It is often said and true that one tree does not a forest make. By the same token, nation-building is a task for all citizens. The bottom line is that all of us must chip in and play our own. role to the best of our ability in whatever occupation we find ourselves. Hillary Rodham-Clinton one of America’s best known First Ladies and New York Senators once wrote a book titled “It takes a village to raise a child” If you think that statement was a hyperbole, just wait till you hear what it takes to build a nation. It takes the whole citizenry working together, with each person making contributions that help or handicap a nation from attaining its full potential.
Viewed from that prism alone, I guess we all can agree that political leaders like the President, the Vice, the Senate President and the Deputy, the Chief Justice of the country and all the members of the Council of State, the members of the Upper House and the National Assembly, and all politicians at the Local State and Federal levels, are, to tell the truth, only an important factor in the equation, nut never the most dominant factor in my judgment. A nation thrives the best when the you and i complement the work, efforts and achievements of leaders as they struggle to play their part in the task of nation-building. Everyone of us is an important factor in that equation regardless of who you are. If you are a carpenter or a plumber or a cloak room attendant or a porter, you, sure, do have an important role to help build the nation. What is important is for all citizens to aspire to be the best in what they do. I cannot think of any other Nigerian who shares a higher fundamental value in that precept than Bishop Omoyajowo of Nigeria. Much of the Third world countries lag behind, more often than not, when compared with the developed countries, because they hardly manifest or project such awareness as forcefully as many developed countries do.
The central role of Government in that context, is simply to provide a conducive environment and ample opportunities for the rank and file of the governed to attain their highest potential, and to be recognized and publicly acknowledged, as such, in a way to encourage others to copy or multiply what is good and edifying in the country, while at the same time creating a deterrence for the few rotten eggs among us to abhor or desist from that which is not so kosher or endearing. I guess the whole concept of Law, including the simple notion of Punishment and Reward, and the whole idea of competition and awards that promote excellence, and reward talent, creativity and ingenuity among citizens, are all designed to underscore that awareness.
America, currently the leading nation on Earth today, would appear to understand that prism arguably better than any other country we know. Competition is encouraged in all aspects of American Life, and their education system and policy formulation view that observation as their cardinal goal all the time. Award-winning competitions in all types of Sports, Music, Beauty Pageants, Motor Shows, etc., are all designed in this nation to affirm and promote excellence in all its ramifications. A grateful nation that acknowledges, values and immortalize the contributions of all of her citizens who have done something special and praiseworthy, is a nation likely to enjoy the multiply effect of that unique attribute. No Nation does it better than the United States which never fail to generously and permanently immortalize the contributions of their national heroes. We do have similar heroes in Nigeria in the nook and corners of our country, in every town, Local Government, and most certainly in every State of our country including the seat of our Federal Government in Abuja. Part of my goal in this article is to fish out such heroes that I can find in my own part of Nigeria, and to let my readership know something about them that might inspire them.
It is often said, with some measure of accuracy, that one out of every four Africans is a Nigerian. That statement acknowledges the dominant role and activities of Nigerians in the African Continent. There is no doubt that our country has had more than her own fair share of the rotten eggs, crooks and deviants who often tarnish the good image of our country. The good news, however, is that such deviants are nearly always in the minority as I hinted earlier on, in this write-up. But after all is said and done, I will argue that much of the world has also come to acknowledge the creativity and resourcefulness of Nigerians every where they are found, and I can tell you Nigerians can be found in most countries around the world where you will least expect them to be. if you go to Eskimo Land you will probably find Nigerians We are a potentially great nation, and the ingenuity and the greatness of so many of our citizens at home and abroad exemplify that reality, despite all the deprivations and hardships many of us have had to endure, in making a breakthrough. Survival is an integral part of our DNA if you ask me. Nearly everyone you know has one story or the other to tell about some unsung Nigerian heroes and achievers in all walks of Life in their different villages and hamlets, towns and cities across our nation.
I have found one such hero from my own neck of the woods in Ondo State. I present to you our own Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Bishop Joseph Akinyele Omoyajowo, the current Anglican Bishop of Ijebu Ode, who is probably closer to retirement today, because he is just about attaining the mandatory retiring age of 70 for Bishops in that Denomination in Nigeria. Just like Bishop Ajayi Crowther was born in a little village of Osogun in present Ogun State, Bishop Omoyajowo was born in Iittle Isarun near Igbaraoke, but with much of his roots traced back to Akure, the Ondo State Capital. For those who may not know, Akure and Isarun, otherwise called “Ile Owuro” is historically joined at the hips, so to speak, with Akure.
The historical linkage with Akure is so strong and unique that Oluasarun, the traditional ruler of Isarun is by history assigned a special role when an incumbent Deji makes his transition to the life beyond. The Oluasarun and the Deji, as a rule, never get tog
ether or see themselves face-to-face until after the Deji answers the higher call, and the Oluasarun is then invited in, by tradition, to do what he has to do, before the Deji is granted the final right of passage. Before performing that unique right, the Oluasarun, as a right, takes from the Deji’s palace anything he wants. It is a once-in-a-life-time kind of ceremony emphasizing the special relationship between Akure and Isarun. It is true that Isarun is often wrongly considered as a village under Igbaraoke because both towns are now so close to each other that many would consider Isarun as a quarter within Igbaraoke, and because they are now placed under the same Ifedore Local Government. But in actual fact, Isarun is totally independent of Igbaraoke, and more closely linked with Akure by their history, That is why you will never hear an Isarun male or female claiming to belong to Ekiti like Igbaraoke people sometimes do.
The boundary between the Ekitis and Akure on Ilawe/Igbaraodo Road is Ibuji village and the boundary between Akure and Ilesha on the Ilesha/Akure Express is Owena River, thus making the entire land mass currently occupied by Igbaraoke, an Akure territory without any iota of doubt. I get into this little clarification just to emphasize the special relationship between Akure and Isharun from time immemorial, and to underscore the inescapable conclusion that Bishop Omoyajowo is as much an Akure son, like he is an Isarun elite, like myself. He would not have been my blood relation, if that were not so. Akure therefore takes as much pride in the Bishop’s accomplishments as Isharun, the land of his birth.
Having cleared that point, I now wish to explain further how and why I see a lot in him that makes the Bishop, the perfect role model for younger Nigerians to emulate. Like a powerful writer once said of Abraham Lincoln of the United States, ever before his election as an American President, and arguably one of America’s greatest Presidents of all times, Bishop Omoyajowo’s face like that of Abe Lincoln, was a road map to his soul and character and above all to his very large heart and a great sense of humor. Bishop Omoyajowo is always a joy to know. His natural gift of empathy, and hard work are only matched by his iron determination to be the best in everything he has ever set his mind upon. He is therefore deemed eminently qualified for this character profile on the World Wide Web in appreciation and recognition of those attributes and more, if you can accept my logic.
Bishop Omoyajowo, could possibly have been a very successful musician/lead vocalist in any High Life Band, had he chosen to make Music a life-long career like he had done with academics where he, with effortless ease, had risen to the rank of a Professor of Religious Studies at Awolowo University, close to twenty years before his consecration as Bishop. He could easily have succeeded as an administrator or a teacher in the Civil Service, if that was what he had wanted. His tenure as a ranking member and later as Chairman of the Ondo State Civil Service Commission, for many years, bears an eloquent testimony to that fact. He was clearly a bundle of talents, and one of the most decent human beings you will ever meet.
I came to know him perhaps better than any of the people close to him, with the exception of his wife and children, because I grew up with him, and we are blood relations. He and one other uncle of mine, Chief Olu Isijola, President and CEO of Interbasic Products Nigeria PLC, through whom I first got close to the Bishop, have been my greatest mentors and role models in Life. Without their powerful influence on me, and God’s intervention, it is doubtful, if I would have gone, as far in life, as it has pleased God to make possible, as I struggled, like most Nigerians of my generation, to break out of the polygamous conundrum into which I was born, and despite its inherent limitations and inhibitions. Unto God be the glory, but I have learnt from experience that God uses people to make miracles happen. I submit that my own miracles would not have been possible without the influence of the two uncles in my Life Period.
I went as far as I did in acquiring Education, and taking a Ph.D, and two Master’s Degrees in Public Administration and clinical Psychology and Social Work in large part, because I wanted to be like the two uncles of mine. Part of my goal was to surpass their records, if I can. I never was able to match their ingenuity, their charisma, and resourcefulness, because theirs was clearly a class act to follow, but I believe I have succeeded in matching their records or exceeding their congenital love of Ghana Music in particular which they have both passed on to me in the early 60s and 70s when Ghanaian Music had dominated our own part of the world, like the American Hip Hop culture of today has taken the whole world by storm. It was only an accident of History that I did not become a career Musician myself.
I nearly pulled out of Secondary School to go focus all my energy on the Ghanaian type of Music. Even though I did not speak a single word of Ga or Twi, with active encouragement from the Bishop and uncle Isijola, I was always considered the best Ghanaian Music vocalist at Oyemekun and later at Ibadan Grammar School and Igbobi College, Lagos. I still recall our foremost Guitarist in those days, at Ibadan Grammar School, my junior boy, Dele Ogedengbe from Akungba, who later became the Attorney-general and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State under Governor Adefarati. Music was such a major factor in our lives at school You can still find indelible traces of old Ghana albums in my house or apartment till tomorrow. The credit for that all belongs to my Lord Bishop of Ijebu Ode who blazed the trail for me, and charted a course for me that had enriched my life in ways I cannot even begin to describe here.
I still cannot help but recall, with nostalgia, the days when E.T Mensah, the Ramblers Band of Ghana and the great Onyina’s Guitar Band of Ghana, to mention a few, used to set the pace of high Life Music in West Africa. I recall the album titled “Ghana, the Land of Freedom” specially waxed by ET Mensah to mark Ghana’s Independence in 1957. It was a blockbuster which must have sold thousands at the time even in Nigeria, talk less of Ghana. I recall and I still cherish amazing tracks like ”
Bosue” “Onokutubega”, “Bominasu” and Odo Ye Wu. Uncle, now Bishop Omoyajowo had not only mastered these songs, word for word, lyric by lyric, and rhythm by rhythm. He had personally taught myself and uncle Isijola how to sing the songs from beginning to the end. I initially thought uncle had lived for some time in Ghana, only to discover later that he had never been to Ghana. He just had such a wonderful memory and intellect that he could memorize the wordings, and put out the tunes better than most Ghanaians can.
I was mesmerized by his uncanny ability to sing Ghanaian songs with the precision and originality of thorough-bred Ghanaians. If you thought that his rendition of “Onokutubega” in flawless Twi was something, you haven’t seen anything yet, until you hear the Bishop sing popular songs that now sound to me like American country music in their purity and appeal. Many of those songs were waxed by the one and only Onyinas Guitar Band of Ghana, and they include tracks like “Debie Debie Nawuke”, “Dede na wu yon” “Sori be fima”, “Yen fre wu o”, “Esie nuka midi ye”, “Ma yeba o odo, ma ye ba o nu ne, Sha sha sha”, “Nana Me, wo u Mo ju mo, Nana me”, “O mi neri.”, “Odo Yewu, O kode ja mi. Ominayo, Mi die, minayo odo fre fie” “Koko nsami o nidi ufi asem. Koko nsa tete ntuma”, “Omi dopupa, omi dofu” “Ma ye akuko”, “Mimi o Jaye”, “Ayanku Dudu a” “Me yeye asana me wu o” and so many ageless and timeless Ghana albums and recordings myself and the Bishop and uncle Isijola still cherish till tomorrow, and would for ever cherish as long as we all live.
I never passed up a chance to do a Duet on some of theses songs with the Bishop or Uncle Isijola every time we were together and when I do visit home once in a while. Ghana music has come to create such a heavy bond between us that has survived in all of us for close to 50 years, and that has proved as enduring as the blood relationship we all share. What is truly amazing to me, and why I really adore my uncle the Bishop is how come, in spite of all those, childhood distractions and youthful exuberance, Rev, now Bishop Omoyajowo still managed to remain focussed on what matters the most to him. He had started nursing the hope of becoming a Reverend and taking to the pulpit right from his teenage years. He had not only accomplished that, he had been consecrated a Bishop after facing some near death situations where a second chance was often considered unthinkable Due to no fault of his and probably due to Destiny, his first marriage had to end in mysterious circumstances.That development should under normal conditions have, for ever, decimated his brilliant career as a Reverend. It never did, as uncle had risen from one pinnacle to another until God had found him a wonderful soul mate and life partner in Adenike Ogunsusi, first daughter of retired Archdeacon and Mrs. Iyalaje Oladuti Ogunsusi. It was a marriage made from Heaven, blessed with wonderful children. Even though his first marriage did not succeed, the off-springs from that wedlock had proved to be God-sent and wonderful. Uncle’s eldest son from that marriage, Dr. Rev, Akin Omoyajowo Junior, is a special gift from God, just like his other two siblings have done our entire family proud. God was just too kind to the Bishop, but the bottom line was that the Bishop himself had been true to God in the kind of life he has lived.
Ordained the pioneer Bishop of Ilaje/Eseodo based at Ilutitun before his posting to Ijebu-Ode, he was clearly a pace setter and an achiever of no mean caliber. He had been that way all his life, rising from a pupil teacher to go train as a professional teacher at the great St John’s Teacher Training College, Owo where he was Senior Prefect in his final year. He had passed out of St Johns with a Distinction and he soon began to privately prepare himself with some help from Exam Success correspondence lectures which saw him passing his GCE ordinary and advanced Levels to qualify him for direct entry to the great University of Ibadan where he passed his Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Studies, top of his class with a Second Class Upper. He immediately proceeded to do his Doctorate acquiring it in three years with Distinction again, under the direct supervision of the late Professor Bolaji Idowu who later became the Patriarch of the Nigerian Methodist Church. Dr. Omoyajowo had thereafter lectured at the University of Ibadan before moving on to the University of Ife where he late became a tenured Professor.
He was later invited from the University to become a ranking member of the Ondo State Civil Service Commission before he was finally named the Chairman a few years later. His tenure as Chairman had been described in many circles in Ondo State as the golden age of the Civil Service because he really turned the place around giving emphasis to meritocracy over and above mediocrity. As chairman, he did not abandon his duties as a cleric.he was assigned as Vicar of St John’s Church, Oba Ile, and for a little while, as Vicar of St Luke’s Church in Akure. The Anglican Congregation at St John’s Oba Ile would, forever, look upon his tenure at Oba-Ile, as a life changing experience for everybody in that Church. It was always a pleasure to see him mount the pulpit, preaching the gospel and changing lives and empowering people in all humility and candor that are rare to find in his peers across the country. He was a special blessing and a great role model to all his parishioners.
He had carried the same magic to Ilutitun and then to Ijebu-Ode where God is doing mighty things, and turning the Diocese into one of the richest and the most progressive in the Anglican Communion. It was therefore not an accident of history that the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury had singled out the Diocese as a model during his last official visit to Nigeria. . You cannot know Bishop Omoyajowo, and not like him, because he is a decent human being and a great patriot who believes in the unity of the Church and the unity of our country. He not only practices what he preaches, he likes to make public example of himself and his life, and he would go to great length to condemn evil, regardless of who is doing it, and regardless of the persons status and power. He is a fearless, educated, and very modern and psychedelic cleric who once wore a beard like the current Arch-Bishop of Canterbury. He is flawlessly honest and blunt, if he has to. At the same time, he always knows where to draw the line, but does not suffer fools gladly. He would call a spade a spade, and does not kowtow to anyone but his conscience and God Almighty. Such men are rare to find in our country, and it calls for celebration when we find one, is my point.
My decision to do a
profile on him in this article is therefore informed by my awareness of his virtues and his uncanny and limitless ability to want to do good at all times, and to remain a good ambassador of Jesus on Earth. While a few towns in Ondo State where I come from, could boast of one or two or more Bishops in their history, my special guest of honor is the very first Bishop to ever come from Akure, the Ondo State Capital. My goal is not to rob “Ile Owuro” of her most famous son and star, simply because failure is an orphan while success is everybody’s child. That is not where I am headed. The bottom line is that most Nigerian stars and celebrities are able to trace their origins to one village or hamlet while still maintaining their linkage to some urban centers around our country. It doesn’t matter who you are, it is always the same story from one leader to another, from Yakubu Gowon to Shagari and to our current President who claims Abeokuta as his town of origin even though he is first and foremost an Owu man.
I profile the Bishop in this article for all he has been to his nuclear family, to his extended family, to Isarun, to Akure and then to Ondo State and finally to our whole country. The Bishop was the first individual in our extended family to break all comers record as they say, and to see the four walls of a University. He was the first in our family to graduate, and to eventually obtain a Doctorate of Philosophy in Religious Studies. Our family was not that well-to-do in those days, but that did not stop him from becoming all he could be. He is an exceptional character with a heart of Gold and a true man of God.
He is, in my judgment a prime candidate for national honors in Ondo State for all he has done to lift himself and lift the nation like a rising tide. There are many more icons like him scattered all over our country from Baga on Lake Chad to Aleme Alesa in Rivers State and from Potiskum to Ifite Oraifite in Imo.. The more our nation rewards the achievements and contributions of such icons, in all walks of life, the greater our country is ever going to be.The task is not that of the Federal Government alone. The States and Local Governments must do the same.
I am still waiting for a day when the Ondo State Government would try and publicly acknowledge the personal and official contributions of the Ondo State pioneer Governor in Ita David Ikpeme or when Akure Central Local Government will for once acknowledge posthumously, the sterling contributions of the late Colonel or Brigadier Bisalla for his role in making sure that the Murtala Mohammed Administration did not deny Akure her opportunity to be made the State Capital by merely rubber-stamping the recommendations of the Justice Irikefe Panel which clearly tipped his report in favor of Ondo town, regardless of Akure’s credentials for that honor. I am still waiting for Akure Local Government or City to do something to honor late Governor Anthony Onyearugbulem for his Road construction activities in giving the State Capital a befitting face lift during his regime in Akure. If all our Governors are like Onyearugbulem, Akure City would today be a show-piece of a Capital City. Governors come and go, but some are decidedly better than others. A grateful nation will constantly make that distinction, and do things to show it takes notice, for posterity sake, and to encourage others to want to do good, when they are empowered so to do.
I rest my case.