Olówógbogboro! Who is?
By Bamidele Ademola-Olateju
My contribution to the Olówógbogboro debate will be to educate. Who is Olówógbogboro?
Nigeria has certainly produced thinkers! One man changed the face of prayer among the Yoruba. His name, Professor Bolaji Idowu (1913–1993). Native of Ikorodu, he was the third native-born leader of the Methodist Church of Nigeria. He served from 1972 to 1984. I heard him pray.
Through Professor Bolaji Idowu, names and epithets like Olówógbogboro, Àdìmúlà, Àpèdáhùn and many more found their way into Christianity among the Yoruba. These names and epithets were adopted and adapted from Yoruba traditional religion. Patriarch Bolaji Idowu was a brilliant and an original liturgical and ecclesiological architect. He took on the challenge that coloniality poses to African indigenous theology till date. He contended that the knowledge of God was already in the minds of the African long before Europeans brought their religion. His pioneering work invented the indigenous paradigm of worship. He offered that the African theologian professing the gospel must do so, to suit the familiar, the tongue, style, originality, character and culture of his people.
He used indigenous ideology and praxis to reverse the negative stereotype of African indigenous religion by pooling African nationalism and Christianity. Professor Bolaji Idowu stamped his ecumenical, ecclesiological and liturgical strides in academia and in the church.
He delivered his inaugural lecture at the University of Ibadan in 1974. The title was “Obituary: God’s or man’s?” His inaugural was his response to the ‘God is dead’ debate of the 1960s. He promoted the understanding of African traditional religion as the cornerstone of African morality and ethics. He was right! We have seen how Christianity has now been perverted by those with no scholarship but shallow training in Nigeria and on the continent.
Olorun mi, Oba Àdìmúlà, Oba Àpèdáhùn, Ató’ni gbà má dèhìn ko’ni, Olówógbogboro…