By Rev. Fr. Henry Obiagbalasi

With deep sorrow, and yet in thanksgiving to God for the life and gift of his son, SAN Olatunji Ayanlaja, the Diocese of Ijebu- Ode, and in particular, the community of the Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church, Esure in conjunction with the community of Ijebu- Imushin dwellers, mourn the departure of an Icon of justice and love as he was laid to rest on Friday, 19th August, 2022.

In attendance at the funeral Mass was his Lordship, Most Rev. Francis Obafemi Adesina,  who was the Chief Celebrant. Also the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Abeokuta, Most Rev. Peter Kayode Odetoyinbo represented Rev. Fr. Michael Ogbitebu, His Excellency, Prince Dapo Abiodun; the Governor of Ogun State, His Excellency Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu SAN; the Governor of Ondo State, former Governor of Ogun State; Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Priests from different Parishes in the Diocese of Ijebu-Ode, the Religious, and the Lay Faithful from the different Parishes in the Diocese, Bishops and Pastors of other Christian Denominations, Young Men Catholic Association (YMCA), other dignitaries of Church and State, and not less than thirty-seven kings symbolically present by their staffs, and many natives both Christians and other religions alike.

Until his demise, late SAN Rufus Olatunji Ayanlaja was the Baba Ijo of the Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church Esure: an office of dignity in which he was installed on 18th December, 2021, and through which he served God in his people for the following eight months before his death.

During the Mass, the homilist, Rev. Fr. Michael Ogunyinka, emphasized the fact that “the time is short”. The homily made a deep impression of all present as it became a point of reference for all who spoke at the Mass. In the homily, Rev. Fr. Michael Ogunyinka recalled the fact that eight months ago, precisely on 18th December 2021, he preached at the ceremony of the installation of the late SAN Olatunji Ayanlaja as the Baba Ijo of the Parish, where he enjoined on all the installed Chiefs of the Church to begin their work in earnest as the time of short, not knowing that eight months later he would preach at his funeral Mass. Within this short time of being the Baba Ijo, he achieved great landmark impact on the community and the church as he usually did over the years with his immense works among the people of God. Consequently, the preacher enjoined on all the politicians and Governors present to use their office to ameliorate the rate of sufferings of Nigerians by doing the expected good which is required from their offices, for the time is short, and in the period of election, he encouraged the masses to get their PVC and vote with their conscience a leader who would lead us rightly.

The Governor of Ogun State, Prince Adedapo Oluseun Abiodun addresses the congregation and commiserates with the family of the deceased, all present and indeed the entire Diocese of Ijebu- Ode. Describing the person of late SAN Olutunji Ayanlaja, the Governor noted that he was a man of great humility by which he ascended to the height of his career in life. Furthermore, recalling the message of the homily, he noted that “indeed the time is short”,

In his closing remarks, the Bishop, Most Rev. Francis Obafemi Adesina gives his condolence greetings as he consoles the family of the deceased, the parishioners, community of Esure and Ijebu –Imushin at the loss of the Baba Ijo SAN Olatunji Ayanlaja. He further states “we gather together to bid him farewell  in the Holy Mass, for he was not just Baba Ijo of the Church, he was not just a member of YCMA, he was all in all for the church and the society at large.” “The presence of all the kings present, the Governors, statesmen and women and all the people from the different religious and cultural background says it all.