Lijadu, Emmanuel Moses
1862 to 1926
Evangelistic Prayer Band
Yoruba catechist, author, and evangelist. Born in Osiele at Ake, Abeokuta, Nigeria, to an early Anglican convert, Lijadu qualified as a teacher in 1885 from the prestigious Teachers' Training Institute at Abeokuta. As an Anglican teacher, catechist, and deacon (1894), he was an outspoken activist, orator, prolific writer, and ardent evangelist. His lecture on Aribilosho, an Egba-Yoruba poet, won acclaim, and in 1897 he wrote a classic study on Yoruba mythology, a pioneering work on the Ifa traditional religion. Believing, as did Mojola Agbebi, that mission must be built upon a native foundation, he compared Ifa with Christianity. As a delegate to the Pan-African Congress in England in 1898, he worked on the revised version of the Yoruba Bible, initiated by Bishop Samuel Crowther.
Lijadu exercised charismatic healing gifts, especially during the influenza epidemic of 1895. His Evangelistic Prayer Band (1898) won the approval of Charles Philip, the bishop of Ondo. Soon, however, Lijadu criticized missionary strategy for lacking roots in indigenous culture and villages. He devised a self-funding (by trading) evangelistic program for rural areas, equipped with a clinic. A crisis came in 1899 when Thomas Harding, an Anglican missionary administrator in the Ondo episcopal area, rebuffed the appeal by African workers for a salary increase, and his rude language was fanned into a racist slur by nationalists. In reaction, seventeen independent Yoruba African churches arose between 1888 and 1922. Lijadu, a leading petition-writer, and his Evangelistic Band separated from the Anglican Church on January 1, 1901. He achieved remarkable indigenization in liturgy and spirituality, tramping to village nooks and corners with much ardor. He left an enduring legacy, namely, "to make Christianity….. our national religion."
Ogbu U. Kalu
E. A. Adegbola, "Ifa and Christianity Among the Yoruba" (Ph.D diss., University of Bristol, 1967); J. B. Webster, The African Churches Among the Yoruba, 1888 - 1922 (1964).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.