David Olawale Olaniyi, of the lineage of Olonade Akojede from Mode-Iresa, lived to fulfill a prophecy made at his birth: that he would grow up to wield great influence. He was born September 10, 1931 at Isangbe, of the Asangbe people in Alara kingdom, Egbedore Local Government area, near Ede town, in the old Western Region, now Osun State, Nigeria. He may be described as someone who passionately and diligently pursued high goals in spite of constant setbacks. Fondly called “Sir Due Process” by his seminary friends, J. A. Ilori, Lowo Mamadelo, Segun Lawoyin, and Samuel Fadeji, he gradually rose from being a disciple of Sango worship (god of thunder) to becoming a reputable denominational leader of the Baptist faith in Nigeria. He was a man destined to rise from obscurity to nobility through servitude. At his registration for elementary education, his aunt (Mama Oloti) registered his birth date as being September 10, 1936 because he was so short.
Family and educational background
Olaniyi was born into the family of Papa Gabriel Alao Olaniyi and Mrs. Esther Ayanyoyin Olaniyi of Ooye’s compound, Ara town. He was placed under Elegun Sango, the chief priest of the art and science of Thunder arbitration and Masquerade investiture of Egungun Alaso-laja at about eight years of age (around 1939) by his grandfather, against the wish of his biological father, who wanted him to attend Christian mission school for western education. After about six years of living with the chief priest, his aunt registered Olaniyi at the Baptist Day School in Ara in 1945.
A fateful turning point occurred after his consecration in the art and science of Sango Thunder arbitration when Olaniyi fell into a trance in which an aged person with grey hair and a beard appeared to him. The person in the trance of theophany identified himself as Jesus Christ to Olaniyi and instructed him to live for him as a bond-servant. Olaniyi interpreted this experience as the call of God to repentance and salvation. He appropriated the grace of Jesus Christ by conversion and baptism into Christianity in December of 1946. His public confession of Jesus Christ as savior and lord attracted persecution from senior practitioners of Sango worship and Alaso-laja masquerade. Olaniyi ran away from Ara town and received provisions and protection in Olla town for several years.
Olaniyi passed the Standard Six Certificate Examination in 1953, and later became a teacher at the Baptist Primary School in Olla until 1955. In late 1956, he took-up a teaching appointment at Isoko Baptist Day School near Ejigbo town in Osun State. In January of 1958, Olaniyi gained admission to Osogbo Provincial Teachers College, Grade Two in Osogbo and graduated with a Grade Two Teaching Certificate in December of 1961. He was promoted to the position of headmaster of the District Council School in Olodan near Ede town in 1962. That same year, he married the former Miss Ruth Oluwafunmilayo Omobonike Adewale according to local customs. Olaniyi received the call of God into the shepherding ministry in late 1962. In order to fulfill a two year requirement of being a head teacher in the district, he waited until August of 1964 to answer the call by attending the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso. He served as a student pastor in the Baptist churches at Songbe near Ede, Maayin, and Ago-Offa near Ogbomoso for his supervised ministry practice while attending the seminary. He and Ruth Oluwafunmilayo Omobonike were united in legal Christian marriage on January 15, 1966 at the First Baptist Church in Oke-Apaso, Ede, amidst the uproar of a mob protesting the first military coup in Nigeria. He graduated from the seminary with a Bachelor of Theology degree in 1968.
After his theological training, Olaniyi went to Kano as a pastor and attended Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree in 1975. He later left Kano State as for Oyo State to become principal of a school for pastors, and attended the former University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife) where he received a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies degree in 1982. He was admitted to the PhD. program in the same university in 1983, and graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy in New Testament studies in 1990.
Ministry in Kano City (1969-1977)
Olaniyi began his pastoral ministry with First Baptist Church in Kano in 1969. He became the manager of mission schools in Kano in 1970, a service he rendered for seven years. He was ordained on October 4, 1970 at the First Baptist Church in Kano. In 1972, he laid the foundation of a new Baptist church building for the First Baptist Church of Kano, and the structure was completed in 1976. By 1973, Olaniyi was appointed vice-chairman of the Northern Baptist Conference, a post he occupied for three years. By 1974, in view of his dynamic leadership and motivation, he was elected president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Kano branch, for two and a half years.
In 1975, Olaniyi resigned from the pastorate of the First Baptist Church of Kano because of his strong passion for indigenous village evangelism and started an evangelistic ministry known as The Gospel Revivalists Group for Evangelistic Crusade, which served rural mission purposes in the Kano area, targeting the natives. In February of 1977, while writing chapter three of his Master of Education thesis at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Olaniyi was invited to the Baptist building in Ibadan by the Nigerian Baptist Convention general secretary, Rev. Dr. E. A. Dahunsi, to consider training church planters and missions-oriented pastors who could then have a greater impact in village evangelism among the natives. He was advised to participate in the new school for indigenous pastors that was being proposed by what were then the Kwara and Western State Baptist Conferences.
Ministry in Oyo Town (1977-1983)
The Kwara and Western State Baptist Conferences established the Joint Baptist Pastors School at the former Oyo campus of the Language and Orientation School for American missionaries on September 30, 1977. This was after the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogbomoso had cancelled the native pastors training program designed for training pastors for small-town churches and missions to the Yoruba, even though the missionaries continued to run native pastor training at Kaduna and Owerri. Olaniyi applied for the post of full time principal of the school in June of 1977. After he was offered the appointment in August of 1977, Olaniyi suspended his Master of Education studies at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria because of the distance to Oyo town. The Oyo Baptist Association gave Olaniyi accommodations upon his arrival, and he moved into the office in Oyo town. He commenced work as the pioneer principal with the examination and admission committee of the school in order to admit the first set of students by September 1, 1977. After a year, he was made associational advisor of the Powell Baptist Association, Oyo-North. As the first principal of the first indigenous Baptist Pastors School, Olaniyi was saddled with the responsibility of soliciting library book donors and financial donors, and of finding human resources for the maintenance of the school. To start the school library, donors like P. H. Miller, T. O. High, W. R. O. Ojo, G. E. Robinson, the NBTS Ogbomoso and the Western State Baptist Conference donated 686 books altogether. He found sponsorships for eight student-pastors out of the twenty-one students who were admitted on September 30, 1977. From 1978 to 1982, Olaniyi got money to run the school from the sponsoring Baptist Conferences, which included Ogun, Ondo, Kwara, Oyo-East, and Oyo-West. The student population later increased from twenty-one to one hundred students.
Graduates of the school obtained a Certificate in Pastoral Ministry at their convocation. Numerous new bicycles and some motorcycles were obtained by Olaniyi from various individuals, missionary organizations, and Baptist churches for the students to use to get to evangelism and missions stations on weekends. Olaniyi himself travelled on a Vespa scooter. In 1982, the Oyo-West Baptist Conference donated the most financial and material resources, followed by the Oyo-East Baptist Conference. The Oyo Baptist Association invited Olaniyi to be a member of the building committee of the Association on January 12, 1982 and erected a block of three classrooms for the school. Later in the same year, Olaniyi indicated his interest in continuing his postgraduate studies at the University of Ife, as it was nearby. The governing council of the school, who held degrees in various disciplines, declined his application for a leave, reasoning that he did not need a postgraduate degree to train and lead a vernacular pastors training school, which was awarding and offering a certificate program that was below the lowest Certificate in Theology program of the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogbomoso. After many attempts to persuade them, which were met with rejection, Olaniyi resigned his appointment as principal in June of 1982 in order to pursue further studies at the University of Ife, (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife).
Ministry at Ejigbo Town (1983-1986)
An energetic preacher, Olaniyi took up the appointment of the Idi-Ape Baptist Church pastorate on January 2, 1983. He motivated the members to relocate from the old church building to a new one which was under construction, in order to hasten the congregation’s commitment to completing the structure. The rate at which the new church structure was completed spurred the Women’s Missionary Society of the church, in 1984, to put him in charge of the purchase of a multi-purpose commuter bus for the church. Olaniyi bought the Volkswagen bus in Lagos at a price that was below what dealers in Ejigbo and the environs were charging. He requested that the remaining money from the original sum meant for the multi-purpose bus be used to establish the Idi-Ape Baptist Nursery and Primary Schools in 1985. This impressive use of resources improved the image of the church and resulted in a corresponding increase in the number of attendees.
Olaniyi was appointed conference secretary of the Oyo-East Baptist Conference (now referred to as the Osun Baptist Conference) from September 1984 until his invitation to become the national director of the Sunday school department of the Nigerian Baptist Convention in August of 1986. He also inaugurated the Idi-Ape Baptist Royal Ambassadors group for young boys and men in the church. He engaged his passion for evangelism and indigenous missions by conducting evangelistic and missionary campaigns in Baptist churches in the Republic of Benin; in Lome, in the Republic of Togo; in Ghana, and in Ivory Coast during this period. He attended the Baptist World Alliance Congress in Los Angeles, U.S.A. in July of 1985.
Ministry at Ibadan City (1986-2002)
The feats performed by Olaniyi in the administration and development of the Idi-Ape Baptist Church and the Oyo-East Baptist Conference attracted the attention of the search committee of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, and they began considering him along with the others who were nominated for screening to become executive leaders of the Convention. He resumed the post of national director of the Sunday school department of the Nigerian Baptist Convention in July of 1986 and held it until March of 1996. In February of 1990, Olaniyi was appointed acting assistant general secretary. Through the office of the general secretary of the Convention, Olaniyi was sent on several occasions to arbitrate conflicting issues that had arisen between several pastors and their churches. He served as the peace and conflict resolution committee leader in the Baptist building in Ibadan at that time. At the retirement of the Rev. Dr. S. T. Ola Akande, the search committee of the Nigerian Baptist Convention appointed Olaniyi as the acting general secretary of the Convention and he served in that capacity from September 1990 until April of 1991. He authored several publications during his service as the national director of the Sunday school department, including: Seven Profitable Psalms; Titus, the Faithful Servant; Psalms of Blessings and Peace; Sunday School Makes the Church Grow; Meeting the Mighty Jesus; [The] Mighty Power of Jesus; and Divine Decrees.
As a peacemaker, Olaniyi was sent to intervene in a conflict between the Salem Baptist Church in Yemetu-Alaadorin, Ibadan and its’ pastor in 1991. At the retirement of the pastor, he was invited by the church to serve as the interim pastor from October of 1991 until December of 1995. As the Sunday school national director, he introduced a tour of local Baptist churches which were having the largest number of attendees. These churches would be presented with some awards and trophies from each Baptist Association of the Convention. He solicited donations of plaques and trophies from individuals and various institutions in order to enhance the objective of inspiring the Sunday school ministries of the local churches to attract more attendees, from among whom church members could be raised. During his leadership of the Sunday school department, the regional Sunday school conferences became retreat sessions for spiritual growth. There were testimonies and the imparting of spiritual gift in these conferences, such as those that were held in Calabar in 1993 and in Eruwa in 1996, to mention but a few. The exploits of the Sunday school department led the Baptist World Alliance and Mission to facilitate his tour of the United States of America, England, Switzerland, Kenya, and several West African countries, for international conferences.
The Salem Baptist Church later wrote him officially in January of 1996 to ask him to accept the call to become their full time pastor. Olaniyi resumed working as the full time pastor of the church in April of 1996. He was selected for the 1997 Advanced Leadership Training Seminar at the Haggai Institute of Advanced Leadership Training in Maui, Hawaii, U.S.A, which he attended during the month of May in 1997. In May of 1998, Olaniyi was made the Justice of the Peace of Oyo State. In December of 1998, he was sent on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem by Oyo State. His hobbies were praying, visiting, reading, writing, and driving. On December 14, 2002, Olaniyi retired from the full-time pastoral ministry of Salem Baptist Church in Yemetu-Aaadorin, Ibadan.
Olaniyi’s zeal for missions was still undiminished, so, he resumed his indigenous evangelistic and church-planting ministry after retirement. He joined the teaching faculty of the International Institute of Evangelism in Ibadan on January 11, 2003, and established the Hallelujah Prayer Evangelism Ministry afterwards in the same month at the Hallelujah House, at Owode in Oyo town. He was also a visiting lecturer at the Gospel Baptist Convention Seminary in Awe, in Oyo town, on March 4, 2003. The Hallelujah Prayer Evangelism Ministry was formally launched on March 23, 2003 at Idi-Ape Baptist Church in Ejigbo, Osun State. From then on, Olaniyi was nicknamed “Baba Hallelujah,” which was translated “Hallelujah Father” by the Muslims in his neighborhood. He conducted evangelism campaigns at Ilaju near Eruwa in Oyo-North on June 14, 2003, and proceeded to Ara town in Osun State, where he held another evangelistic rally on July 31, 2003. He pioneered the planting of a new church that worshiped at Pastor Amao’s residence, in the Sabo area of Oyo town on September 28, 2003. Due to the need for rural evangelists and church planters in Osun and Oyo States, Olaniyi started the Hallelujah Evangelists College as an arm of the Hallelujah Prayer Evangelism Ministry in November of 2003. He located its temporary campus at Idi-Ape Baptist Church.
Olaniyi experienced many hardships in life, and this made him a compassionate and helpful person. He adopted several poor children and also sponsored a number of pastors to be trained at pastor’s schools, drawing on his own meager salary. He encouraged many children with physical deformities and challenges, visiting them to care for them and show them the way of the Lord. He believed that “Deformity is not disability; it only requires creativity to create acceptability.” He believed in the virtue of discipline, and instilled in his children the belief that “Everything goes through a process of manufacture and a process of expiration, but whatever is done and whatever influence the time in between determines the worth and relevance of the product or life.” He was returning from a visit to members of the Hallelujah Prayer Evangelism Ministry and Evangelists College when he fell ill on January 7, 2004 and was admitted to Baptist Hospital in Oyo town. Olaniyi died a week later on January 15, 2004, the day he was to celebrate his thirty-eighth wedding anniversary at the First Baptist Church of Oke-Apaso, Ede town. At his burial service on February 20, 2004, which took place at the Ebenezer Baptist Church of Ara, in Osun State, he was described as someone who was a loving, caring, and compassionate man towards his family and children. He was characterized as a good problem solver and as an influential leader, highly progressive on educational issues and strongly committed to the ministry. The general secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, Rev. Dr. S. T. Ola Akande (whom he succeeded), stated the following at his burial:
It is painful to lose such an intimate friend and brother in the Lord as Rev. David. My evaluation of his performance 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 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. O. 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 the all-round 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.
Abiola Ayodeji Olaniyi
Olusegun F. Olaniyi (son). Interview by author, November 9, 2009.
Ruth Olu (wife). Interview by author, November 13, 2009.
History of the First Twenty Years of Oyo-East Baptist Conference (1977-1997), booklet.
W. A. Oyedokun, recommendation letter for D. O. Olaniyi dated April 15, 2002.
Hallelujah Prayer Evangelism Ministry launching booklet, dated March 23, 2003.
Program of the funeral service for David Olawale Olaniyi, February 24, 2004.
Rev. Dr. S. T. Ola. Akande, eulogy excerpt, February 20, 2004.
The History of Oyo-Okeho Baptist Association: 1858-2008, booklet.
This article, submitted in December 2010, was written by Abiola Ayodeji Olaniyi, PhD Candidate at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, under the supervision of Dr. Deji Ayegboyin and Dr. Leke Ogunewu.