Samuel Titilola Oladele Akande, PhD (S.T. Ola Akande) (1926-2020): A Profile by The Nigerian Baptist Convention

Samuel Titilola Oladele Akande, PhD (S.T. Ola Akande) (1926-2020):
A Profile by The Nigerian Baptist Convention

Introduction

Rev. (Dr) Samuel Titilola Oladele Akande, a man who while in office was fondly referred to by some of his friends as the “Archbishop of the Baptist Church of Nigeria” is a Nigerian Baptist minister, held in very high esteem by the Baptist communities in Nigeria, Africa and the world at large. He was the third indigenous General Secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. He served the Convention meritoriously in various capacities from 1952 – 1991, a period of forty (40) years, with the last twelve (12) being spent as the General Secretary. To his many admirers, he is a dutiful minister, courageous preacher, a talented teacher and the “best Nigerian Baptist leader ever produced.”

Dr. Akande passed away at his residence in Ibadan on September 10, 2020 according to a statement released by his family. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Comfort Olalonpe, five children and five grandchildren.


Birth and Parental Background
Samuel Titilola Oladele Akande was born in Awe in the present Oyo State of Nigeria on March 31, 1926. His father was Daniel Oladele Akande, who was the son of Papa Oyetunde Akande of the Onsa-Olapeleke’s Compound in Awe. His mother was Susainah Ayannihun, whose father was Ayanwale and mother was Olanbiwonninu. Samuel’s father was a Baptist, while his mother was from a Catholic home. In those days, it was almost an impossibility for a Protestant Christian to marry a Catholic. This was as a result of the high-level denominational biases which existed among the churches at that time. However, due to God’s providence, the two families agreed to the marriage proposal and Susainah was given in marriage to Daniel in 1923 and three years later, they gave birth to Samuel, their first child.

Education and Early Work Life

Few years after his birth, Samuel’s parent migrated to the then Gold Coast, now Republic of Ghana, in search of greener pastures, taking their infant son with them. Samuel therefore had his first taste at education in Ghana. There he attended the A. M. E. Zion primary School, the Salvation Army School and the Aggrey Memorial Primary School in Sekondi, Gold Coast, until 1937 when he was brought back to Awe his hometown. He continued his primary education in Awe at the Awe Baptist Day School in 1938, this time under the guardianship of his uncle Mr. Abodunrin Akande and his paternal grandmother, Madam Olatoun Ajile, as his parents were still based in Ghana. He completed his primary education at this school in the year 1943. On the completion of his primary education in 1943, he went back to Ghana to join his parents. There he was enrolled at the Adisadel College, an Anglican High School in Cape Coast, Gold Coast, where he completed his secondary education in flying colours in 1949 with a very good grade at the London Matriculation Examination as well as the Cambridge School Certificate Examination.

The year 1948, on September 9, was a tragic year for Samuel as his mother answered the call to the great beyond in that year. Consequently, his father decided to return to his hometown of Awe in Nigeria with his four sisters. This nearly brought an abrupt end to his secondary education, but for the timely intervention of Alhaji Shittu Olopoenia of Okeiho, in Oyo State, who opted to be his guardian for the remaining period of his studies and the Baptist Mission in Ghana under Reverend W. N. Claxon who offered him a scholarship to enable him to complete his education. The scholarship was however conditional. After the completion of his education, he was to serve the Baptist Mission as a teacher in any of their schools in Ghana. Hence, 1n 1949 he was appointed as a teacher in the Baptist Mission School in Suhum, a town in the Southern part of Ghana.
While serving as a teacher with the Baptist Mission, he felt the urge to go into the pastoral ministry and this necessitated his return to Nigeria and enrolment into the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary Ogbomosho in 1952, so as to be trained as a Baptist minister. At the seminary, Akande was a very brilliant and popular student. From 1952 – 1955, he was elected the Editor of the seminary’s magazine, “The Theologue”, and as a good athlete right from his primary school days, he also participated in sports. He completed his theological education with a Bachelor’s degree in Theology (B.Th) in December 1955. He was invited to the pastorate of the First Baptist Church, Fiditi, beginning from January 1, 1956.

In 1959, while serving as Pastor of the First Baptist Church, Fiditi in the present Oyo State of Nigeria, the Nigerian Baptist Convention awarded him a scholarship to study in the U.S.A. In America, he attended the Wayland Baptist College, now Wayland Baptist University and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1959 – 1962. At Wayland College, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts cum laude, degree majoring in English, while he obtained a Bachelor of Divinity degree at the latter. He returned to Nigeria in 1962 after the completion of his studies, worked briefly in some Baptist Churches as Pastor and later returned to the United States in 1969 on the scholarship of the Union Theological Seminary of Broadway New York for his postgraduate studies. He pursued a Master of Sacred Theology degree in New Testament at the institution, which he completed in 1970. Thereafter, he returned to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for his Ph.D programme in New Testament, which he successfully completed in 1973.

Marital Life

The period which Samuel spent as a teacher with the Baptist Mission in Ghana presented him with certain opportunities, which positively influenced his life. First, it was during that time that he met Miss Comfort Olalonpe Kehinde, the lady who later became his wife. Samuel met her on his first day at Suhum, in December 1949. During their stay together in the area, a relationship developed between them, which eventually culminated in their marriage on the 13th of December 1956. The marriage is blessed with five God-fearing children, who are at present in various responsible positions. Dr. Akande’s achievements could not have been realized without the prayerful support, devotion, and unwavering faith of his wife, who believes that the duty of a Christian wife is to support her husband in prayer. The woman has been a source of courage and encouragement to him all through.

Children and Grandchildren

The Akande’s are blessed with five children and five grandchildren. Olanike Akande, Associate Director, Finance and Administration Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute, University of Texas Health Center, U.S.A; Benjamin Ola. Akande, President, Champlain College, Burlington, Vermont, U.S.A.; A. Bola Akande, City Administrator for City of Brentwood, Missouri, U.S.A.; Olayemi Akande Bartsch, President/CEO Focus St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.; Folashade Okediji, Director, College Counseling Rockhurst High School, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A.; Grandchildren: Moyosola, Anjola and Reni Akande, Elianna and Jonathan Okediji.

Pastoral Ministry

Another opportunity which presented itself to Samuel during his stay in Suhum was that which launched him into the Gospel ministry. As a teacher in a Baptist Mission School, Akande was also involved in church activities. In 1951, he came in contact with the Late Reverend J. T. Ayorinde from Nigeria, who later became the first Indigenous General Secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. This was at a Baptist convention at Tamale in Ghana. One of the sermons preached at the convention by Dr. Ayorinde was titled “Preaching the Gospel Around.” This sermon had a great influence on Akande. After the sermon, he felt within himself the urge to go into the ministry. He therefore met the speaker and told him that he would like to join the ministry. The Reverend gentleman gave him all the support he needed, as a result of which he returned to Nigeria in 1952 and got enrolled at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomosho, to commence a course of training as a Baptist minister.

Upon his graduation from the seminary, he was engaged to pastor at the First Baptist Church, Fiditi, Nigeria. It was while serving at this church that he was ordained as a full gospel minister on the 13th day of October 1957. Pastor Akande did not only command great respect in his domain, the First Baptist Church Fiditi, he was also seen as a role model by the youths of the town. He was at Fiditi till 1959, when he won a scholarship to study in the U.S.A. Returning to Nigeria from America in 1962, Rev. Akande secured a pastoral job at Ago-Owu Baptist Church in Abeokuta, where he had a great and successful ministry which lasted four memorable years. During his four-year of pastoral leadership of Ago-Owu Baptist Church, the church witnessed tremendous spiritual and numerical growth.
Before his appointment as Pastor of the church, some members were accused of being members of the Ogboni Fraternity, a notable secret-cult in the South-West of Nigeria. These men have been ex-communicated from the church by his predecessor. But Rev. Akande on becoming the pastor of the church decided to recall these members. It was his opinion that instead of being frustrated out of the church, they could be properly counseled with scripture as to the evil effect of cultism on their Christian life. He therefore invited the affected members back into the church. His effort yielded positive result as these men later renounced their membership of the cult. They then lived thereafter for the Lord Jesus Christ and died committed to his cause. In all, Rev. Akande served the Ago-Owu Baptist Church in his capacity as pastor from 1962 – 1965, a period of three years.

Leaving the Ago-Owu Baptist Church in December 1965, he moved to the Ebenezer Baptist Church on Campbell Street in Lagos. He resumed at this church in January 1966. At the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Rev. Akande was known for his sermons against membership of the Ogboni Cult by Christians. Membership of secret societies was at the time a serious menace to the churches, as some members still preferred to have one leg in the church and the other in the cult. However, Rev. Akande’s sermons became quite popular in Lagos in this regard, so-much-so that churches of other denominations such as the Methodists and the Anglicans invited him on various occasions to deliver sermons.
In the mid and late 1960s in Lagos, his name became a household name among Christians. He was a regular guest preacher on the television and radio stations in Lagos and Ibadan. He was so loved and highly respected by many that a good number of aged people made their minds known both to him and their children that he must officiate and deliver sermons at their funeral ceremony. Young couples who were also planning their weddings were besieging his office to consult his engagement diary before ever appointing dates for their weddings, because they would want him to officiate and deliver sermons on their wedding days. It was a great period in the life of Rev. Akande. He became very busy and scarce, as he had to adjust to his newfound positions as a minister of the gospel in high demand.

In 1969, while serving as Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, he secured another scholarship from the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, United States of America, for his postgraduate Studies in New Testament. He was in America from August 1969 to December 1973 and he completed both his Masters and Ph.D programmes. Returning to Nigeria in December 1973, Dr. Akande taught at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomosho. He served as an Associate Professor at the seminary in New Testament Studies until December 1976, when he was invited to become Pastor of the Oritamefa Baptist Church in Ibadan.
Although his stay at the Oritamefa Baptist Church was quite brief, however, the Lord blessed his ministry during these years. His short stay at the church witnessed a geometrical growth of membership. The Sunday worship services were well attended by both Baptists and non-Baptists alike. It was reported that the church was always filled to capacity, to the extent that worshippers who arrived the church after 9.30 a.m., usually didn’t get seats. There were those who would stand throughout the worship services; some would sit with members of the choir; while others would sit on the rostrum around the pulpit just to be able to worship on Sunday and listen to Rev. Akande’s sermons. To make his sermons available to members of the church and other interested members of the public, he introduced a unique tape-recording ministry, which flourished tremendously. They were recording the Sunday sermons and making them available to interested members for a token amount. He also introduced the printing of these sermons, which were always distributed to worshippers the following Sunday. All these contributed in no small measure to the spiritual growth of the members during his tenure as pastor of the church. As a courageous and fearless preacher, his sermons against membership of secret cults, for which he was known in Lagos, continued at the Oritamefa Baptist Church, Ibadan. During one of such sermons on a Sunday in 1977, an eyewitness gave a vivid account of the day as follows: –

The church was packed full. The media, both electronic and print, was highly represented. It is even possible that members of the secret cults were themselves present. Some members were afraid of what might happen to their pastor given the viciousness with which cultists were known to have dealt with persons, including some pastors, who openly divulged their secrets. After the choir special, Dr. Akande mounted the pulpit. The whole atmosphere was charged. Anxiety filled the whole sanctuary. He fired on, exposing their secrets, denouncing the evil of cultism and then gave invitation. It was in the news all over town. Of course, he was threatened later and told that he would die within seven (7) day! He is still living till today.

Leadership of the Nigerian Baptist Convention
From March 1977 through April 1979, Rev. Akande served as the President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. In April 1979, he was appointed its General Secretary. As a reformer and an agent of change, he was determined to leave his marks on the sand of time as a facilitator of positive development in the Nigerian Baptist Convention. His tenure therefore witnessed giant strides in administrative innovations and spiritual development.

(a) Staff Motivation and Welfare
Staff motivation and welfare was high on his agenda. First, he introduced a special periodical “Appreciation Service” for church pastors who have served any Baptist Church or the Convention for a period of five years and above. These services have over the years served as a source of encouragement to ministers in their work. Congregations have also been using the occasion of such services to really show appreciation to their pastors by presenting them with valuable gifts, written citations, and certificates. Realizing then that there was also the need to appreciate retired ministers of God, he introduced the “Award of Certificates of Meritorious Services” to ministers of the Nigerian Baptist Convention who have retired from the services of the Convention after years of meritorious service.

Prominent among the certificates introduced at that time was that for the “Excellence for growth in church membership, baptism and founding of new Churches”. This was introduced by him in collaboration with Rev. R. L. Locke, the Southern Baptist Missionary with whom he also co-founded the Oke-Bola Baptist Church. He also introduced Certificates of Merit to the first one hundred (100) churches on Honor Roll in their cooperative giving to the Convention. These presentations served as recognition for work well-done, help motivate ministers and members to greater work and culminated in the expansion of Baptist work in Nigeria during Rev. Akande’s tenure as the General Secretary.

He introduced a new self-administered pension scheme to the Convention, which enabled retired Baptist personnel to collect reasonable gratuities at retirement and also enabled their gratuities to be paid at record time. To forestall the exodus of pastors from the Convention, into the civil and teaching services, he set up a Salary Review Committee to review pastors’ salaries, recommending to the committee to come up with a very generous proposal that would be in line with the salaries of civil servants. This singular act was a great achievement and he yet complemented that with the preparation, for the first time within the Convention, of a “Booklet on the Conditions of Service for Workers of the NBC. The result was that the scales of salary for pastors became the same and is still the same with those of the civil service. With this, the exodus of personnels from the Convention’s Service was curtailed to an appreciable level. It would therefore not be an exaggeration to say that his tenure was that of better salaries structure and improved condition of service for Baptist pastors and workers.

(b) Evangelism and Church Growth

Rev. Akande is a lover of evangelism. Before his appointment as General Secretary of the NBC, he was involved in many church planting activities. He was a CoFounder with Southern Baptist Missionary, Rev. R. L. Locke of the Oke-Bola Baptist Church, Ibadan (English Speaking), which was latter renamed New Reservation Area Baptist Church and was its Honorary Pastor from 1979-1989. He also Co-Founded the University of Ibadan Baptist Church, Ibadan, Nigeria with Professor J. T. Okedola. Apart from the contribution of his pastoral ministry to church growth, the motivation which he gave to pastors and members alike led to the expansion of the Baptist ministry in Nigeria. Specifically, there was a phenomenal increase in Baptist Churches and Preaching Stations from about two to three thousand. The Student Ministries Department was established during his time as Convention Secretary. Correspondingly, the Convention started to assume increasing financial responsibility for Student Ministry. This tremendously helped to foster this arm of the Convention as students were ministered to, cared for, and integrated into the life of the Church.

(c) Contribution to Education

Rev. Akande was instrumental to the establishment of the Department of Religious Studies, at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. In 1984, the University approached the Executive Committee of the NBC on its intention to open a department of Christian Religious Studies, with the condition that the Convention should provide a teacher to head the department and pay his salary for two years. Rev. Akande worked assiduously to fulfill this condition; thereby the department was opened at the university. He also used his position as the Regional Secretary for Africa of the Baptist World Alliance to assist the newly created department to arrange for theological books for its library. Through his influence, nine hundred and forty-eight volumes of theological books were sent to the department from the Baptist World Alliance in America. As the General Secretary of the NBC, Rev. Akande helped promote intellectualism within the Convention by contributing to the education of many pastors and young students. He encouraged many a good number of them to further their studies. To make this easier, he marched this encouragement with action, by pursuing and securing scholarships for many of them. In 1980, he initiated an exchange programme between the NBC and the Quachita Baptist University in Arkansas, U.S. A. This programme gave many pastors of the NBC the opportunities of overseas studies. Surely, those who benefited from these programmes will never forget his great contribution to their lives in this area.
(d) Contribution to Economic Development
Before his appointment as General Secretary of the NBC, many properties of the Baptist Mission and that of the Convention have been compulsorily acquired by government. On his assumption of office, he fought relentlessly and got compensations for some of them and it was through his relentless effort that the NBC was able to secure allocation of land at Abuja, the new Nigerian Federal Capital Territory.

An Accomplished Author

He is an accomplished author and educated elite, who sought to educate the masses through his many publications. His book “The Courage to Live” published in 1986 by Macmillan Publishers Nigeria Limited is a masterpiece and has been reprinted in 2003 and 2007. It contains admonitions on how to wade through life courageously, thereby living a life worthwhile. The home is another area that is of special interest to him. Some of his books offer encouragement and admonition to couples on how to sustain their marriages, manage their homes and bring up their children in the fear of God. He is an anti-corruption crusader. Therefore some of his works also deal with the evil practices of corruption, greed and excessive love for money which have remained a recurring problem within our society and which have constituted a bane to the progress of our nation, economically, politically, educationally and socially. Some of his published works are: – Marriage and Home Making in Nigerian Society (1971); What to do when Someone Dies: A Handbook of Information for Families in the Crisis of Death (1976); Common Family Problems: Advice and Counsel on Eight Problems in Family Life (1977); An Invitation to become One Family in God: A Study of the Ephesian Epistle (1977); published by the Daystar Press, Ibadan. Others are The Doctrine of Eschatology: Its Relevance to our Present Day Evangelistic Programme (1974); Prevent a Divorce in Your Marriage (1981); For Better, For Worse (1986); published by the Baptist Press, Ibadan; Marriage and Home Making in the Nigerian Society; From the beginning to the End; People Whom God Blesses and their Reward; Who are they? Speaking in Tongues; Yesterday and Today; and his latest 438-page book entitled, Sermons of Solace and Hope.

Ecumenical Involvements

Rev. Akande held many positions within the Body of Christ, both at home and at the international level. On the home front, he was Member, Translation Committee of the Bible Society of Nigeria from 1980-1991; Member, Standing Committee of the Christian Council of Nigeria, 1976-1991; and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Oyo State Chapter, 1985-1990. He was also appointed by the Federal Government of Nigeria as Member of the Panel on Implications of Nigeria’s membership of the “Organization of Islamic Council” (OIC) in 1986; and the Advisory Council of Religious Affairs from 1987-1989. As his contribution towards religious peace in Nigeria, he was Co-Founder with Alhaji Abdul Azeez Arisekola Alao, (a Nigerian Muslim leader and a staunch promoter of the Muslim Faith), of an organization “The Christian/Muslim Peace Movement of Nigeria in 1990. He held the following appointments at the international level – Life Member, International Society for the Study of the New Testament (SNTS) 1977; Member, Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, from 1977 – 1983 and 1984- 1991; Member, Central Committee of the World Council of Churches; Member, General Council of the Baptist World Alliance, 1978-1992 and General Secretary/Treasurer All Africa Baptist Fellowship and Baptist World Alliance Regional Secretary for Africa 1982-1992.

National Honour

The Revd. S. T. Ola. Akande, Ph.D, J.P., M.F.R. was awarded the National honour of the Order of Member of the Federal Republic in December 2003 by the Federal Government of Nigeria in appreciation of his many social, political, cultural and religious contributions to the Nigerian Society.

Establishment of a School of Evangelism
Dr. Akande, in November 1995, established the International Institute of Evangelism in Plainview, Texas, U.S.A. The School was approved by the State of Texas, U.S.A. and by the U.S. Federal Government in 1996. The School which is multidenominational prepares evangelists, moral educators for schools and adult literacy educators, and awards the certificate and Diploma in Evangelism. Classes began at the School on October 6, 1998.

Personal Qualities

Rev. Akande is a man of many parts. He is a gifted, courageous, and fearless preacher; an astute and tireless pastor; a forthright theologian; an able and accomplished administrator, a committed and uncompromising leader; and unwavering Christian person. He is a loving husband to his wife and a dutiful father to his children. He is a man of honor, integrity, and the fear of the Lord; and a gospel minister of no mean achievement, who has been an agent of positive changes in his own time. The Lustre and Pride he has brought to bear on the NBC in particular and the Christian Faith in general is unquantifiable. No wonder the entire students of 1977 Master of Divinity (MDIV) class of the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomosho, when reviewing the activities and performance of Nigerian Baptist leaders concluded as follows “Though controversial while in office and out of office, yet S. T. Ola Akande is the best Nigerian Baptist leader ever produced.

Conclusion

Rev. (Dr) Akande served the Baptist communities in Nigeria from 1951, when he answered the call into the ministry to his retirement from the exalted office of the General Secretary in 1991, a period of forty (40) years. During this period, he served as pastor, church administrator, seminary teacher President and lastly the General Secretary of the NBC for 12 years. It is the witness of a great number of Baptists that he brought the NBC many steps forward to greatness during these 12 years. In 1993, Revd. S. T. Ola. Akande was voted as the Presidential Candidate of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC).

References:

Olaseni O. Egbeyemi, S. T. Ola Akande – Agent of Change, Ibadan: GLJ General Services Ltd, 1996.

Ademola Ishola and Deji Ayegboyin, Ecclesiastes, The Preacher, the Church and the Contemporary Society, Paper in Honour of Rev. Dr S. T. Ola Akande Ph.D at 80, Ibadan: Sceptre Print Limited, 2006.

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