David Olawale Olaniyi was born in Ara, Nigeria, into the family of Baba Gabriel Alao Olaniyi and Mama Esther Ayanyoyin Olaniyi of Ooye’s compound, Ara, near Ede, in the old Western Region (Osun State) around 1936.
Olaniyi entered the Baptist Day School, Ara in 1945 and passed the standard six Certificate Examination in 1953. He grew up as a disciple of Sango (the Yoruba god of thunder), but was converted and baptized into Christianity in December of 1956. After Olaniyi became a Christian, threats from other Sango worshippers drove him out of Ara.
Late in 1956 Olaniyi secured a teaching appointment at Isoko Baptist Day School near Ejigbo, in Osun State. He later gained admission to the Osogbo Provincial Teacher’s Grade Two College, Osogbo in January 1958 and graduated with a grade two teacher’s certificate in December 1961. Olaniyi became the headmaster of District Council School Olodan Ede in 1962.
Later that year Olaniyi received the call of God to the ministry. He answered the call by attending the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, in August 1964, where he obtained a B.Th. degree in December of 1968. While attending the seminary, Olaniyi pastored Baptist churches at Songbe via Ede, Mayin, and Ago-Offa near Ogbomoso for his supervised ministry. He married Miss Ruth Oluwafunmilayo Adewale at the First Baptist Church, Ede in January 1966.
Olaniyi went on to attend Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he obtained a B.A. degree in education in 1975. He received a Master of Arts in biblical studies in 1982, and a Ph.D. in New Testament studies in 1990, both at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
Ministry in Kano (1969 to 1977)
Olaniyi resumed his work as a pastor in 1969 at the First Baptist Church Kano and served as manager of mission schools for seven years in Kano. He was ordained on October 4, 1970. Later Olaniyi was appointed vice chairman of the Northern Baptist Conference for three years and president of the Christian Association of Nigeria for two and a half years. In 1972, during his pastorate in Kano, a foundation for the church building was laid, and the structure was completed in 1976.
In 1975 Olaniyi left First Baptist Kano and started the Gospel Revivalists Group for evangelistic crusade in the Kano area due to his deep passion for village evangelism and the lost souls in northern Nigeria.
Ministry in Oyo Town (1977 to 1983)
Olaniyi became the pioneer principal of the Joint Baptist School (later renamed Baptist College of Theology, Oyo) on September 1, 1977. He later became the associational adviser of Powel Baptist Association, Oyo North.
Ministry in Ejigbo (1983 to 1986)
Olaniyi was an energetic preacher; he was the pastor of Idi-Ape Baptist Church, Ejigbo, Osun State, from January 1983 to July 1986. He served as the conference secretary of Oyo East (Ogbomoso/Osun) Baptist Conference from 1984 to 1986. During this period, he conducted evangelistic and missionary campaigns in Baptist churches in the Republic of Benin; Lomé, Togo; Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire. In July of 1985 Olaniyi attended the Baptist World Alliance Congress in Los Angeles, U.S.A.
Olaniyi was a talented administrator, and this helped him become the national director of the Sunday School Department of the Nigerian Baptist Convention in July 1986 in Ibadan; he held this post for ten years. During this time he traveled to the United States, England, Switzerland, Kenya, and several West African countries for Baptist World Alliance conferences and Sunday School missions. Olaniyi was appointed the acting assistant general secretary in February 1990, and later succeeded Dr. S. T. Ola Akande as the acting general secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, working in this capacity from September 1990 to April 1991.
Olaniyi authored several books, among which are: Seven Profitable Psalms; Titus, the Faithful Servant; Psalms of Blessing and Peace; Sunday School Makes the Church Grow; Meeting the Mighty Jesus; Mighty Power of Jesus; and Divine Decrees. His hobbies were praying, visiting, reading, writing, and driving.
Olaniyi was a peacemaker. He became the interim pastor of Salem Baptist Church, Ibadan from October 1991 to December 1996, and was the church’s full-time pastor from 1997 to 2002. From May 2 to 30, 1977 Olaniyi attended the Advanced Leadership Seminar at the Haggai Institute of Advanced Leadership Training in Maui, Hawaii, U.S.A. Olaniyi was named Justice of the Peace of Oyo State in May 1998. In December 1998 he went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Olaniyi retired from the full-time pastorate ministry at Salem Baptist Church, Alaadorin, Ibadan, on December 14, 2002.
Because Olaniyi was zealously mission-minded, however, he continued to plant churches after retirement. On September 28, 2003 he pioneered the planting of a new church at Pastor Amoo’s residence in the Sabo area of Oyo Township. He also established the Halleluyah Prayer Evangelism Ministry in January 2002 at the Halleluyah House, Owode Oyo. It was formally launched at Idi-Ape Baptist Church, Ejigbo, on March 23, 2003. Olaniyi was nicknamed Baba Alleluyah (Halleluyah Father) by his Muslim neighbors.
After retirement Olaniyi became a member of the teaching faculty of the International Institute of Evangelism in Ibadan. Olaniyi was also a visiting lecturer at the Gospel Baptist Convention Seminary, Awe Oyo on March 4, 2003.
Due to the need for evangelists and church planters in Osun and Oyo States, Olaniyi started the Halleluyah Evangelists College in November 2003. At first a temporary campus was used at Idi-Ape Baptist Church, Ejigbo, Osun State. Olaniyi conducted evangelism campaigns at Ilaju via Eruwa on June 14, 2003 and in Ara, Osun State on July 31, 2003.
Because of the hardships that Olaniyi experienced in life, he became compassionate and helpful to many people. He adopted several poor children and also sponsored a number of pastors to be trained at pastor’s schools using his own meager salary. Olaniyi believed that, “Deformity is not disability; it only requires creativity to gain [acceptance].” He was an encourager to children with disabilities, caring for them and showing them the way of the Lord by visiting often. He was also a disciplinarian.
Olaniyi was returning from a visit to a member of Halleluyah Ministry and Evangelists College when he became sick on January 7, 2004; Olaniyi died a week later, on January 15.
The Rev. S. T. Ola Akande talked about Olaniyi at his funeral service on February 20, 2004 at the First Baptist Church Ara, Osun State:
It is painful to lose such an intimate friend and brother in the Lord as Rev. David. My evaluation of his performances was that he performed commendably. He served amidst all kinds of criticisms and allegations which we later discovered to be untrue. His work so impressed me that I recommended him for one of the many scholarships that the Nigerian Baptist Convention received from the Ouachita Baptist University in Akansas, U.S.A.
During Rev. Olaniyi’s ten years of service in the Convention’s Sunday School Department, he built and made improvements upon the great work that the Rev. W. R. Ola Ojo had done…
In recognition of the positive role that he played at the International Institute of Evangelism, Ibadan, I am pleased to announce that an annual award has been established in memory of Rev. Dr. David Olawale Olaniyi to be awarded to an all-around best student of the Institute beginning with our next graduation service on June 26, 2004.
We have lost a brother and a faithful servant of God. May our Father God continue to console and uphold his family and to grant each of them the peace of God, which he only can give in the name of Jesus Christ.
Olaniyi was described as loving, caring, and compassionate to his family and his children. An influential leader, he was characterized as a good problem solver, highly progressive in education and committed to the ministry. Olaniyi touched the lives of many people in Nigeria; he believed that, “Everything has a process of manufacture and a process of expiration. Whatever is done and influenced in between, determines the worth and relevance of the product or life.”
O. O. Onifade
Rev. S. T. Ola Akande, excerpt from a paper read at the funeral service on February 20, 2004.
Biola Theophilus Olaniyi, Olaniyi’s daughter, interview by author, November 28, 2006.
Ruth Olufunmilayo Olaniyi, Olaniyi’s daughter, interview by author, November 15, 2006.
Funeral service program.
This article, received in 2008, was researched and written by Rev. O. O. Onifade, student at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, Nigeria, under the supervision of Rev. Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.