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Life and times of Rev. Samuel Akande

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There are different ways to measure the greatness of a man’s impact. One would be his legacy as an institution builder and reformer. Another would be the shaping power of a man’s ideas and intellect. Another would be the methodological and stylistic impact of his written words. Yet another would be the incalculable eternal difference of a man in being the human instrument in God’s hand, in bringing hundreds of thousands of people out of darkness into light.

While only God can rightly assess the ripple effect of a person’s life in all the ways it has influence, the Reverend Papa Samuel Titilola Oladele Akande – father, husband, emeritus minister of the gospel, teacher, author, educationist, die-hard Baptist and Nigerian statesman… combined all these four attributes that are usually difficult to find in a single person. As we bid Baba “good night”, I dare say with the force of conviction that in the Church of God in Nigeria, with the passage of Rev. Akande, an epic era of evangelical history has come to an end.

Here lay a supremely gifted preacher of the gospel; a man of deep conviction whose passionate heartbeat throughout his missionary journey in this part of existence was for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Though we still mourn papa even as he fulfilled his years; even as he was not only absolutely prepared for this last journey, papa has heard, loud and clear, those words that welcome saints in glory … “well done, good and faithful servant”

Biography
All that I have said so far merely recast in more prose many titles that people had called papa, including the most popular, “the Archbishop of the Baptist Church in Nigeria”. All these recognitions and accolades he wore with grace while he was still in office, as: Pastor in First Baptist Church, Fiditi, from 1957 to 1959; Pastor in Ago-Owu Baptist Church, Abeokuta from 1962 to1965; At Ebenezer Baptist Church on Campbell Street, Lagos Island from 1966 to 1969;  As associate professor, Nigerian Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, from 1973 to 1976; And as pastor at the Orita Mefa Baptist Church, Ibadan. He became the President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention from 1977 to 1979; and as General Secretary for 12 years. Born in Awe on March 31, 1926 to late papa Daniel Oladele Akande of Ile Onsa-Lapeleke of Awe. His mother was mama Susannah Ayannihun. Few years before Papa was born, his parents had migrated to the then Gold Coast, now the Republic of Ghana.

He would later return to Nigeria to train at the Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso in 1952 and almost, back to back, and due to his scholastic brilliance. He went on scholarship to the United States, to the Wayland Baptist University and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary all in the US, where he bagged his PhD in New Testament.

Significantly, divine providence decreed that the initial seeds of papa’s calling would be sown when he was a teacher in the Baptist mission in Ghana. This being the origin of papa’s Fante accent which adorned his impeccable Queen’s English.

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The same divine providence would direct papa’s feet to mama Comfort Olalonpe Kehinde, originally from Ogbomoso, (but who had since become, flesh and blood, an Aawe daughter, who cannot do without eating Oku’Adie on any good day). Papa met and fell in love mama Olalonpe in Ghana in 1949. Their union remains a classic marriage of its kind. And papa would testify even in his last days that what his life would have been like without a better-half like mama Olalonpe was simply unimaginable.

The marriage will be 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 the 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.; and

Grandchildren: Moyosola, Anjola and Reni Akande, Ellianna and Jonathan Okediji.

With Baba Akande’s forceful and mesmerizing sermons and homiletic skills, Orita Mefa Baptist Church became the very place to be to hear the Word of God through the oratorical mouth of Baba. Indeed, sitting at the feet of Baba Akande to hear the word was a significant “elective” for me personally, all through my undergraduate and postgraduate days at the University of Ibadan.

Baba Akande drank too much drink from the love, favour and mercy of the Lord to hold back the fiery message of the Gospel he carried all his life. There is a poignant example in Baba’s pastoral ministry. One of the ecclesiastical issues he would be forced to deal with is the case of the dismissed members of the Ogboni Fraternity in the Baptist Churches he pastored.

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Baba overturned the dismissal decisions of Ogboni Fraternity and recalled the members that were dismissed. For him, the love of God demanded that love was commended to us all, that even when we were and are in sin, Christ loved and loves us.

His decision was vindicated when those recalled abandoned the Ogboni and turned to Christ. And that became a significant dimension of his messages—dedication to the Lord Jesus is more eternally significant than membership of any and all secret societies … and that eventually led to his deep reform and transformation of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. It was no mean feat to have been considered the Best Nigerian Baptist leader ever produced, or to have been affectionately referred to as the “Archbishop of the Baptist Church in Nigeria.”

And it was the same combination of erudition, vision and selfless service that motivated him to stand as a presidential candidate in Nigeria. All through his active life, Baba was always single-mindedly seeking for opportunity to make a difference. Nigeria, the place of his birth and ministry, was not different.

One abiding message that Baba’s life has scripted for all of us was to use the Nigerian Baptist Convention as a reform platform to bring the hearts and minds of the people of God back to the paths of higher values and purposes—that could serve as a barometer with which the spiritual and social health of the society is measured—rather than the present suffusion of prosperity message and miracle mentality that define a significant aspect of Christianity.

Prof. Tunji Olaopa is a retired federal permanent secretary & Professor of public administration, National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos.

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