A Special Tribute To Bishop Stephen Ayo Fagbemi Of Nigeria By Dr. Wumi Akintide

Dr. Wumi Akintide
Dr. Wumi Akintide

I dedicate the tribute not just to the new Bishop alone but to all of his 3 distinguished colleagues, the new Bishops of Maiduguri, Okene and Igbomina while our own Ayo Fagbemi of Oba Ile and Akure is to become the new Bishop of Owo Diocese.

I have never met Venerable Fagbemi. I knew him by reputation through my uncle, Bishop Omoyajowo. He and I have spoken over the phone multiple times and I have developed a relationship with the young man who is about the same age with my first son but I am very proud to be the one writing his tribute. He has become my father in the Lord.

I dedicate the tribute not just to the new Bishop alone but to all of his 3 distinguished colleagues, the new Bishops of Maiduguri, Okene and Igbomina while our own Ayo Fagbemi of Oba Ile and Akure is to become the new Bishop of Owo Diocese.

The young Bishop reminds me of the soon to be published book of one of Nigeria’s best intellectual giants in Great Britain Professor Chris Imafidon. The book is titled. “The Genius in you” which reminds all of us there is a genius waiting to be tapped in all of us and our children. Bishop Ayo Fagbemi is one such genius from our own neck of the woods in Oba Ile as I plan to show with the remaining segments of this tribute.

Venerable and Bishop-to-be Stephen Ayo Fagbemi is 50 years old. He is happily married to his priceless jewel of inestimable value, Mrs. Florence Ebun Fagbemi, a Special Education graduate and teacher. They are blessed with two beautiful children a boy and a girl named AyoOluwa and Ayodipo.
The new Bishop was born to the family of Mr. Hezekiah Fagbemi who later became High Chief Asamo of Oba-Ile of Umogun Quarters and Mrs. Margaret Fagbemi (née Fajemiyo) of Akure.

The new Bishop is the 5th out of 16 children born to one of the most illustrious families in Oba Ile. 4 or 5 of such families in addition of course to the two or three families that are now recognized by the Oloba Chieftaincy Declaration Law as amended to present candidates in rotation for any vacancy on the throne as it occurs. produce Kabiyesi the Oloba by rotation.

The 4 0r 5 families are built around distinguished leaders of Oba Ile namely late Papa JuliusFagbemi, the patriarch of the Fagbemi Family of Oba Ile. There is the Fasemore Family whose prominent son became the first graduate at Oba Ile. The reference is to late Johnson Ayo Fasemore who was the pioneer Principal of Federal Government College, Ilorin.

There is the Fabilola or the Odofin Family. There is the family of Samuel Olakunle (the one time Baba Egbe of St John’s Church Oba Ile). There is the Sao Faloye Family, the Family of Osolo Abibiri the pioneer Osolo of Isolo Quarters in Akure. There is the Odoo Family of Oke Umogun and the Oguntona and the Omodara Family which has produced the second Chairman of Akure North Local Government and a former Commissioner for Transportation in Ondo State.

Our new Bishop comes from the Fagbemi Family. One of his great Uncles Odopetu Adetunji Fagbemi also had the distinction of becoming the pioneer Baba Egbe of St John’s Anglican Church.

I have to mention this fact in deference to an Oba Ile proverb which says that “Ori ko ba sangbo didu li i jere Ebire re” which simply means in Akure dialect that we all reserve the right to reap bountifully where we sow and where we have invested in sweat and hard work. It is not just a coincidence that the first Bishop to ever come from Oba Ile is a Fagbemi by the special grace of God. Who says that God does not reward devotion and good work? That the new Bishop is a Fagbemi speaks eloquently to that observation.

The new Bishop’s father was Hezekiah Omoleewo Fagbemi, a teacher by profession also ended up becoming High Chief Asamo of Oba Ile before his death.

The Fagbemi Family has produced few top civil servants from Oba Ile. They include late Lawrence Fagbemi a.k.a Lawrence George who became a Permanent Secretary in Ondo State.

There is a Mrs. Kosemani Kolawole who retired in the rank of Head of Service and is currently the Mama Ijo of St Lukes Church, Idiagba Titun in Akure and Mr. Bola George who retired as a Director in the Lagos State Civil Service.

The same family has produced a retired Archdeacon in Ilasa Maja, Lagos in Joel Olawumi Adesuyan whose son is now the Vicar of St. Luke’s Church at Idiagba Titun in Akure. The younger brother of the new Bishop is Revd. Mike Fagbemi. The family is just about ready now to produce its first Bishop ever in Venerable Stephen Ayo Fagbemi. It is another proof that God does not subscribe to quota like we human beings do.

Our new Bishop Fagbemi attended St Johns Anglican Primary School, Oba-Ile and later Ejioba High School. He was a chorister, evangelist and lay reader at St John’s Oba Ile, and assistant Secretary of the Christian Unity Band of the same Church While most of his peers and classmates were rushing to go to university Ayo opted for the ministry fully convinced that he had been called to serve God.

He was a Church Agent/Catechist from 1986/87 in Ijare Archdeaconry of Akure diocese, where church and youths were so impressively mobilized that Bishop E. B. Gbonigi, the pioneer Bishop of Akure diocese insisted Ayo would not be released until he had found a suitable replacement for himself at Ijare. He personally went to look for a replacement of his choice before he left for his ordination training.

From1987 to 1990 he attended Immanuel College, Ibadan, where he was college organist, intercessor, president of prayer group(later evangelical fellowship in Immanuel College of theology (EFICT), among others.

He graduated as best student taking so many awards in his final year.

He left the College with a Diploma in Religious Studies & Diploma in Theology (Magna cum Laude)

He was first ordained a Reverend in 1990 at Owo by Bishop Abraham Awosan. He served as curacy and acting vicar for one year before he left for overseas training 2months into his curacy. He pioneered Church growth with a lot of spiritual revival. He introduced house fellowship, night vigil, youth bible study, e.t.c. and he was a strong member of the Diocesan Evangelization Team reaching out to villages and towns in the diocese with the current Bishop of Idoani and others.

In 1991 he was a Priest under now Bishop Fasogbon as a trusted and reliable assistant at St Patrick’s Church, Owo. The Church witnessed spiritual awakening and revival with full understanding and support of his vicar.

He returned to Ibadan for a year before going overseas for further studies. At Ibadan, he developed and transformed the local church at Wakajaiye Etile under Yemetu Archdeaconry within the short time of his work.

From 1993-1996, he attended St Johns theological College, Nottingham, an evangelical Anglican Theological College of the Church of England and the University of Nottingham. He graduated there with a Bachelor of Theology B.Th(Hons) Second Class Upper. In the UK he offered pastoral ministry under the Overseas pastoral measure in a number of parishes. Chief among them were St. Wilfrid’s Parish Church, Wilford, Nottingham and St Margaret Church, Edgeware, London

He returned to Nigeria in the Abacha days against the advice of those who said Nigeria was too dangerous to return to in the era of the maximum dictator. That fear mongering did not faze Ayo, a prayer warrior who is so sure of himself and his resolve and ability to make the best of a bad situation regardless of any obstacles he may face.

From 1996 to 2000 he was the vicar of our Savior’s Church Emure-Ile, Owo. He moved his congregants into the new church building, roofed the building and nearly completed it before he left for his postgraduate studies abroad. He transformed the vicarage that it became a place to lobby for.

His time witnessed unprecedented spiritual revival in the church and development of youth ministry, Bible study, revival. Night vigils etc. The church has since produced five clergy men who passed through the youth ministry that our new Bishop pioneered.

Our new Bishop became statutory Canon of St Andrew’s Cathedral Owo in 1999.

He was preferred as Archdeacon in 2005 by Bishop of Owo, the Rt. Revd. Dr. James Oladunjoye.

From 2000 to 2004 he was a doctoral student at the University of Kent at Canterbury. He completed his Ph.D degree in New Testament and Applied Theology. His Thesis was titled,

“Living no Longer as before, the present significance of the identity of the elect in 1 Peter and its implications for the Anglican Church of Nigeria”.

At Canterbury, he obtained a certificate in Anglican Spirituality from Duke University, Virginia in the United States.

His Ph.D thesis was revised and published by Peter Lang, NY with the title “Who are the elect in I Peter? A Study in Biblical Exegesis and its Application to the Anglican Church of Nigeria”

Venerable Ayo Fagbemi served as priest of All Saints, Murston, Sittingbourne in the Benefice of Murston with Bapchild, and Tonge in the diocese of Canterbury while the Revd. Brian Shersby was Rector, under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the supervision of the Bishop of Maidstone.

From 2005-2011 he was coordinator of Chaplaincy Services and Anglican chaplain at the university of Sunderland and a priest of Sunderland Minster in the diocese of Durham.

He coordinated ministers of the Roman Catholic Mission, Baptist, Coptic Orthodox, Methodist, URC and Salvation Army and non-Christian chaplains of the Buddhist, Sikh and Islamic religions.

He gave Chaplaincy a new face and a place of attraction. He provided unambiguous energetic leadership that brought chaplaincy to the heart of University life.

He was Chair of Sunderland Interfaith Forum (SIF) and a member of the City Council’s inclusive communities group.

He attended many seminars and conferences within Nigeria, within Africa, the UK and Europe.

He has published many scholarly articles and books. He writes blogs and columns for various online sources like the Nigeriaworld, and Lagosforum and he has been profiled and eulogized as an achiever by Social Media outlets and platforms like the Sahara Reporters Media Company of New York and ChatAfrik websites both of which are pioneered by his fellow compatriots from Ondo State namely Omoyele Sowore from Ijaw Apoi and Martin Akindana from Idanre in Ondo State.

Ayo is a Church musician, a committed evangelical teacher of the word, a preacher and a pastor. He was a member of Tyndale Fellowship of Evangelical Scholars for Biblical Research and Theology. We can conveniently call him a Christian with so many testimonies.

He was formerly Dean, Archbishop Vining College, Akure and Vicar, Chapel of the Annunciation. He led with vision and passion, transforming the college and the chapel day by day.

He enjoyed the opportunity to contribute to the ministerial formation and theological education of future leaders of the church, teaching hermeneutics and polity, among others.

Our new Bishop was the incumbent minister in charge of the Chapel of the Annunciation (Vicar). His leadership was characterized by the “Every soul matters” agenda which he crafted and chaperoned. He was first and foremost a teacher just like his biological father, Hezekiah Omoleewo Fagbemi.

The new Bishop thru his wide exposure around the world has since become a clergy and a researcher and international scholar by acclamation and consensus.

He transformed the face and structure of the Vining Anglican Seminary academically, spiritually and physically. He remains dynamic pastor, leader of worship, minister of the word, unambiguously evangelical with passion for outreach and relevant Anglican ministry without losing his Anglican heritage identity and purity.

He developed the Library of the Vining Center to a University standard and he developed every aspect to college life to an enviable position, so much so that securing a successor became a herculean task for the Diocesan Board upon his well-deserved promotion to the Secretary of the Nigerian Anglican Communion in the nation’s Capital before his translation to Bishop.

He was finally succeeded as Dean of the Vining College by Venerable Justus Akin Omoyajowo the first son of the retired Anglican Bishop of Ijebu Ode Diocese, the Rt. Revd. Professor Joseph Akinyele Omoyajowo who remains the mentor and spiritual father of our new Bishop till tomorrow.

Dr. Ayo Fagbemi is an administrator of note with a large pastoral heart. As Dean of Bishop Vining College of Theology, he was the Supervisor to 8 Archdeacons and 2 Canons apart from the many students that he has turned out in the College.

His last posting and promotion was as General Secretary of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, assisting the Primate in the general oversight administration of the Anglican Communion of Nigeria.

I like to end this tribute by drawing a striking similarity between the young man we all celebrate today and the pioneer African Bishop of Nigeria, the one and only Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther who was born in Osogun, a little village in Iseyin Local Government of Oyo State.

Osogun and Oba Ile are relatively small towns but Oba Ile has a powerful history behind it which predates Akure, the State Capital itself. The little town a few miles from Akure Airport and less than 5 miles from the State Capital has witnessed a rapid development becoming an outlet to the overflowing population of the State Capital.

The time would come when Oba Ile would only look like a borough to Akure City just like Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens Borough to New York City.

So when you are talking of Oba Ile you are really talking of Akure because the two towns are not only joined in the hips they are also joined by their long history.

That is one more reason that all of us in Akure see the new Bishop as one of our own both from his father side but even more so from his mother side.

We all celebrate him as he has joined the long list of individuals from the old Akure Division who have been lucky and blessed by God to be ordained Bishop in our life time.

The list includes Archbishops Samuel Abe from Iju and Michael Fape from Ipogun, Bishops Akinbola and Olumakaiye from Idanre, Bishop Joseph Akinyele Omoyajowo from Isarun, Bishop Joseph Arulefela from Ipogun, and Bishop Simeon Borokini from Akure.

I mention all these names because they all laid the foundation for our new Bishop who in a few ways had travelled a similar journey to those of these Bishops and Bishop Ajayi Crowther who lived from 1809 to 1891 and was a product of the premier Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone.

We can all tell that the Venerable who has the potential to become one of the longest serving Bishops in our life time by becoming Bishop at only 50 years of age is more than adequately equipped and ready to be Bishop given all of his well documented antecedents in this write-up.

His watchword and guiding principle can be summarized in three questions as follows: Who are you? Who do you want to be? and who have you helped along the way in your life journey?

It is now my honor and privilege to introduce to you the new Anglican Bishop of Owo Diocese, the Rt. Revd. Stephen Ayo Fagbemi.

“Omo Oloba o rin jeule, Omo a ji gbagba Urin, Omo Asamo Olopon Ude, O mu m’oriwo soro m’osaka soro. Omo a yugbo Ebo m’Osupa jiere bo, Ale i le ki Omo Oba morin tugbi Osan lisoro, Omo Eleyinkule atowire, Omo a gbenla Olowu Opoto pata O para ogun bo ni pale, O f’otito ja bi Arira o m’ogbon inu ja bi Ase.”

Please stay tuned for the Consecration Service In Nigeria at the end of July, 2017 by the special grace of God.

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