Much has been written about the late Rev. Dr. Samuel Titilola Oladele Akande who passed on in September 2020 at the ripe age of 94 years but none perhaps about his being the first Nigerian pastor to seek the nations topmost office in the very early 1990 under the National Republican Convention (NRC).
He “was the third indigenous general secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. He served the Convention meritoriously in various capacities from 1951 to 1991, a period of forty years. For the last twelve of those years, he was the general secretary. To his many admirers, he was a dutiful minister, a courageous preacher, a talented teacher, and the “best Nigerian Baptist leader ever produced.”
Rev. Dr. S.O. Akande (Ph.D, JP, and MFR) was fondly referred to as “the Archbishop of the Baptist Church of Nigeria,” and was held in very high esteem by the Baptist communities in Nigeria, Africa, and the world at large.
DATELINE- 2013 in an interview with The Nations Newspaper correspondent, Sunday Oguntola:
Rev (Dr) Samuel T. Akande, former General Secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention was the first preacher to vie for election in Nigeria. As a presidential aspirant under the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), he attracted criticisms from many quarters. He spoke on the experiment, his many battles as a church leader and life in retirement.
You clocked 87 some weeks back. How does it feel at 87?
Akande: “Well, I still feel young and very active. I eat well – twice in a day in the morning and evening. In the afternoon, I just take snacks. But sometimes I just drink cold water only and that is sufficient for me. Sometimes, I eat groundnuts, which Americans call peanuts. I do a lot of walking-exercise every time in the morning. I walk around our big compound for about 35 minutes.
My brain is still alert. I just completed works on the third edition of my book, The courage to live. I did the Yoruba version of it. The foreword was written by the late Chief S.O Adebo. I am working on another book, which is being published in the United States of America. The Nigerian edition will follow shortly. So, I try to keep young and active every time.”
You retired some 17 years ago, what have you been doing?
Akande: “I retired as the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention at 65 after I served there for 40 years. I was first a pastor, then lecturer at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso. Then, I became the President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention and retired as General Secretary/Chief Executive. When I was serving as the secretary in Nigeria, I was also serving as the secretary of the World Baptist Alliance in Africa. That position took me to not less than 49 countries in the world. Now, I feel fulfilled and I thank God.
In retirement, I am running a school, which my wife and I founded some 18 years ago in Texas, USA. We call it International Institute of Evangelism that trains evangelists and teachers of the world. It is an inter-denominational school. It was registered here in Nigeria in 2000. We meet regularly every Saturday at Immanuel School, Samanda, Ibadan.
In the early 90s, you made history as the first preacher to contest an election. What gave you the audacity to contest the presidential election under the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC)?
I never thought of it until 1992 when some people came from Lagos. I can’t remember whether they were Baptists or not. They said people were pointing out that since former President Ibarahim Babangida had assured he was going, credible Nigerians like me can make a difference. I was born in Awe near Oyo but raised in Ghana. Having been a minister of the gospel who will not compromise and care so much about the welfare of the nation, they thought I would make a difference. When that message kept coming, I went to pray and felt the Lord seemed to be saying to me ‘you don’t have money but you could contest elections and you might win’.
At that time, Baptists would not hear that one of them, let alone their chief executive officer was vying for election. But because I felt God wanted me to do it, I went into it and registered with NRC. As soon as some of these Baptists heard that I had registered, they began to call for my resignation. One of the men who called for my resignation at that time eventually became a civilian president of this country. He is a Baptist. But I didn’t care. I went into it and began to mobilise, telling everyone I was going to be President.
There was this man called Chief Adeseun Ogundoyin from Eruwa. I went to him and said, ‘Ogundoyin, I’d like to contest presidential election. How do I go about it?’ The first question he asked me was how much I was earning. I said N1, 341. That was my pension, what I was being paid despite having five academic degrees, all from America. Then he said ‘since you are interested, I will help you. I will speak to Babangida that I have a candidate’. Right there, he went ahead and talked to Babangida, who said I could contest. So, I went around canvassing people.”
The first amount he gave me was N10, 000. I never saw that amount of money before… (Interjects) Even as chief executive of a large church like the Baptist Convention?
Akande: “… Of course, I wasn’t receiving that much. I was only signing cheques for people. I never received that much. So, I began to campaign and the time came for me to contest the election at the state level. Many people kept criticising but I insisted I’d go into it since God said I should. But I didn’t know that God had a different plan for calling me into it. I went into it and the day of election came here in Ibadan. I won here. At that time, there was no Ondo, Ekiti or Osun states. They all came together and voted for me.
When I was declared the winner and lifted up, I had only N500 in my pocket and I was afraid someone might tuck his hands into my pocket as they were lifting me up and take the money. So, I held on tight to my pocket to preserve the money. Some of them noticed and came when I was bought down. They said ‘what kind of a president would you be if you can hold on to common N500? Then we went to Port-Harcourt for the National Convention where I also contested. As soon as we got there, people from Oyo State, now Osun, Ondo and Ekiti said ‘don’t vote for this Akande. He would not allow us to chop’. With that kind of message going round, I did not win there. I said to them, ‘you will continue to chop but you will chop and chop until you have stomach ache’ Don’t we all have it now? Since then, I have never shown interest in politics again.
But then later, I discovered that during the time I was in politics, God helped me. Before then, I didn’t have a house or a car…”
As Baptist Convention President and General Secretary?
Akande: I never did. I was earning N1, 341 until I retired. What can one do with that kind of money? Then, Ogundoyin bought me two cars- a Mercedes Benz and Toyota Station Wagon. He gave me money to complete this house where we now live. Then, I realised God diverted me to politics so that He could bless me. Since then, I stopped talking politics because we haven’t made any progress at all. We are still where we were before I contested.
Is that because you have given up on Nigeria?
Akande: Sometimes one wishes to give up on Nigeria. There is no progress, development or change. Things are going from bad to worse and we are making many bad names around the world. My wife and I travelled to America one day to visit our children. We both have tribal marks. As soon as we landed in one airport and they saw our marks, they moved us to one side since they were sure we are Nigerians. They set Alsatian dogs on us. They were sniffing our bodies for cocaine. We were begging saying we spent over 15 years in the United States and our children have been there. They just wouldn’t listen to us. They released us after a thorough search.
But I am hoping that maybe one day God will raise up a leader who will be tough on the citizens. Any leader that is not tough and straightforward cannot transform this country. I had a lot of problems when I was General Secretary of the Convention. The war was too much because I was not ready to compromise and people wanted me to. That was why they kept saying Akande is bad. I have no problems over such perception. Today, I am a happy man.”
Yes, people really hated your guts and said many terrible things about you. How do you react to them?
Akande: Don’t mind them. They just wanted me to compromise. They wanted me to see something that is black and say it is white. If any Baptist Church in those days tried to change our mode of worship, I would go there straight and wage war against them. I would threaten to remove them from the Convention. Today, things have changed; many Baptist Churches have become Pentecostal. They are no longer Baptists. If I heard of any pastor who did something bad, I would report straight to the ministerial board. But if I found the board was dilly-dallying, I would go straight to that church and tell them your pastor is not doing well. Because of that, they said I was confrontational and dictatorial.”
Were you not?
Akande: Yes, I was because I was raised in Ghana. I went to High School in Cape Coast from 1945-1949. I taught for two years in Ghana in a town called Suhun. The very same night I got there, I met the lady who became my wife. She bought food for me and I soon as I saw her, my heart went to her. From December 15, 1949 we went into courtship until December 15 1956 when we got married. We have been married for 56 years and four months.
But you see when I was General Secretary, they prefer that I see things and look away. I knew that people were very dishonest then even in the church. As Secretary, I gave out contracts to people and they would approach me with my own ‘share’ after completion. Of course, I’d flatly refuse. One of the leaders came to me one day and advised me to compromise; that I was too tough on the people.
My reaction was that if God was behind my election, no man would be able to remove me. They tried all kinds of things. I was President from May 1, 1977 to April 30, 1979. I became Secretary from May 1, 1979 to April 30, 1991. In the last year, people wanted to remove me and I insisted they would not succeed. I retired gloriously on April 30, 1991.”
Birth and Parental Background
Samuel Akande was born in Awe in the present Oyo State of Nigeria on March 31, 1926. His father was Daniel Oladele Akande, who was the son of Papa Oyetunde Akande of the Onsa-Olapeleke’s Compound in Awe. His mother was Susannah Ayannihun, the daughter of Ayanwale, her father, and Olanbiwonninu, her mother. Samuel’s father was a Baptist, while his mother was from a Catholic home. In those days, because of denominational bias in the church at high levels, it was almost impossible for a Protestant Christian to marry a Catholic. However, due to God’s providence, the two families agreed to the marriage proposal and Susannah was given in marriage to Daniel in 1923. Three years later, they gave birth to Samuel, their first child.
Education and Early Work
A few years after his birth, Samuel’s parents migrated to the Gold Coast, the present Republic of Ghana, in search of greener pastures, taking their infant son with them. So, Samuel’s education began in Ghana, where he attended the A. M. E. Zion Primary School, the Salvation Army School, and the Aggrey Memorial Primary School until 1937, when he was brought back to his hometown of Awe. He continued his primary education in Awe at the Awe Baptist Day School in 1938, this time under the guardianship of his uncle, Mr. Abodunrin Akande, and his paternal grandmother, Madam Olatoun Ajile, as his parents were still based in Ghana. He completed his primary education at this school in 1943, and went back to Ghana to join his parents. He completed his secondary education at Adisadel College in 1949, receiving a very good grade on the London Matriculation Examination as well as on the Cambridge School Certificate Examination.
Tragically, his mother died in 1948, and his father decided to return to his hometown of Awe with his four sisters. This nearly brought an abrupt end to his secondary education, but Alhaji Shittu Olopoenia opted to be his guardian for the remaining period of his studies, and the Baptist Mission in Ghana, under Reverend W. N. Claxon, offered him a scholarship to enable him to complete his education. However, the scholarship was conditional: after the completion of his education, he was to serve the Baptist Mission as a teacher in one of their schools in Ghana. So, in 1949 he was appointed as a teacher in the Baptist Mission School in Suhum, a town in the southern part of Ghana.
While serving as a teacher with the Baptist Mission, he felt the urge to go into the ministry. He returned to Nigeria and enrolled in the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogbomoso in 1952, to be trained as a Baptist minister. At the seminary, Akande was a very brilliant and popular student. From 1952 to 1955, he was elected editor of the seminary’s magazine, Theologue. He also participated in sports, having been a good athlete since primary school. He completed his theological education with a Bachelor’s degree in theology in December of 1955.
In 1959, while serving as pastor of First Baptist Church, Fiditi in the present Oyo State of Nigeria, the Nigerian Baptist Convention awarded him a scholarship to study in the U.S.A. In America, he attended Wayland Baptist College, now Wayland Baptist University, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, from 1959 to 1962. At the former institution, he obtained a B. A. in English, obtaining a Bachelor of divinity degree from the latter. He returned to Nigeria in 1962 and worked briefly with some Baptist churches as a pastor, later returning to the United States in 1969 on a scholarship from Union Theological Seminary in New York, for his postgraduate studies. He completed an M.A. in New Testament there in 1970, and went on to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for his Ph.D. in New Testament, which he completed in 1973.
He Helped Establish Ahmadu Bello University’s Department of Religious Studies.
Akande was instrumental to the establishment of the department of Religious Studies at Ahmadu Bello University, in Zaria. In 1984, the university approached the executive committee of the NBC about its intention to open a department of Christian Religious Studies, stipulating that the Convention should provide a teacher to head the department and pay a salary for two years. Akande worked assiduously to fulfill this condition, and the department was opened. He also used his position as regional secretary for Africa of the Baptist World Alliance to assist the newly created department to arrange for theological books for its library. Through his influence, 948 theological books were sent to the department from the Baptist World Alliance in America. As the general secretary of the NBC, Akande helped promote intellectualism within the Convention by contributing to the education of many pastors and young students, encouraging a good number of them to further their studies. To make this easier, he matched this encouragement with action by pursuing and securing scholarships for many of them. In 1980, he initiated an exchange program between the NBC and Quachita Baptist University in Arkansas, U.S. A. This program gave many pastors of the NBC the opportunity of overseas studies. Those who benefited from these programs will never forget his great contribution to their lives in this area.
Excerpts courtesy Nigerian Baptist Convention and The Nation Newspaper.