Omoniyi, Jacob Olawale
Jacob Olawale Omoniyi was one of the pastors in the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC) who, despite having a lower qualification in theology, nonetheless made a remarkable contribution. He was the first chairman of Oyo West Baptist Conference (OWBC). As the first chairman of the Conference he made a significant contribution in the formative stage of its development. He also made a remarkable contribution in all the churches that he served. However, his contributions were more pronounced at the peak of his ministry in Oyo, and these will be highlighted below.
His family background and education
Jacob Omoniyi was born on April 9, 1920. His parents were deacon Olagbenjo and Mrs. Alice Omoniyi. His father was from Alala compound, Oke-Ogii, Iree, in Osun State, Nigeria. His father, one of the early converts to Christianity in Iree, was a renowned bricklayer, while his mother was a trader and food vendor. Jacob was introduced to Christianity by his parents. He lived with his maternal grandmother in Otun compound, Iree, until he started schooling.
For his elementary education, he attended the Baptist Day School in Iree from 1933 to 1939, and obtained a Standard V Certificate. He also attended the Baptist Day School in Ogbomoso in 1940. He went to Awe in 1941 and attended the Baptist Day School there, where he obtained the Standard VI Certificate. Having received a divine calling, he attended (together with his wife) the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso (NBTS) from January 1945 to December 1946 and obtained a Certificate in Theology. After qualifying as a pastor, he later attended the Baptist High School in Iree from 1960 to 1964 as one of the pioneering students of the school where he obtained his West African School Certificate.
His marital life
Jacob Omoniyi was married to Rachel Olajumoke Omoniyi in December of 1943. The parents of his wife were Pa Job and Mrs. Elizabeth Ogunnike Ajayi of Afunnso compound, Iree. His wife was ordained as a deaconess in 1982 at Agboye Baptist Church in Oyo, and she supported him in his ministry. She was crowned queen at the NBC convention held in 1944 at Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. She worked as a Women’s Missionary Union (WMU) field worker from 1946 to 1990, when she retired. Among the Baptist associations where she worked as a WMU field worker were: Oke-Ogun, Bethel, Igbomina, and Oyo. The marriage of Jacob and Alice was blessed with six children: Evelyn, Oyinlola, Oladiran, Adedoyin, Eunice, and Gladys.
His secular and pastoral work experience
In 1942, he accompanied the (late) Rev. J. O. Oladoja to Tede in Oke-Ogun, where he worked as a schoolteacher until the end of 1944. After his pastoral training, he combined teaching with pastoral work. He was the school manager (headmaster) at the Baptist Day School in Igboora from 1947 to 1952, and at the Baptist Day School in Iragbiji from 1953 to 1965.
He was a student pastor at Ori-Oke Baptist Church in Ogbomoso from 1945 to 1946 under the supervision of the (late) Rev. S. A. Adegbite, one of the tutors in the NBTS, Ogbomoso. He was the pastor at the First Baptist Church in Iragbiji, Osun State from 1953 to 1965; the First Baptist Church in Ekosin, Osun State, from 1966 to 1971, and at the Agboye Baptist Church in Oyo, from April 1971 to February 2, 1990, where he retired from full-time gospel ministry. Jacob was ordained into full gospel ministry on Saturday November 19, 1967, at the Baptist Church in Ekosin. Among the officiating ministers at his ordination were Dr. J. C. Pool, who was the principal at NBTS, Ogbomoso at that time, and who read the report of the Ministerial Board and the Ordination Council. Reverend W. H. Congdon, the Baptist Mission architect of the Baptist Mission in Oshogbo, presided over and moderated the ordination.
The challenges in his life and ministry
As a pastor who would speak the truth very directly to all, he was faced with stiff opposition from church members who considered his preaching and teaching to be “too tough.” Moreover, in all the churches where he worked as a pastor, he accepted whatever the church was able to afford to give him for a salary, which, in most cases, was far below the NBC salary scale. However, this did not deter him from performing all of his pastoral responsibilities. As a result of this low pay he was unable to afford to have a house of his own until his death, although he was able to buy a piece of land very close to the headquarters of the Oyo West Baptist Conference, OWBC. This land was later developed by one of his children.
As the school manager (headmaster) at the Baptist Day School in Igboora, he facilitated the building of a block of six classrooms. He also facilitated the establishment of the Baptist Modern School in Iragbiji and the building of three blocks of nine classrooms, and was instrumental to the foundation laying and building of the new sanctuary of the church at Iragbiji. Moreover, at Ekosin, the new church sanctuary was completed while he was pastor there. He also achieved this at Agboye Baptist Church in Oyo, as it was during his pastorate that the present sanctuary of the church (the foundation of which was laid in April 1969) was completed and dedicated on November 29, 1980. Also at Agboye Baptist Church in Oyo, he established the church religious education class in 1978, a program that catered to children between the ages of two and five. This resulted in the building of a children’s church sanctuary in 1982, although this building later collapsed.
He led the church to purchase an electrical power generating plant (diesel engine) in 1979, the first of its kind in the Oyo Association. It was also during his pastorate that a befitting toilet for the use of the church members and visitors was built. He also led his church to purchase a giant electronic organ and its external speakers in 1983, and a brand new 18-seater bus and a brand new motorcycle for evangelism, more firsts in the Oyo Association. In 1982, seven deacons and deaconesses were ordained. Likewise in 1990, nine deacons and deaconesses were ordained. He was the brain behind the drafting of the church constitution of Agboye Baptist Church, in 1973; he also motivated the church to review the constitution in 1990. In short, in all the churches he served, he was able to make a remarkable impact in the areas of evangelism, church planting, empowerment of lay leadership, and building of physical structures. Jacob was one of the Nigerian Baptist pastors who attended the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Congress in Los Angeles, USA, in 1984.
In all the Baptist and non-Baptist associations that he served he occupied one leadership position or another. Among them were: vice chairman, Oke-Ogun Baptist Association; treasurer, Bethel Baptist Association; chairman, Oyo Baptist Association; adviser, Oyo Baptist Association. He was also, adviser, Oyo West Baptist Conference; secretary, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN); treasurer, CAN and chairman, CAN Oyo and environs. He was also the vice chairman of the Bible Society of Nigeria, Oyo State. He held these positions because of the confidence he enjoyed on the part of these various Christian groups, and he excelled in them all, making a remarkable contribution.
Jacob played an important role in the Oyo Baptist community from his inception at the pastorate of Agboye Baptist Church, Oyo. He was the chairman of the building committee for Sabo Baptist Church (now Surulere Baptist Church, Sabo-Oyo). This committee (set up on December 4, 1977), ensured that the foundation of Sabo Baptist Church was laid on February 11, 1978. The Oyo Baptist community would have lost this land if the committee had not intervened quickly and promptly laid the foundation.
Jacob became the first chairman of OWBC in 1977. Before the emergence of the OWBC, it was part of the Western Baptist Conference, which was approved by the NBC on February 19, 1972. However, as a result of the creation of more states by the late Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed, on February 3, 1973, and due to the quick growth of this Conference, it became necessary for more Baptist Conferences to be created. These new Conferences were: Ondo, Ogun, and Oyo States. At the fifth annual session of the Western State Baptist Conference which was held at Osogbo in July of 1976, the executive committee’s recommendation to dissolve the Western State Baptist Conference was approved. This was to be implemented as of the closing of the sixth annual general meeting, in 1977. Soon after the Osogbo meeting of 1976, the representatives of fifteen associations began to hold a series of meetings at the First Baptist Church in Idikan to prepare for the breakup. Jacob Omoniyi, who was then the pastor of Agboye Baptist Church in Oyo, presided over most of the meetings.
Consequently, the splitting of conferences in line with the new political structure and the rapid growth of the conference was approved by the executive committee of the NBC on December 17, 1976. These conferences were: Ondo, Ogun, Oyo East (now Ogbomoso) and Oyo West. Therefore, at the sixth annual session of the Western State Baptist Conference held at the First Baptist Church in Ijaiye, Abeokuta, between July 11 and 13, 1977, they were formally dissolved. It was this same year (1977) that Jacob Olawale Omoniyi was nominated as the first chairman of the OWBC, a position he held for four years (1977 to 1981).
He took an active part in the planning and execution of the establishment of the Joint Baptist Pastors School in Oyo, and he was the treasurer of the committee. It should be recalled that the establishment of the Joint Baptist Pastors School in Oyo (now the Baptist College of Theology, Oyo) became necessary because of the many Baptist preaching stations that were springing up at the time. It became necessary to have a school where vernacular pastors could be trained to man these preaching stations. It was this planning committee that decided on the site of the school, the name, the basic educational qualifications, the duration of the training, and other matters. Based on the recommendation given to Kwara and to the Western State conferences by the planning committee, the school opened on September 30, 1977.
Omoniyi also played a vital role in securing the present site of the headquarters of the OWBC. He was the chairman of the special committee that alerted the executive committee about the need to have a camping site for the WMU because of the difficulties they faced during their meetings. He was also the chairman of the building committee that worked out the details of the development plans for the piece of land. This headquarters is now located at Elekeera, Ilora, Oyo. Furthermore, he was instrumental to the introduction of a newsletter for the conference. Before the Western State Conference was split into four parts, the Alore magazine was the brainchild of the Western State Conference, but the dissolution of the Conference led to the redundancy of the magazine. It was Jacob Omoniyi who brought this matter to the attention of the OWBC executive meeting of August 1, 1978, for deliberation. After this meeting, the OWBC released some funds to Rev. S. A. Babalola, the editor, but the other conferences did not all respond positively. At the meeting of the executive committee of the OWBC on September 22, 1978, the chairman, Jacob Omoniyi, disclosed to the meeting that the secretary of the Oyo East Baptist Conference had said that they had started their own news magazine. In response, a bulletin was planned, but it was a newsletter that came into being instead.
It was said that Jacob was always mindful of both the spiritual and the numerical growth of the churches he pastored. He was a church builder par excellence and a great motivator. This was evidenced by the various methods and strategies he employed in raising funds and in obtaining materials for building church sanctuaries in all the churches where he served. The establishment, growth, and development of preaching stations were also of paramount importance to him. He led his church, Agboye Baptist Church, Oyo, to buy acres of land in anticipation of a future church building at Odo Asipa, Ogbomoso Road, in 1987. Also, as a result of his foresight, (because Oyo is a Muslim dominated area) he led his church to purchase a plot of land and the existing building thereon, opposite Agboye Baptist Church. This was to forestall any future attempt by the Muslims to occupy the place, and it was also to be useful for the purposes of the church in the future. It was also said that there was no acrimony in the OWBC during his tenure as the first chairman of the conference. Jacob Olawale Omoniyi died on January 31, 1994, after a brief illness.
Ayotunde Yolayori Oguntade
Ogundare, T. O., The History of Oyo West Baptist Conference: 1977 - 1997. Ibadan: Vantage Publishers, 1997.
Ogundare, T. O., A. A. Aiki, J. A. Okesiji et al, eds. The History of Oyo-Okeho Baptist Association: 1858 - 2008. Ibadan: Vantage Publishers, 2008.
Olabode Kayode Omoniyi (lecturer at the Federal College of Education), Interview by author, October 4, 2009, Oyo.
This article, submitted in December 2010, was written by Ayotunde Yolayori Oguntade, a PhD. candidate at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, under the supervision of Dr. Deji Ayegboyin and Dr. Leke Ogunewu.