James Bolaji Adeoye was born to the family of Pa Ologbonyo Adeoye on August 10, 1945 in a small village called Oke-Ere in Egbe, the present Kogi State of Nigeria. His father had two wives but his mother was the first wife, and he was the first born of the family. Being born into a polygamous home, he had to struggle for survival, and he succeeded. Initially, the family had two male children, but since riches in those days were measured by the number of children one had, families competed to have many children. Consequently, when it seemed that no more children would be born by his mother, his father was persuaded to marry a second wife, and this second wife bore him four more children.
Adeoye’s parents came into contact with the ECWA missionaries who came to their area for evangelistic outreach. The missionaries saw James as a potential and valuable instrument for missionary endeavors. He was enrolled at the missionary school in Egbe, Kogi State, at the age of twelve. Adeoye demonstrated a great deal of academic qualities that motivated the missionaries to educate him further, and he went on to secondary school. He then entered Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he received an M.A. in veterinary medicine.
During his university days, Adeoye came into contact with the Fulani, and he eventually became a veterinary doctor who to treated their cows. Little did he realize that it would be the beginning of his success, which came at a later date.
In 1970, Adeoye married Sarah Adeduntan, and the family was blessed with two children, a daughter and a son. The daughter presently works with a liaison office in Abuja, while the son works with the INEC in the Ganye local government in Adamawa State.
As a determined young man, Adeoye joined the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and was posted to Gongola State, which is now called Adamawa State. His work experience there, and his devotion and dedication to duty, brought him into contact with the paramount ruler of that time, the Lamido of Yola, in 1970. This ruler employed him as the veterinarian for his horses. Despite the language barrier, Adeoye was a faithful member of the ECWA church in Jimeta, Yola. He voluntarily retired to establish an animal practice on his own in 1985.
In 1981, the First Baptist Church in Jimeta, Yola, decided to open a new church which would allow the Yorubas the privilege of worshipping God in their mother tongue at Demsawo, Yola. In a search for a pioneer leader, they came across Adeoye, who had already become popular among the cattle ranchers as a veterinary doctor. He was persuaded to become a Baptist, and he was then appointed as the pioneer leader of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Densawo, Jimeta, Yola.
Contribution to Christianity
Adeoye was a force to be reckoned with in terms of commitment to the things of God. The Baptist denomination in Yola can list his accomplishments as follows: he was the pioneer leader of Ebenezer Baptist Church, the largest Yoruba speaking church in Yola; he took Christianity to the seat of the ruler of a predominantly Muslim area, as he constantly spoke of his religion to the kings, especially the Lamido of Yola; he went to villages in the interior, telling the Fulanis about God as he administered drugs to their cows; and he taught the Scripture fearlessly, winning many Muslim friends to Christ amidst religious hostility.
James Bolaji Adeoye died of kidney cancer in June of 2007 at the National Hospital in Abuja.
Sarah Adeoye (wife), interview by author, October 2009.
Ola Adeoye (son), interview by author, October 2009.
Henry Adeoye (brother), interview by author, October 2009.
This article, received in 2010, was written by Sunday Jolupinyan, PhD candidate at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, under the supervision of Dr. Michael Leke Ogunewu, and the rev. Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.