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Samuel Johnson of Yorubaland, 1846-1901

Identity, Change and the Making of the Mission Agent

Series:

Wolfgang-Ulrich Fischer

This study aims to understand how the nineteenth-century African agent of mission appropriated change without losing cultural integrity. Drawing essentially from the contexts that produced the man, from Sierra Leone to the Yoruba country, the study shows Samuel Johnson as embodying the opportunities and ambivalence that progressively accompanied Yoruba contact with Britain in the people’s war-weary century of change. Largely influenced by German missionaries in the British mission environment of Yorubaland, Johnson had confidence in the bright prospect the missionary message held for his people. This propelled him into a struggle to relieve the distressed country from its woes and to preserve the fading memory of its people. In an age of renewed cultural ferment called globalization, could Johnson offer a lesson in how to appropriate change? This is the concern of this volume.

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Chapter 6 Homecoming

Extract

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. — T. S. Eliot In 1884, the Finance Committee of the CMS Yoruba Mission came to the conclusion that it was becoming increasingly dif ficult for Mr Olubi to continue to supervise the wide field of the Ibadan Mission. His physi- cal strength was diminishing, and they considered that he would not be able to continue to oversee the work in places like Ọyọ, Isẹyin, Ogbomọṣọ and Ilesha. Consequently, in May, the Finance Committee recommended Samuel Johnson for ordination as a deacon.1 In so recommending him to the Parent Committee, Mr Maser, the Superintendent of Yoruba Mission at the time, drew from his work relationship with Mr Olubi, from his personal qualities and from Mr Hinderer’s earlier proposal to the Society: Mr Olubi is getting old and he can no more travel as formerly, he requires a helper to go to Ogbomosho, Oyo & Isehin for ministerial purposes. I understand that Mr Hinderer proposed him [i.e. Johnson] for ordination some time ago. You have seen from his journals lately sent home that he is a diligent & intelligent worker. He has also the entire confidence of the chiefs, who call him to the camp for the purpose of sending letters to the government of Lagos.2 1 Finance Committee, Resolution by correspondence, 23 May 1884, CMS G3/ A2/O(1884)/134. 2 J. Maser to R....

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