Adelani Akande Ph.D
The reality of violence, injustice, discrimination, moral laxity, disorder, theft and drug culture cannot but raise questions on the relevance of the Church in a society like Nigeria. It is believed that “the influence of the Church should spread among the people.” The church herself is not comfortable or satisfied with the sociopolitical condition of the society and this is evident in the pronouncements, of church leaders in print and electronic media.
The ills enumerated earlier and many others have at various times attracted the attention of the various governments which assumed reins of power and (they) embarked on programmes aimed at social reformation. Examples of such programmes are: War Against Indiscipline (WAI), Mass Mobilization for Self Reliance and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), War Against Indiscipline and Corruption (WAI-C) and National Orientation Agency (NOA). The social problems seem to have defied the efforts of the governments and individuals who care to express their views of disapproval.
Change in man results in change in the society. This is affirmed with due regard to Campbell’s opinion on theology of social change. The problem with man apparently is the problem with the society. Without a change in man, the society can witness no change. Efforts at reforming man, be it individual or corporate, is at the best an exercise in merely scratching the problems on the surface. The change in man makes the starting point. A picture of what obtains in a man when the power of the gospel is at work in him is painted by Robert Doyle. He stated that:
Whenever the gospel is by any nation owned, received, embraced, it is the blessing, benefit, prosperity, and task of the nation…The reception of the Word of truth and subjection of Christ therein causing people to become willing in the day of his power, entitle that people to all the promises that ever God made to His Church… To the prosperity of a nation two things are required; 1st that they be freed from oppression, injustice, cruelty, disorder, confusion in themselves from their rules, or otherwise; 2ndly, that they be protected from the sword and violence of them that seek their ruin from without. And both of these do a people receive by receiving the gospel.
With us is the reality of the need for social changes such that will grant to people purpose and fulfillment in living. These expectations remain illusory in spite of efforts to overcome them. The relevance of the Church is being called to question bearing in mind the claim of the Church to divine resources to effect change in man, a change which ought to reflect in communal living. The Nigerian Baptist Convention is a noticeable group in Nigeria whose role in affecting social change is now being examined.
Brief History of the Nigerian Baptist Convention
The Nigerian Baptist Convention came into existence in March 1919. It grew out of a union of Yoruba Baptist known as Yoruba Baptist Association.
There were several meetings which took place before the formation of Yoruba Baptist Association. Between 1898 and 1901, Rev. C. E. Smith organized Workers’ Institute which met to discuss theological and evangelical topics; there was the Native Workers’ Conference which metamorphosed into meeting of Mission Workers. In January 1913, Dr. George Green and M. Duvall were asked by the Baptist Mission to arrange for a meeting of the Yoruba Baptists. By July of the same year, S. G. Pinnock was put in charge of the arrangements of the meeting. The meeting took place at Ibadan between March 11 – 12, 1914, where there were fifty-three (53) messengers drawn from fifteen towns. Major developments at the inaugural meeting were election of officers and formulation of Constitution and Bye-laws for the Convention. The latter was stated for approval the following year.
In 1918, there was a proposal to change the name from ‘Yoruba Baptist Association’ to the ‘Nigerian Baptist Convention’ and in 1919, the proposal was formalized. The Convention periodically met to discuss on education, Baptist doctrine, Church work, evangelism, theological training, worship and ordination. In 1925, the first Ministers’ and Christian Workers’ meeting took place. For a long time the meetings of the Convention were held in the Yoruba speaking part of the South, but in 1929, the Convention Session took place at Sapele. In 1930, the meeting took place at Kaduna. Between 1914 and 1939, Baptist work had spread to Sapele, Niger Delta, Iselle Uku, Ijebu, Oke-Ogun, Eku, Bariba, Enugu, and Port Harcourt.
Apart from church planting, the Convention established schools at primary and secondary levels. Baptist Academy which was begun in 1921 became a secondary school in 1925. In 1919, Abeokuta Boys’ High School was started. These schools were both centres of learning and evangelism. Apart from the regular subjects of Arithmetic, Reading and Writing, the schools organized religious education programmes in which pupils had opportunities to build up their faith in Christ. While the Convention was the proprietor of these schools, she also received government grants to run the schools.
The activities of the Baptist mission and the Nigerian Baptist Convention continued side by side. The Mission established special schools to cater for converts who could not do much formal academic work. An example of such schools is the Elam Memorial School at Shaki. It was established to cater for uneducated older women (who were not literate) so that they could be helped in house work and church work. Many pastors’ wives were trained in the school at Shaki.
Activities of the Nigerian Baptist Convention were not limited to planting of churches and establishment of schools. In addition to these, the Convention also engaged in health programmes by providing hospitals, dispensaries and specialized medical services. Attention will now be focused on specific areas of change affected by the Convention.
Activities of the Convention are most pronounced in the area of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to people and the gathering of such people together for the purpose of regular worship and teaching, an exercise in church planting and church growth.
S. C. Mbang had observed that, “since the arrival and spread of the Christian religion, the world has not been the same again.” Nigeria has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of the fruit of the Christian religion. An interpretation of the change implied by Mbang’s statement may be better appreciated against a background of comparative observation of the religious life of a particular nation before and after that nation came into contact with Christianity.
A cursory account of the religious life in Nigeria will reveal the influence of Christianity in general and of Baptist in particular, especially in the South where the influence is strongest. The degree of commitment to Baptist faith among adherents vary. Someone had referred to the impact of Christianity on Nigerians as merely “skin deep.” Comments on the impact of Christianity on Nigeria had not been complimentary always. However, there is no denying the fact that the religious life of the Nigerian did change with the coming of Christianity. Assessments of the impact have depended upon perspectives and biases of individuals.
An appreciation of the impact of Christianity on the change in the religious disposition of Nigeria is evident in the assessment of Bola Ige, a discussant at the Annual Religious Studies Conference in 1991. He noted:
Whereas early European missionaries condemned (the) Nigerian society as barbarians, uncivilized, pagan-Christian theology (particularly Protestant) has moved away from that position. By and large, Christians in Nigeria accept that to be a Christian is not to be ‘European’ in thought and culture.
Ige’s comment quickly reminds one of the likes of Mojola Agbebi, a Baptist leader, who made concerted efforts to concretize the ideals highlighted by Ige – a Christian faith relevant to African culture. It was said of Agbebi that he was concerned about ‘the superficiality of Christianity in West Africa.
The prejudice of Ayandele against the American and European missionaries notwithstanding, his assessment of Christianity at a time when the likes of Agbebi sought to give meaning to African Christianity shed some light on the religious life of Nigeria. This will enhance one’s appreciation of the influence of Agbebi and others in the religious life of Nigeria, particularly Christian religion Ayandele wrote:
Indeed by 1902, European Christianity had become a dangerous thing: an empty and delusive fiction; debauching Africans with alcohol, promoting immorality, deceit, hypocrisy and indulging in swamis flesh. It had become a religion which points with one hand to the skies, bidding you “lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven,” and while you are looking up graps all your worldly goods with the other hand, seizes your ancestral hands, labels your forests and places your patrimony under inexplicable legislation.
In essence, Christianity as described by Ayandele, had not appealed to the Nigerian ethos. The effort of early nationalist Christian leaders like Agbebi should be recognized alongside with people like James Johnson and Otunba Payne. They all made efforts to make the Christian faith indigenous to Nigeria. This is not to blindfold one from some of the excesses of these nationalist Christians. One cannot justify the membership of Mojola Agbebi in the Society of Ancestral Mystics, Saskatchewan-on-Hudson but as Ayandele himself observed, it was the “failure of Christianity to be deeply rooted in the people” which “impelled educated Africans to study their religion in order to see how much feature of indigenous worship could be granted ‘the pure milk of the gospel.” The likes of E. Bolaji Idowu, B. H. Kato, and Osadolor Imasogie have followed in the footsteps of Agbebi in making the Christian faith relevant to and incarnate in Nigeria and in Africa.
The issue of indigenization or contextualization or acculturation is of interest in contemporary theological debates which go on in the nation. While she is not alone, the activities of the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso alongside her Catholic counterparts is recognizable in the unfolding trend in theological discourse in Africa. A voice was heard from a Baptist in the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT) when the Association debated on how the Christian faith could be at home with the Christians in African setting.
Some of the early Baptist missionaries might have noticed the ambivalence in the confessions and practices among adherents of the Christian faith among Nigerians. It was Susan Anderson who observed that: “As long as African lack that discernment and ability to know and choose from our Western civilization, only those things that fit into his situation and help him just so long as will the white man rule his country”.
While it appeared that the missionaries were helpless in resolving the incongruity, the effort in pointing attention to it deserves commendation. Here again, a significant contribution of the Baptists to the religious changes in Nigeria is seen. Apart from the religious, an area where the influence of the Convention is most profound is in the area of education.
An account given by one of the first generation of American Baptist missionaries, Charles E. Maddry on the level of education and enlightenment in Nigeria in the latter part of the nineteenth century provided an insight into what challenges the Baptist Convention was faced with vis-à-vis education in Nigeria. Maddry wrote that,
It is disappointing to note that after three-quarters of a century of British occupation, there is still no adequate and comprehensive plan in sight for the education and enlightenment of the masses. With the exception of one or more institutions of higher grade for the training of government officials and special workers of 20,000 inhabitants of Nigeria are dependent for education upon the church schools of the several mission societies working in Nigeria.
It was not surprising therefore, that during “the period of 1915 to 1960 Nigeria saw the mission plunge with determination into the attempt to educate the country’s children.” Western education provided by the colonial government and greatly assisted by the missionaries gradually transformed the Nigerian society from a superstitious fearladden society into an enlightened, confident, and psychologically emancipated community.
Pre-colonial Nigeria community educated her people along the line of family trade or profession. The family served as the school, while the elders educated the young folks on the rudiments and practice of such family trade. Usually these young ones are genetically predisposed to learning such family professional trade which could be leatherwork, wood-carving, calabash-carving, drumming, black-smithing, dying (mainly among women), hunting, night-watching, to mention a few. These crafts were practiced with such regulation derived from the family custom, ethics of the profession and cultural taboos. Basically, such regulation were aimed at preserving quality and ethics of the trade.
The Baptist Convention was set to effect such a change that was interested in the total development of young persons and in turn, the nation, utilizing education as “an expression of ministry to the whole person.” With such a mind-set coupled with the conviction that “where the light of the gospel has shone (in Nigeria) great changes have taken place and still greater ones are in prospect,” the Baptist Convention engaged in a rapid educational programme that was to transform the Nigerian society. Of the impact of this effort, Collins bore a testimony that, “The number and caliber of national Baptist leaders in the country, both ministers and lay persons, who are/were products of these Baptist educational institutions, proved that the ministry of secular education has borne much fruit.”
Although in the thought of Collins, “Schools were considered primarily as means of evangelizing Nigeria, equipping Baptist leaders and preparing lay persons to be good examples of Christian workers, spouses, parents and community leaders”.
The Baptist Mission wanted to develop churches which will in turn develop the school(s). Among the foremost secondary schools in Nigeria is the Baptist Academy established in 1925. It had produced eminent Nigerian leaders in the public and private sectors.
Paying tribute to the activities of Baptist in the area of education, Paterson gave the following testimony:
Eighteen months ago, I was with a group of American visitors who called on Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Prime Minister of Nigeria’s Western Nigeria and a Methodist, who was once a student in Baptist Boys’ High School, Abeokuta. During the visit I said: “Sir, tell us about the contribution of Christianity to your government.” With evident pride he said, “Every member of my cabinet is the product of a Christian School; four of us were once mission teachers; and more than eighty percent (80%) of our law makers are likewise the fruit of Christian mission.
It was on record that: When Billy Graham asked the students of the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, how many were products of Christian mission, every hand was raised.”
Analyses of the activities of the people who have been helped by Western education through the agency of missionary schools have shown both positive and negative results. Late Dr. E. A. Dahunsi, referring to the crisis of the early sixties in the Western Region, noted that, “Distressing atrocities were committed in the area where our denomination had the strongest influence, where many Baptists were in key positions in government and quasi-government bodies.” And that was a statement of fact. The leadership provided by Baptist people had not been a failure altogether. Baptists had good reasons to hold their heads high when in 1985, Deacon S. S. Ayanda and Michael O. Akinleye were commended as:
Some of our highly placed Baptist public servants who demonstrated that commitment to Christ surely make a difference in the public lives of those who are committed to Christ…Baptists who came out clear… where their colleagues completely enriched themselves.
Many other Baptists have distinguished themselves in public, private, and ecumenical sectors as a result of the type of education provided by the Convention.
The cream of dedicated individuals who have distinguished themselves have justified the high hopes in the Baptists expressed by Joao F. Soren in his fraternal greetings as President of the Baptist World Alliance to the Nigerian Baptist Convention at independence in (1960). Joao F. Soren wrote:
Nigeria has become a focal point of international interest as gradual steps have been taken toward national independence… But as we observe the course of developments in Nigeria from a distant perspective, it becomes apparent that these 51,000 Baptists are exerting a very decisive influence upon the nation’s 33,000.000 inhabitants. This is a time when Nigeria Baptists are certainly looking forward to the open doors which providence had placed before them, and which lead into paths of unparalleled opportunities for the furtherance of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, not only in Nigeria, but in the continent of Africa.
These potentialities of Christian education in directing the course of change in Nigeria is also evident in the exhortatory message of Rev. B. T. Griffin. The message also expressed the high premium placed on education in maintaining socio-religious and political equilibrium in the changes that are associated with a developing nation such as Nigeria. Griffin cautioned that:
As Baptists we must keep our denominational ship of Christian education afloat and at full steam ahead. We must be ready for the gales and storms that are sure to come that will seek to wreck her and in the sea of free and secular education, we must keep, man and maintain every one of our Baptists schools and increase their numbers as rapidly as possible. They are light houses of influence, they are dynamos of power; they are a denominational necessity.
For some time, the words of Griffin bore fruit as “Baptist primary schools sprang up almost everywhere, there was a Baptist congregation and secondary schools were established at several points around the country.”
The conviction was strong then among Baptists that:
Only Christian schools can be hoped to produce that type of teachers, business men, core leaders and the like who will be able to combat some of the spirit of communism, nationalism, humanism, and atheism that is sure to be found in state controlled schools.
Griffin an American, must have been informed by his home country’s experience. Whatever regret Baptists may now have in not being able to provide quality education for the present generation of their children is traceable to Baptist poor stewardship of influence and partly due to the spiritual insensitivity against which Griffin had warned years ago. It is on record that in 1942, the British Government made attempts twice to take over a particular Baptist school for military purpose, but one Mr. Perry Jester, an American Consul, son of a Southern Baptist minister interceded for the Baptists and the takeover was shelved.
Presently, Baptists do not have total control over any of the schools taken over by the government in the whole of Nigeria, with the exception of Baptist High School, Jos and the news schools she established. Apparently, the Convention offered little or no resistance to “the gales and storms that came to wreck the Christian education.” Of this significant event in the history of education in Nigeria, Sunday C. Mbang, Patriarch of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, remarked:
The government takeover of schools, the church’s great instrument for inculcating this way of life (Christian dedication and Christian commitment into the citizens of Nigeria has made matters worse. Today some aspects of change – money, politics, and education – have unfortunately influenced the life of many people negatively…Hate, malice, immorality, corruption, hypocrisy, falsehood and other vices have become the way of life of many of our regular church worshippers.
With the aid of hindsight, Ayandele remarked in a similar exercise in assessment, that “undoubtedly the biggest loss of the Church to State is, what was their traditional greatest social asset-control of Western style educations.”
The struggle is still on among Christian denominations to retain the control of primary and secondary schools founded by missionaries. The recovering of mission schools can set the nation on a course of re-discovery and restoration that leads to the realization of such brilliant dream and hopes which were nursed at independence both by the nationalist leaders and the sympathetic missionaries. The Nigerian Baptist Convention is one of the new Christian denominations that took healing ministry along with preaching and teaching. The paper now takes a look at the impact of the Convention on health in Nigeria.
Where the list of the gospel has shone (in Nigeria) great changes have taken places, and still greater ones are in prospect. The old evils that flourished in darkness are dying; behold all things are becoming new.
One ‘old evil’ which plagued pre-colonial Nigeria was superstitious beliefs which were a hindrance to both the religious life of the people and a set-back in their health. For a long time activities of European and American missionaries were concentrated in Lagos. They feared to get into the hinterlands for most of them who did never return alive. The scourge of malaria and yellow fever terminated their lives. West Africa remained the “white man’s grave” until Major Ross discovered quinine as a remedy for malaria. Among the nationals, there was “a vast amount of undernourishment and ill health because of the lack of proper knowledge of preparation and means of preservation of food.” Also
There is almost of total lack of house-life, and the crowded and unsanitary condition of the average compound is conducive to the rapid spread of disease. A distressingly high mortality rate, especially among children and old people is the result.
Ironically, another account of missionary influence in Nigeria attributed increase in mortality rate to the intrusion of the white man over bearing sanitary precaution. The question remains whether the statistics that was used to back such claim was down to earth realistic.
Such was the challenge of the health situation in Nigeria that the missionaries for three decade impressed on the Foreign Mission Board to send medical missionaries to Nigeria, particularly Yorubaland. Memoirs of first generation missionaries and historical works on pre-colonial Nigeria affirm the reality of superstitious fetishism and infant mortality in their pictures of the health situation in Nigeria. The desired changes came through the medical programmes of both the colonial government and the missionaries. The instructional programme in the school curriculum provided enlightenment on health. The establishment of hospitals and specialized centres improved the quality of health among Nigerians.
The three-decade long request of the Baptist missionaries found an answer in the coming of George Green, who was the pioneer Baptist medical worker in 1907 in Nigeria. In addition to the denominational pre-occupation of Dr. Green in providing medical services in Baptist established medical centres, Green and other medical personnel served in the Medical Committee of the Christian Council of Nigeria which advised the colonial government periodically on medical programmes and such policies that guided the transformation of the people’s health.
A notable contribution of Baptists to medical transformation that occurred in the history of the nation is the attention given to lepers. The Baptists share this credit with the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) which also engaged in specialized curative programmes for the lepers. Many in the society had regarded lepers as social outcasts until E. G. Maclean, a missionary dentist, started treating the lepers with injections. Later, Dr, Basil Lee Lockett led in the development of “Camp of Hope” at Ogbomoso. It was Dr. Robert F. Goldie who expanded the work into ten colonies. At intervals inmates who responded to curative medicine were discharged and were again integrated in the society. Medical centres were established in various locations in the country.
Efforts of the colonial government in providing health services could not be felt beyond the colony of Lagos, but the missionaries were willing to go into the hinterlands to provide medical services and dispensaries to the rural populace. Unnecessary deaths were averted by the health programmes planned and executed by the medical and para-medical personnel of the Baptist Mission of Nigeria. Of note are the Kersey Home, Ogbomoso which took care of motherless babies home, and the Baptist Welfare Centre, Iree, which rendered maternity services. The work later spread from the south to the northern part of the country, with the establishment of a Baptist hospital in Kontagora in the early sixties.
In the area of health services the Baptists stood out among the other missionary societies that were involved in the social transformation of the Nigerian community. While other Christian denominations actively engaged in church and social evangelism, the Baptist denomination, through the missionaries, engaged in healing ministry too. Apart from the Catholic Church which also established a few hospitals, none of the Protestant churches was directly involved in providing health services. Much later in 1940, the Seventh Day Adventist provided health services in Ile-Ife a town in the southern part of the nations.There is also a social dimension to the evangelistic efforts of the Convention expressed in church planting, education and health services. It is worth mentioning that the Baptist Hospital established in 1907 has metamorphosed into a teaching hospital now, Bowe Teaching Hospital, Ogbomoso.
It is remarkable reading of the experience of a missionary nurse who was approached by a woman to remove two upper teeth of her child. To convince the nurse that she had not made a mistake in her understanding of the woman’s request, the missionary engaged an interpreter who confirmed what the nurse had heard. In her response to the question as to why the woman would want the teeth removed, the interpreter replied:
Our people have a belief that if a baby’s upper teeth come through before the lower ones, it is an ill omen upon the child’s family, so the mother of such a child must put it to death. She has brought her child to you hoping that you can take the teeth out and so remove the curse that she may not have to kill her baby.
Efforts to dissuade the woman did not yield fruit until a senior missionary told the woman that he would commence a daily check on the child. The day he, the missionary, found the baby missing, that same day the mother would be reported to the government officials. Apparently the missionary’s threat did it. The baby was saved. The Nigeria community had come a long way off from such evil. What appear to be an act of callousness or wickedness was a product of a long time indoctrination. The mother would have either strangled the baby to death or smothered it to death. Against such background one can appreciate Susan Anderson’s appraisal that,
Literally, it is not with picks and shovels, and brooms that we prepare the highway for the coming of the Lord in Nigeria, but figuratively it is that the minds of Africa’s children must be dug down into and the older superstitions and fears loosed up and swept out. The tools with which this is done are books – school books. It required patient digging, delicate loosening and much sweeping before the accumulation of many generations of evil and of superstition can be cleared away.
The communal psychotherapy required to cure superstitions malady could not be effectively performed by the government only. The resultant change that came from mental de-schooling was precisely an influence of Christianity and in a particularly sense, of Baptist educational influence. A. C. Burn was quoted as mentioning that.
Although the British government has been able to remove “the fear of the sudden raid at midnight or the murderous ambush on the road: from the people of Nigeria, the more terrible fear of the supernatural still remains and will remain until Christianity and education drive out superstition.
Changes continue where the light of the gospel is shining, the old evils which flourished in darkness are dying fast. It is to the eternal credit of the Baptists that the following words of Churkwudebulu aptly summarized the resilient energy possessed by the Church to effect positive change. He wrote:
Naturally the church of Christ operated without swords or guns, yet it is stronger and more durable that any government organization. The church enjoys the trust and the generality of the people to such degree, not yet known to have been accessible to any other human organization.
Some of the points which have been made earlier may be repeated as a way of highlighting the involvement of Baptists in social action. Apparently the denominational shyness to designate such action social action have root in a tradition of the Southern Baptist who believe that the “church ought to stay out of politics.” Earlier, review on the involvement of Baptists on matters like dancing, alcoholic beverages, pari-mutual betting, missionary endeavours, and tax support for denominational hospitals and parochial schools her taken place. Walter Delamarter could be right in affirming that Baptist churches are involved in a ministry of social action, whether they realize it or not.
Against the background of a concern that transcends the spiritual alone, one is set to examine some vices such as injustice, violence, crime, delinquency that existed in the society. These actions have arisen out of individual social concerns and also corporate social concerns.
It is appropriate to recall the war against such social evils like; pools betting, gambling, night party, smoking, secret societies, slavery, and superstition. Delamarter had remarked that. “Of all people, the people of God should be addressing themselves to the social problem which renders our streets unsafe and our physical environment a serious threat to the survival of all living things.”
Imasogie was not alone in the cry against lottery bill which the government was about to pass in 1953. G. A. Otunla, a Baptist educationist, joined ranks with Imasogie and J. A. Afonja in the war against this social evil. Otunla debunked the false claims of pools promoters and exposed the inherent ills in gambling in his article, “Should Christians Partake in Pools?” Afonja came up with a catalogue of vices that were out to undo quality living in his write up, “Social Evils.” One may not agree with the entire contents of these write-ups, but one cannot ignore the fact that being up in arms against social ills rank their efforts as genuine social actions aimed at sanitizing communal morality.
The activities of Drs. E. G. Maclean, Basil Lee Lockett and Robert F. Goldie did more than curing the physical ailments of those who suffered from leprosy. In designating the settlements of the lepers the “Camp of Hope,” they succeeded in restoring the lepers into the community that erstwhile had regarded them as outcasts. Those who were discharged were rehabilitated by way of making them acquire skills in crafts work or farming by which they can sustain themselves. The establishment of industrial schools at Iwo and Shaki provided men and women with such skills which transformed them from idlers to producers.
It was as a result of the efforts of the Baptist people in Ogbomoso that Christian women were emancipated from the staying in-door ‘decree’ during the Oro traditional festival. Traditionally and hitherto, women were forbidden from coming out during the Oro festival. Such stay in-door order was perceived as both social and religious injustices. Late Rev. S. A. Ige mobilized Christian women who were deprived the opportunity of attending evening worship to defy the stay-in-door order.
An account of this event is given by one Mr. Gabriel on page 5 of the Thanksgiving Service Programme held for the Late Rev. S. A. Ige on Saturday, September 18, 1982 at Ijeru Baptist Church, Ogbomoso. Concerning this event, Mr. Gabriel wrote:
He later carried his crusade for women liberation to the realm of religion. … Rev. Ige pleaded with the Oba, his chiefs and Oro worshippers that sanctions and restrictions imposed upon women be lifted but his was a voice crying in the wilderness. When they did not listen, he organized the women of Ijeru Baptist Church to defy Oro cult by going about their normal business outside their homes during the week of Oro festival. In 1945, he succeeded in persuading Ogbomoso Christians to organize a week of prayer to coincide with the week of Oro festival. It was an open defiance and confrontation with age-old custom and tradition. It was tough battle, but the Lion of Christ at Ijeru won the battle for his Lord and for womanhood.
There were a number of scuffles, but eventually the issue was resolved in favour of Christian women, Rev. S. A. Ige, and the Church, who saw such stay-in order as a violation of fundamental human rights guaranteed in the law of the land and in the scripture.
In 1977, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through an official letter Ref. No. F 9369 of July 18, 1977, compelled all public servants to “subscribe to an oath renouncing membership of every secret society” and “in addition, the deponent of such an oath also forbade himself from joining any such organization in the future no matter the circumstances.” Long before the government clamped down on secret societies, the Nigerian Baptist Convention had been most vocal on this social vice as evident in the Convention Presidential Address of 1960 which reads in part:
The stand of the Nigerian Baptist Convention is clear and unmistakable, for we have not wearied in our denunciation of them. Our attitude in this way is not the result of meditated animosity against any person but the outcome of our belief and conviction that secret cults are incompatible with Christianity and its tenets and belief. While secret fellowship confines itself to a few adherents, Christian fellowship based on the unbounded and redeeming love of God embraces all.
While opinions may vary even among Christians as to the desirability of secret societies in the community, the fact that the issue of secret societies was identified by the executors of the first military coup in Nigeria as one of the social evils in Nigeria is enough to resent it. Part of the account of the coup read:
Another factor responsible for social injustice was the existence of secret cults. These cults helped their members to exploit the remainder of the society in many ways, such as making sure that they always win in law court, that they always got the few available contracts and that they always got all available privileges of the society.
The Nigerian Training Centre for the Blind, Ogbomoso, was started under Dr. & Mrs. R. L. West. It offered social services in providing opportunities for the blind to acquire such skills in arts and craft that made them productive.
In spite of a background of separation of Church and State, the Nigerian Baptist Convention did record some influence on the political life of Nigeria.
It was said that, “Nationalism has a great effect on Nigerian religion.” But nationalism in Nigeria cannot be discussed without the factor of religion which provided education as a tool in fighting the cause of nationalism. Here again, the activities of the Baptist Convention in the activities of notable individual Baptists like Mojola Agbebi come into memory in the pre-colonial politics. The nationalist zeal in Agbebi found fellowship in some Nigerian Christians who later gave full expression to their ambitions by aligning with political parties of their choices. Individual and corporate efforts of Baptist people are noticeable in the politics of independent Nigeria. Response from a cross section of Baptist people did not give Baptist people a pass mark in their roles in government. The observation of Late Dr. E. A. Dahunsi quoted earlier was an indictment on the witness of Baptist political life of the nation. In his memorandum on the national situation. Dr. Dahunsi wrote that:
We, as Baptists, once derived joy as champion of freedom and justice, of truth and honesty. However, our heads were bowed in shame as people observed that the disturbing atrocities were committed in the area where our denomination had the strongest influence where many Baptists were in key positions in government and quasi-government bodies.
The championing of freedom and justice may have found expression in a relatively few number of Nigerian Baptist people. The crisis to which Dr. Dahunsi was referring occurred in a region where the Premier was a Baptist and a Federal Government Minister; the number two man (Minister of Finance) was also a Baptist.
In this respect we might have flung the opportunity providence gave us as Baptists; we might have dashed the hopes and expectations of well-wishers of the Nigerian Baptists at independence. The immediate past government in Oyo State was handed by a Baptist. There is no doubt he added value to the socio-economic life and the citizen of the State. However history will do an objective appraisal and the government
The Nigerian Baptist Convention is one of the few churches which came from a background of separation in Church-State relationship. The Catholic and Anglican churches practice a Church-State relationship that favoured alliance of the Church with the State. The doctrine of separation as enunciated by the Baptist might not have implied an attitude of aloofness that is being practiced by Nigerian Baptists, but it was responsible for the apparent gap between the Nigerian and the State to an extent that whatever religious role was there for the Church to perform to the nation, such roles went to the Anglican Church or the Catholic Church. This is seen as a vestige of colonialism. The statistics of Baptist clergy in the chaplaincy of both the Nigerian Army and other government institutions may be a reflection and consequence of her doctrine of separation of Church and State. It was not until when a Baptist emerged a head of government in Nigeria that a local Baptist Church played host to a visiting American President, an honour which traditionally would have gone to the Anglican Church.
The doctrine of separation notwithstanding, the Baptist Convention had not totally been irrelevant in Nigerian politics. At different times the Convention had bared her mind on political situations in Nigeria through addresses, sermons and press statements. The official organ of the Convention, The Nigerian Baptist, was credited to be among the magazines which “contributed to nationalist movement after 1914.” The series of sermons that heralded the national independence created an awareness that toned up the political psyche of Nigerians in readiness for national development and construction.
Much of the contributions of the Convention lay in the educational preparation of principal actors in the political life of the nation. Other than that, the Convention had lived up to the letters of her doctrine of separation of Church and State. Whether this should continue or note is a concern of the next chapter.
It is revealed that a climax of several meetings that Baptist missionaries held between 1898 and 1913 resulted in the formation of Yoruba Baptist Association and that the Yoruba Baptist Association metamorphosed into the Nigerian Baptist Convention in 1919.
Corporate efforts of the Church in Nigeria did not submerge the individual identities of the various Christian denominations which existed in Nigeria since the beginning of the century. The Nigerian Baptist Convention was actively involved in the marked social changes which had occurred in Nigeria. The Convention was among the denominations which provided Western education to Nigerian citizens. Such education was a tool in the nationalistic struggle that resulted in the significant political event of October 1, 1960 – Nigeria’s national independence. Education also eradicated many of the superstitious beliefs which enslaved many. It is not as if the influence of the Convention in social changes in Nigeria was altogether impeccable, nevertheless she had touched many facets of the nation’s life in positive ways.
The doctrine of separation of Church and State being practiced by the Nigerian Baptist Convention needs a re-appraisal. These opinions seem to have found an ally in a thought expressed by John Ernest concerning the practice of this doctrine of separation in the United States of America. Ernest is of the opinion that:
Whenever benefit results have attended the American policy on separation of Church and State it has promoted a secularization of life, and has robbed it of the enrichment of motivation, guidance and discipline that religion can give.
In view of the apparent inadequacy of the doctrine of separation, the Nigerian Baptist Convention needs to further identify and respond to the challenges that social changes in Nigeria offer.
The Church is in partnership with the sovereign God in the work of redemption, a divine scheme which covers all areas of life: religious, educational, socio-cultural, and political. The Church must be sensitive to the wave of change in every generation, and be in the forefront to channel change in the right course. The Church must respond to the reality of change with an informed mind, a conscious effort and organized network such that will continually preserve the gain of her evangelistic and social actions. She must also seek to create an atmosphere conducive to educational progress, social peace and moral probity and political stability. Julius Nyerere observed that:
Unless (Christians) participate actively in the rebellion against those social structures and economic organization which condemn men to poverty; humiliation and degradation, the church will become irrelevant to man and the Christian relation will degenerate into a set of superstitions accepted by the fearful.
In conclusion, the wind of change in any given generation should be channeled by the positive input of the Church. This is the challenge, which the Church especially the Nigerian Baptist Convention with her many resources must face.
Akande, S. T. Ola. Presidential Address, 65th Annual Session of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, Kaduna, April 5, 1978, The Nigerian Baptist, June 1978, p. 13.
Anderson, Susan So This is Africa Nashville: Broadman Press, 1943.
Anyebe, A. P. Ogboni (Ikeja; Lagos; Sam Lao Publishers, 1987), p. 8.
Ayandele, E. A. “Christianity in Independent Africa,” The Nigerian Baptist, No. 12, (December 1978): 3-4.
Ayandele, E. A. The Missionary Impact on Modern Nigeria 1842-1914 (London: Longman, 1966). P. 264.
Ayegboyin, Deji Isaac. “Baptist Mission Enterprise at Ogbomoso 1855-1975: Analysis of the Social Significance of Mission.” M. A. Thesis. Ibadan: University of Ibadan, 1983.
Campbell, Thomas C. “A Theology of Social Change,” Review & Expositor, Vol. LXVIII, No. 3, Summer 1971.
Chukwudebulu, R. C. “The Christian Church As An Instrument of National Objectives,” The Nigerian Christian, vol. 2, No. 11, (November 1975): p. 10.
Collins, Travis The Baptist Mission of Nigeria Ibadan: Associated Book Makers Nig. Ltd., 1993.
“Commendation for Moral Probity,” The Nigerian Baptist, October 1986, p. 1.
Dahunsi, E. A. “Memorandum on the National Situation,” The Nigeria Baptist, February/March 1966, pp. 6-7.
Dahunsi, E. A. “Memorandum on the National Situation,” The Nigerian Baptist, February/March 1966 pp. 6-7.
David Agboola, The Seventh Day Adventist in Yorubaland 1914-1964. Ibadan: Daystar, 1987.
Delamarter, Walter R. “Social Issues and Social Change,” Review & Expositor, Vol. LXIII, No. 3, (Summer 1971): p. 348.
Fadipe, N. A. The Sociology of the Yoruba Ibadan: University press, 1970.
Griffin, B. T. “Christian Education.” The Nigerian Baptist, January 1953, pp. 5, 12.
High, O. Connor Outlined Notes on the Baptist Work in Nigeria, 1850-1939 Ibadan: Caxton Press 1970.
Ige, Bola “The Impact of Religion on the Nigerian Society: “The Christian Perspective,” Silver Jubilee of Religious Studies Conference Paper, Ibadan. December 1991.
J. A. Afonja, “Social Evils.” Nigeria Baptist, October 1960, pp. 13-14.
Johnson, F. Ernest The Church and the Society Nashville: Abingdon-Cokes bury Press, 1935.
La Haye, Sohie de, Tread Upon the Lion Canada: Sudan Interior Mission, 1971.
Lawoyin, S. A. in his Presidential Address at the 47th Session of the Nigerian Baptist Convention at Sapele, May 4 -6, 1980 published in The Nigerian Baptist, June 1960, p. 6.
Maddry, Charles E. Day Dawn in Yorubaland Nashville: Broadman Press, 1939.
Mbang, C. S. The Changing World and the Unchanging God, Ibadan: Daystar Press, 1983.
Northcott, Cecil Christianity in Africa Philadelphia: Westeminster, 1963.
Ola, C. S. “The Role of the Church in Natural Development,” The Niger Christian, vol. 10, No. 6.
Otunla, G. A. “Should Christians Partake in Pools?”, Nigerian Baptist, July 1959, p. 6.
Patterson, I. N. Continent in Commotion Nashville: Convention Press, 1957.
Report, Christian Council of Nigeria, February 23-26, 1938.
Turaki, Yusufu An Introduction to the History of SIM/ECWA in Nigeria 1893 – 1993 Jos: Challenge Press, 1993, p. 53.
See C. S. Ola, “The Role of the Church in Natural Development,” The Niger Christian, vol. 10, No. 6, (June 1987), pp. 4-5.
Thomas C. Campbell, “A Theology of Social Change,” Review & Expositor, Vol. LXVIII, No. 3, (Summer 1971), p. 317.
Doyle, op.cit. p. 55, quoting from “Christ’s Kingdom and the Magistrates’ Power,” Works III, 390-1.
Thomas O. Connor High, Outlined Notes on the Expansion of Baptist Work in Nigeria, 1850-1939 (Ibadan: Caxton Press (West Africa) Ltd. 1970, p. 35.
Ibid., p. 34.
Ibid., p. 35.
Ibid., p. 35.
Ibid., p. 35.
C. S. Mbang, op. cit., p. 24.
Bola Ige, “The Impact of Religion on the Nigerian Society: The Christian Perspective,” p. 3. A paper presented at the 1991 Religious Studies Conference held between September 17 and 20, 1991 at the University of Ibadan.
Ibid., p. 2.
See E. A. Ayandele, The Missionary Impact on Modern Nigeria 1842-1914 (London: Longman Group Ltd., 1966). P. 264.
Ibid., p. 263.
Ibid., p. 264.
Ibid., p. 268.
Ibid., p. 264.
E. Bolaji Idowu was an academician and a retired Methodist patriarch. He wrote Olodumare; God in Yoruba Belief 1; and many other books. Idowu died in 1994. B. H. Kato was until his death, the General Secretary of the Association of the Evangelicals of Africa and Madagscar (AEAM). He wrote Theological Pitfalls in Africa. Kato got drowned in Kenya on December 19, 1975. Osadolor Imasogie, a Baptist, retired as President of the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, in March 1993. He wrote Guidelines for Christian Theology in Africa and many other books. Imasogie is spending his retirement in his home town, Benin City, Edo State to Nigeria. These three men have made significant contributions to theological discourse in Africa.
Osadolor Imasogie was a resource person in one of the foremost conference of Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians which produced the book The State of Christian Theology in Nigeria 1980-81, edited by Mercy Oduyoye and published by Daystar press, Ibadan, in 1986.
Susan Anderson, So This is Africa (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1943), p. 50.
Charles E. Maddry, Day Dawn in Yorubaland (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1939), p. 25.
Travis Collins, The Baptist Mission of Nigeria (Ibadan: Associated Book Makers Nig. Ltd., 1993), p. 45.
N. A. Fadipe, The Sociology of the Yoruba (Ibadan: University press, 1970), pp. 154-155.
op.cit. p. 45.
op.cit. p. 1.
op.cit., p. 45.
op.cit., p. 34.
I. N. Patterson, Continent in Commotion (Nashville: Convention Press, 1957), p. 59.
Cecil Northcott, Christianity in Africa (Philadelphia: Westeminster, 1963), p. 52.
E. A. Dahunsi, “Memorandum on the National Situation,” Nigeria Baptist, February/March 1966, pp. 6-7.
“Commendation for Moral Probity,” The Nigerian Baptist, October 1986, p. 1. A front page comment, the author of which was not indicated.
op.cit., pp. 1-2.
B. T. Griffin, “Christian Education.” The Nigerian Baptist, January 1953, pp. 5, 12.
op.cit., p. 45.
Griffin, op.cit., p. 5, 12.
op.cit., p. 22.
op.cit., p. 5.
E. A. Ayandele, “Christianity in Independent Africa,” The Nigerian Baptist, No. 12, (December 1978): 3-4.
Soren, op.cit., p. 1.
Yusufu Turaki, An Introduction to the History of SIM/ECWA in Nigeria 1893 – 1993 (Jos: Challenge Press, 1993), p. 53.
Sophie de la Haye, Tread Upon the Lion (Canada: SIM, 1971), p. 89.
Maddry, op.cit., p. 91.
E. A. Ayandele, op.cit., p. 279. In a wave of nationalism, residents of Lagos had argued that the high rate of infant mortality was to a great extent caused by the European clothing heaped upon children… Their conviction was reinforced by statistics which induced that in spite of sanitary measures by the administration to improve the health of Lagos, the mortality rate rose from 10/100 to 40/100 between 1881 and 1918.
Report, Christian Council of Nigeria, February 23-26, 1938.
Collins, op.cit., pp 29-39 Collins did observe that Dr. George Green was not an American Citizen. Green was a British citizen attending First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginal, when he was appointed.
Collins, op.cit., p. 43.
David Agboola, The Seventh Day Adventist in Yorubaland 1914-1964 (Ibadan: Daystar, 1987), p. 23.
Anderson, op.cit., p. 89.
Ibid., p. 85.
A. C. Burn as quoted by Susan Anderson in So This Is African. P. 85.
R. C. Chukwudebulu, “The Christian Church As An Instrument of National Objectives,” The Nigerian Christian, vol. 2, No. 11, (November 1975): p. 10.
Walter R. Delamarter “Social Issues and Social Chang,” Review & Expositor, Vol. LXIII, No. 3, (Summer 1971): p. 348.
G. A. Otunla, “Should Christians Partake in Pools?”, Nigerian Baptist, July 1959, p. 6.
J. A. Afonja, “Social Evils.” Nigeria Baptist, October 1960, pp. 13-14.
Paterson, op.cit., p. 53.
Ibid., p. 54. See also Anderson, op.cit., pp. 95-98.
“Mr. Gabriel, “Thanksgiving Service Programme, pp. 5-6. This was the thanksgiving service for the Late Solomon A. Iga (1990 -1982) held on Saturday, 18th September 1982 at Ijeru Baptist Church Ogbomoso. See also Deji Ayegboyin, “Baptist Mission Enterprise at Ogbomoso 1855 – 1975; An Analysis of the Social Significance of Mission,: M. A. Thesis (Ibadan; University of Ibadan, 1983), pp. 186-189. Here a more detailed account is given.
A. P. Anyebe, Ogboni (Ikeja; Lagos; Sam Lao Publishers, 1987), p. 8.
S. A. Lawoyin in his Presidential Address at the 47th Session of the Nigerian Baptist Convention at Sapele, May 4 -6, 1980 published in The Nigerian Baptist, June 1960, p. 6.
Adewale Ademoyega, op. cit., p. 45.
Ayegboyin, op. cit., pp. 152 – 153.
Walter Schwarz, Nigeria (London; Pall Mall Press, 1968), p. 56.
E. A. Dahunsi, “Memorandum on the National Situation,” The Nigerian Baptist, February/March 1966 pp. 6-7.
S. T. Ola. Akande, Presidential Address, 65th Annual Session of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, Kaduna, April 5, 1978, The Nigerian Baptist, June 1978, p. 13.
Ayandele, op,cit., p. 342.
F. Ernest Johnson, The Church and the Society (Nashville: Abingdon-Cokes bury Press, 1935), p. 126.
Julius Nyerere as quoted by Denton Lotz, Director of Evangelism and Educaiton, Baptist World Alliance in his lecture, “Lesson From Missionary for Strategies in the Evangelization of Africa.” Also consultation on Co-operation and Partnership Between Nationals and Missionaries in Africa (Ibadan; BWA, 1987), p. 119