108th Baptist Convention & Send Forth Ceremony For Rev. Supo Ayokunle
REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE 108TH BAPTIST CONVENTION AND SEND FORTH CEREMONY FOR REV SUPO AYOKUNLE IN OGUN STATE ON THE 25TH OF APRIL, 2021
I am deeply honoured to be here to join you in the joy of this historical event, the 108th Convention of the Nigerian Baptist Convention appropriately themed: “Moving Forward and Finish the Race with Joy” and also the celebration of the end of the tenure of our beloved Rev Dr. Supo Ayokunle, as National President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. As he said, I call him, “my president” because, in fact, he is my president, but also I call him “my egbon”, because he is three months older than me.
The end of his tenure is a celebration because as scripture says, “the end of a thing is better than the beginning”, and that is so for two reasons; first, because of the joy of victory and finishing strong. Second, God always leaves the best wine unto the last. Rev Supo Ayokunle has experienced both, he is leaving at the end of an incredibly successful and fruitful tenure, he is leaving with his reputation unblemished. He is leaving at a point where he is also one of the most respected leaders of the Christian faith in Nigeria and there are more victories ahead.
So I join the members of the Baptist family in Nigeria and worldwide and all the children of God to congratulate this man of exceptional character, a man of great wisdom, great achievements, but even greater humility. We are all exceedingly proud of you Sir and we thank God for giving you the opportunity for this exceptional service.
But as we celebrate today, we are also reminded that the glory does not come without the groaning and he has said so in so many words today, that this Rev Supo Ayokunle that we know now, is not the same man to whom God opened an effective door to Ministry 29 years ago as Pastor of the Estate Baptist Church Ibadan. Indeed as Paul said in the scripture which I just paraphrased 1st Corinthians 16:9:
“For a great and effective door has been opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”
The opening of the door of greatness is also an invitation to adversaries in the life of an individual, community, and for that matter, a nation. So it is that the fulfillment of the promises of God must come with battles and with travails. Indeed as another scripture says:
“We must through many tribulations enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
So from the humble days leading the small flock in Ibadan to the headship of the Baptist Convention, superintending over the affairs of over 13,654 churches and we are told 8,000,637 members and then suddenly being propelled to the rocky and difficult intersection between politics and religion as the 6th President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, the umbrella body of millions of Nigerian Christians.
The man that we celebrate today has seen it all; adversity, tribulation, enemies from within and without. The days of criticisms fair and unfair, of battles spiritual and physical, of long nights of travailing in the place of prayer, and the many times when he could have said I have had enough.
Sir, your life and times must be a parable to our nation, it must be a parable not just to our nation, but our nation’s leaders, and leaders, not just political, but religious and social, and the people of our country that there is a promise of God that this nation, this nation Nigeria will prosper. This nation will be the epicenter of the outstanding economic and scientific developments of the 21st Century, and we will create here in this country, an oasis of peace, security, and prosperity such as has never been seen before on this continent and beyond. This is the promise of God.
But today the clouds are overcast, the promise seems impossible, as it was with the children of Israel after leaving Egypt on the way to the promised land, suddenly in front of them was the Red Sea, in hot pursuit behind them was Pharoah and his warriors. The Bible recounts, and I will paraphrase Exodus 14:10-14; “when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and they beheld the Egyptians who marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Then they said to Moses, “is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Did we not tell you in Egypt to leave us alone so that we may serve the Egyptians? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.”
Again we see in scripture how in a battle with the Philistines, a giant rose up and challenged the children of Israel, a giant called Goliath. Everyone, even the leaders, the religious leaders panicked. The political leaders panicked. The scripture says in 1Samuel 17:24 “And all the men of Israel, all, when they saw Goliath, fled from him and they were dreadfully afraid.” Even the king was afraid. But God was not. God gave Saul, King Saul, a young shepherd boy, David, with Godly courage who killed Goliath.
So for God, He can deliver by many or by few or with nothing at all. Nothing surprises Him, nothing can cause Him to be afraid. The journey to the promise of God for Nigeria is going through storms and adversity, but the end will be better than the beginning, weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning. I am completely convinced that nobody, no group, no ideology, can defeat the promise of God for the greatness of Nigeria. I see it clearly, I know it even as I know my own face. I see it clearly and I know it.
So I urge you men and women of God not to allow the adversities of the moment to shape either your utterances or perception. We must not sound like the children of Israel fearful before Goliath, petrified and complaining at the Red Sea as Pharoah and his hostile hosts approached. We are the light of this world, we are the voice of God in a confused and discouraged world, we must speak the things that God has promised as though they are because they will come to pass.
The clouds cannot deny the existence of the Sun, they may cover it for a while, but they must give way to the glorious brightness of the sunshine. As Moses said to the frightened children of Israel and our Father in the Lord has mentioned this too in Ex 14:13, we must say to the Nigerian people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for us, and we will hold your peace.”
Sir, my dear egbon, I thank the Lord for your life and your contributions to the Baptist movement and the cause of Christ in our Nation.
I also commend the remarkable hard work, patience, and resourcefulness of the person who God has given you to make his plans come true in your life, your dear wife, Pastor Mrs. Olutoyin Ayokunle. God bless you Ma.
Man of God, you know that God does not really believe in retirement. God doesn’t really believe in retirement. He gave Abraham a fresh mandate at 99 and because you are still so far away from 99, it seems to me that you have only just started your journey. Because in any event, it is God who gives us strength and enablement as He pleases, so I pray for you, that the next phase of your service will be even more impactful than the previous and that you will finish your race with joy in Jesus name.
Happy and blessed Convention to you all.
God bless you.