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Friday, June 18, 2010

TRUE CALLING: Life and Times of Revd J.A. Okesiji (excerpt)

DEDICATION


To God,
Father of Life and Inspiration,
To Pastor Moses Majaro Okesiji,
Father of the Okesiji ancestry,
To Revd John Adegoke Okesiji,
The Limelight of the Okesiji ancestry,
To people,
Over the years,
Who made the story of our lives worthwhile.


PREFACE


GOOD MEN MUST DIE, BUT DEATH CANNOT KILL THEIR NAMES

Proverb
This is an effort to get the life of Revd John Adegoke Okesiji documented. It is a worthy task to have embarked on this project, which is both time and money consuming. In all true sense, the success of this project is the ultimate.

The biography has two parts, which comprise of ten chapters, the prologue and the epilogue. The work analyzes Revd Okesiji’s genealogy, family background, hometown, early years, and his call into the ministry. The work further expound on his academic endeavour, the places he was opportuned to work, his challenges in life, life at retirement, as a family man and people’s assessment of him. This piece has been spiced up with dialogue not necessarily that of the discussants but as imagined by the writer because of the narrations of Revd J.A. Okesiji and other contributors to the work.


In the Baptist denomination of Western Nigeria, the name Okesiji rings a bell due to his efforts in his fourty-seven years of service and even after retirement. I hope this book would make readers know about his life in totality. For taking time to read this book, on behalf of the family, I say, “thank you”.

DON’T STREW ME ROSES AFTER I’M DEAD

WHEN DEATH CLAIMS THE LIGHT OF MY BROW

NO FLOWERS OF LIFE WILL CHEER ME:

INSTEAD YOU MAY GIVE ME MY ROSES NOW”.

Thomas F. Kealey

PROLOGUE

LO, CHILDREN ARE A HERITAGE FROM THE LORD:

A REWARD FROM HIM

Psalms 127:3



“Thank God, for remembering me after my long years of toiling to have a child, you have surprised me with one, in fact, a baby boy.

This is a different year in my life after having two wives without a child. I weathered through storms by your help. I now have a gain for not denying the faith. I have a son on your Holy day.

The Colonial Masters have sacked our land, turned us into refugees and asylum seekers, but this is a good thing to Okeho. We will be back at home; we will see our land soon.

I must roll out the drums, my son has come, and my successor is here. Trials are over. A new generation has started.

Thank God, for my wife that went through the pain. She is hale and hearty. She has made it. The pain of motherhood is no joke. You made it. Congratulations!”

“THERE IS POWER THAT COMES TO WOMEN WHEN THEY GIVE BIRTH. THEY DO NOT ASK FOR IT, IT SIMPLY INVADES THEM. ACCUMULATES LIKE CLOUDS ON THE HORIZON AND PASSES THROUGH, CARRYING THE CHILD WITH IT”.

Sheryl Feldman



PART 1

CHAPTER ONE

IN THE BEGINNING



WHAT’S DONE TO CHILDREN, THEY WILL DO TO SOCIETY

W.B.Yeats

Considering the hilly nature of Okeho where John Adegoke hails from, his father’s name, Okesiji, his life would not have had the complete structure without working at Oke-Isokun, Oke-Isoko, Ori-Oke and Okelerin to make him become an “Oloke-Meje”.

John Adegoke came into the world on 19 August in the year 1928 precisely on a Sunday at Ipapo, the Southwestern part of Nigeria. Those to herald his arrival included his parents, Moses Majaro Okesiji and Comfort Atoke Bamidoyo, his grandparents namely: Ojuolape Okediran Asabi and Odunewu Mafolayomi Ayisa. They were all on exile because of the Okeho Rising of 1916.

Moses Majaro, his father, was taken to his great grandmother at Ile-Gbajale, Ilero in 1902 during the civil disorder in the old Okeho because of Onjo Adeitan’s chieftaincy problem. He lived in Ilero for some years before returning to Okeho. The murder of Onjo Olukitibi made the town to be deserted when it was about to be sacked by soldiers of the colonial government in 1916.

Moses Majaro, had his first marriage in 1919. He married Otitoola of Ile-Masa, Okeho. His wife was not interested in leaving Okeho for Ipapo where he resided. He had to remarry Humani of Ile-Oluwo, Ipapo. There was no child from these unions, he was implored to deny the faith for paganism, he objected and eventually, the marriage ended in divorce.

Moses Majaro had his third marriage in 1927, to Comfort Atoke Bamidoyo of Ile Balogun, Oke Afofun, Okeho. She was living with a relation at Ipapo. This marriage produced John Adegoke Okeshina Okesiji and then ended in divorce.

The duo remarried: Moses Majaro married Elizabeth Anike Mamulalo of Ile-Sarumi, Ipapo and had the union blessed with the following: Isaac Ayodele Olayiwola Okesiji, late Joseph Adepoju Nihinlolawa Okesiji, Late Comfort Okenihun Alatede Okesiji married to Mr. David Adegbite Adebiyi from Awe, Samuel Olufunmilayo Okesiji, Victoria Olukemi Okesji married to Mr Jonathan Oladapo Olayemi from Ede, and late Emmanuel Okesiji.1

Comfort Atoke Bamidoyo married Suulola of Oyo town, she gave birth to late Johnson Bamidele Suulola and Oladeji Suulola. After Suulola died, she met Adewusi, a native of Ede, who worked as a warden at the Oyo prison. She had Amusa Adewusi and her only daughter, Adunola Adewusi from the union.

In the year 1921, there was a change in Moses Majaro Okesiji’s life, he became a Christian. He did all within his reach and in a short while, he gained proficiency in reading and writing. He became engrossed in the Sunday school Department; he rose from being a teacher to the Superintendent at both Ipapo and Okeho.

Revd J.O. Adeshina discovered him and recommended that he be trained as a Pastor. Between 1933-1938, he was trained as a Pastor through a “crash programme” organized by Revd. J.C. Powell. From 1938, he pastored churches at Igboyaje and Ofiki until 1943. He returned home in 1944 to pastor First Baptist Church, Okeho. The overseer before his arrival was Josiah Akinlowo Akano. His eloquence in his sermons earned him a name “ALAWIYE” meaning someone who explains in-depth until one understands. He was at Okeho until 1945.

In 1947, he was transferred to Idiko-Ile Baptist Church. He was at Ijio between 1949 to 1953. He was at Olugbade Baptist Church between 1954 – 1957. In 1958, he was invited to Araromi Baptist Church, Oke-Ogun, Okeho. He was there until 1967. He then retired from the services of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. He planted and nurtured Immanuel Baptist Church Okeho, with 14 members when the church started in 1968 and served there until 1977 when he saw that the church was matured enough to be led by a young pastor. Pastor Okesiji served in his gospel career with credence and honour2.

THE ISIA CLAN

The Okesiji family is a part of the Isia clan in Okeho. The family compound is known as Ile-Alasia Egbeji Adeniji Isia, Okeho. Historically, there are two facts. Adeniji Egbeji, the first Alasia was chased out of Ila-Orangun during a war. He walked until he got to Isia hill. He was an herbalist, he healed people and this made people revere him, thus he was made a head.

The second narration states, Egbeji hails from Saki. He was called upon by the Onilua to do all within his reach to make Onilua’s wife conceive. He came and eventually, she became pregnant. People started trooping to his place and received solution to diverse problems. East or West, there is no place like home. He wanted to return home but the townsmen did not want him to go. He had got to Isia hills before the townsmen caught up with him. He changed his mind and decided to pitch a tent there. People still came for healing. There and then, he became the Alasia.

The two accounts are oral narration, but the second account is assumed to be true. Isia is also an area in Saki town today. The reign of Alasia Adeniji Egbeji was long, he was said to have ascended into heaven by a chain. Okesiji family belongs to Egbeji from Saki.

The clan has her festival tagged; “Esan Isia” celebrated every three years in the month of May for seven days. They worship “Ara” situated in Isia market and worshiped with the use of water. The taboo of Isia people is nobody must sell pounded yam or prepared yam flour within the community and a masquerade must not enter the Isia market.3

OKEHO TOWN

Okeho is located in the Oke-Ogun region of Oyo State, Nigeria known as Oyo North; it is about forty-five miles from Oyo town. This town is situated amidst hills and valleys. The hills are Biayin, Eleyele, Eeyele, and Alao-apa. Farming is a difficult task here because of the topography of the town. There is no river within the town but on her outskirts. Many people have access to sunk wells. The harmattan wind blows harshly in this community because of the hills.

The town is made up of eleven communities namely: Alubo, Bode, Igbonje, Ijo, Imoba, Isia, Isemi, Oke Ogun, Ogan, Olele and Pamo. The head of Ijo community has been made the ruler of all; the title head of Okeho is called the Onjo. Thirteen people {kingmakers} are in the town. There are just two royal families in Okeho.

These eleven communities came together during the reign of Onjo Arilesire when the Fulani had conquered Ilorin and the Dahomey army too was threatening to invade the town. This was also the background to the formation of Okeho. The king (Onjo) sent out an emissary that other communities should come and reside on the land near him and be united against any invasion. The other communities agreed considering the topography of Ijo as a way of defeating their assailant. The Onjo was given headship of the new “federal” town.

Despite the unity of these communities, there was a rising in 1916. This made people from the community to relocate to the present site4. During this period, Moses Majaro was residing in Ilero.

THE ISEYIN-OKEHO RISING OF 1916

The rising was caused by the introduction of British administration that conflicted with the existing political and social systems of the Yoruba people in Okeho area.

Captain R.L. Bower, the British Resident in this area used force on a number of occasions to impose an Onjo on the Okeho people. It became stronger when the British administration imposed annual taxation and made the Onjo the chairman of the Customary Court and also correspondingly strengthened the Onjo by appointing him as a District Head. To his rivals, he got too strong.

The Native Court system was introduced to Okeho in 1914. This enraged the people because the traditional judicial system allowed for a great deal of flexibility, which did not go in consonance with the new system of the British. The people resented new native courts: the Baale’s court: deals with occurrences within the family (head of the family), the Baale’s court deals with occurrences in the ward (the chief of the ward) and lastly the oba’s court: in the community at large. These courts were abolished. The newly introduced courts had members, destroyed some traditional orders like encouraging divorce. This law respected no person.

In addition, a rift was on the health of the people of Okeho; vaccination and the digging of salga (pit latrines). Vaccination, to them, looked like pus while salga meant spooling close to their houses, which to them was not wholesome. Obviously, the British officers did not adequately explain these innovations to the people. Likewise, forced labour was another cause of grievance. This job attracted no money; the time stretch at each engagement was a fortnight. The people had to abandon work on their farms, earn nothing and they still had to feed themselves. All of these made the colonial administration hateful. Rebellion was incited by some educated elements in Lagos who desired to see an end to the British authority. Eventually, on 19 October 1916, the Onjo {the king}, Olori {the Queen} and Daudu {the first son} were killed. Bale of Olele got more neighbouring towns to support in this insurgence.

Capital Ross got soldiers from Ibadan and Lagos to crush the rebellion. It was not easy to cross over from Iseyin to Okeho because Iseyin warriors barricaded the route into the town. The British eventually overpowered them in the wee hours of the dawn of 30 October 1916. Another troop led by Captain Waters marched to Okeho with the desire to fight Okeho people in their home. However, on getting there on 2nd of November, he found the entire town deserted5.


JOHN ADEGOKE OKESIJI’S EARLY YEARS

John Adegoke grew up on the laps of his grandmother, Ojuolape Okediran Asabi, the daughter of Baale Igbonje quarters, Okeho and his grandfather, Odunewu Mofolayomi Ayisa. They loved him so much because he was their first grandson after many years of search for one. His closeness to his grandparents did not make him know when his mother left Ipapo because her consciousness was not too strong on him.

In a short while, three tragedies struck in three months. 1932 was entirely different for Moses Majaro and his family, his parents died in quick succession. All the friends of Moses Majaro Okesiji sent various messages to him.

“If you don’t retun to Okeho, you will become another Naomi”. Others emphasized, “In a limited time, you will no more be recognized at home and definitely you will not be accepted abroad”.

All of these words haunted Moses Majaro Okesiji. He told his immediate family to prepare for homecoming. Moses Majaro Okseiji, his wife; Elizabeth Anike Mamulalo, John Adegoke and Isaac Olayiwola arrived in Okeho on foot on 22 December, 19336. John Adedeji, one of the advocates of homecoming had gone to help his friend with some wares to Okeho.

There was a new phase of life when they arrived in Okeho; John Adegoke moved to stay in John Adedeji’s house (his father’s friend) because of the limited space in his father’s house. John Adedeji’s wife was his distant relation, staying with the duo was memorable, easy and less tasking. John Adedeji’s son, Amos Adeleke Adedeji became

his bossom friend, they did everything together.

Every young person attempts a vice or the other. The newly reconstructed Ile-Eko at Isia was the venue of the experiment; this house was rebuilt after collapsing. John Adegoke was in this building with some big brothers from the community and he was therein excited as they all passed and puffed from the same butt. They exclaimed, “What a sweet leaf”. As a young lad, exploring diverse things, he was tempted; he tasted the same “tobacco leaf”. He almost coughed out his life. Well, think of it as a beginner’s symptom, this served as a lesson for him, until date, he had never attempted it again. It was a great deterrent7.

I DISCOVERED I ALWAYS HAVE CHOICES AND SOMETIMES IT’S ONLY A CHOICE OF ATTITUDE

Judith M. Knowlton
Other household chores were not too difficult for John Adegoke; he vividly recollects his many trips of trekking far into the bush to fetch water at Ago-Are during the dry season.

There are some events of John Adegoke Okesiji’s early years. We would embark on a journey into his educational life.

...to be continued
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