Stephen O. Olagbami was a very determined, courageous and optimistic man who had since his early days showed traces of great determination to be an achiever. His Christian pilgrimage was not an easy one, and he faced many ups and downs as he struggled to live a victorious Christian life. However, his devotional life and his love for sacred music were never affected by adversity.
He used his knowledge, his possessions, and his special gifts as a teacher, preacher, writer, and musician to touch and improve the lives of many people. Olagbami did not believe in failure under any circumstances, and his oft-cited dictum, “By the grace of God it will be well,” endeared him to most of the members of his church.
Stephen Oyebamiji Olagbami was born into a Christian home, and that is where he developed into someone who would work for God and serve the people of God. He was born to the family of late Chief Joseph Emiola Olagbami, Balogun of Fiditi (Olagbami 11) and Mrs. Dorcas Tanimowo Olagbami, all of blessed memory, on December 7, 1934, at Fiditi in the Afijio Local Government Area of Oyo State, Nigeria. When he was born, two Christian fathers, Rev. J. F. Osoniyi and Rev. S.O. Oladipo (both now deceased) prophesied to his parents that he would be a pastor. This was mentioned to him by his parents when he was growing up.
At the time when the Native Authority School, Olele Okeho, was opened in April, 1939, [the government] asked government workers and heads of compounds in Okeho, to send their children to the school. Along with his brother, Stephen was sent, and was placed in the kindergarten class until 1940, when his father was transferred to Otu. He formally started school in January, 1941, at the Baptist School in Otu, when the school was formally reopened after a short closure. He was therefore one of the pioneer pupils in that school.
From 1941 to 1949, he attended the Baptist Day School in Otu (1941-1943), the First Baptist School in Fiditi (1944- 1946), the U.M.S. School in Igbetti (1947), and the First Baptist School in Fiditi (1948-1949), eventually obtaining his First School Leaving Certificate in December of 1949.
In January of 1954, he was admitted into the Baptist Teacher Training College in Ede, where he obtained his Teacher Grade III Certificate in December of 1955. He also attended the same college from January 1965 to December of 1966, and obtained the Teacher Grade II Certificate. He was admitted to the University of lfe (now Obafemi, Awolowo University, lfe) in September of 1979 and successfully completed and obtained the Associateship Certificate in Education in June of 1980. He entered into the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, in August of 1985 and graduated with a Diploma in Theology in June of 1988. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate from United Christian University, Cleveland, Tennessee, U.S.A. on October 28, 1999. *
In January of 1950, he was appointed as a teacher at the Baptist School in Sepeteri, where he worked intil December of 1953. He also taught at lsanlu lsin, from 1956 to 1957, and at the Ebenezer School in Ebute Metta, Lagos, in 1957. He was also a loan officer for Western Region Finance Corporation, Ajegunle, Apapa, in Lagos. From 1959 to 1961 he was a teacher and Assistant Headmaster at the Muslim School in Fiditi; teacher/ Headmaster at the Baptist Central School in Oniyanrin, Ibadan in 1962; teacher at Ebenezer Baptist School in Fiditi, from 1963 to 1964, and at Okediji Baptist School in Ilora from 1967 to 1968. From 1968 to 1971 he served as a missionary teacher for the Nigerian Baptist Convention in the foreign mission field of Sierra Leone. He returned to Nigeria in 1971 and was given an appointment to teach at the First Baptist School in Isokun, Oyo from 1972 to 1973. From 1973 to 1975, he was the Headmaster of L.A. School in Idi Iya, Oyo and also worked as the Headmaster of Ebenezer Baptist School in Jafa, Fiditi. From 1980 to 1985, he taught at the Community High School in Fiditi, where he retired from teaching.
He was baptized on November 27, 1984 by the late Rev. J. F. Oshoniyi at the First Baptist Church in Fiditi. However, he had given his life to Christ in 1954 when he was in the Teachers College in Ede.
He was a member of the school band throughout his primary school days. In 1948, he joined the Boy Scout Movement, which he followed until 1970, when he was awarded the Wood Badge Training and Certificate in Sierra Leone. He was always the Scoutmaster of the movement in each school where he taught. Olagbami was in the Asu Jolly Boys Orchestra in 1962. He captained the Cool Motion Orchestra, which he started in the late 1950s, until the mid-1960s. He won four trophies for his school in high jump, pole vault, long jump, and triple jump, and was a member of the relay team of his college. He also played soccer for his college, the Ede Town Team, from 1954 to 1955, and played for the Fiditi Town Team in the early 1960s. He was the secretary of the Fiditi Football Association until 1963, when he hung up his soccer cleats as a player. He became a licensed Nigerian Football Referee in 1973, and officiated in various football matches and leagues in Ibadan, Osogbo, Iseyin, Oyo, and Ogbomoso.
Stephen Oyebamiji Olagbami was a true family man. He married Elizabeth Moyiola Olagbami (née Babarinlo of Pepe House) on Easter Sunday March 29, 1959, and their marriage union was blessed with eight children. Their marriage was celebrated twice: the first time on March 29, 1959 and the second time when Baptist teachers were asked to have marriages “by ordinance,” which they did on December 2, 1962. His wife, Deaconess Elizabeth Moyiola Olagbami, was his senior in the Seminary. She had been trained in the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary as a Nursery School Teacher in 1983, before he was called into the ministry. She was the founding teacher and head of the Ebenezer Baptist Church Nursery School in Fiditi from 1984 to 1988 before she followed her husband to Sapele in Delta State. Olagbami was so successful because of what the Lord did through this friendly, industrious, loving, and supportive wife.
Contributions to Christianity
He served as music director and conductor for the college choir in Ede from 1954 to 1955 and later served as an organist in various churches and institutions among which are: Isanlu Isin, Kwara State (1956-58); Calvary Baptist Church, Apapa, Lagos, 1959; First Baptist Church, Fiditi, (1960 to 1963); Ebenezer Baptist Church, Fiditi (1964- 1966); organist, College Sunday School and Training Union (1965-1966); Okediji Ilora (1967-1968); Bumbuna, Sierra Leone (1969 to 1971); First Baptist Church, Isokun, Oyo (1972-1978); Ladigbolu Grammar School Chapel, Oyo (1972-1977); and Ebenezer Baptist Church, Fiditi, (1979-1986).
After graduation from the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, in June, 1988, Olagbami assumed the pastorate of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Sapele on July 1, 1988 and to the glory of God, he improved upon every facet of the church. He renewed adult education in the church, which now has an excellent reputation. The church knew very little about the “Master Life Program” until Olagbami introduced it. The program was so successful that he was invited by the African Apostolic Church in Sapele to help establish it for their congregation. He was ordained into the full gospel ministry in October of 1991. His administration was truly a glorious time for the church. A member of the Royal Ambassadors in his church concluded a biography of Olagbami thus: “Rev. Dr. Olagbami is Mr. “S,” for Mr. Success, because his first name, Stephen, starts with “S,” his career as a teacher started in Sepeteri, which starts with “S,” his missionary career was in Sierra Leone, which start with “S,” and his pastoral career started in Sapele, which also starts with “S”.”
Olagbami’s weakness was that he worked too hard every day, and failed to take adequate rest. He resigned his appointment with Ebenezer Baptist Church in Sapele after serving meritoriously for eight years, following a call from Union Baptist Church in Ibadan. He resumed the pastorate of Union Baptist Church, Ekotedo, Ibadan, in 1995. As an innovator and a resourceful administrator, he made needed physical improvements to the pulpit arena of Union Baptist. He fine-tuned the worship arrangement pattern by introducing new and improved songs from workshops, which were systematically built into the church service programme.
The musical anointing Olagbami had was reflected in the skill with which he played the organ and the saxophone. The love he had for music was reflected in his commitment to the Baptist-arranged music workshops, which served as regular training grounds for Christians instrumentalists. He encouraged and organized music libraries in the churches where he was privileged to serve. Olagbami was scheduled to retire in 1999, but his church requested that he stay for five more years. After having worked three years of the five, he pleaded with the church to allow him to retire, and [to seek] a new vision. He spent thirty-five years as a teacher and eighteen years in the ministry, for a total of fifty-three years in active service. He served the last church faithfully for seven years, and finally retired in December of 2002.
He was secretary of the old Bowen Baptist Association twice, from 1962 to 1986, and from1988 to 1993; Sapele Baptist Association O.R.A. coordinator, from 1989 to 1994; initiator and first secretary of the Sapele Baptist Association Pastor’s Fellowship, and later chairman of the same Fellowship as well as secretary of the Sapele City Pastor’s Fellowship, 1995 to 2000. He was also the association consultant to the Ibadan Central Baptist Association; treasurer and chairman of the Ibadan and District Baptist Pastor’s Fellowship (1998-2001) and adviser to the Bowen Baptist Association.
At the Conference level, he was the first and last secretary of the Western Religion Baptist Youth Conference (Ogun, Ondo, Oyo) from 1974 to 1997; the first president of the Oyo West Baptist Youth Conference, and also a member of the Oyo West Baptist Conference Pioneer Executive Members, from 1977 to 1983; the secretary of Oyo West Baptist Conference Pastor’s Fellowship from 1996 to 2002; secretary, Oyo West Baptist Conference Evangelism Committee, from 1996 to 1997; secretary, Oyo West Baptist Conference Minister’s Fellowship, from 1996 to 2002; and secretary, Oyo West Baptist Conference Retirees Fellowship.
At the convention level, he was a member of the 1973 founding committee members of the Nigerian Baptist Convention Youth Conference (1973-1983) at Baptist High School, Iwo. He served on some of the Convention’s Committees: the Peace Committee (as necessary), the Adult Education Prison Ministry; the Church Training Strategy Committee, the Social Ministries Appreciation Committee, Operation Reach All (now Global Mission) from 1996 to 2003; treasurer, N.B.C. Fellowship of Church Musicians, from 1996 to 1997. He was the chairman and coordinator of the N.B.C. annual nationwide Baptist Music Workshop, which he took over from Dr. Alma H. Rohm; secretary, Nigerian Baptist Convention Retirees; part-time Public Relations Officer of the Baptist College of Theology, Oyo, from 2003 to 2004, and member of the advisory board of the Baptist College of Theology Nursery and Primary School, as well as member of the N.B.C. Music Advisory Board.
He had the following awards to his credit: Honor Roll member of the Fiditi Student Union, 1979; recipient of the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary 1987 Mclineley Gilliand Award for service; life patron, Bible Society of Nigeria, Area 1, 1998; Award of service from Ebenezer Baptist Church, Sapele, July 1990;. life patron, Christian Association of Nigeria, Afijio L.G. chapter, July 2008; Merit Award, Nationwide Baptist Music Workshop, August 2008; Award of Honor, First Baptist Church, Oyo, October 1, 2008.
Olagbami wrote many books and published numerous articles, including: “Gem for the Moment,” 1990; “Quiet Time; Daily Devotion,” 1990; “Becoming like Little Children,” 1999; “The Songs the Bible Sings,” March 2000; “Christian and Worldly Challenges,” (Yoruba and English) Oct. 2000; “Should I Swear or Not? What is the Controversy?” Sept. 2001; “Turning Fiditi into a Place of Delight,” Oct. 2002; “Hope for a New Era in Fiditi,” Oct. 2003; “Wake-up Calls in Fiditi,” Oct 2004, and aseries of “My Pocket Prayer,” 2003-2004.
He was the founder and leader of Grace Christian Centre, Graceland, Ijaye Road, Egbejoda, Fiditi-Oyo before his death. He died on October 30, 2008, and the burial service was held at First Baptist Church, Fiditi on March 7, 2009 at 10:00 a.m.
Stephen Oyebamiji Olagbami was a remarkable man of God and his vision, faith, humility, and tenacity singled him out from among many other pastors. Being a man of many gifts - a preacher, musician, administrator, and educator, he exhibited considerable ingenuity in the performance of these roles. He was an exemplary family man, a prayerful Christian, a forthright and very straightforward child of God, a reformer, peacemaker, and preserver of peace; a spirit-filled disciple of Christ; a seasoned teacher; an experienced missionary at home and abroad; a fluent speaker and prolific writer in both English and Yoruba, and a shepherd who was dedicated to his flock. The life and ministry of Stephen Oyebamiji Olagbami was indeed a blessing to the entire Nigerian Baptist Convention.
*Editor’s note:This appears to be an earlier name and/or location of the present UGCS (United Graduate College and Seminary), which is an online, unaccredited Christian institution that has offices in several states in the U.S.A. (North Carolina, Tennessee). This somewhat controversial institution has granted many honorary doctorates to various political and religious leaders in several African nations. For more information, see for example: www.afroarticles.com/article-dashboard.
Moses Olakunle Olabiyi
Fatokun, Bosun and Majaro, Sunmade; “Rev. Dr. Stephen O. Olagbami: the Epitome of Improvement and Achievement.”
Celebration of Life, the Funeral Service Program for Stephen Oyebamiji Olagbami (JP) [The term JP means “Jerusalem Pilgrim”], Fiditi: FBC Fiditi, March 7, 2009.
Olagbami, Shephen Oyebamiji; “Gems for the Moment,” August, 1990.
Olagbami, Stephen Oyebamiji; “Quiet time: Daily Devotions,” 1990.
This article, received in 2010, was written by Moses Olakunle Olabiyi at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, under the supervision of Dr. Michael Leke Ogunewu, and the Rev. Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.
Olagbami, Stephen Oyebamiji, Nigeria, Nigerian Baptist Convention