By Jide Taiwo
Gbenga Adeboye was an extraordinary man. His talent was unlike any other. His lean, Spartan look belied the mischief that abounded in the man. Sharp tongue and quick witted, there’s no doubt that were he alive today, he’d be your favourite comedian’s comedian. But sometimes, extraordinary people have short lives. Alhaji Pastor Oluwo Funwontan was one of those type of people. In 44 short years, he beat a disadvantaged upbringing, he beat competition before it existed, he beat broadcasters to earn prime time radio hours and in the end, he beat death- fourteen years after, he’s still fondly remembered.
Born in Ode-omu, present day Osun State circa 1959; Gbenga Adeboye was not supposed to be an entertainer. Even today, Ode-omu is still a sleepy town, unaffected by the Ife-Ibadan Expressway that split the town in half. As a child he was precocious often chastised ‘forwardness’. Adeboye was one of those children who didn’t realize when their mothers gave them the ‘eye’ to shut them up in the presence of guests. Young Gbenga let it rip without filter: he said any and everything his eyes saw.
By the time he was a secondary school student at Oranmiyan Memorial Grammar School Ile-Ife , he had gained a reputation for being the school clown: the one who could bail himself out of trouble (that he mostly put in himself into!) by telling jokes. But this was in the 70’s: nobody ever made a living by forming and telling faabu. Soon he was sent off to the big city of Lagos to find a proper means of livelihood. He got a job with the Nigerian Airports Authority as commercial attache. His job was picking up foreigners at the airport, holding placards and announcing their names from a small notepad.
Foray into broadcasting
His NAA (later the NCAA) was no dream job but if afforded him a semblance of a working class status. As he said on a 1999 interview with Yemi Shodimu, broadcaster and aide to former Ogun State Governor Gbenga Daniel), he saw someone drive a Volkwagen Beetle. It was a basic car but not one that his meagre paycheque could afford at the time. ‘I told God that if I were able to buy a Beetle in my life, I would resign.’ About a year later, he scrapped together five hundred naira or so and indeed bought the automobile. Then he remembered his vow and termintated himself from his civil service job. His parents thought he must have been crazy!
Crazy Gbenga Adeboye resigned from his job without no idea where he was going to get another from. One day he was watching NTA Channel 10, the dedicated televison channel for indigenous programming and saw a presenter reciting Ewi, Yoruba poetry (as the station did in those days). ‘The person did it well but in my opinion, not well enough. I thought to myself that if I could ever have the opportunity of being on televison like this person, the listeners were in trouble!’ He then asked his brother where the station was located and went there to ask for a presenting job. Being his normal mouth self, he told them point blank that he could do ewi better than the presenter they had in-house. He got the job, along with another budding presenter who would be his close associate till the day he died- Opeyemi Fajemilehin.
And so, his career in the media started- first by reciting ewi when the station opened at 4pm and closed at ten. In two years he had found his way to Radio Lagos where he got a steady gig. By 1990, he had become a known voice on radio whose impeccable command of the Yoruba language was complimented by a hilarious propensity to make jokes to buttress his point. In 1994 when this writer first knew of him, he had syndicated fifteen minute shows on several radio stations across south-western Nigeria, most notably on the FM frequency of Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation-OGBC2.
As he rose, he pulled his friends and proteges up with him: people like Abbey Fagboro, Ambrose Shomide, Baba Gboin, Yinka Ayefele and the likes got their breaks by performing with him.
Comedian, compere and muscian
Gbenga Adeboye’s talent was not limited to radio dramas and telling jokes; he was an all round entertainer. He hosted social events, he hosted televison shows and he sang as well. Almost like Dbanj today who would throw it right in your face that he’s an entertainer not a musician; Gbenga Adeboye’s voice was not particularly the most melodious but he made up for it for coining catchy tunes and interspersing it with jokes.
He released six albums between 1990 and 2003. His method was composing songs on one side and crafting comedy on the other. He admonished via songs like Iya (Mother) and Yoruba Ronu and just cracked fans up on tracks like London Yabbis. Who can ever forget his characters Itu Baba Ita and Laisi Abesunpinle? He was a ventriloquist who could mimic nearly twenty voices during a set. And all of these he did effortlessly!
He combined his radio career with comedy, often teasing his fans by delivering strings of jokes that he promised to complete on his next album.
Lived before his time
However for all his brilliance, Gbenga Adeboye could not have imagined the fortune that laid ahead in the coming millennium. He lived a good life, no doubt. He was popular and well liked. Rumours of his volatile personal life did little to dent his image with his fans and they just could not have enough of him. Even so, by today’s standards he wasn’t making that much. His house in Akute was unfinished when he died on April 30 2003.
In 2002, it was reported that Alaye Mi Gbengulo (one of his numerous monikers) was suffering from kidney related illnesses. For a while he and his associates denied it but his protracted absence from his radio shows couldn’t be spun any other way: the man was indeed ill. He pulled through, emaciated and all but pull through he did.
As soon as he was strong enough, he started the radio rounds; declaring that he was fine and the ‘spiritual attacks’ were defeated. He made another album- his last- where he told stories of him reaching the gates of heaven, only to be turned back by the angels because ‘his time had not come’.
It was not to be.
On the last day of April 2003, Gbenga Adeboye passed away in a Lagos hospital. The news shocked his millions of fans to the bone; how could Gbenga have died?
His funeral was almost a state event: after being laid in state at the premises of Lagos Televison, a mass of fans and well wishes followed his body to its final resting place in Akute, Ogun State.
Gbenga Adeboye has never been replaced, and it’s unlikely that he would ever be. Sadly enough, he died before Nigerian entertainment became the million dollar enterprise that it is today. Odunlade Adekola, for example, has a lucrative endorsement deal with a telecommunications company. There is no gainsaying that if MC Wonder Abefe were alive, he would have twice, if not thrice that. After all, he laid the path for Yoruba comedy.
The post Remembering Gbenga Adeboye: Comedian, Compere, Actor, Broadcaster, Musician Who Lived Before His Time appeared first on Nigerian Entertainment Today – Nigeria’s Top Website for News, Gossip, Comedy, Videos, Blogs, Events, Weddings, Nollywood, Celebs, Scoop and Games.