Unarguably, Gbenga Adeboye still remains the most known and widely accepted radio broadcaster in Yoruba lands, even in death.
The legend was born into a Christian family on 30th September 1959, at Ode Omu, Gbongan, Osun State, Nigeria.
In some of his narratives that serve as his autobiography he narrated how he had knowledge of both Islamic and Traditional religions. And this is evident in his records.
Describing himself, he said that he was a man who chose to combine the three religions, i.e Islam, Christianity and Traditional together so that he would be accord special recognition in Heaven. No need for explanation as he was a man who quoted Al-Qur’an, Bible, and Oracle verses with precision, exactness, and correctness. His birth by a church general overseer regardless, it was believed that these quotations earned him the 3-1 nickname “Alhaji, Pastor, Oluwo.”
Late Adeboye first worked as a freelance radio presenter for Radio Lagos where he used to anchor a very popular programme which turned a favourite of his (Yoruba) audience titled ‘Funwọntan’ in 1981.
Funwọntan, which literarily means ‘Give it all to them’, was later re-newed to ‘Gbenga Adeboye in the Mix’ on Radio Lagos of Lagos state, and ‘Gbenga Adeboye in the House’ on OGBC – Ogun State Broadcasting Organization.
While working fervently on these radio programmes, he released over nine albums and put them out on cassette, including Ph.D Beetle, Ọrọsunkunnu 1 & 2, Funwọntan 1 & 2, Ijinlẹ Ọrọ Láti Ori Ìtẹ́ Mimọ 1 & 2, Versatility, London Yabis, Aiyetoto, Supremacy and Controversy.
He had too many names. Though born Elijah ‘Nurudeen’ Oluwagbemiga Adeboye, he got multiple names that it became difficult to “keep track of his names.The names were as a result of his exploits in humour and music. Some of the names are: Funwontan, Alhaji Pastor Oluwo, Abefe, Jengbetiele, Alaye mi Gbengulo, One man battalion, AOHA -Abija Of His Area, etc”
Relatively, Gbenga’s life is full of adjectives, sometimes one but wonder how someone can put them all in a lifetime. Not for instance – but in reality – he was an activist, orator, Master of Ceremony, mediator, prophet, comedian, humanitarian, humorist, entertainer, the pioneer of stand-up comedy in Nigeria.
He used his talents to preach Democracy and humanity in Nigeria through all his works, jokes, and radio programme. He was a human catalogue of government; official, history, actions, policies, bills – both good and bad sides.
‘Mr Funwontan’ – a nickname he got from his aforementioned programme, has hit stardom before comedy became a big industry. Talking like his fictious characters, most prominent among them are the duo of Ìtù Bàbá Ìta and Láìsí Abesupinlẹ, ‘Gbenga could speak in as many as 11 people of different voices!
He traced history, identified causes and proffered ‘solutions’ to Ìfẹ́/Modakẹkẹ tussle in his 28:09 record titled “Ìfẹ́ and Modakẹkẹ”. This mediation later earned additional name, “Pa ogún, pa ọ̀tẹ̀ of Yorùbá” (literally, grand mediator of Yorùbá).
He also mentioned Ọffa/Ẹ̀rín-Ilé 2001 land dispute therein.
One amazing thing about him is how he was able to know so much and stay updated about occurrences, especially in Yorùbá states. He was more or less a news organization himself. And till now, no broadcaster commands such prominence, respect, and verbosity.
He attained ‘prophethood’ because many of his predictions either came to pass while he was alive, after his death, being fulfilled (now) or yet to.
Even in his lifetime, there are some prophecies he made – that ordinarily are above mere guessworks. The biggest of these, which even made some followers of his to doubt was the release of General Diya when he was being held by Oputa Panel (in General Sanni Abacha regime).
His work as a activist was not without physical and spiritual repercussions. He himself narrated his ordeals with metalphysical forces. And while there is no record of physical assault on his person he was made a firewall. Peers, ‘affected’ persons, intimidated individuals formed line of attack.
During his lifetime and in death, he was described as a generous and carefree person. It is reported – and he confirmed it in his ‘After Heaven’ album – that the needy did wait him on his programme days in OGBC. He never let any of them down.
Worth of note among them are Idowu Philips (Màmá Rainbow) who said the late broadcaster bought her her first car. Also Yinka Ayefele’s story is not complete without Gbenga; he is a beneficiary of his generosity.
However, his brother said: “Gbenga Adeboye’s carefree nature was his greatest mistake.”
“Alaye mi Gbengulo” , as he was called by fans, was a mentor to many. Some of those who hold him in high esteem are: Abbey Fagbọrọ̀, Ẹrẹkẹ ni Sọọbu, Bashiru Adisa better known as Baba Gbọin, Fathia Balogun (Nollywood actress hit limelight when she featured as a dancer in one of his music videos), Yinka Ayefẹlẹ, Ojopagogo, etc
Another mystery about him is Wednesday. In her album titled ‘Ọmọ Májẹ̀mú’ translated as ‘Convenant Child’, Seun Adeboye, his sister narrated how he lived before he hit limelight and how Wednesday was special in his life.
According to her, Gbenga Adeboye was born on Wednesday, September 30, 1959; began his education on Wednesday, had his first trip to America on Wednesday, and his first radio programme on a Wednesday. He died (the second time) on Wednesday, April 30, 2003 and was buried on Wednesday, May 14, 2003.
He died twice, after his first death, he related tales of his exploits with death and experiences in” heaven”. Predictably, his narrations sparked controversies.
According to him, he died and had an encounter with God. Adeboye claimed to have been sent back to the earth by God to complete his unfinished business and was instructed to be buried with his Bible and hymn book.
Olugbenga gave up the ghost on the 30th of April 2003, throwing the Nigeria – especially, Yorùbá – entertainment world into deep mourning.
He was so widely respected and loved that crowds trooped out in candle-lit processions all over South-West, Nigeria.
Jimoh Taofik Adekunle (Jimson Jaat Taofik) is a prolific Columnist and Editor with REPUBLICAN NEWSPAPER.