A special dad is hard to find. Such a father’s name is story for tomorrow’s (Itanola) generation. Papa Sir Johnson Itanola Omoniyi, a Methodist Knight of John Wesley (KJW) was a special father with special smile and a special face. Sir Omoniyi was born on October 28, 1937 in Iloko-Ijesa to Pa Samuel and Madam Victoria Omoniyi of the Idi-Igberesi compound. He attended Methodist Primary School, Otapete, Ilesa. He had his secondary education at Government College, Ibadan and later proceeded to the University of Ibadan, where he studied History. Married on January 26th 1968 to Mama Rebecca Olufunke Omoniyi, nee Fasuyi of Oke Ola, Ilesa. The marriage is blessed with God fearing children and seven grandchildren.

Sir Omoniyi taught in Oriwu College, Ikorodu during his holiday as an undergraduate and briefly after his graduation from University of Ibadan. In 1978 he was appointed as the pioneer Sales and Administration Director at Academy Press and retired in 1990 to start Print Konsult Nigeria Limited. Sir Omoniyi was a non-executive Director of Allied Bank of Nigeria and a one time National President of Association of Nigeria Printers. He was a President, Rotary Club of Opebi, a former President, Thursday Society of Friends, and am member of Lagos Country Club and Ikeja Club.

Sir Omoniyi, a leader and socialite with absolute integrity, honesty and a determined, straight forward “no nonsense” personality, he was innovative, creative and responsible.  His leadership and administrative skills are almost legendary and indeed could be deemed unprecedented in Iloko-Ijesa.  He has attended numerous seminars and conference at the local church, circuit, district, connexional, regional and world level.  Sir Omoniyi was a member of the Methodist Church Nigeria. He served as a member of different groups and societies. He was the pioneer Senior Church Steward of Methodist Church, Opebi. The same local church that Sir Omoniyi pioneered as a Senior Church Local steward is now the Methodist Cathedral of Excellence, Opebi, with one of his sons serving as the Cathedral Senior Local Steward. Church Stewards have been around Methodism since the 18th century when John Wesley recognised that ministers need local support to oversee the arrangements in each church for worship. So, the role is tightly woven into the DNA of the Methodist Connexion.

While Church Stewards are responsible for practical things, such as looking after visiting preachers, and making announcements – that’s not where it ends. Sir Omoniyi as a pioneer local Church Steward ensured that his local church have the best opportunity to fully participate in worship by preparing the Church building for each and every service (including funerals and weddings). Sir Omoniyi always arrived first and leave last, and whilst on duty, always offered a warm welcome to everyone, and looked after the preacher. Sir Omoniyi turned his hands and wealth to anything that is needed to ensure that worship runs smoothly and spiritually fulfilling. Sir Omoniyi worked in a team to support each other, with other stewards “on duty” each Sunday, mid-week and occasional services. Sir Omoniyi, a good giver worked with other stewards to ‘focus on fostering unity within the church and ‘talent spotting’ those with potential, encouraging them to become involved in leadership roles.’ Sir Omoniyi worked with others stewards to ‘make sure that any new policies which are made by Synod and the Church Council are communicated to their congregation, ensuring that decisions are upheld and acted upon.’

Sir Omoniyi was one of those Methodist local church stewards inspired by John Wesley’s unwavering economics and spirituality of stewardship and leadership. This is predicated upon the dynamics of the divine economy in relation the Body of Christ, each and every one of us, members one of another. The missional-theological heart of Wesley’s economics is a hermeneutical cycle of stewardship and response that accounts for our collaborative cooperation with God’s grace. Sir Omoniyi enjoyed gathering the Church for worship, leadership, mission and fellowship, for dialogue and discernment of the Spirit’s work in the church. Across differences in age, background, and theological perspectives Sir Omoniyi gathered people and enabled them to speak and listen to each other with respect.

Throughout his entire stewardship and leadership ministry Sir Omoniyi upheld the wonders of Wesleyan hymns, spirituality and diversity in unity. He worked hard to help others live by St. Paul’s counsel that we be “forbearing in love”, and “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Indeed Sir Omoniyi embodied that long cherished principle among Methodist of holding one another accountable in bonds of love and stewardship in Christ. None of us will ever forget Sir Omoniyi’s broad smile and his hearty laugh. None of us will forget those moments when Sir Omoniyi’s eyes danced with delight over someone’s happiness or great accomplishment. Nor will we forget those moments when Sir Omoniyi’s eyes welled up with tears over the great pain or grief someone was bearing. None of us will ever forget seeing Sir Omoniyi’s head lifted up in song – he loved to sing as a true Methodist. Nor will we forget seeing Sir Omoniyi’s head bowed in shame and contrition for the suffering inflicted upon Nigerians by leadership without human face and fear of God.

None of us will forget how Sir Omoniyi’s gently voice at church meetings. Sir Omoniyi had a handshake and an embrace in which we all experienced something of the fullness of Christ’s love for us all. None of us will ever forget how much he enjoyed a good story nor how much he enjoyed telling one of his own – and he had plenty, especially the good taste of ‘Akara Osu’ every time he passed through Osu to Iloko-Ijesa.

Sir Omoniyi was a one time President of the Men’s Christian League and a patron of many societies in the church and his home community at Iloko. He was the Baba Ijo, Methodist Church, Iloko-Ijesa till his transition to glory on March 22, 2022 at Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife, Osun State. He died living behind a legacy and inheritance for his children children. In celebrating the manner of Sir Omoniyi’s living and transition, a prayer written many years ago by Theodore Parker Ferris comes to mind:

“Teach me, O Lord, not to hold on to life too tightly. Teach me to hold it lightly; not carelessly, but lightly, easily. Teach me to take it as a gift, to enjoy and cherish while I have it, and to let it go gracefully and thankfully when the time comes. The gift is great, but the Giver is greater still. Thou, O God, art the Giver and in thee is the Life that never dies. Amen.”