Venerable Christopher Olanrewaju Ayejoto is the vicar in charge of Christ Anglican Church, Agege, Lagos and the archdeacon of Agege area of the Anglican Church. He bares his mind of the late Anglican Primate. Below are excerpts:
When did you get involved with the Anglican Church?
I became a priest in 1988. 27 of us were ordained at the same time by baba Adetiloye. I never thought I would be in Lagos . It happened that baba Adetiloye presided over a meeting where two bishops were talking about me and were insisting that I would serve under them. Since I could not serve in two places he over ruled the bishops and asked that I be brought to Lagos .
When you are posted to a particular diocese he takes you sometime to get your posting but in my case he had told me where I would work before my other colleagues. He asked me to go and lay the foundation of a new church St. Timothy, Ota and if possible build it. He also asked me to settle the rift between the priests of two of our parishes in ota. I was vicar of St. Timothy for seven years. I was also posted to Holy Trinity Mushin.
What would you have to say about his leadership style?
Adetiloye had his own ways of detecting talent. And the postings he did were spirit led. For instance I was transferred to St. Stephen Bariga and at that time I had just applied to do my MPA programme at the University of Lagos . I resumed the in the church and also went to school the following Monday. I was in the class when the lecturer, a professor was venting his anger on one of the students who offended him and he was telling the class that a young man was newly posted to his church. He described the man as a small rat saying the whole church respected him. He said he had to obey the boy but he wondered why nobody would obey him in the school. He didn’t know I was the priest he was talking about.
I went to him in the office later and I told him I came to apologise for the young man that offended him and also brought up the issue of the “rat” that was posted his church. He was excited I was a member of the church and he said repeated the story of the small rat. Allowed him to talk and pretended I was just a member. When I had fully debriefed him and found out that he really appreciated the “small rat” I told him I was the new priest. He became hysterical, shook hands with me and called his staff to come and meet me.
After my MPA programme baba requested for me. He introduced me to his Administrative Assistant, then Canon Olanrewaju and asked him to divide his office to two and a table was provided for me and I started work that same day in his office.
How would you rate his relationship with those working for him?
Working there gave me an opportunity to know him. He was very generous. He had one house boy who provided food for anybody that came to the house. He had a tradition of insisting that priest who were below 40 years to go back to school. He always challenged us to read and read and read
Before his arrival priests were not paid when they are in school but he said it was not proper and he allowed us to get salary even when in school.
What are the peculiar things you remember about him?
There was a time a priest was invited to minister in my church and he was saying a lot of harsh words and made some scathing remarks. He went as far as showing his shorts he wore to the congregation as a mark of his anger because some people came late. Unknown to him, a parishioner had recorded the whole scene and went to report to the primate and gave him a copy of the tape.
Baba invited us and showed us the tape and we began to watch it. We all laughed. This is a thing that would have sent a priest away from the diocese. He told us, you know you are my son and people don’t like you. He reprimanded the priest saying he ought to have grown beyond what he did and ended the matter.
He encouraged us to marry in time and there were times I would drive him to a function and he would ask me to go and preach the sermon unprepared and turn his eyes to the other side. He would say that he was training me. He did that to me about four times. He was not somebody you could predict. He was a tireless worker. He travelled by road most of the time. He is man who is very jovial and accommodating. He is highly spiritual. There was the case of an Archdeacon who came to report a priest and when the case was being treated the priest came and was lamenting that he did not expect that a priest would add to his problem. Baba asked me to investigate the matter and I did and gave him the correct version. When I went to him and he got to know the true picture, he was touched and almost wept that an Archdeacon would lie. He went to his personal chapel and lied down and prayed with tears for this priest.
I do not think he has equal. He is a wonderful preacher. He is a one verse preacher. If he wants to preach on: And it came to pass you will be shocked. He could preach on that same scripture for the length of his message. He would dissect the verse that you would want him to continue. He had opportunity of working with talented people. There is no problem that scared him rather he simplified every problem. When I was leaving Bariga he called me one day and said he was going to pay me since I had been working in his office. He asked me to calculate what I spent doing my MPA programme and paid me from his personal money.
What annoyed him?
He was once annoyed with me. But if I did what I did with him then with any other bishop, I would be asked to leave the diocese. The boy who was staying with him, Olu happened to me my close friend and I fought him seriously and I said things that I was not suppose to say. I said something that can annoy baba and Olu left my place and went to baba to tell him what I said. Baba called me and said is it true you said so and so about me? I told him yes I said it. And rather than reprimand me, he laughed and forgave me and asked us to reconcile. We made up and became friends again.
There was another case of a priest that offended him he punished the priest and the punishment was lingering. The priest was always coming to loiter at the office. There was a day he was literarily weeping. I went to him and promised that I will go and plead on his behalf. The following day I went to baba and I met him with some bishops and said I would like to see him. He said he asked me to come and say what I wanted to say in the presence of the chancellor and his registrar. I said it is confidential. He said the people around were not strangers.
I told him I had come to beg on behalf of the priest. He was so annoyed and I could see it all over him. I had to hold his legs and he was really annoyed with me. He asked if I knew what the priest did, I said I didn’t. And that made him annoyed the more. Eventually he calmed down and asked me to sit down and narrated what the priest did. At the end of the day I saw myself as a fool. He ended up laughing and said the priest would run the length of the punishment.
To what extent did he give himself for the church?
He was not materialistic. He did not collect money anyhow from churches. If he saw that a church was doing a project and they give him money he would return it. If you get to his house you are free to take anything in the pantry. His house is free whenever he is around.
Baba thought me that life is nothing. The only thing that is your gain in this world is to give your life to Christ. He taught us that whatever we have was given to us so we can give others. He thought us that we must build others and that we must be open minded. He believed there is nothing prayers cannot solve. He believes nobody has a monopoly of knowledge. There were times he asked for opinions on what to do in crises situation even from his driver.