Ezekiel Ogunniran was born into the family of Mr. and Mrs. Amoke Oyatumo of Ologbo’s compound, Ijeru area, in Ogbomoso South Local Government Area of Oyo State, Nigeria. His exact date of birth is unknown because little or no attention was paid to birth registration at the time. However, some of the recorded events of his life point to the fact that he was probably born in 1920.
Ogunniran’s father was an “Oya” worshipper - Oya is a river goddess in Yoruba land. He settled at Asangbomole village between Iresapa and Oko in the late 19th century. He traveled from Asangbomole to Ogbomoso at least once a year to celebrate the “Oya” festival. At a tender age, his son Ezekiel joined him in the worship of Oya, assisting him with roasting the animals used for the festival, and partaking in it. His formative years were spent in the village and were spent participating in the social activities of village life. He loved playing “Ayo,” a game which was believed to make people wise. This was because both young and old play the game, and in the process of playing it, certain words of wisdom are spoken by the elderly, thereby impacting the lives of the younger ones who are present. Oyatumo was a farmer by profession, and was known to be a successful one, but he longed for a western education. Since his parents were not educated, and since he was good at farming, they saw no need to send him to school.
Ezekiel was nursing this ambition however, and saving for it from the sales of his farm produce. He kept his focus, believing that he would one day be in school, but his dream of becoming educated was not realized until after the death of his father. At that time, he became mortally ill, but God used that period of sickness to pave the way for him to move to Ogbomoso. Since he was unable to farm that year, there was nothing to stop him from leaving the village. His father had died and he had become very sick. When he eventually recovered, he started learning how to read and write. He worked his way through a primer, and he completed the two volumes in the series. He enjoyed it, and wanted to study more.
He decided to contact Dr. J. C. Pool, who was the principal of the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogbomoso. Through Dr. Pool he was able to start schooling at Baaki Primary School in 1945. Pastor P. J. Ladapo was the pastor and teacher of the church and the school at that time. The previous education which he had gotten at home helped him to spend just two months, instead of two years there, and he was then transferred to Osupa Baptist Day School to begin standard classes. His age most likely contributed to his promotion, since he was over twenty years old when he started his schooling. While he was at the Baaki and Osupa Schools, he did not allow the taunting of his younger schoolmates to discourage him, as they would sometimes call him derogatory names whenever he made a mistake. He finished at Osupa Baptist Day School in 1950, with the Standard VI Leaving Certificate. He was very close to his mentors, Dr. Pool and Pastor Ladapo, who gave him counsel from time to time.
Having completed standard VI, he became a teacher and taught in various schools: Baptist Primary School, Gambari, Ogbomoso, from 1951 to 1952; Baaki Primary School, 1952; Osupa Baptist Day School, Ogbomoso, from 1952 to 1954; Maya Baptist Primary School (near Iresa-Apa) Ogbomoso, from 1954 to 1956, and Maya Ayetoro Baptist Primary School (near Oolo) Ogbomoso, 1956 to 1957.
Oyatumo married Comfort Oyinloye at the Osogbo Court Registry in 1963, and the marriage was solemnized at Gaa Lagbedu Baptist Church (where he was a member), Ogbomoso, on December 29, 1966. This procedure was necessary because his wife was still in school at the time, and he wanted her to finish her schooling before their church marriage. It was also probably a way of forestalling disappointment. Since Oyatumo was older than his wife (who used to be his pupil), by more than twenty years, there was a need to apply wisdom to the situation. His wife later became a teacher and taught in many schools. She was described as a virtuous woman who was humble, respectful, had the fear of God, and was dependable. Her husband testified that she was an asset to his pastoral ministry.
Having had a vision of being called into pastoral ministry, which was confirmed by his mentors Dr. Pool and Pastor Ladapo, he was admitted into the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary in 1958, for a three year course of theological training which culminated in the Certificate in Theology. This was made possible through the financial assistance of Dr. J.C. Pool. During those years he served as a student pastor at Alaafia Oluwa Baptist Church in Ogbomoso.
After graduating from the seminary, he pastored Oke-Awo Baptist Church in Aba Iresi via Ile-Ife, from 1961 to 1965. In 1966, he moved to Gaa-Lagbedu Baptist Church in Ogbomoso, where he was ordained on December 12, 1971 and served until his retirement in 1997, a total of thirty-one years. When he retired from active service, he had served a total of thirty-six years in the ministry, plus the initial five years spent at Oke-Awo Baptist Church, Aba Iresi.
He served God with integrity, choosing to suffer rather than to allow the work of God to suffer. He was of the opinion that he should not be living in luxury while the work of God suffered, and this came to light at a time when the church where he was serving had planned to increase his salary. He realized that the money was needed in the church for the many things that needed to be done to uplift the name of Christ, so he rejected the increment and the car that they intended to buy for him, and chose to continue to use his bicycle. He was also commended for his honesty in all things and at all times. He was a man of faith who believed that all things are possible with God, and he always charged his church members to hold onto the promises of God when faced with the challenges of life. He taught them to believe in God more than in their senses.
He was an industrious, committed, and hardworking minister. He rose early to work, and stayed up until late at night, and he was diligent in sermon preparation and in the study of the word of God, which made him a role model for many ministers of his generation. He was known to be a man of prayer who believed in the power of prayer to bring about positive change. No wonder his only son, the prophet Oyatumo Morakinyo, had a vibrant prayer ministry. He was described as a complete, kind-hearted gentleman, and a great man of God, who never spoke evil of anyone. His church members saw him as an encourager and as a promoter of peace and love both within and outside of the church. He was also known for his purposeful visitation, and he had a great sense of humor. He was a strong man of God, even though he looked fragile, from a physical point of view.
As a Baptist minister, he offered meritorious services to the mission through many positions: he was the financial secretary from 1968 to 1969, and the moderator from 1978 to 1979 for the Ogbomoso Baptist Association; chairman, Ogbomoso Muslim and Christian Peace Committee; chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, Ogbomoso chapter, from 1992 to 2000; chairman, Ogbomoso Baptist Conference Retired Ministers’ Fellowship, and member of the Police-Community Relations Committee. He single-handedly wrote the history of the Gaa-Lagbedu Baptist Church, although it was used against him by the church members. They questioned his authority to do it, but the book eventually became a reference point and a source of information to the church history committee. He introduced a discipleship program that positively impacted the lives of church members by causing them to be involved aggressively in evangelism and prayer.
He also introduced a night vigil at a time when his colleagues were shying away from such practices, and their church members were drifting to other ministries for prayer. In the face of opposition he stood his ground, even when some of the church members attempted to disrupt the program by stoning the participants. He encouraged them and cautioned them to stay in the auditorium to avoid being hit by stones. He maintained a balance between the young and the old in his ministry to the various churches he served, thereby creating cordiality between the two groups.
Educational programs were developed to ensure that there was no disparity in the body of Christ. When he was at Gaa-Lagbedu Baptist Church in Ogbomoso, the church grew numerically, spiritually, and materially, because he enjoyed the cooperation of his members. His life and work had such a positive impact that at his retirement, the church members wondered if they would ever come across a pastor like him again. He persevered in the face of adversity, was a straightforward person, and carried everyone along in his pastorate. He was the embodiment of humility and he led the church by example. He was consistent and contented. He retired from active pastoral service on December 20, 1997, but engaged in purposeful visitation until his death.
Oyatumo wrote two books: A Short History of the Bible Society of Nigeria in Ogbomoso and The Ogbomoso Baptist Conference. He also had three other unpublished works in Yoruba, his first language, which are: Orin Dafidi Elekajeka: Awon Ti o Ko Won ati Nnkan Die Nipa Igbe Aye Dafidi [An Analysis of the Book of Psalms: Those who wrote them, and a Brief explanation on the Life of David]; Ojo Ogbo: Isoro ati Awon Anfaani Re [Aging: Its Challenges and Benefits]; and Itan kukuru lori Rogbodiyan Ilu Kaduna, Igbese Kristiani ati Musulumi: Ilu Ogbomoso [A Short History of the Kaduna Crisis and the Part played by the Christians and Muslims of Ogbomoso].
He died on November 19, 2006.
Marian Ade Ishola
Ojo, S.O., Ezekiel Ogunniran Oyatumo: Life That Preached. Nigeria: Omega Press, 2007.
This story, submitted in 2010, was written by Marian Ade Ishola, a student at Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso under the supervision of Dr. M. L. Ogunewu and submitted by Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.