Remembering an Iroko: A Tribute in Honor of Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo (1944-2010)

Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo
Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo

By Babatomiwa Moses Owojaiye
It is with heavy heart but with gratitude to God Almighty that we received the home-going news of one of the giants in the history of the Church and Christianity in Africa. Our own Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo has gone to be with the Lord today March 18, 2010. Adeyemo was an African Christian statesman of high repute. He was a detribalized Christian and a true son of Africa. Adeyemo was a very brilliant, level-headed and one of the true African-Christian leaders with exemplary virtues. The Church in Africa needs more men like Adeyemo but unfortunately real men like him are becoming scarce by the day in Africa. I guess it is high time for the church in Africa to raise its voice in prayer for the Lord be gracious to us and grant us again sincere, faithful, humble, sacrificial, loving, purposeful, scholarly, hard-working, and forward-looking men and women like Tokunboh Adeyemo.

Tokunboh Adeyemo was born into a royal Muslim family in Western Nigeria. The second in a family of eight children, he was the oldest son. Destined to be the chief of his tribe, he was educated in the best institutions in the country and became involved in politics as a young man. When people looked at him, they saw a faithful Muslim and a young man with a promising future, but Tokunboh felt an ache inside, an emptiness he could not fill. A teacher at the school where Tokunboh was headmaster invited him to church. When he witnessed how people with few material possessions could worship God with such joy and fervor, he was impressed. He decided to find out the reason for their joy. On 13 September, 1966 he went to hear an evangelist at a tent meeting. The message from John 10:10 explained that Christ came to introduce not another religion, but a relationship. “As the man concluded, I decided to follow Yeshua, the giver of life”. Today all eight members of Tokunboh’s family are followers of Jesus Christ.

The salvation he experienced in the Lord Jesus Christ was the turning point of his life. The Lord was going to use his zeal and knowledge not only for his immediate family, community, or nation but the entire continent of Africa. He was a man with high regard for education. He was aware of the fact that one of the crises facing African Christianity today is in the area of leadership and that the church in Africa is not exempted from this challenge. No wonder he gave himself to adequate training so as to be able to contribute to the growth of the church in Africa.

In order for him to be recruited in the mission of God for the church in Africa, the Lord granted him the privilege of training in some leading evangelical schools and public universities of all times. He had his Bachelor of Theology degree at ECWA Theological Seminary, Igbaja, Nigeria; Masters of Divinity and Theology at Talbot School of Theology of Biola University, California, USA; Doctor of Theology degree at Dallas Theological Seminary, Texas, USA; and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

It is obvious that Adeyemo’s passion for ministry was leadership in Africa. He believes that the problem of Africa is not lack of human or material resources. 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!” Adeyemo did his best to educate the church of this great need while he served for 22years as the General Secretary for Association for Evangelicals in Africa (AEA, the umbrella body for Evangelical Churches in Africa) with its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

He has written and co-authored several books and articles published in leading international journals. His contributions to scholarship and Christianity in Africa are unquantifiable. Some of these works include: The Doctrine of God in African Tradition, Following Jesus in a Rich-poor Society, The Making of the Servant of God, A Christian Mind in a Changing Africa, Salvation in African Tradition, Deliver Us from Evil: An Uneasy Frontier in Christian Mission, Africa’s Enigma and Leadership Solutions, and Is Africa Cursed?: a Vision for Radical Transformation, and many other works that space will not permit us to list. Adeyemo is the General Editor for Africa Bible Commentary, a monumental Bible commentary written by seventy African Scholars. No wonder, Dennis White (former Senior Pastor of Nairobi Pentecostal Church and Adeyemo’s pastor of many years) describes Adeyemo as “a gifted African scholar, theologian, elder of the church and one of the sharpest minds that he has ever met in his thirty-eight years of Christian ministry.” He further describes him as “a thinker, a realist, a spiritual brother and advisor.” His outstanding leadership skills have won him a lot of admirations within and outside the Church in Africa. One of the several awards that he received was the honorary doctorate awarded him by Potchefstroom University, South Africa for his outstanding Christian scholarship and leadership.

Besides all these numerous achievements, Adeyemo was a man who delicately balanced academics and spirituality, a virtue which is very rare in our time. Our experience in Africa has shown that men in the caliber of Adeyemo usually have the tendency of becoming proud and conceited. But Adeyemo would not allow anything to stand between him and his maker. He was until his demise an elder at the Nairobi Pentecostal Church, Valley Road, Nairobi, Kenya.

Until his death, Tokunboh Adeyemo was the Executive Director of the Centre for Biblical Transformation based in Nairobi, Kenya, and the Chancellor of the famous Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (a constituent school of Africa International University, Kenya). Although Adeyemo has joined our great ancestors like Byang Kato, and even recently, Kwame Bediako, Ogbu Kalu and many others; his family and the church in Africa should be comforted with the fact that he served his generation. He left us the younger generation with many virtues to emulate.

It is true that the Iroko (wood of the ‘Chlorophora excelsa’, is native to the west coast of Africa. It is sometimes called African, or Nigerian, teak, but the iroko is unrelated to the teak family. The wood is tough, dense, and very durable. It is often used in cabinet making and paneling as a substitute for teak, which it resembles both in colour) tree has fallen but we shall meet again at the home beyond.

Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo is survived by his wife, Mrs. Ireti Adeyemo and their two sons. We thank God for his life and please let us keep his family in our prayers.


Tokunboh Adeyemo, ed. Africa Bible Commentary (Nairobi: WorldAlive, 2007)
Tokunboh Adeyemo, Is Africa Cursed? (Nairobi: WordAlive, 2009 [1997])
Iroko Tree (Encyclopedia Britannica)
Gottfried Osei-Mensah, Wanted Servant Leaders (Accra: Africa Christian Press, 1990).
The Blessing and Enigma (Interview on AIM International about “the impact of the gospel in Africa, Aids, poverty and the role of the African Church in the world during this century.”)
Related links

Personal tributes to Dr. Adeyemo on the African International University webpage. (He was the chancellor).
Langham Partnership tribute (March 18, 2010)
The Blessing and Enigma (Interview on AIM International about “the impact of the gospel in Africa, Aids, poverty and the role of the African Church in the world during this century.”
List of articles by Dr. Adeyemo at Transformation: An International Journal of Holistic Mission Studies
1996 Urbana talk (AUDIO 25 mins): “Give me Africa or give me death.”
1997 GCOWE Interview (Global Consultation on World Evangelization): church in Africa, leadership
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