Paul the apostle, while communicating with the Corinthian church wrote, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” (I Cor. 1:26-29). Emmanuel Bankole was a man of God, and this verse gives us a glimpse of what his life was like.
A humble beginning
On December 24, 1935, in Arigbajo village near Ifo town, in Ogun State, Nigeria, Emmanuel Abiodun Oladimeji Bankole was born to Mr. Bankole Gbadebo and Mrs. Beatrice Oluwafunmilayo Bankole, and Emmanuel’s glorious seventy-three year long pilgrimage began. He was the first born of his father but not of his mother, who was a widow. According to his testimony, he was born a privileged child. His father married very late and for many years had no children. When he finally had a child it was a boy, hence the name Oladimeji, meaning “double honor.” Also, he was born on Christmas Eve, hence the names Abiodun (born at festival time or toward the end of year), and Emmanuel (God with us) in remembrance of the “God with us” whose birth is celebrated on December 25.
Bankole grew up as a village boy who had his primary school education delayed for financial reasons. In 1945 he started his primary education at the age of ten. Seeing himself as one not given to academics, he moved to Abeokuta to learn a trade after completing his primary education, and then came back to continue life in the village. In 1957 Bankole travelled to Lagos seeking greener pastures, not knowing what he would face there. Aside from a few friends, he knew no one in Lagos, and his friends were mostly drivers, electricians, mechanics, and such, with whom he roomed. He soon enrolled as an electrical technician trainee in the Ikoyi and Victoria Island areas of Lagos. Life was hard, but he was determined, hoping and trying to become better in life, perhaps a good contractor electrician. Living in Ajegunle Street, Ebute-Metta, he would trek through Apapa to his workplace in Victoria Island. On many occasions his meal for the day was a penny worth of beans in plenty of sauce and eba, while his “safe journey refreshment” was a pocket full of groundnuts and popcorn (guguru and epa) as he trekked back home. Most of the time he arrived home at about 9:00 pm and went to bed. While going through this tough time, Bankole always felt that things would be better some day. Two incidents in his life contributed to this feeling. First was a story he was told: while one of his aunties was playing with him one day, throwing him up in the air and catching him, she miscalculated and he fell onto a big grinding stone. He fainted, but came back to life after long and serious efforts to resuscitate him. The second incident occurred as he was carrying out electrical repairs in a pit in a police barracks. His boss called his attention to a fault that had been discovered, and on leaving the pit, his fellow apprentice-electrician jumped into the pit to continue the repairs. Suddenly the fault became a major problem, things went out of control, and the apprentice in the pit was electrocuted, dying instantly. Bankole concluded that he had twice escaped death because something better was ahead of him. Eventually, he was employed by some white expatriates to work with the United Nations Development Programs (UNDP) as an electrician.
Salvation and call to the ministry
Bankole grew up in an Anglican Church setting (the church his parents attended), but confessed to not having any real personal salvation experience with Christ until the year 1960. When he was still an apprentice electrician, he attended an open air crusade conducted on Old Yaba Road by The Foursquare Gospel Church, at 66 Akinwumi Street, Yaba. With tears, he surrendered the lordship of his life to Christ under the ministry of Rev. J. A. Boyejo, the senior pastor of the church. From that time forward, Bankole continued steadfastly in the faith and grew rapidly until he received the call of God to the ministry.
A new and much better life had started for him, just as he had envisaged and hoped. In January of 1968 Bankole enrolled in LIFE Bible College (now LIFE Theological Seminary) in Ikorodu for a part-time Diploma Program in Bible and Theology. He graduated in November of 1971 along with his close friend Rev. G. O. Farombi, a one time general overseer of the Foursquare Church in Nigeria, and Rev. Dr. E. O. Adeogun. Because he had only received a primary school education and the ministerial training at LIFE Bible College, Bankole worked hard to improve. This right attitude to work endeared him to the whites in the UNDP. Having risen from the bottom to some level of comfort, it was difficult for him to give up the comfort of his secular job for the meager salary of the ministry. He opted for part-time or bi-vocational ministry until he understood the meaning of faith as, “Forsaking all, I trust in him.” After some years, in the early part of 1972, he resigned his employment with the UNDP for a full-time ministry with the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria.
Toward the later part of his ministerial training, Bankole was delegated by his pastor to be the church baptizer. Among those he baptized in 1971 was the woman he was to marry the following year. In 1972 Beatrice Oluwafunmilayo became Mrs. Bankole, and they had their first child in 1973. This was a joyful event for Bankole, who was thirty-eight years old at the time, as he had married late, like his father. The child, being a girl, was named Evelyn Oluwasola. Two years later, in 1975, the second and the last born came, this time a boy, who was named Ebenezer Oluwadare. Both children have found spouses and have married.
In addition to the internal factors of personal conviction, the leading of the Spirit, and the testimony of the brethren, Bankole’s call to the ministry and his eventual enrollment in a Bible College were necessitated by some external factors as well. In the late 1960s, Nigeria went through the crisis of civil war. Most Foursquare ministers of eastern origin had to go back home, leaving a dearth of ministers in the Foursquare organization. The Foursquare Church was also going through its own internal crises that culminated in a split, which made the shortage of ministers even more serious. Bankole became the assistant minister to Rev. J. A. Boyejo, although he was still a minister trainee and was still working with the UNDP. Not long after his graduation from the Bible College in 1971, the demands of the ministry on him made him see the need to be full-time, so he resigned from the UNDP at the end of 1971.
Emmanuel Bankole was often referred to as “Baba the Baptist.” He was the “baptist” not only to the new converts of Yaba church, but also to the new converts from other branches who came to the headquarters church to be baptized. Converts from other Christian fellowships also came to be baptized, and Bankole led them to the stream for baptism. Among those fellowships was the Deeper Life Fellowship (now Deeper Life Bible Church International). In the early 1970s, Bankole was always the baptizing minister whenever the organization went on its annual youth camping trip, an event attended by Foursquare Church members of all age groups. More than being a baptizer, Bankole was an astute musician whose giftedness in music was even more prominent than his giftedness as a pastor and teacher. He loved singing and he sang so much that he became the top musician, music minister, and music director in the whole Foursquare Church of Nigeria. His giftedness in singing attracted people to him and to every church where he was a pastor. He was often referred to as the Foursquare “Nightingale,” after the nineteenth century missionary nurse whose melodious voice soothed the nerves of her numerous patients. As a “singing” pastor, he ministered to many church members, ministers, choirs, and choir leaders in the ministry of the gospel. He was an anointed baritone singer and his natural baritone voice was very inspiring to people. He was the first trombonist in the Foursquare Movement, a member of the first Foursquare quartet, which featured prominently in ELWA radio programs in Monrovia, Liberia, and Igbaja, Nigeria. In the capacity of the national choir director, he accompanied the sixty-six Foursquare delegates to the 12th World Pentecostal Conference in Vancouver, Canada in 1979. He led the delegates to sing in Vancouver, in Angeles Temple (the Foursquare International Headquarters Church) in Los Angeles, and in Florence Avenue Foursquare Church in California, USA. He also made a trip to Zurich, Switzerland in 1982. Earlier in 1979 Bankole visited Ghana in the company of Rev. G. O. Farombi, who was the national music director at that time, and in 1985 he also visited Kenya. These travels were mainly for ministerial purposes. By1984 when Rev. G. O. Farombi became the general overseer, Rev. Bankole assumed full leadership of the music ministry as both the national choir director and the national music director for the next four years.
Although he was very gifted in music, Bankole preferred being a pastor to being a professional musician. As a member of the clergy, he was a pastor/teacher and a counselor and he pastored many Foursquare churches from 1971 until his retirement, in 1996.  Each of these churches is presently either a District Headquarters Church or a Zonal Headquarters Church.
Bankole carried out his ministerial duties in a manner that reflected the literal meaning of his name, which was “help me build [the] house.” He was a true builder of men spiritually, and also a builder of church structures, so he built for God and for men. On many occasions, it was after he had completed the building of a church structure that he was transferred to a church that was in need of having a church built. After laboring to plant many churches in the Agege zone, the zone became large enough to be made a district. Bankole was dismayed and disappointed when another minister was made the district overseer, while he was transferred to another zone as a zonal superintendent. During one of these transfers, the church members tried to resist the transfer, but like a loyal steward he said, “Right or wrong, the master must be obeyed.” He opted to proceed with the transfer, having learned to live joyfully.
Emmanuel Bankole’s multi-giftedness also manifested itself in his teaching ministry, which was a blessing to most of the people he pastored. He was the first Foursquare teacher in the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) program, and he fulfilled this task until more qualified teachers were available. It is no wonder that he was the first president of the LIFE Bible College Alumni Fellowship.
Tirelessly, Bankole labored in the Lord’s vineyard until he retired from active ministry in 1990 for health reasons, at age sixty-five. At retirement he was the zonal superintendent of Abesan zone and the pastor in charge of Abesan Zonal Headquarters Church. Even after retirement, he continued to be helpful in his church by giving counseling and carrying out other ceremonial duties like child naming and dedication, and sometimes preaching the Sunday message. On Thursday, November 27, 2008, nine years after his retirement, after leading the morning devotion at his residence, he passed away peacefully at the age of seventy-three.
Emmanuel Abiodun Oladimeji Bankole was a Christian through and through and a multi-gifted servant of the Most High. He was a called pastor, a teacher, a counselor, a seasoned administrator, an astute church musician, a builder of men and church structures, a father, and a husband. He was also humble and hospitable, and he turned his home into place where people could be refreshed. Through this work of hospitality, many people became Christians. He was a person of dogged determination who rose “from zero to hero” as he served the church of God in Nigeria and abroad, in the fear of God and with the gifts of God.
Johnson M. O. Rogho
- Prior to his graduation from Bible College he was the assisting minister in Yaba Church, and he continued in this position from 1971, when he graduated, until 1972. He was the pastor of Foursquare Church, Ibadan from 1973 to1976, and was ordained in 1975. He pastored the Foursquare Church in Oshodi from 1976 to 1980; the Foursquare Church in Apapa, from 1980 to 1984; Foursquare Agege, 1984 to 1990; Foursquare Ikeja, 1990 to 1994, and Foursquare Abesan, 1994 to 1996, when he retired from active ministry.
Adeogun, E. O. A Transplant of the Vine: Forty Years of Foursquare History in Nigeria. Lagos: Foursquare Press, 1999.
Oladunjoye, F. et al. The Golden Vine. Lagos: Foursquare Press, 2005.
Dayo Adedeji and Kolawole Fawole, “Celebrating a Foursquare Nightingale: Interview with Rev. E. A. O. Bankole,” [unpublished?], Dec. 19, 2008.
Funeral and thanksgiving service program or Rev. E. A. O. Bankole, Dec. 19, 2008.
This article, submitted in December 2010, was written by Johnson M. O. Rogho, Ph.D. candidate at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, under the supervision of Dr. Deji Ayegboyin and Dr. Leke Ogunewu.