Daddy Osofa was one of the early converts to Christianity in Porto Novo and in the light of his domestic problems he prayed ceaselessly to God to give him a baby boy who would live to inherit his wealth and immortalize his name after his death. It was therefore not very surprising that in 1909 in answer to Daddy Osofa’s prayers Mama Alake Iyafo safely delivered a male child. The joy with which Daddy Osofa received the news of the birth of his first son cannot be described. In accordance with Methodist practice, the child was blessed in the church and later christened as Samuel Bilewu, a Christian name with the biblical meaning “gift of God” and an indigenous name derived from a proverb in the Yoruba language Bi ‘le aiye wu ko gbe, sugbon mo mo wipe mo ti toro re lodo Olorun which means: “If the world pleases the child let him stay, but I know I’ve asked God for you.”
Among the Yoruba people and most West African tribes, there is a strong belief that some children called Abiku are unstable and choose to come and go. These children invariably die during infancy. Thus the name Bilewu clearly suggests that the child born to Daddy Osofa was believed to be one of these children born to the family but who died in infancy. The naming of a child in Africa and particularly in Yorubaland is more than just a convenient label for identification. Names are given often in relation to the circumstances, religion, time, and conditions under which a child is born.
In appreciation and fulfilment of his vows to God, Daddy Osofa sent Samuel Bilewu Osofa to an evangelist called Pastor Nathaniel Yansunu of the Methodist mission in Porto Novo when the boy was seven years old, for spiritual training and to learn Christian principles. Osofa did this because he feared for the survival of his only son, should the child reside at his house, especially as he had lost all of his other children between birth and puberty. However, at the early age of seven, S. B. J. Osofa was too young to be sent away from his parents and so he could not cope with the domestic challenges of the mission house and he chose to return home.
By 1922, at the age of thirteen, S. B. J. Oschoffa was still at home as he did not have access to western education for reasons beyond his control. Daddy Osofa sent him once again to the mission house to receive basic Christian training. He was there with many other boys of his age group. It must have been at the mission house that S. B. J. Oschoffa adopted the name Joseph and also anglicized the spelling of Oschoffa. He was thereafter called S. B. J. Oschoffa.
At the mission house, Oschoffa could not cope with the strict disciplinary measures which a white missionary called Rev. Garner initiated basically because of his stubbornness. At one time, when the pastor ordered the boys to assist in the construction of a seminary, Oschoffa defied the orders and refused to participate in the construction of the building. As a result Oschoffa and others were expelled from the mission house.
At home, Daddy Osofa was disheartened by the behaviour of his beloved son resulting in his expulsion from the mission house. His image as an outstanding member of the Methodist Church was being tainted by the attitude of his son. There, he promptly petitioned the pastor to pardon his son but Rev. Gamer was adamant saying his expulsion order was irrevocable. Disappointed as he was, but being a carpenter himself, Daddy Osofa resolved to take his son on as an apprentice.
Oschoffa soon acquired the necessary proficiency in carpentry and was regarded as one of the best carpenters in town. As he specialized in roofing, the erection of kiosks and wood planing, the aging Oschoffa became proud of his son’s dexterity and expertise in carpentry. Notwithstanding the popularity his son enjoyed in the course of the profession, Daddy Osofa was still not satisfied for he had wanted his son to become an evangelist.
Old age was seriously telling on him and on June 15, 1939, Daddy Osofa died peacefully at Porto Novo. The death of his father marked a turning point in Oschoffa’s life. He soon began to take an active part in church activities. He was a member of the singing band and tried the trumpet and other musical instruments. He also served on many committees in the Methodist Church at Porto Novo. Oschoffa however, still continued to work as a carpentry after his father’s death.
In December 1946, almost seven years after his father’s death. Oschoffa abandoned carpentry to take up trading in timber. He began supplying timber logs to carpenters in and around Porto Novo. He seemed to have enjoyed his monopoly  in this business which, according to him, fetched him about ten times the amount of money he had initially invested. Even though Oschoffa had not received any formal education, in his short stay at the mission house he had learned to read the Holy Bible. Everywhere he went Oschoffa carried his Bible along. It must be remembered that right from his birth, his father had encouraged him to be a good Christian. His enthusiasm in church duties and his role in the choir made him one of the respected Methodists in Porto Novo.
This article was researched and written by Rt. Rev. Dr. Albert Aduloju Agbaje, bishop of Sabongidda-Ora Diocese.
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