Gbenga Adeboye,11 years on •A tribute to one of Nigeria’s foremost comedians

Even before the Nigerian comedy industry became a thriving business, pioneers like Gbenga Adeboye had already hit stardom with unconventional humuor. Wednesday, April 30, 2014, marked the 11th year since one of Nigeria’s most charismatic entertainers died. The humour merchant and legendary king of traditional ‘Oduology’ tragically surrendered himself to the cold hands of death after a battle with kidney-related diseases. Months before his death, the late comedian and radio presenter was woven in mysteries after he was reported to have woken up after he was confirmed dead. The Osun State-born entertainer sparked off controversies with tales of his journey in the underworld and his interactions with ‘God’. A singer, comedian, radio presenter and Master of Ceremony, Gbenga Adeboye, who was born in 1959, was a man of multiple talents.

He hosted one of the most popular radio shows in Lagos in the 1980s, and had a massive following. The spell binding programme of the early ’80s on Lagos State Broadcasting Corporation gave him the household name, ‘Funwontan’. He brought so many unique perspectives to radio. Apart from his humour, which was often on full display in his popular radio programme, Gbenga Adeboye was also a staunch advocate of the Yoruba language and traditions with his various Yoruba language oriented programmes aimed at promote reading culture in the Yoruba language and a revival of old cultures. Gbenga Adeboye’s creativity gave him the freedom to be a Muslim and Christian at the same time.

With the moniker Alhaji Pastor Oluwo, the ace humourist, who claimed to be a devoted Muslim, also displayed a deep knowledge of the Bible. The name, Alhaji Pastor Oluwo, was justified as he often eloquently quoted from the Quran and Bible and also chanted incantations with great ease.

Gbenga Adeboye was bestowed with numerous nicknames. The all-round entertainer was known as Funwotan, Jenbetiele I of Africa, Alaye MI Gbengulo, King of traditional Oduology, Alhaji Pastor Oluwo, Booda Gbenga, World Officially Crowned Oduology King (WOCOK), Okanlomo of Europe, Amuludun of London, Apagunpote of Yorubaland, Grandfather of Oduology and so many more. With humourous lyrics set to a gyration kind of sound, Gbenga Adeboye also conquered the music world. He was one of the first Nigerian comedians to have a successful foreign tour, performing across different cities in America in 1994. The tour clips were used as visuals for his music series titled ‘American Exposure’. Aside from being an immensely talented entertainer, Gbenga Adeboye was also a generous man. Either through gifts — veteran Yoruba actress Iya Rainbow’s first car was a gift from the late Gbenga Adeboye — or through mentorship to comedians like Abbey Fagboro, Ereke Ni Shoopu, Bashiru Adisa AKA Baba Gboin and so many others, he was a source of inspiration to many successful entertainers and comedians. Popular Yoruba actress Fathia Balogun also had her big break when she featured as a dancer in one of Gbenga Adeboye’s music video.

The Nigerian entertainment industry, during the time Gbenga Adeboye made fame and fortune from it, was an industry devoid of the glamour and glitz it has today. It was an industry reserved for dropouts and it was often overlooked, but Gbenga Adeboye created a brand despite all that.

With comedy and entertainment, he stood above his peers and shone bright for all to see. 11 years later, his art, his name and what he achieved all through his life still stand out…

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