One of the unforgettable loved and leadership figures for me since I joined the service and ministry of Nigerian Methodism 30 years ago was Baba, Very Revd David Oludare Somoye. I found trust as a spiritual and performance multiplier in Baba Somoye as a member of the Editorial Team and Most Rev Ayo Ladigbolu as the Chairman of the Editorial Team, Methodist Church Nigeria. When your leader can trust you, you will be loyal and inspired to go the extra mile. With Baba Somoye’s and Archbishop Ladigbolu’s trust, I worked by permission, not authority. Every leader has a title. ‘This title puts them in a position to instruct others, give them assignments, evaluate their performance, and make decisions…’ Baba Somoye, with his clear vision and radical honesty, motivated and inspired me by his person, not his title.
His Eminence Sunday Mbang, late prelate emeritus, Methodist Church Nigeria, described Baba Somoye as ‘the true story of a man who made it in life from unusual and small beginning or worse still from nothing. It was indeed a life from grass to grace.’
Born on April 16, 1922, at Oke Ago-Owu, Abeokuta, to Chief Emmanuel Majekodunmi Somoye and Mama Comfort Adedoyin Somoye, he was the 17th child of his father. He began school at Ogbe Methodist School, Abeokuta, between 1931 and 1938. He taught at Ago-Oko Methodist School, Abeokuta, before proceeding to Wesley College, Ibadan, where he studied from 1940-1943 for a Teachers’ Grade II Certificate. He began to teach when the Second World War was on. He taught in four Methodist Schools in Ijebu from 1944-46; Methodist School, Ifaki Ekiti and Methodist Training Centre, Ifaki Ekiti from 1949-1950; Methodist Boys’ High School, Lagos, 1951-1957. On December 14, 1946, Baba Somoye married Abigail Jolaade Sofumade, a schoolteacher.
Baba Somoye, from his youth, has learned to commit his life and plans to God. One of the hymns by George Neumark, ‘Leave God to order all thy ways,’ greatly influenced Baba Somoye. He said, “I believe what it says and try hard to practice it.”
Baba Somoye could not study for higher examinations; hence, books were ordered from England for him to read. He passed his London Matriculation Examination in two stages. He studied privately for the BA Honours History degree at the London University in 1954 and completed his Teacher’s Senior Certificate Examination. The Federal Government of Nigeria awarded Baba a scholarship for the Postgraduate Certificate in Education at the University of Southampton.
Baba Somoye entered the Federal Public Service in September 1958 as an Education Officer and teaching at King’s College, Lagos. He attended many courses and seminars at home and abroad. He rose to the Adviser on Education (Planning) rank in 1974. He was given the responsibility of planning and implementing the UPE scheme. Baba Somoye was a man of impeccable honesty and a strict disciplinarian. He was honoured with the National Award of the Member of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (MFR).
Baba Somoye was a chorister in his school days at Wesley College, Ibadan. He enrolled as a Local Preacher on Note and passed his final Local Preachers’ Examination in 1943. He was a church organist wherever he worked. He was the Local Preachers’ Secretary for the Lagos District (now split into all the Archdioceses in Lagos and Egba-Yewa). He was invited by the Methodist Church in 1974 to be a tent-making minister. He retired from the Civil Service in 1977 and entered the full-time ministry of the church. He was preferred a Presbyter in 1979. He worked at the Headquarters of the church from 1977 to 1991. He served as the Administrative Secretary of the church from 1985 to 1991. He worked with Most Rev Moses Sodipo, His Eminence Sunday Mbang, a late prelate emeritus, Methodist Church Nigeria, and Most Rev Dr. Rogers O Uwadi, the pioneer Archbishop of Umuahia, both of whom Baba Somoye nicknamed ‘The Three Musketeers.’
Before Baba Somoye retired from active service in December 1991, he managed The Editorial Office of the church, collected news, and validated facts, including the church’s history. He managed the distribution and circulation of Methodist news. He was a ‘diary and compendium of the people and events in the church. In appreciation of Baba Somoye’s valuable contribution to effective Christian communication and the development of Methodist News Magazine, the official organ of Methodist Church Nigeria, he was presented an award on November 6, 2003, by Most Rev Ayo Ladigbolu, a former Chairman, Editorial Board, Methodist Church.
Baba Somoye’s life chronicled tireless work and devoted service to the church and humanity. It is on record that he contributed immensely to reconciliation in the church in 1990. Baba Somoye, nicknamed ‘the man in a woman’s trade’, found more than a place in ‘life where he could do what he wanted to do’ for God and humanity. For Baba Somoye, ‘it does not matter from whose trade a person starts in life; it could be a man’s or a woman’s. Just make the best of the experience.’ To God be the glory for Baba’s sweet memories. Worthy is the Lamb!