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

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 (Interview with John Brand, AIM International).

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 (Africa Bible Commentary, xiii).

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 denominations 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 color[Encyclopedia Britannica])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).
  • John Brand, 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.”)

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50 thoughts on “The Fall of an Iroko Tree: A Tribute in Honor of Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo (1944-2010)

    1. We covet your prayers for his family and the Church in Africa. In the meantime, thanks indeed for your comment!

  1. A great mentor and a friend that I could always look up to when I needed his wise counsel. I will always remember him for his support ad love in very trying times of my life.He made great contribution to the church in Africa and in particular theological education.

    May you rest in peace and until we meet again where there is no pain, as you always told me!

    1. Thanks Mr. John Mburu, for your heart-touching comments. We would all feel
      the absence of this servant of God. But just like you mentioned our
      comfort is the hope that we would meet again in heaven where we
      shall part no more.

  2. The following Comments were sent into my email account by George Ouma, a Student at NEGST, Nairobi:

    Friends, I have lost a father, mentor and a friend. He came often to
    Biola University in the States. When ever he arrived he could call and
    aske, “Come see me”. I was in my last lap of my M.A. philosophy of
    Religion and Ethics. He encouraged me, supported me financially, and
    prayed with me. One day he shed tears for me when he learned how much
    I struggled to be with my and three kinds in the States.

    He attended my graduation in May 23rd 2008 and introduced himself to
    other students as George’s dad attending his graduation and that he
    was from Kenya that morning. He asked to come home for a while and
    know how things have changed and try again to bring my family over
    with me. When it was difficult again to do so he said authoritatively,
    Come to NEGST!

    A humble man, a great faith, a great mind, during the last time I saw
    him at his home at Kilimani, grown frail in his serious sickness,
    prayed for me instead of me praying for him–yet it was for that
    purpose that I went to see him. He also expressed his worrry about
    his writing on the African Systematic Theology which he had written
    only only 15 chapters remaining 30. He had faith that some day the
    project would be completed.

  3. The following Comments were sent into my email account by George Atido, an International Student at NEGST, Nairobi, from Congo DRC:

    Dear Moses,

    Thanks for your article “in memorial” of Dr Tokunboh Adeyemo. I have found it very informative and vivid.

    As New student at NEGST, coupled with my francophone background, I did not know much about him. But you have portrayed to me a picture of a great man of God, a great African scholar with outstanding legacy for the church. We praise God for His life and ministry and pray that the church may continue to produce such servants in number.

    May the Kingdom of God come and shine in Africa in a mighty way!

    George Pirwoth Atido
    MTh World Christianity

  4. I remember the days we spent together at Talbot Theological Seminary (then named) and enjoyed being around Tokumboh. We are praying for our dear Brothers and sisters in Africa. With great appreciation for his preparation days and our dear Brother, Gene Crouch

  5. The following Comments were sent into my email account by Philemon Uchey, an International Student at NEGST, Nairobi, from Congo DRC:

    Dear Moses
    I really admire your skillful way to let us read in a deeper manner the life of our Dear One Dr Tokumboh ADEYEMO. It is not a mistake for you to do Church History. God will not tell us why He has taken him at this moment we still need him. One day we shall understand it all. Thank you very much.

    Please let us do our part; though we may not reach his level, but whatever we do all heartedly will give glory to our Eternal God. To Him be all the Glory for Our Dear Friend

    Dr Tokumboh Adeyemo life. Sincerely yours, Uchay

  6. I am a student at Pan Africa Christian University, a member of Nairobi Pentecostal Church, Valley Rd.
    We have lost a scholar, a legendary, the Tetullian of our days, papa Adeyemo. Heaven must be giving you a standing ovasion just like Stephen of old.

  7. This is what i recorded on 4/6/2006 at NPC Valley rd. “For change to take place, you must be tired of the status quo, you must be desparate. You must be willing and ready to embrace change”

    1. May you be blessed of the Lord. Adeyemo’s life is a chanllenge to all
      us, especially we the young people. Do your best to lead a life worthy of emulation.

  8. its indeed d fall of an iroko i wish many of our leaders will ave d fear of God in dere heart and will not allow anything to stand between them and dere maker like Pa Tokunboh.may his gentle soul rest in peace(amen)

    1. Feyi, I am so, so happy that you could fine time to
      read this piece. I am very impressed!

  9. O wow, I am so sad. They were such an influence in my life coming up with his wife Ireti. I left Kenya a long time so I have not seen them in soo long. How can I get in touch with Ireti? Thanks for the post
    God bless

    1. Thanks for your comment ma. I will try and look for her phone contact for you. But this is not a promise!

  10. Bro Moses, you really have done justice to this write-up. I have only heard about him a couple of times from my dear friend Peter Akanimoh, but now I know him more. When I saw his name, it rang bell immediately because of a few comments I heard Peter said about him in the early period of our seminary days. Dr Tokunbo was indeed a giant. We pray that the good Lord will continue to raise more Christian giant leaders such as Pa Adeyemo in the coast of Africa and in the world at large. We bless God for the life well spent and the testimonies of people directly and indirectly affected and influenced by his good nature. It’s been a great lesson for me, having read about him today, to also live a life worthy of my calling just like Bro. Paul the apostle will admonish.
    Finally, it is not how long, but how well we live our lives that matter. A lot of people will miss him on personal basis just like my friend, Peter.
    Thank you so much Bro. Moses for blessing us with this article – A Tribute in honor of Dr. Tokunbo Adeyemo. May his gentle soul rest in peace in the bosom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, amen!

    1. Thanks for joining millions of people world over applauding this well written article. I am encouraged!

  11. Thank you brother for this information about Dr Tokunboh Adeyemo. We need to pray fervently in Nigeria as persons committed to mission are being called home. Last year it was Kayode Momolosho of Koma hills in Adamawa, now it is Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo

  12. True son of Africa, may his soul rest in eternal peace. Our prayers are with the church and his family.

  13. I have know Tokunboh personally for may years. I have lost a mentor , and a dear Brother in the Lord.

    Africa has lost one of the most dynamic and inspired Christian Leaders you can find in this Continent. He has finished the good work, He has run the race, He has been faithful. He has rested from his labour. God bless him mightly and his family.

    Michael Kioko
    Former Elder NPC West

  14. Dear Moses,
    Dr. Adeyemo’s death should encourage us, the young and upcoming African Christian scholars, to imitate his steps. I pray for his family for comfort. Blessings,
    David Fugoyo,
    NEGST, Nairobi

  15. We just need to thank the Lord for the home calling of Dr Tokunbo Adeyemo. You know he was a graduate of the prestigious ECWA Theological Seminary, Igbaja in Nigeria. He is an academician and a scholar. May God take care of the family he left behind.

    1. Thanks my brother for your comments. I knew about his relationship with Igbaja long ago and
      that infact is one of my motivations for writing this tribute.

  16. We all lost this Giant, who was a prayer warrior, an academic scholar and an inspiring leader. Our friend, brother. Tokunboh has served the church in The Netherlands, Europe, and worldwide! To God be the glory!

  17. Every generation receives a special favour from God when it has within its ranks one who can be truly and accurately be described as GREAT. Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo was one such in our generation. In consistency with the cardinal doctrine that one who is truly intellectual is also the one who is truly humble, Dr. Adeyemo was a collossus in Christian theological and philosophical scholarship, even as he remained faithful to evangelical orthodoxy. He unsparingly loved the Lord his God with his mind. May God, in His own sovereign wisdom, raise such another to love and serve the Lord the way Dr. Adeyemo did.

  18. Today, I not only attended the funeral service of Papa Adeyemo at Nairobi Pentecostal Church at Valley Rd BUT my company was the official Videographer and photographers. What a service it was, what a way to send off a hero, a legendary, a scholar, the Tetullian of our days, a mentor………, The service was graced by who is who let alone the Kenyan Vice President Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka, and other scholars alike. Fare thee well, Papa Adeyemo

    1. Brilliant! Stanley, I will appreciate if I can have a copy of the video.
      Could you give me you contact address please?

  19. Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo was a spiritual father and mentor to me. He was such a great blessing to me and to this generation that words are not enough to describe. May the Lord preserve his family and the legacies he left behind.

  20. Dr Adeyemo’s book of “Africa’s Enigma and Leadership Solutions” was the book that inspired me more to become a student leader in Uganda Christian University Mukono. I thought I would meet you when you come to speak again in Uganda Christian University Mukono, but you never made it. May His soul Rest in Peace. My condolence to the family and all friends

    1. Thanks so, so much my brother for taking that challenge and also for your kind words.
      May the Lord grant you grace to fulfill your aspirations!

  21. I am so very sad to hear of Brother Tokunboh’s homegoing – sad for us, for the church, for myself, not for him. I always appreciated and enjoyed my times with him but had lost contact with him over the past few years. Today, I was thinking how much I would like to speak with him and discovered just now through this article that he is no longer with us. Thank you for this tribute, and I pray that the Lord will raise up many more such godly leaders as our brother, not only in Africa, but around the world.

    1. Thanks for your kinds words and encouragement. We covet your prayer for the family.

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