The description of Sir David Olanipekun Oluremi Soremekun at 100 by His Eminence Dr Sunday Makinde, Prelate Emeritus, Methodist Church Nigeria as Nigerian Methodism’s “father of all,” reminds us one of John Wesley’s hymns about God’s missional attribute as ‘Father of all, whose powerful voice called forth this universal frame.’ Pa Soremekun at 100 under the watch of the Almighty God ‘Father of all,’ continue to act and reflect God’s image in him as a ‘father of all’ both to the laity and ordained members in Methodist Church Nigeria. According to Prelate Makinde, Sir Soremekun, a philanthropist ‘is a very good father of all, one of those who supported reconciliation of Methodism in Nigeria. He acts with affection to all, no tribalism or discrimination. He is very warm, homely, transparent, peace loving, and peradventure, that is why God grants him longevity and good health.’
Sir Soremekun, a symbol of the ancient and modern, an ardent defender of the ideals of John Wesley was awarded the highest award in Methodist Church Nigeria, Knight of John Wesley (KJW), on May 19th, 2001, in recognition of his contributions to the church today. The church and the world runs on symbols, especially a symbolic missional message with the potential to warm our hearts for Jesus and bless humanity. Beyond the icons on our computer, internet memes, brand logos, text message emotions, Sir Soremekun is a missional leadership symbol that combines the ancient and modern awareness of their spirituality and the missional influence on the people and the church motivation. Sir Soremekun, Methodism’s ‘father of all’ at 100 and as a symbol of Ancient and Modern set a standard for the contemporary Methodist Christian, leadership and marriage. Beyond the quick fix religion of so-called modern generation, Sir Soremekun’s spiritual consistency and skill lies in building long term commitment for the leadership development and church growth. Using tried and tested, ancient and modern discipline. Sir Soremekun, Methodism’s ‘father of all,’ inspires the present and ‘next generation of leaders to own the unknowns of the future with lessons from the past.’
A huge milestone indeed for Sir Soremekun at “100 years of mission, ancient and modern, memories, and life. In United Kingdom, the Queen usually sends a card to anyone who turns 100. Papa you have done more in a lifetime that others can only dream. It was very amazing, hearing your testimony – standing, dancing and singing with your sharp and sonorous tenor voice during your Centennial birthday Thanksgiving at Williams’ Memorial Methodist Cathedral, Ago Ijaiye, Lagos, on Tuesday 10th November, 2020. Sir Soremekun was “in great form on the day, still with a good sense of humour and singing along to happy birthday and other songs,” Mrs Yetunde Baiyewu, said. Indeed, the sparkle in Sir Soremekun’s eyes is not dulled by age (Deut 34:7).
Sir Soremekun, a patriot of no mean order was born in the year National Congress of British West Africa was founded in Accra; two years after the Adubi war in Egba Land; and six years after Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated into Nigeria British Crown. The 36, 500 days Sir Soremekun has lived on this earth are one heck of a milestone, his spine straightening with pride and smile each time you see him. Sir Soremekun was born at Sagamu, Remo, Ogun State, Nigeria on 10th November, 1920 to Chief Moses Christopher Soremekun (Alias Ajagbangba Ke Siwon) and Omoba Abigail Oyebanke Soremekun, daughter of Chief Ogedengbe Onayemi, Losi of Makun Sagamu, both of blessed memory. Sir Soremekun is among the surviving three of the ten children from the marriage. One of the many things people love about Sir Soremekun is his remarkable ability to tell an engaging story as he did in his centenary biography that teaches truth and inspires us to do and be better. Against his lack of interest in going to school even when he became of school age, in 1930, his sister, Mrs Jemima Olaboopo Solarin, a very strict teacher, took him by force to go to the school, Wesleyan School, Oko, Sagamu. With the support of home teaching, Sir Soremekun moved on smoothly and place between the 1st and 5th position from Class One to Standard Six.
Sir Soremekun’s wonderful ancient example and modern lifetime of church leadership provides us with a bright example of the attributes of a true disciple of Christ. That example should encourage us to seek to emulate these marvellous attributes in our own lives and churches. In 1936, Sir Soremekun took the Standard Six, that is, the First School Leaving Examination but failed. For a whole year, Sir Soremekun could not go to school due to illness until there was an opening for him to repeat at Ansar –Ud-Deen Alakoro School, Lagos. After the examination, he returned to Sagamu in 1938 to the waiting hands of Rev W.F. Mellor who had put up a Training Scheme for people like Sir Soremekun ‘to teach in the Infant Department.’ According to Dame Professor Ajesola Adepeju Majekodunmi KJW, Sir Soremekun, ‘a highly fashionable man, impeccable dressed at all time enhancing his tall figure,’ became ‘the torch bearer in education, the pride and the role model for not only his families but for Methodist Church and Remo Youths.’
Based on his successful Standard Six Examination results, Sir Soremekun was given Hussey Scholarship to King’s College, Lagos. Pa Soremekun gave up his Teaching Appointment and entered the College in March, 1939 and passed out in December, 1942, with the Senior Cambridge School Certificate Examination. The following year, Sir Soremekun got a clerical job in the Nigerian Railway and was posted to the Stores Headquarters, Ebute Metta, Lagos. He was transferred to Zaria in 1945 where he was opportune to serve Methodist Church with ‘Mr, later Sir Justice Duro Adebiyi, Bro, later Engr Sir Chief S M O Denloye, Bro Bode Harrison and Bro Emman Oresanya, all deceased.’ At Zaria, Pa Soremekun with others supported the church Sub Pastor Pa J Banke Oresajo to move the church forward by laying a sound foundation.
In 1949, Sir Soremekun got married to Victoria Alake Sadipe, a Baptist member and an Infant School teacher. The couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1999 and they are blessed with four children – Oluyemisi, Durotolu, Abosede, and Omorinsola, many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
In 1950, Sir Soremekun resigned from the Railway to go to the United Kingdom in search of the Golden Fleece. In 1951, he arrived United Kingdom to work and study law at Lincoln’s Inn and attended lectures at the Council of Legal Education. He passed the Council’s Examinations and was called to the Bar on 28th June, 1955. Sir Soremekun underwent the Inns of Court Post Call Course and returned to Nigeria and was enrolled as Barrister at Law and Advocate of the Supreme Court on 3rd November, 1955. Sir Soremekun started practicing as a junior lawyer under Olujide Somolu Esq, who later became the Chief Judge of Western Region from 1955 to 1958. On 10th March, 1958, Sir Soremekun joined the Lagos Executive Development Board (LEDB) as an Administrative Officer (Legal) and was promoted Deputy Secretary in 1959 and Secretary on 16th April, 1962. He held the post until 1st April, 1972 when the LEDB was dissolved and merged with Ikeja and Epe Area Planning Authorities to form Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC). Pa Soremekun was appointed the first Secretary of the PSDPC and its Chief Administrative Officer.
Sir Soremekun was the first Secretary of the Association of Housing Corporation of Nigeria between 1964 to 1st April, 1972. He received a high commendation for probity and efficiency by the Sagoe Tribunal of Enquiry on LEDB in 1966. He was retired from LSDPC by the military purge on 31st October, 1975. In the same year, Sir Soremekun, returned to private Legal practice in his Chambers at Bamgbose Street, Lagos, before he finally moved to Maye Street, Yaba, Lagos.
Sir Soremekun, Nigerian Methodism’s ‘father of all,’ served in various capacities in the church, including; Chorister, 1939-1945, a a Tenor singer, as a Sunday School teacher, coaching Boys and Girls of the church, Class leader, Money counter, Junior and Senior church steward, member of synod, member of Conference formation, and member of the Board of Methodist Girls High School, Yaba. On the Methodist crisis, Sir Soremekun explained that, ‘during the unfortunate crisis in our church, Methodist Church Nigeria, I was the Secretary and acted as the reporter for the Presidential delegation to the Obas meeting in November 1986. I support and take keen and active interest in all efforts for the unity and reconciliation of Methodist Church Nigeria and the Life of the church in general. During the crisis of the church, I was on the Presidential side, in the committee that brokered Peace and on coming together.’ Sir Soremekun was elected the Lay President of Lagos diocese on 5th May, 1986, and pioneer Lay President of Diocese of Lagos Mainland, Yaba. Sir Soremekun with others like Sir Justice Duro Adebiyi, Chief Dr Justice G B A Coker, Sir Babatunde O Benson, SAN, Engr S M O Denloye, Most Rev Ayo Ladigbolu, Most Rev M Kehinde Stephen, Most Rev A. O. Idowu, Rt Rev E A Bamgbose and others fully participated in the Representatives Session at Hoare’s Memorial Methodist Church Yaba, on 24th May, 1990. They were members of the Constitution Review Committee of the Third Schedule under the chairmanship of late Chief Dr Justice G B A Coker.
Most Rev Olumuyiwa Odejayi, the Methodist Archbishop of Ibadan is one of the younger men that Sir Soremekun mentored and encouraged. Archbishop Odejayi who was bred and raised in Yaba very close to Sir Soremekun’s Maye Street residence commended Sir Soremekun for ‘his magnanimity, gesture, deep love, concern and admiration.’ Archbishop Odejayi noted that Sir Soremekun’s ‘illustrious life has attracted a galaxy of honours from everywhere.’ According to the Archbishop, Sir Soremekun is “both a hero and a role model to the generality of our youths, symbolising the finest qualities of the ancient and modern.’
Sir and Lady Biodun Baiyewu explained that, ‘Sir Soremekun was pivotal along with others, in the struggle to secure the Diocesan status for the Diocese of Lagos Central out of Diocese of Lagos Mainland since 1999, when the idea was muted, and it eventually came to be on the 14th of February, 2009.
Sir Soremekun also served his community representing Methodist Church Nigeria on different platform including – foundation member of Birch Freeman High School, Mushin, Lagos; member of the Board of Governors of Makun High School, Sagamu, and he is the Baba Egbe of his peers (Egbe Omode – Ma fe) in Sagamu. For Sir Soremekun at 100, life goes on, serving God and humanity.
In closing, I will share with you a story that, without a doubt gives you a glimpse into the humility, integrity, the father figure, and character of this now 100 year old Knight of Wesley. When I was working as the Conference Editor, Methodist Church Nigeria, during one of the church’s meetings and distributions of church magazine, calendar, diary and other Conference publications, Sir Soremekun and Archbishop Obaba on behalf of Lagos diocese then always request for larger quantities of these publications and always the first diocese to pay fully. I will never forget Sir Soremekun’s prayer and words of encouragement in one particular occasion when the bus I chartered to conveyed the church publications to Umuahia, venue of our General Purposes Committee (now called Conference Connexional Council) meeting broke down in the middle of the night between Benin and Onitsha. While many people were complaining for my late arrival in the following day, Sir Soremekun, called me aside, prayed, and encouraged me. I learnt a lot from Sir Soremekun, especially about Methodist Church Nigeria polity and leadership. He did everything to followed me up and not to relent on my calling in the church. Sir Soremekun, Methodism’s ‘father of all,’ a mentor to the laity and ministers, is truly a symbol of ancient and modern, integrating certain older spirituality of care, love, and viewpoints on the church and its leadership with missional approaches. Sir Soremekun provides us a heroic Christian journey as an action metaphor for leadership and church renewal and discipleship.