On 11th June 2019, one of the most respected music ministers in Nigeria, Evangelist Joseph Adebayo Alao Adelakun, popularly called Ayewa turned 70. But he did not celebrate it big. He just marked it then. It was lowkey.
He shifted the big celebration to September to enable him plan well. He promptly set up a Planning Committee to plan a befitting birthday for this respected man of God, whose inspiring songs has seen him rising to the top of the gospel music chart.
On Saturday 21st September 2019, he will be holding a birthday thanksgiving party in Lagos. It promises to be a big party. Guest Speaker will be Bishop David Oyedepo; Chairman will be Pastor Erastus Akingbola, and the Guest of Honour will be Rev. Mother Esther Abimbola Ajayi. The father of the day is Gen. Yakubu Gowon, whilst the Mother of the day will be Pastor Adeboye’s wife, Mama Folu Adeboye (Mummy G.O RCCG). The Spiritual father of the day will be Pastor Abraham Akinosun (Pres. CAC W/W). The Chief Guest of Honour will be Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
It promises to be a big event, as many men of God are seriously looking forward to the event. A lot of friends, family and fans of Baba Ayewa will be flying into Nigeria to attend. Already, the planning committee has intensified plans to hold a really grand reception to honour Baba @ 70.
City People visited him last week at his Akute-Alagbole church & residence in Lagos. That is where he has his church and recording studio. We wanted to have him share with us the story of his life at 70. We were stunned when Baba walked in looking 20 years younger than t0 years. He has remained pencil-slim for years. He looked refreshingly young, and bubbly. He had no signs of greying. His hair is jet black and his power of recall is sharp as he told us stories upon stories, about how he joined the army and converted from being a Muslim to Christianity. He is still fit as a fiddle. He does not use any walking stick, no reading glasses and he is spritely in his gait. He attributed all of these to GRACE. “Eveything I have achieved in life has been the result of Grace. I have enjoyed the Grace of God, all through my life”.
He told us the story of the popular Ayewa International Gospel band, which has become legendary. It is no more news that the band was founded by Pastor Adelakun. What many people do not know is that only 6 people started Ayewa band. The unique identity of the group, Ayewa international Gospel singers, came forth in 1976 at Christ Apostolic Church, Kawo, Kaduna. Brother Amusa, as Pastor Adelakun was then called, enrolled in the church choir in 1974. He was then the Composer for the church choir. He said he composed some of the choir songs then while still in the Army.
But a day came, in the church, when the Lord spoke to him to gather some talented singers together to form a singing group apart from the church choir. So, he obeyed and proceeded to select and call to the vision 5 people. By this time, they had not named the group at all. They just sang and performed in church as the need arose. The names of the 5 members that started singing with Pastor Ayewa then are: Brother Mike Olorunponmi, now Pastor; sister Elizabeth Sola Oludare, now Evangelist Mrs. Olorunponmi; Brother Roland, the first Organist; Mrs. Ebajemito and Brother Abbey, now Pastor Abbey.
But there came a unique Sunday when this group rendered a piece title ‘Akuku ye wa’ meaning “It shall be well with us” and after this great and powerful rendition, members of the church began to meet Pastor Ayewa and thanked him for the piece rendered because the entire congregation was blessed and so they developed interest in the group.
The group later met to choose a name for the band so as to avoid calling the group Brother Amusa and co. Members were given opportunity by the leader to suggest names and so many names were suggested.
Immediately somebody heard the fifth name, he quickly added international and called it Ayewa Gospel Singers International. They all supported the fifth name but they concluded to rearrange the words. That is why we now have the name of the group as Ayewa International Gospel Singers till date. “The mystery of the international then did not come to my mind to mean the mission to the world but it was the Holy Spirit speaking”.
For over 2 hours last week, in the comfort of his new recording studio, Baba Ayewa, whose Amona Tete Mabo album sold millions narrated to City People the story of his life. He spoke to City People Publisher SEYE KEHINDE and Senior Editor, SUNDAY ADIGUN. Below are excerpts of the interview. It is part one of a 3 part interview. Read on.
Kindly tell us about your life @70
I love the word Grace so much. Grace is success without labor, something you don’t deserve, and something you don’t work for. Something you don’t even merit. The reason why I always talk about Grace is because of the story of my life. I was just 16years old when I lost my dad. My aim was to further my education, but unfortunately I lost my dad. My dad was an Alhaji when he was alive. He had 5 wives; he was the leader of Action Group in my town, Saki, Ogunorokin in Oyo state then. After my primary school education, I wanted to proceed to Olivet Heights in Oyo, Oyo State, but there was no financial backing available. I also had the opportunity to attend and train at Oyo State Trade Centre but there was still no means to attend. I lost all the privileges to further my education. I was still determined even when all hopes seemed lost as regards furthering my education. I joined Kareem Electrical Engineering Company, at Ogunpa in Ibadan between 1966 and 1968 as an apprentice in electrical engineering. After 2 years I decided to join the Army because I couldn’t speak good English. I thought that was the end and that prompted me to join Nigeria Army in 1968 at Abeokuta depot. From there I was posted to engineering construction regiment at Ede. The reason why I started this story like this is for you to know the extent of the Grace that I’ve received. One day from our camp, we went to Okeegan, a compound in Ede to buy Indian hemp and as I was going back to the base, they were having a revival, so my friends and I decided to attend and look at what they were doing. We heard that a blind man was leading the ministration but he was very powerful, they called him Baba Abiye. When I got home that night, I went to pray as a Muslim and in the middle of the night when I was sleeping, I heard someone speak to me in a loud voice saying, ‘I am the person you came to meet and if you allow me I would make you great. I am taking you to great places. I am Jesus whom you know as the Prophet Isah.’ Immediately I woke up, I rebuked the dream. Later that day, while I was sitting among my friends, I heard someone say, ‘I want to use you for my glory.’ I told my friends what I was hearing and I began to make jokes out of the message but they asked me to stop. On the 7th day, a friend of mine noticed that I looked worried; I told him that ever since I had that dream I’ve never been the same again. Then he asked me if I would like to see their evangelist. I agreed to go there, not to go to church but for counseling.
On getting there, the man said “it is God that is calling you.” He prayed with us and after the prayer he told me point blank that I will work for God. I didn’t argue with him and we left. Right from the beginning, I was a dreamer, even when I was a Muslim, anything that wants to happen in the family the Lord will show me. I was very young, so when they told me, I didn’t argue with them. The 2nd time God revealed himself to me that he wants to make use of me that without him there is no success, that I’m going nowhere. One day we went to Osu in Ilesha for an event, and we decided to go to a church there, and already, as usual, I’ve smoked my Indian hemp. When we got there I was looking at them wondering what is wrong with these ones. They were jumping, singing and I was looking at them as if I’m watching a movie. Later I just found myself in their midst and began to lose control.
My friends were even cracking jokes of how I was almost falling under the anointing. Later before the closing of the service, they asked us to pray to God, that anything we don’t want in our life again should go with 1971, and silently I prayed that if God can take the love of Indian hemp from me I will be so happy, I’ve tried many times to stop but to avail, I always believe it makes me look smart and do so many things smartly. Three months after, I started going to church regularly. There was a day they asked if anybody wants to do baptismal that they should raise up their hands and I raised up my hand, about 11 of us and that is how I was baptized at Christ Apostolic Church in Ede under late S.O Akande alias Baba Abiye Ede. After I accepted Christ as my personal saviour, from Ede I was posted to Aba, when I got to Aba I was told of a church and I joined them. Evangelist Inadozie was the one in charge then, he’s now an old man, he should be 80 and above now. After one year and two months, I, Gen. Opaleye who was our C.O then was posted back to Ede under Col. Ajayi (rtd). Later they posted some of us back to Lagos. We were so glad that we were going back home, that was how I came back to Lagos in Dec. 1974.
When I got to Lagos I was living at Mayon Barracks in Maroko road. When I saw that the year was running to an end, and as a Christian, I didn’t know anywhere, so I began to ask people if there is any C.A.C around and they described a place for me at Olaleye Street. Though I didn’t know anywhere but I got the place, it was a small church. The Pastor in charge then was Pastor Bankole, he has retired now at age of 75. As I was saying, I introduced myself to him and he received me with utmost joy. That was how I started worshipping with them at No6, Olaleye Street, Somolu until another posting came out after 7 months. I was posted to Kaduna. Many people wanted me to manipulate it and change the posting but I refused. I told them I’ve accepted Christ, anywhere and Christ said I should go I go. Thank God I did not fail to go to Kaduna, because that was where Ayewa started. In Kaduna, I attended C.A.C Kawo, when I got there I was received well too. Almost 50% of the church were all soldiers. I was there praying and I joined the choir department. During the time I was in the choir, I’ve been a composer from Aba. People were always amazed with the way I composed. They wanted me to be the choir master but I refused. On one Sunday, I sang a song that I composed “A kukuyewaooo 2x, B’ayeGbogunT’esuDi’te, Jesu Oni gba, A Ku ku ye wa o. After the service people started commending me, and that was how they mandated it that every Sunday we must sing special numbers. One day 6 of us gathered and others said, why don’t we set up a group?Which I bluntly refused, I told them I’m a soldier and I don’t want any problem, I don’t want them to think probably we want to scatter the church, and really you know C.A.C Elders don’t take nonsense, any little thing they will summon you to a meeting that you want to scatter the choir. But as God would have it, somebody just intervened and said. “Although this man is a soldier but he’s a very nice and disciplined man, he can do that. Moreover, soldiering is not permanent, they can transfer him at any time, so let us allow these people to use their talent and lo and behold, after all, said and done, the elder of the church approved it. Later one day, we gathered again, we said now that we have a group now, what do we call it? And we all started suggesting names. Some suggested Mighty Sparrow e.t.c. later somebody suggested “A kuku ye wa”. while some said what if we name the band “Yo ye wa”. Those names didn’t go down well with me until somebody said what of “Ayewa” and we all accepted it because it’s short.
Who are these 6 people that you started with, were they your friends or Church members?
They were just members of the choir. Just 6 of us started Ayewa band in 1976. When the Elders joined heads together, they agreed that by December they will bless the group and they will introduce us to the congregation, but on the 22nd of December another posting came out, and my name was there with an instruction that, on the 27th December I must leave Kaduna and go back to Lagos. Wow! I was a little bit happy but half bitter, why? Because they’ve not prayed for us, but they assured me that they will pray, and on the 31st /1st of December into another year, they prayed and blessed the group but I wasn’t there, I was already in Lagos. It was my Oga that requested that they should post me back. He went on an assignment with President Buhari and Late Ya’adua to the U.S, and when he came back he requested that I should be posted back to Lagos. That 1977 was quite a year for me because I was unable to get in touch with my people, there was no phone then. So when I got back to Lagos I returned back to Olaleye Street Church where I was before they posted me to Kaduna.
One day, out of the cassete that we recorded, I was playing one at the boy’s quarter they gave me. One prophet, late Pastor Peter used to come and pray with us. He said “I listened to one of the cassettes you were playing the other time, it’s a beautiful one”. He asked if I can go to the studio and record it properly. I said me, I’m a military man and my Oga must not hear it. He said he was going to tell my Oga. Truly he told my Oga and my boss said he would not disturb me. I told him that even at that I don’t know anything about music, and the prophet said don’t worry, I will introduce you to a man called “Ogo Oluwa” or Ibukun Orisun Iye and that was how he introduced me to Baba Ogo Oluwa. When I got there baba said I should go and bring 1500 because I’m not a known artist, and the whole process started and I released my first album “Emi Yio Pokiki re”.