LATE RT REV’D TIMOTHY IPADEOLA OLANIYI BOLAJI PROFILE
The Lord Bishop whose full name is Timothy Ipadeola Olaniyi Bolaji, is a native of Ibadan, capital of Oyo State. He was born on 5th June, 1931 into the family of Mr. and Mrs. J. T Bolaji (of blessed memory). He began his primary education in 1937 at St. Andrews School, Agbirigidi village, near Ibadan. From there, he moved first to St. Paul’s School, Yemetu Ibadan. In 1944 and then to Ibadan Boys High School a year later. He left the latter school in 1946, having obtained a class II certificate as well as an “As Amended Certificate”.
He joined the teaching service and taught for twelve years. During the period, however, the call to serve Jesus became very strong and he entered Mackay Hall, Oshogbo where he was trained as a Catechist from 1959 to 1960, in January of the following year (1961) he was posted to St. Paul’s Church, Odo Ona, Ibadan as the first resident church worker of the church. In January, 1962, he went to Emmanuel College of Theology (at that time located at Kudeti, Ibadan), as an ordained. Two years later, he finished the course, obtained in the process the college certificate. In the same year (1964), he also obtained the London Diploma in Theology Certificate.
In 1996, he proceeded to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) where he obtained a Bachelor of Art Degree (2nd Class Upper Division) in Philosophy and Religions. Arrangements were made by his Head of Department for him to go for a Doctorate degree course at the University of Aberdeen in Britain; but the arrangements fell through because he had to obey his bishop who told him that St. Paul’s church, Yemetu, Ibadan had nominated him as its new vicar. He served as Minister of God in the following churches: St.
David’s Church, Kudeti, Ibadan; St. Paul’s Church, Oluponna; Cathedral Church of St. James, the great, Ibadan; St. Paul’s church, Odo Ona, Ibadan; Christ Church, Wasimi, Ipetumodu, and St. Peter’s Church, Aremo, Ibadan.
It was while serving at the Aremo Church that he was elected Bishop in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and for Egbado (now Yewa) Diocese on 16th September, 1990. It woud be recalled that he was consecrated Bishop on 1st November, 1990, at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Ake, Abeokuta, and enthroned the first Bishop of Egbado (now Yewa) Diocese on 2nd November 1990, at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Ilaro.
THE NEW BEGINNING
On 1St November, 1990, the Rt. Revd. T.I.O. Bolaji (B.A. Dip. Th.) was consecrated as the first Bishop of the newly created Diocese of Egbado (now Yewa) Anglican Communion, at a solemn and inspiring ceremony held at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Ake, Abeokuta. On the following day (2nd November, 1990), the Diocese was formally inaugurated as the 36th member of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and he was enthroned as its Bishop, at an impressive ceremony held at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Ilaro.
Not many people in Egbado land were familiar with or knew much about the pioneer Bishop. This ignorance was due essentially to the fact that not only was he born in “far away” Ibadan, he had lived there for most of his life being elected Bishop in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and for Egbado, on 16th September, 1990 that it is just about a month and a half before assuming duty in our Diocese.
It was quite legitimate therefore to be curious about the personality of the Bishop elect. For he was coming to Egbado land to father a new-born baby and nurture it to maturity. What kind of a father was he going to be? That would depend essentially on his own personality, which was bound to be crucial because the Diocese was going to be primarily what he made it. Being moulded largely by him, it was going to bear his imprint.
CONSOLIDATION BY DECENTRALISATION
Right from the commencement of his episcopate, the Rt Rev’d T.I.O Bolaji made everyone realize that he was not going to be an arm-chair, stay-at-home Bishop, dependent exclusively on their reports. Rather, he was determined to be an action Diocesan, anxious to move around, so as to see things for himself, and to meet with his flock, so as to rub minds with them, get acquainted with their problems and needs and share their hopes and aspirations. Not surprisingly, therefore, no sooner did he move into Bishop’s Court, Oke-Ela, Ilaro than he embarked on a familiarization visit to the headquarters of our District Church Councils. He followed up almost immediately with a more elaborate tour this time to the various individual churches in the Diocese. As of today, there is hardly any church in this Diocese which has not personally visited.
The first things that struck him, particularly during the early phase of the tour, was the yearning of the members of the Diocese for higher status for either their churches or their administrative areas. The big churches wanted to become parish churches, group of churches would like to be transformed into Provisional District Church Councils (PDCC), District Church Council (DCC) wishes to become Archdeaconries. The Diocesan was delighted by his ardent desire for progress, which meant in practical terms decentralizing administratively so as to take Evangelism, the very raison d’etre of the Diocese, to the grassroots. He was fully aware that if every section of the society supported the aims, objectives and activities of the Diocese, the Diocese would be effectively consolidated.
His task was facilitated by the fact that one of the major conditions laid down by the Provincial Authorities for approval of our application for a Diocese was that the delimitation proposals made by our committee for the crestion of the Diocese, (which was headed by Chief J.A.O. Odebiyi) i.e. creation of PDCC’s, DCC’s and Archdeaconries would be adopted and implemented by the Diocese. Such adoption and implementation would normally require the statutory approval of the Diocesan Board, which fortunately on its own part proved to be equally enthusiastic.
The rest is history, Egbado Archdeaconry, which on 2nd November, 1990 became known as Egbado Diocese, comprised, as of that date, four administrative divisions, namely, (i) Egbado Central District Council, (ii) Egbado North District Church Council, (iii) Egbado South District Church Council and (iv) Egbado North-West District Church Council, with their headquarters respectively at Ilaro, Isaga-Orile, Oke-Odan and Ayetoro. At its maiden meeting, held on 10th Jaanuary, 1991, the Diocesan Board changed the picture.
First, the Board transformed the Egbado North and Egbado South DCC’s into Archdeaconries. Then it carved Christ Church, Ilaro, out of Egbado Central DCC. At the same time, it transferred the headquarters of the rest of the DCC to All Saints’ Church, Leslie Road, Ilaro. The process of administrative decentralization had started and there was to be no going back. Thus, in May 1991, and January 1992, Egbado North-West DCC and Egbado Centraal DCC respectively became Archdeaconries.
However, there followed a lull, as the Diocese waited patiently for the stage-by-stage transformation of the Ketu area of Egbado North Archdeaconry, first to a PDCC (in December, 1991), then to a DCC (in April, 1994), and finally to an Archdeaconry (in August 2000). The desire of our churches for higher status persisted. The next areas to claim the attention of the Diocese was Yewa Central Archdeaconry which, because of its internal problems, had in 1997 been transformed by the Diocesan into a Pastorate Archdeaconry. The transformation, in practical terms, gave its four parishes the All Saints Group of churches (All Saints’ Church, Leslie road, Ilaro), the Ibese Group (St. John’s Church, Ibese), and the Kajola-Ibooro Group some sort of internal autonomy.
Needless to say, finance is one of the most important aspects of such policies. Hence, how to manage the finances of his Diocese in such way as to enable him run its diverse affairs smoothly and effectively is bound to be of much concern to any Bishop. Right from the word go, it became very obvious to our Lord Bishop that how to find money to finance the activities of the Diocese was going to be the greatest challenge he would be confronted with. The earliest indication of this was the Diocesan maiden Synod held on 26th December, 1990. Through it was only ♯330,554.00, it proved quite difficult to balance. In no time a number of crucial facts emerged and established themselves thereafter. First, the Diocese had neither reserves, nor grants, nor donations nor endowment with which to take off. In the circumstances, it had no alternative but to make vey strenuous efforts to generate funds, particularly because it appeared that the Diocese had nothing to fall back on, it just had to haul itself up by its bootstraps.
Secondly, the Diocese’s surest and most reliable revenue source was going to be assessments and it was essentially on these funds that its annual budgets would have to be based. But there was a catch that the assessments just must be paid promptly and regularly, and thirdly, that, to keep its head constantly above water; the Diocese must adopt a policy of austerity or strict financial prudence, whereby whatever funds became available would be spent on really crucial or necessary items. Soon after the commencement of the Episcopate, three potential major sources of funds, apart from assessments, were identified, viz: endowment, donations and investments. Endowment was the first of them to be explored.
In his maiden charge (28th December, 1990 Synod), the Lord Bishop had declared: “ Endowment of the Diocese: The enthusiasm with which we struggled to have our diocese must not be allowed to die out. It will do us a lot of good if early in the new year we launch an endowment fund. This Synod will set up a committee for the endowment fund.” The synod not only accepted the idea of establishing an Endowment Fund. It also set up an Endowment Fund Raising Committee, which later went into action and recommended the launching of an Endowment Fund. The committee was headed by Dr. Adenrele Adejumo.
The Diocese’s first ever Endowment Fund was launched at the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro on 13th February, 1993. It yielded over ♯230,000.00, which was immediately put in a fixed deposit account. The venture turned out to be quite helpful, hence the Diocesan Synod of 6th-9th April, 1997, decided to re-launch the endowment Fund. At its meeting held on 6th September, 1997, the Diocesan Board took measures to implement the decision. On the Bishop’s recommendation, it decided that all members of the Diocese should pay an annual levy of at least ♯20.00 per head, the amount being collected on 2nd November of each year. This was an innovation, a departure from the usual method of generating funds for endowment purposes.
It was calculated that a total sum of about ♯103,000.00 at least would be realized annually under the scheme. Unfortunately, however, the new collection method was dogged by controversy, as some Administrative Areas found it difficult to accept the membership figures being applied to calculate the amounts payable by them. Thanks to this controversy, just about one-third of the total amount expected from the areas was coming in annually. For instance, in 1998, only a total of #37,000.00 was collected from the entire Diocese. Undaunted by this set-back, the Diocesan pressed ahead. He fully realized that the endowment fund scheme, if properly exploited, could yield a lot of money for the Diocese. This realization no doubt explains why in 2000, the Diocesan Board decided to re-launch the scheme once again this time, by adopting the first fund-raising method, which was more orthodox. As part of the Diocese’s Tenth Anniversary Celebration, a #10million Endowment/Development Fund was accordingly launched at a ceremony held at the Bishop Court Chapel. Oke-Ela, Ilaro, on Saturday, 4th November, 2000.
Although only a very tiny fraction of that target sum was realized at the ceremony, it was agreed by all and sundry that the endowment fund idea had come to stay; that it was not likely to be abandoned eventually, but rather that it would continue to be explored and exploited as a useful, additional source of revenue for the Diocese; and that what required to be reconsidered was not the idea per se, but the method of raising the fund.
This is a generic term for all types of money collected every year during Synod Sessions. They include (i) Donations to the Synod; (ii) Donations to Bishops Court Chapel fund (iii) Donations to the Lambeth Conference (iv) Thank offering collected during the Thanksgiving Service that usually rounded off Synod Sessions.
The period’s donation figures present very interesting study indeed. Starting with only #2,125.00 in 1990 (collected during the maiden i.e. one day Synod of 28th December, 1990), they rose to approximately #44,000.00 in 1995 (contributed during the 1995 synod), and reached an all time high of #207,000.00 in 2000 (contributed during the 2000 synod).
The 2000 synod figure in particular provides much food for thought, as it includes money realized from the sale of Tenth Anniversary Membership Certificates. The production as well as the sale of the certificates was handled by the Tenth Anniversary Celebration Committee. It was also the Committee that recommended that the award of fellowship titles to members of the Diocese an idea which owes its origin to the Lord Bishop should take place during the celebration. (For further information on the Anniversary Celebration, see below). Many membership certificates were sold, not only during the synod but also after it, and a substantial amount of money was realized there from. So did the fellowship title award ceremony that took place at the Cathedral during the Thanksgiving Service of 5th November, 2000 (which rounded off the Anniversary Celebration), yield much money for the Diocese.
These two events were an eye-opener. For one thing, they indicate that there were myriads of ways of raising money for the Diocese. All that was needed was to use one’s imagination. For another, they enabled us to discover rather accidentally, one must admit precisely what makes us tick in this Diocese. That is to say, the factors that make us ignore the hard times we are in, dip into our pockets and fish out money to improve the financial condition of the Diocese. one of those factors is the quest for personal honour.
In a bid to expand the Diocese’s revenue base, diverse investment possibilities were considered during the period at the Diocesan’s financial position. To this effect, in 1994, on the Lord Bishop’s recommendation, the Diocese purchased some CSS shares. Those shares are still being held.
Although other investment projects were also considered, no effective action could be taken on them. For the simple reason that there were no funds to finance them. However, it was agreed by all and sundry that in view of the Diocese’s financial handicap, viable ventures just had to be embarked upon as soon as necessary funds were available.
A glance at the Diocese’s budgets (see Appendix B), which were fed almost exclusively by the assessments paid by the Administrative Areas, shows that the Diocese’s financial responsibilities increased tremendously during the period. Starting with approximately N331,000.00 in 1991, the budget rose to approximately N1,602,000.00 in 1995. It jumped dramatically to about N5.8million five years later (in 2000), and reached an all-time high of over N7million in 2001.
It would be grossly erroneous, however, to infer from these figures that the Diocese of Yewa is a financially buoyant Diocese. Far from it, its financial problems were quite enormous during the period. The Lord Bishop was fully aware that central to these problems was the late payment of assessments by some churches. The result was that the Diocese had to operate deficit budgets, as assessment arrears were carried over from one year to another, particularly from 1996 onwards. Virtually every Diocesan board meeting found the Lord Bishop preaching, exhorting, uttering words of hope and encouragement and even once in a while politely chiding the defaulting areas or churches. ‘It is our duty to pay assessments as at when due, “he would say. “Let’s just try to work hard, let’s continue to do our best. God is with us. With hi, nothing is impossible; rather, everything is possible. We can overcome our financial problem if only we would try. God is in control. He will not let us down; as a matter of fact, He will continue to support us so that we may make a success of our status as an autonomous Diocese.”
As time went on, reasons began to be advanced to explain the late payment or non-payment problem. The Lord Bishop was always ready to counter such arguments, which to him were no more than mere excuses. “Our real problem in Yewa Diocese, “he would summarize his counter arguments, “is that we are not fully and sincerely committed to Christ.” However, the Diocesan never made the mistake of limiting his role to merely offering explanations or counter arguments. Rather, he always took a hard look at whatever budget funds were available and accordingly drew up the list of priorities that just had to be satisfied. Invariably the list would include Church of Nigeria assessments and Province One assessments were usually paid so regularly and so promptly that we were never in debt and our Diocese even came to be regarded and described as financially one of the most viable Anglican Diocese in the country today.
That wasn’t all. The Lord Bishop also went to the extent of imposing on himself some restriction, for instance, cutting down or refusing to claim some of the benefits to which he was entitled to as Bishop. Let me illustrate. Although he should normally be expected to be supplied with several newspapers each day, he insisted on receiving only one daily, citing as his reason the Diocese’s financial disability. Accountability was his watch-word. No matter whether the Diocese’s purse was lean or fat, it just had to be audited. The Lord Bishop insisted on this to comply with the demands of the Diocesan Constitution but also let everyone realize that he was not a spend-thrift and that his hands were clean. And so every year, the Diocese’s accounts were audited. The audited accounts were subsequently presented first to the Diocesan Board and then to the Synod, for their consideration. It is much to his credit that on no occasion during the period was any of the audited accounts ever rejected by either of the two bodies.
EMERGENCE OF YEWA CHRISTIAN MISSION, LAGOS, AND RENOVATION OF ADMINISTRATIVE BLOCK
It would be wrong to imagine that the Lord Bishop’s quest for consolidation was a one-off affair. On the contrary, it continued throughout his Episcopate. It found further expression in, for instance, (i) preparation and adoption of a constitution for the Diocese; (ii) stout protection of the Diocese’s landed property at Oke-Ela. These achievements are far too important to be mentioned only in passing. For not only do they represent a major land mark in the history of the Diocese, the Lord Bishop was at the heart of it all, he was the prime mover. Equally important, the further pursuit of consolidation produced a very big surprise packet namely the birth of Yewa Christian Mission, Lagos. And so we must treat each of the items in some detail. But first, let’s take a look at the surprise packet.
THE BIRTH OF YEWA CHRISTIAN MISSION
Not many people are aware that one of the promises solemnly made by the founding fathers of this Diocese and which facilitated their application for an autonomous Diocese was to build a Diocesan Headquarters (i.e. office complex) as well as a chapel at the Bishop’s Court before the creation of the Diocese. Unfortunately however, the pledge couldn’t be fulfilled before the inception of the Diocese in 1990 and even long after, due to lack of funds. Yet an administrative block just had to be provided, as well as a Bishop’s Court Chapel, if the Lord Bishop must have a suitable environment within which to run the affairs of the Diocese and a convenient place not only for worshipping God but also for promoting evangelism.
With the active support of the Diocesan Board, the Lord Bishop took up the task of finding money for the two projects. The Board decided to call on Yewa sons and daughters living in such places as Lagos, Abeokuta and Ibadan to “come over to Macedonia and help us”. At the Board’s instance, the Lord Bishop began to establish contact with Yewa sons and daughters in Lagos. By January, 1997, he achieved a breakthrough and they responded positively. They expressed their willingness to help but wished to know the Diocese’s priority project they should embark upon. The two pressing projects at the time were renovation of the administrative block and construction of a Chapel at the Bishop’s Court. The Diocesan Board opted for the administrative block project, and the Lord Bishop passed the information to our people in Lagos, who in turn accepted the challenge, under the able leadership of Mr. Dotun Ilo.
It is unnecessary here to discuss in detail how the Diocesan sustained his contact with pressure on them and how much effort they made to raise funds for rehabilitation of the administrative block. Suffice it to say that they spent not less than N2.5million on the project and that the building, the painting of which was recently completed, is now ready for use. It was in the process of coming together and rending this invaluable assistance to the Diocese that they decided to constitute themselves into an evangelical organization, known as “Yewa Christian Mission.” Indeed it has both for our Lord Bishop, in particular, and the Diocese, in general, a very commendable twin achievement, viz., the emergence of the Yewa Christian Mission and the provision of a very modern and beautiful office complex for the Diocese.
THE ADMINISTRATIVE BLOCK
The rehabilitated administrative block was dedicated by the Lord Bishop on 19th May, 2001, unfortunately, however, Mr. Dotun Ilo, the driving force behind the project, was not around to witness the happy occasion. He passed on 1st January, 2000. But we take solace in the fact under his selfless leadership the Yewa Christian Mission has bequeathed to our Diocese a worthy legacy for which he, in particular and all the Mission’s members, in general will forever remembered. May his gentle and generous soul rest in perfect peace. And may God reward the Yewa Christian Mission abundantly for their generosity. Amen.
CONSTRUCTION OF BISHOP’S COURT CHAPEL
As the Yewa Christian Mission could only handle the renovation of the administrative block, and as there was still neither money nor any philanthropist to finance the construction of the chapel, the Lord Bishop found himself faced with the herculean task of raising money on his own for the chapel project. With fortitude, and an unshaken faith in God, and with the approval of the Diocesan Board, he took up the challenge.
The Lord Bishop immediately set to work. He contacted philanthropists, well-wishers, churches and other organizations, requesting for assistance. Their response proved quite encouraging and little by little, a new modern church began to emerge at Oke-Ela. However, because the work depended essentially on charity, it couldn’t but be slow. But thank God, though slow, it was steady and our Diocesan has won the race. The building has been roofed; its walls have been plastered and its metal windows have been installed. Before long, the entire building will be ready for use. It is a magnificent edifice. God has used our Diocesan for its actualization. Therefore, it is no exaggeration at all to describe the chapel as our Lord Bishop’s handiwork. It is indeed the most special of his very many special gifts to our Diocese for which he will forever be remembered.
THE LANDED PROPERTY OF THE DIOCESE AT OKE-ELA
Not many people are aware that for several years to be precise as far back as 1995, our Lord Bishop, stoutly supported by the Diocesan Board and the Cathedral, had to fight very hard to retain the Diocese’s landed property at Oke-Ela, where our headquarters is located. Indeed, so grim was the battle that at one stage the possibility of our either being restricted to a very tiny portion of the land or evicted from it altogether loomed in the horizon. It all began as a battle against trespassers, one of whom was no desperate and daring that she began to haul insults at our Lord Bishop and even went to the extent of posing a threat to his life. Then it became a dispute with the original donors of the land. But the Diocesan was equally desperate.
As a trustee of the Diocese, he knew that it was his duty to protect the Diocese’s properties. He was determined that under no circumstances would it ever be recorded that during his episcopate the Diocese lost any of its belongings. He made up his mind and stood by his resolution. Fortunately, by God’s grace, we won. By an out-of-court settlement achieved at the High Court, Ilaro, on 14th October, 1999, our Diocese recovered more than four-fifths of the original area. The long-standing land ownership dispute was thus laid to rest at last. Oke-Ela remains our Diocesan headquarters and we can now use the land in total tranquility for whatever development purposes we choose. This major victory was in respect of the dispute with the original donors of the land. The trespass case is still pending at the High Court, Ilaro.
There is no doubt about it at all the out-of-court settlement was a major achievement for the Lord Bishop, in particular, and the Cathedral, the Diocese and all our well-wishers, in general. Most especially, it was a booster to the Diocesan’s effort at consolidating the Diocese.
CONSTITUTION OF YEWA DIOCESE
As is well known, it was under the constitution of the former Egba- Egbado Diocese that we became an autonomous Diocese in November, 1990. The Lord Bishop was very keen to ensure that we stopped using the constitution, which had been in existence. He desired a separate constitution of our own, reflecting our status as an autonomous Diocese.
Accordingly, a committee was set up to prepare a constitution for the Diocese. It would be recalled that the committee’s draft, as amended by the Diocesan Board, was approved by a One-Day Synod of the Diocese, held at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Ilaro, on 9th October 1996. Thereafter, it was submitted to the Provincial Authorities for scrutiny and approval. Copies of the approval and printed constitution are now available for sale at N100.00 each.
The Constitution of Yewa Diocese is essentially a product of the Lord Bishop’s extraordinary patience, relentless efforts and doggedness. These virtues came to the rescue particularly in moments when the general interest in the constitution drafting assignment seemed to be on the wane; and when various obstacles reared their ugly heads to impede the march to an autonomous constitution, so much so that people began to think that we might have to wait till eternity to achieve it. Lastly, it represents another important milestone in the Diocesan’s consolidation endeavors.
PARTICIPATION IN THE 1998 LAMBETH CONFERENCE
If anyone thought that all was completely well with our Diocese and that its members as a group had no moments of anxiety, such a person didn’t really know what was going on in the Diocese. The fact is that, apart from financial constraints, we certainly had several headaches to contend with as an autonomous Diocese. By far the most terrible of such worries was how to find enough money to ensure the participation of our Lord Bishop and his spouse in the 1988 Lambeth Conference.
We were determined that our Diocese would be represented at the Conference. We tried to back our resolution with effective action. We decided to device various ways and means of raising money equivalent to the sum of N2,500.00. Pound Sterling needed by the Lord Bishop and his spouse to attend the conference. Our Naira target was N1million. To start with, the Diocesan Board inserted a special vote in the 1996 budget and a similar one in the 1997 budget.
Moreover, during the 1997 Synod, a Lambeth Conference Fund was introduced and Synod Delegates were requested to donate to it. Some paid cash straightaway while some others pledge to donate their pledges. By God’s grace, our Lord Bishop and his wife were able to attend the Conference, which opened on 18th July and ended on 9th August, 1998.
This is except from the book. “The Pioneer Diocesan” authored by Dr. Hezy Idowu.