida, and he completed his primary education there. He then moved down to Lagos to live with his mother and stepfather, as his mother had remarried. He also lived with his mother’s brother, Ayo Obaseki, who was then living in Lagos. There is no record that he attended secondary school, but while living in Lagos with the people mentioned above, he educated himself through private effort to a higher level of schooling. This zeal for higher learning led to his enrolment in the Nigerian Port Authority Training School in 1952, and he completed the training in 1955. He registered with some external examination bodies on his own, through which he studied privately to write and pass various certification courses of the City and of the Guilds of London, with a specialization in fabrication engineering.
Secular Work Experience
Aladesida’s excellent performance at the Nigerian Port Authority Training School afforded him the privilege of employment at the Nigerian Port Authority from 1955 to 1956. He worked with the Nigerian Port Authority until he attained retirement age in 1985. He was diligent, hardworking, and forthright while he worked there. He was a member of the Workers Union, helping to represent and to defend the interests of his co-workers before the Nigerian Port Authority management, and he was also appointed as a special Trade Test Officer by the Federal Ministry of Labor from 1974 to 1985, when he finally retired from government employment.
Aladesida married the former Miss Florence Jaiyeola on the December 26, 1962 at Owo, Ondo State. Florence Aladesida was a trained teacher and she taught until her retirement. Their marriage was blessed with children, who include: Mr. Olumide Aladesida, Mrs. Mopelola Fatunbi, Mr. Olanrewaju Aladesida, Mr. Olayinka Aladesida, Pastor Adeola Aladesida, and Mrs. Bola Abioye. Samuel and Florence Aladesida lived together as husband and wife until his death on March 17, 2009.
Aladesida’s Christian journey started in the Methodist Church in Owo, Ondo State. As a young lad, he worshipped and served the Lord in the church, and he was in the choir. It was in the church that he met the Lord Jesus Christ and accepted Him as his Lord and Savior, although the exact year, month, and day cannot be recalled. However, when he relocated to Lagos, he stopped attending the Methodist Church, joining Calvary Baptist Church at Marine Beach, Apapa, Lagos, on his arrival there in 1951. His biological mother happened to be one of the founding members of that church, which surely influenced his decision. His membership was accepted upon his confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and his subsequent submission for baptism by immersion. He was baptized along with others by Rev. R. A. D. Tella on June 16, 1957 at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Campbell Street, Lagos, which was the first African indigenous church started without the support and active participation of missionaries. He was an active, dedicated, loyal, and hardworking member of the church. His dedication and commitment led to his being appointed as an officer and worker there, and he was for many years the choirmaster and organist. He also served as patron of the church choir from 1979 until he died. As a devoted Christian, he was appointed church leader on many occasions, before a pastor was posted or called, or in the absence, exit, or transfer of the church’s pastor. As a lay member, he often led the church in worship, teaching, and preaching, from the 1960s to the 1980s. In recognition of his leadership role, he was elected, along with others, as a deacon, in June, 1982, and he served as an active deacon until his death.
Aladesida’s service went beyond his local church. He was a notable figure in his denomination on the level of the local church, of the association, of the conference, and of the convention. His leadership ability had a positive effect on the Baptist Association, the Conference, and the Convention. He served ecumenical bodies such as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) faithfully. Although not an ordained clergyman, he made an immense contribution to the physical, numerical, and spiritual growth of his local church and his denomination, and to the ecumenical bodies mentioned above.
Denominational and ecumenical responsibilities
Samuel Aladesida served in numerous capacities in a great number of Baptist associations, ecumenical associations, and non-Christian agencies and councils. Aladesida was vice chairman of the Lagos 1 Baptist Association, which multiplied into several Baptist Associations comprised of many Baptist Churches in Lagos State. He was the pioneer moderator of the Apapa Baptist Association, which was carved out of the Lagos 1 Baptist Association. The Apapa Baptist Association also multiplied into two associations before his death. He was also secretary of the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN), Lagos Branch. While serving as secretary, he played an active role in empowering the clergy through ecumenical and evangelistic training. He collaborated with other members of the council to be a source of educational scholarships for them from the World Council of Churches. He himself benefited from the training that led to his diploma in ecumenical learning from the Center for Applied Religion and Education, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.
As a deacon, Aladesida’s involvement in ecumenism also afforded him the opportunity of serving as executive director of the Nigeria Urban and Rural Industrial Mission, a non-governmental agency involved in taking missions and evangelism to industrial workers in their workplace. Many workers testified to the blessings they received through the industrial mission physically, spiritually and mentally. As an ecumenical promoter, he was a lifelong member of the Fellowship of Christian Ministers, Lagos Branch, and also a life member of the Bible Society of Nigeria. He served as an executive member of both the Christian Council of Nigeria, South West Zone, and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lagos Branch. Additionally, he was chairman of Personnel and Welfare for the Baptist workers in the Lagos Baptist Conference for about seven years, where he brought about improvements to the salary and to the welfare package of the workers. He was an executive member of the council of both the Lagos Baptist Conference and the Nigerian Baptist Convention for some years (not less than six, respectively). Aladesida was also a member of the governing council of the Baptist Model High School, Ijegun, an institution owned by the Lagos State Baptist Conference. He acted as the chairman of the Lagos State Baptist Conference Committee on the return of mission schools that had been taken over by the military government, and succeeded in securing the release of the Baptist Academy in Obanikoro, Lagos; the Reagan Memorial Baptist Girls High School in Yaba, Lagos; and the Shepherd Hill Baptist Girls Academy and Baptist Grammar School in Agbowa Ikosi, Lagos. At one time, Aladesida also served as the treasurer of the Nigeria Agency for Voluntary Development Organization (NAVDO) that was based in Ibadan, Oyo State. He was an ambassador of peace because of his involvement in ecumenism, and also participated in an International Peace Summit sponsored by the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1992. He served in all these various capacities between 1986 and 2006.
Contributions to Christianity
Aladesida nurtured Calvary Baptist Church in Apapa to maturity, in cooperation with others, as a lay-leader. He also nurtured to maturity Christ Church, Beachland Estate (an English-speaking congregation and a non-denominational church), by coordinating worship there from 1992 until the time the church was mature enough to call a full time, trained minister. In cooperation with other members of his local church, he planted the following churches: First Baptist Church, Ajegunle, Apapa in 1961; Grace Community Baptist Church, Olodi, Apapa in 1978; Calvary Baptist Church, Ijora-Oloye, Apapa in 1991. His administrative giftedness resulted in the acceptance of a new welfare package by the Lagos State Baptist Conference. His committee recommended this package after a thorough study of salaries, wages, and allowances due to pastors and other church workers. His leadership ability also led to the smooth takeover of schools that were returned to their original owners in Lagos State. Also, although he was not directly involved in the publication of Christian literature, he served until the end of his life as an agent for Charles Spurgeon’s works in Nigeria, helping to distribute writings by Spurgeon to individuals and groups in order to enhance their Christian life and commitment. Additionally, he was an unrelenting promoter of ecumenism in the church at large. In 1997, in recognition of his service to God and man, the Institute of Financial Management honored him with a doctoral degree honoris causa.
There is no doubt that the layman Samuel OreOlorun Aladesida made a very significant contribution to the growth of Baptist work in Nigeria. His name means “gift of God,” and he was a gift not only to his family, to his church, and to his denomination, but also to the entire Christian family in Nigeria. He was a church musician and organist, a church minister and evangelist, and an administrator par excellence. Above all, he was an ecumenist who contributed greatly to the peace and unity of the Christian churches in Nigeria.
Joseph Olufemi Asha
Extracts gleaned from the biography of late deacon (Dr.) Samuel OreOlorun Aladesida printed in the burial and funeral service program used on May 2, 2009 at First Baptist Church, Okedogbon Street, Owo, Ondo State.
Extracts from minutes, Lagos State Baptist Conference meetings, in which Aladesida was an officer.
Immediate family members of Samuel OreOlorun Aladesida, interview/questionnaire guide administered by author.
Select individuals who worked with Aladesida, interviews by author.
This article, submitted in 2010, was written and researched by Joseph Olufemi Asha, PhD. candidate at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, under the supervision of Rev. Dr. Deji Ayegboyin and Dr. Michael Ogunewu.