Solomon Aisa Ige is remembered as the longest serving pastor in Nigerian church history and in all of Africa. He led the Ijeru Baptist Church in Ogbomoso for fifty-nine years between 1917 and 1976. He is also remembered for the religious, social, economic, and political impact he had not only on his own church and town, but also throughout the denomination and the nation.
Ige was born into a Christian family in 1890 in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, in the western region of Nigeria. He was the last of four children and the only boy. His father and mother were strong members of First Baptist Church, Oke-Lerin. When he reached school age, Ige lived with Baptist missionaries while attending the Baptist Day School, Osupa Ogbomoso. Inspired by two of these missionaries, Reverend Compere and Dr. George Green, Ige developed an interest in medical science.
After completing standard four in Baptist Day School, Oke-Osupa, Ige then moved on to the Baptist Academy, Oke-Osupa in 1912. In 1914 he attended Baptist Theological School at Saki. He finished his theological training in 1917 and returned to Ogbomoso where he was appointed a school teacher at his former primary school in August of the same year. Later he accepted a call to become pastor of Ijeru Baptist Church, Ogbomoso.
In December of 1920, Solomon Aisa Ige married Comfort Adewoyin of Isale Afon in Ogbomoso. Their marriage was blessed with a daughter who is now married (her married name is Mrs. Kikelomo Laosebikan–2007). Ige and his wife lived together happily for fifty-five years before she died in July of 1975.
His bold confrontation of traditional structures and his courageous, evangelistic presence led many to witness the power of God. For example, Ige played a remarkable role in liberating women from oppressive traditional practices. In 1940 he fought for their religious freedom in Ogbomoso against the Oro cult that placed women under curfew from 7 p.m. to about 10 a.m. the following morning, including Sunday. On one occasion, Ige organized a prayer meeting against the Oro cult and their restrictive curfew. He encouraged women to come outdoors, gather together, and sing in protest. They sang:
A’o loro de poro oko A o loro de poro oko Olugbala lo lOgbomoso asoba laje A o loro de poro oko
Meaning: We will pursue Oro to the furrow path in the farm We will pursue Oro to the furrow path in the farm The Savior owns Ogbomoso, the One who reigns in prosperity We will pursue Oro to the furrow path in the farm.
The Oro cult bragged that both Ige and the women would die for defiling this religious taboo. When neither Ige nor any of the women died, they assumed that he must possess diabolical power. They did not know that the power of Christ protected him against the warfare of cultists, witches, and traditional religionists against whom he preached. Thanks to his leadership in these protests against discrimination women eventually won their freedom.
Ige used the pulpit to preach the emancipation of Nigerian women in the area of education as well. He believed that education and Christianity were two great weapons for human freedom and should be open and available to all, regardless of gender.
He waged war against secret societies in his town, particularly the Reformed Ogboni Fraternity (ROF), a secret society founded in 1914 by Rev. T. A. J. Ogunbiyi, an Anglican archdeacon in Abeokuta. Originally, the society was formed to give social status to Christian leaders in keeping with the traditions of the Yoruba people, offering an attractive alternative to the freemason society, where white leaders denied blacks membership. Ige also fought the Atinga cult, a witch hunting society that claimed to possess the power to detect and destroy witches and wizards. Originally from Ghana, the cult was a deeply rooted part of traditional African culture. But Ige opposed the havoc, humiliation, and blood shed perpetrated by the movement. On one occasion, a mob formed outside his home to protest his position against the Atinga. When violence broke out he was forced to fire his gun in self defense. He was charged with murder, but was later discharged and acquitted.
Ige contributed immensely to educational development in Ogbomoso. He inspired his own church to create a primary school, the United Baptist School. When it proved a success, he worked across denominations with the Anglican and Methodist communities to establish more schools. He later established the Ogbomoso People’s Institute, the only post primary school in the town at the time, and also sought to have the Baptist School of Nursing reopened in Ogbomoso. On another front, Ige was a founding member of the Ogbomoso Investment Club.
In 1934 Ige originally supported the work of Apostle Ayo Babalola of the Apostolic Church, who seemed to have similar educational goals. However, when Ige discovered that Babalola was more interested in splitting his own church and not in unifying and strengthening their shared Christian goals, he opposed his work.
Ige was ordained in August 1931. His church in Ogbomoso was the first to use choir robes. He was the first Baptist pastor in Nigeria to establish a church society to contribute work of the global church both through financial gifts and missions. Many churches were planted in the surrounding villages through his leadership efforts.
In 1960, Solomon Aisa Ige, though a pastor, was crowned Osi (chieftaincy title) of the Soun (king) of Ogbomoso in recognition of his contribution to the social, political, educational, and religious life of the town. The Osi is the second in command to the king and sits at the king’s left hand side, advising him now and again. His office as Osi of Ogbomoso gave him the opportunity to be a member of the council of chiefs. Ige was later elected a member of Western Region House of Chiefs in 1960. He was a counselor to about four Souns of Ogbomoso.
Ige encouraged people to live meaningful, prosperous lives. He did not believe that Christianity and poverty were synonymous and was the first Nigerian Baptist pastor to buy a car in 1940. He was a counselor to missionaries like Gordon E. Robinson. Despite his success, he was always willing to suffer personal sacrifice to help those in need. Ige retired in August of 1976.
On Monday, August 16, 1982, Solomon Aisa Ige died. His worked was recognized throughout the larger Christian community and many were amazed to see him buried by ministers of different denominational backgrounds.
Oludele Olugbade A.
Ayandele, Ayantayo. “Tribute; Reverend Chief S. A. Ige, on behalf of the Ogbomoso Investment Club,” September 9, 1982.
Bamigboye, Ezekiel Akanni. 150 years of Baptist work in Ogbomoso Ibadan: (1855-2005). Sceptre Prints, 2005.
Dahunsi, E. A. “Itan Igbe-Aye ti eni Owo (Oloye) Solomon Aisa Ige” (This is the life history of S. A. Ige by the General Secretary of Nigerian Baptist Convention), August 28, 1976.
Gabriel, ?. “One man in His time: A Profile to the Late Rev’d. Chief Solomon Aisa Ige, Osi Soun of Ogbomoso, Pastor, Evangelist, Crusader and Doughty Fighter.” 1976.
Ojo, J. B. “(Chief) Tributes by Ogbomoso Chiefs,” September 9, 1982.
Robinson, Gordon E. Letter to S. A. Ige. September 20, 1973.
Richardson, Jr., Jarett W. Letter to S. A. Ige. America, March 14, 1982.
Speech: What Rev’d. Ige: himself said on January 9, 1982.
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.