Samuel Olusegun Odunaike was the first General Overseer of Foursquare Gospel Church of Nigeria. But not many people know that he played politics in his days and was actively involved in the defunct Social Democratic Party until his death on April 11, 1991.
Born on August 9, 1934, Odunaike was one of the first three Nigerians who came into contact with Foursquare missionaries: Rev and Mrs. Harold Curtis and his wife; when they came for missions in Nigeria.
The other two Nigerians who had contact with them were Rev. James Abayomi Boyejo and Rev. Friday Chinyere Osuwa. The three of them played a leading role in establishing the church in Nigeria.
Odunaike however turned out to be the first to be saddled with the responsibility of supervising the church in Nigeria. His involvement in the top hierarchy of the church was between 1970 and 1983 when he moved on to a higher assignment.
Dr. Segun Oshinaga who worked closely with him told Church Times that Dr. Odunaike played partisan politics and was almost contesting for the presidency of Nigeria.
He said, “To start with, Dr Odunaike was a great man with great influence in both the secular and church world. He was a well-known Pentecostal and had worked with top church leaders across the world.
“He was a great player in the corporate world. He was a director with African Petroleum and played a strategic role in the nation’s oil sector.
Read also: How Samuel Odunaike influenced my life- Segun Oshinaga: https://churchtimesnigeria.net/how-samuel-odunaike-foursquares-first-overseer-in-nigeria-influenced-my-life-oshinaga/
“But his political career was also outstanding. He was a staunch member of the Social Democratic Party and he sought to contest the primaries of the party along with Chief Moshood Abiola and others before he passed on.”
Giving further insight, Oshinaga said it was Evangelist Billy Graham who influenced Odunaike and encouraged him to join politics.
“Odunaike worked closely with Billy Graham on some evangelical assignments. Graham was the one who encouraged him to participate in Nigeria’s politics. He saw in him a man who had the capacity and carriage to rule Nigeria. He saw the leadership quality in him and encouraged him.”
It didn’t end there. Odunaike was said to have taken up the challenge. He began to build bridges across the country. “The likes of Chief Bola Ige, Ambassador Tanko Yusuf, Dr. Christopher Kolade, and a host of others were the people who rallied around him. All these happened around the time the then President Ibrahim Babangida lifted the ban on politics. Odunaike took advantage of the time, he was determined and he set the machinery in motion.”
But the unexpected happened. Oshinaga said, “Pastor Odunaike was going around the country, consulting and meeting people in preparation for the primaries of the party. After one of the trips to the north, he came back home sick. It was that sickness that eventually led to his transition.”
The late Foursquare leader served African Petroleum in various capacities for 24 years before resigning in 1986. He held several positions in the Foursquare Church which culminated in his appointment as the first Overseer of the church in Nigeria.
He was ordained on October 23, 1966, as a minister of God by the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, in Los Angeles, California.
Beyond Foursquare, he was the treasurer of the Nigeria Evangelical Fellowship (NEF) in 1966 and was its chairman from 1970 to 1991.
He was also a member of the trustees of the Nigeria Bible Translation Trust. Within the African sub-region, he functioned as the chairman and president of the Association of Evangelicals for Africa and Madagascar (AEAM), now the Association of Evangelicals for Africa (AEA).
At the global level, he was a member of the World Evangelical Fellowship and was in the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. He also served in the World Vision Internationa and the World Pentecostal Conference,