When you hear the name Okubanjo there is tendency to link the first three letters (oku) with death. But Ven. Oloruntele Okubanjo took time to give a brief lecture on his two names during a session with Church Times. He says, “oku means bead in Ijebu language while banjo means “it is fitting” so the name Okubanjo means bead is fitting on me. His first name (Oloruntele) on the other hand means God goes ahead of me to prepare a place for me.
A native of Ijebu Igbo, Ogun State, Ven Okubanjo has had a long romance with the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion. He started off as an active member of the choir at St. Mathews Church Ijebu Igbo and also took out time to always assist the priests in the church while growing up. He was so loved by the vicar of his church then that one would have thought becoming a priest would be a natural thing for him.
But it did not go that way. After his early education, his plan was to go into teaching or join the military. The urge to join the later was strong. He never liked the idea of becoming a priest because he did not like the way the vicar of his church was being treated by parishioners. “I saw the man being insulted. And I felt I could not take such insult and as such would not like to go into priesthood. But the military was a ready attraction. So he did not hesitate to tell his mother and siblings that he was planning to join the military. He had taken the form. For some personal reasons he did not tell his father of his intention. But the mother was aware.
He was to go for the qualifying exams and had planned with his friend to leave Ijebu Igbo as early as 5 am so they could get Abeokuta venue for the exams early enough. Unknown to him his father who had got wind that he was travelling for military exams came to his room very early and locked him up. He was holding the key. So when Oloruntele woke up and was about going out he could not. He banged the door and was going to make a scene when his father said to him that he was the one who locked the door that he was not going anywhere. He wondered why Oloruntele did not carry him along but beyond that he could not fathom why his son would even join the military in the first place. That put paid to his ambition.
On the other hand the vicar of his then church was convinced he would become a priest. The vicar had laughed when he told him he wanted to be a teacher or join the military. He said, “When I told my vicar my ambition he was laughing. I told him I would not like to be a priest because they were not treated well. He then called me and said he would like to send me to a school to test if I was good. I told him I was ready. So he gave me some money to go to the school. It happened to be Vining College in Akure.
I came back home and the result came out and I was told I had passed. He said I passed with distinction. Later he called me and gave me some money and was always taking me around until I got a letter that I had to resume at the college. Unfortunately when I was preparing to go the Vicar who was Ven. Osisanya became sick but he still gave me some money the day I was going. That was around 1980.”
He spent three years to train as a catechist at the Vining College and afterwards was posted to the Anglican Church at Ijede and later to Emmanuel Church Ilasamaja from there to Epe and then to Noforija. He took a break and went back to the seminary this time for a diploma in theology.
This time he spent another three years for diploma in theology. He was posted to Lagos again and was ordained at Holy Trinity Ikorodu. He later became a priest in 1989. His first posting was Bishop Adelakun Howells Anglican Church at Surelere and then was moved to Idi oro and then to Badagry and Agbara from there to All saints Yaba. Presently he is the vicar of the St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Mile 12.
There is perhaps no corner in Lagos that he has not been to. He has served in 16 churches since 1980 when he began to serve in the church. Though he never loved the idea of being a priest, he has since fallen in love with his calling. “Since I became a priest I have been insulted several times just like the late Archdeacon Osisanya who was my mentor. But because of the series of training that I have gone through it is easier for me to relate with people and understand people.
“At the initial stage I was not conversant with the Bible but the more I get close to God and know him the more I am able to bear insults and relate with people. There are times people would stand up to you in the church. There are times people may even threaten to beat you in the church. You cannot react to the insults of people because of the name you bear. You are supposed to pray for them.
He observed that there so many characters within the church system adding however that “the priests need to live the life of Christ.
Does he regret not being in military as he had loved, he said. “Perhaps if I had been in the military I could have been killed or would have risen to be somebody great. It’s a two-way thing. But I must confess that God has been faithful right from the time I joined the priesthood. I am not rich and not poor either. Since I have been moving around churches I have not been to where the money bags are but God has not failed to supply my needs.
“The education of my children has been by His grace.
God has been faithful. God has proved himself in the education of my children. I have two boys and one girl. The least has OND. He is a man who is skilled in textile, fashion and design. My girl has a master’s degree and the boy is an engineer, a computer engineer. When it was time for them to go to school God made it possible for them to get admission the federal schools where they don’t have to pay much. The first one went to OAU and the second one went to FUTA. The girl is married. The boy is working and doing very fine. My wife is a teacher.”
He recalled one of his postings where the entire family had to make do with a room as the vicarage. “there was a time it rained. The entire room was flooded and we had to stand on our things inside the room so that we will not be drenched in the water that entered the room. We were almost being wiped out of the room by the rain water. But God was faithful. My joy is that before we left the parish the church was able to put up a storey building structure as vicarage. By the time I was going I was happy because I was able to serve them. The Lord has been so faithful in the area.”
He says his preferment tells him there is much work ahead. “Now It’s another cadre in the ladder where people are looking at you to meet their needs. I pray that God will help me. People will look at you with so much expectation now that one is a venerable. It is not about wearing cope, it is about service. What you are doing is what should be your concern. Many of my friends are bishops but that does not baffle me because the timing of God is the best. Being a venerable is the prerogative of the bishop. Thank God for my bishop for the preferment. I sincerely thank him for that. He did that not because of anything but because the Lord laid it in his heart.”