Tokunboh Adeyemo was born into a royal Muslim family in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State in western Nigeria on October 1, 1944. He was the second in a family of eight children and the oldest son. His father, Sadiku, and his mother, Tiabatu, were devout Muslims, so he grew up in the Muslim faith, also developing along the way a keen interest in partisan politics. However, some time in September 1966, his life changed direction when he had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. The result was a radical conversion that marked the rest of his life. Following this experience, he abandoned partisan political ambition and, instead, went on to train for Christian ministry in particular, and service to humanity in general. His spiritual transformation gradually gave him a global perspective derived from a careful understanding of God’s Kingdom agenda on earth. Adeyemo used his zeal and knowledge for God’s glory in his generation.
He first trained as a teacher and then went on to acquire a particular interest in politics and economics. When he changed direction after his conversion, his interest shifted to anthropology, philosophy, and systematic theology. He went on to study in leading institutions of higher learning in Nigeria, the U.S.A., and the U.K. He earned a Bachelor of Theology from the ECWA (Evangelical Church of West Africa) Theological Seminary, Igbaja, Kwara State, Nigeria; an M.Div. and M.Th. from Talbot School of Theology/Biola University, California, U.S.A.; a D.Th. from Dallas Theological Seminary, in Texas, U.S.A.; and a D.Phil. diploma from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He combined these formal studies with training in Leadership and Management through workshops and short-term courses such as the Advanced Leadership Training at the Haggai Institute, where he also served as a member of the faculty from 1996 to 2006.
He met his wife Ireti (née Aiyelãgbe) in 1980 through friends. Her father was his former principal. They were married in Nairobi, Kenya on December 19, 1981. Over the years, Ireti often served behind the scenes as a soul mate, a helpmeet, a haven, and an indispensable pillar of support behind this man who traversed land and sea in fulfillment of God’s call. Adeyemo was a tender, attentive husband. The Lord blessed their union with two sons, Samuel Bamidele Adeyemo and Salem Modupe Adeyemo, both of whom reside in the U.S.A. (2010). Adeyemo was a good father and spent time with his sons in spite of his busy schedule. He prayed with them every night and was a friend to them. They often played soccer and chess together. Both Adeyemo and Ireti were very proud of their sons who graduated from leading American universities and took careers in top global banks. Adeyemo always expressed gratitude to the Lord for his family.
A Minister of God
His ministry extended far and wide, maintaining personal contact with the laity, with the intellectual, with those in positions of authority and those in lowly walks of life. He was a friend to many and a rallying point for his family members. Every time he came home from traveling, people wanted to talk to him. In Kenya many wanted to have an audience with him.
His passion for ministry was in leadership development, particularly the development of leaders of integrity for Africa. To that end he employed motivational and mentoring strategies that influenced many prominent and emerging leaders who testify to the importance of the one-on-one encounters they had with him. According to him, “Africa’s problem can be summarized in one word: ‘leadership’ – inept leadership, corrupt leadership, selfish leadership. We need leaders who do not focus on greed, but see themselves as servants of the people. If we could use properly the wealth with which God has endowed this continent, Africa would be a super-power!” His vision in life was to see nations discipled for Christ and Christians in all walks of life make a difference in their generation. His mission therefore was to lead people to Christ and to teach them to live for Christ by serving with integrity of heart in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In all these things, the engine that drove his personal life and ministry was prayer, as he regularly went away to the “mountain top” and was prominent in regular corporate prayer. Following his motto “no prayer no breakfast,” he rose early in the morning to pray, then went to his study to ready the Bible for another hour or more, taking notes as if he were preparing a sermon. He took time with the Word of God.
He faithfully served the Lord Jesus Christ as the general secretary of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa (AEA) from 1978 to 2002. For most of that time, he also combined that position with untiring service in other capacities such as honorary chairman of the World Evangelical Alliance and vice chairman of the International Board of Open Doors International. In addition to being the general editor of the Africa Bible Commentary, he was a member of the International Board of the Living Bible, the International Board of the International Bible Society, and the Board of Reference of Youth for Christ International. He was a founding member and the chairman of The Sheepfold Ministries, deacon and director of Varsity, College and Career Fellowship, Nairobi Pentecostal Church, and an elder at Nairobi Pentecostal Church. He was chairman of the Evangelical Peace Mission to South Africa and held the position of chancellor of Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology.
In January 2003, in response to his ongoing quest to train African leaders who will make a difference in their generation, he began a new initiative known as the Center for Biblical Transformation (CBT), which was the last of his ministries. He was executive chairman.
In 2007, Adeyemo began a battle with cancer. He experienced a prolonged time of intense discomfort and excruciating pain, but through it all, his spirit fought on to the very end. Always at his side stood Ireti, buoyed by what could only be explain as divinely apportioned stamina, grace, and undying love. Bamidele and Modupe equally rose to the challenge and performed what many an African parent prays to see in a child. This trying time further solidified the cord that bound the family together as one.
Tokunboh Adeyemo died on March 17, 2010. His working verse through life was Zechariah 4:6: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.”
Awards and Citations
He won a number of awards and citations including the Outstanding Leadership in World Evangelization award (1984) conferred by The Black Evangelistic Enterprise, Inc., USA; the Distinguished Leadership Award for extraordinary service to education and religion, cited in the International Directory of Distinguished Leadership (1986). He was featured in “Who is Who” publications, such as the World Christian Encyclopedia (1993) and “Praying for the World’s 365 Most Influential People” (1999). In recognition of his contribution to Christian higher education, scholarship, and leadership, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Theology by the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education in South Africa (1994).
His legacy covers the realm of academia, where his scholarly publications will continue to reverberate for a long, long time. His seminal works touch on the subject of salvation in Africa and the socio-political and religious challenges of Africa. Some of his publications include Salvation in African Tradition (1978), The Making of a Servant of God (1994), and Is Africa Cursed? (1997). His role as general editor of the Africa Bible Commentary was a monumental contribution in assisting African pastors. But beyond all of these are the many lives he impacted one-on-one as a mentor, a friend, a teacher, a pastor, and a colleague.
, , and [3*] Photos from funeral program containing the services for both March 23 and March 26, 2010.
Text adapted from the funeral service eulogies, one written by Babatomiwa Moses Owojaiye, a student from Nigeria in the MTh program at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (2010), and one by his wife Ireti. The funeral service was held on March 23, 2010 at Nairobi Pentecostal Church, Valley Road, Kenya, and on March 26, 2010 in Ibadan, Nigeria.