Babamboni:  First ‘Bishop’ who introduced Christianity, cocoa to Ekiti in 1894

Babamboni:  First ‘Bishop’ who introduced Christianity, cocoa to Ekiti in 1894

Sunday, August 15, 2021 2:00 pm


Isaac Babamboni, right, and Emmanuel Church Anglican cathedral, Ado Ekiti


Behind every successful society, there are human pillars specifically created to make things happen.Ado-Ekiti’s path to the present status is littered with such personalities.
In the ancient days, the most famous were Ogbigbonihanran of Idolofin quarters, Ogunmonakan of Okelaja, Fasawo, a.k.a. Aduloju of Udemo quarters, Eleyinmi Orogirigbona of Okeyinmi quarters and
Ogunbulu, a.k.a. Ala l’oju Osoru of Aisegba. ‎
From the loins of these ancient men came similar men of sterling quality . One of these modern patriots was Isaac Babamuboni .
Babamuboni is regarded today as the most outstanding lay figure to have introduced Christianity, education, and modernized agriculture in Ekiti land.

Isaac Babamboni

Born of heathen parents at Uyin Ekiti and named Ifamuboni (the oracle, Ifa, holds or takes care of), he was captured in 1874 during the inter-tribal war and taken to Ibadan, where he was sold into slavery.
He was bought by Rev. Daniel Olubi, and redeemed himself fifteen years later. Although free, he stayed with the Olubi family for a while.
He converted to the Christian faith while in Ibadan, and learned how to read and write. He saved half of his stipend for future missionary work in his hometown, Uyin Ekiti.
In 1894, to the joy of his relatives, he returned to his hometown. According to historical records he and other ex-slaves of Ekiti origin, such as Mary Oja of Ode, Doherty of Ijero, and Samuel Omojola of Ikole, easily took the credit introducing Christianity to their respective towns. Nearly every town or village in Ekiti Land could be proud of having an ex-slave who had embraced Christianity while in slavery. The returnees were assisted in this by ex-soldiers and itinerant traders who had also been exposed to Christianity during their sojourns outside Ekiti.
After his return, he began preaching the gospel. He started at the provincial city of Ado, where he presented a copy of the Holy Bible to Oba Ajimudaoro Aladesanmi1, the Ewi of Ado Ekiti.

Emmanuel Church (Anglican) Cathdral, close to Fajuyi park, Ado-Ekiti, established by Babamboni

In light of the encouragement he received from the monarch, he decided to make the city his evangelical base. He established the Emmanuel Church, Ado-Ekiti, now called the Cathedral Church of Emmanuel, in the Diocese of Ekiti, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). Babamuboni travelled far and wide throughout the land. He visited and preached in places like Ido-Ajinare, Ijero, Usi, Otun, Igbo-Omo Oba (now Ilumooba), Igede, Ikere, and Osi Ekiti. He recruited and trained a group of evangelists with whom he travelled in difficult and perilous times.
He had numerous encounters with the adherents of local gods and goddesses like Ogun, Esu, Obalufon, olua, orisa oko, and others. While he was at Osi Ado, the traditionalists became furious at his successes and invoked their god, Olua or Atogun, in order to kill him. It was here that the traditionalists changed his name from Ifamuboni to Babamuboni (meaning Father, i.e. God, holds or takes care of).
They did this because the people did not like the fact that an antagonist of their god bore the name of the oracle “Ifa.” He accepted the new name and considered it to be providential.
He also established many primary schools in towns and villages like Ado (1894) and Ogbese (1915), among other places. He was nicknamed Agbomo lowo olomo (the one who snatches children from their parents) because the people were taken aback by the tenacity with which he gathered school children. He introduced cocoa and coffee, which he first planted on his farm at Ogbese, where he also had a vocational school. He gave the seedlings to people free of charge, and in that act alone, he boosted their economic well-being. In Nigeria today, Ekiti land is a major producer of cocoa.
Babamuboni will continue to be remembered as a pioneer evangelist, educator, crusader, farmer, philanthropist, mentor, and industrialist in Ado and other towns of Ekiti land.

*Curtesy: Professor Francis O. Falako And Dictionary Of African Christian Biography. Shared by Gbenga Alaketu.

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