Ayo Nio is one of the most popular Cherubim & Serahim churches in the country. Everybody knows and loves Ayo Nio. It is the church whose members are generally regarded to be some of the happiest, kindest and God fearing Christians you can possibly find anywhere. Both the male and female members often look very regal and beautiful to behold in their usually impeccably white Sutana outfits. It is not just a popular church, it is a massive church that has spread far beyond the shores of Nigeria with over 80 branches to its name. The church is noted for its rich repertoire of soul lifting, inspirational gospel songs that have become an integral part of the church’s heritage. Many of their albums have produced hit songs that haver remained etched in our memories and in the anals of Nigeria’s golden generation of gospel songs. And the choir of the Surulere arm of the Ayo Nio movement has played a pivotal role in the evolution of the Ayo Nio’s legacy of chart busting gospel songs that have endured for several years running with evergreen hits like ‘Lehin Jesu ko se nikan, Paradise, Mojewo Jesu Kristi, Take Control, etc.
The Ayo Nio Surulere branch choir was formed 50 years ago by the current General Overseer of the church, the hugely respected Senior Special Apstle S.F. Korode. He, it was, who nurtured the choir from its early stages and groomed them into becoming one of the biggest and most successful church choirs ever assembled. The Surulere Ayo Nio choir will be celebrating their 50 years anniversary this April 23rd. The celebration actually started late last year with a handful of programmes. It has continued this year from the very first week in January and it runs through to the grand finale which comes up on the 23rd of April. The choir is made up of fantastic male and female talents blessed with amazing voices. And they have continued to produce some of the strongest and finest choir ministrations anywhere they minister.
City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL (08037209290), Head of Advert, TIMOTHY FOWOMOLA and City People TV’s OLAOLU OGUNTOYINBO had an engaging interview with Senior Apostle Gbemi Ladejebi, the Choir master of the Ayo Nio Surulere branch and Brother. Olusola Gbadejo, Chairman of the 50th Anniversary committee. They both spoke about the choir anniversay coming up and how the very popular Surulere choir of Ayo Nio has evolved over the years. Enjoy excerpts of the interview.
We are glad to be speaking to you on the coming Ayo Nio Surulere choir 50 years anniversary. We know its going to be massive, it’s going to be a grand affair, but tell us, how long will the event run for?
Thank you. My name is Gbadejo Olusola and by the grace of God, the 50th Anniversary chairman. The event is not just a week or a month programme, its an event that started from last year. We had logo unveiling last year October and we had series of programme running since then. One of the programmes we had is an entrepreneurship programm where we train our members on how to create wealth for themselves. This year, 7th of January precisely, we had a major event on this ground that involved all our choirs across all the circuits, all the branches both home and abroad. We all converged together to sing praises to God and exalt his name and preparing ourselves for the 50th anniversary. We also had a programme called the Endurance Walk. It is designed to keep us fit and healthy enough to propagate the work of God. We did a victory walk from Teslim Balogun stadium, Surulere, down to our church here at Sanya bus-stop. A lot of elderly people also joined in the walk and to the glory of God it came out very successful. Considering that we are in the Lenten period, we slowed down on the events till after the Easter period. We will be having an event that we call ASAPH’S SOIREE. It’s an evening that will involve the enire choir to afford us the opprtunity to sit down together and wine and dine, give thanks to God and share testimonies of how God has affected ou lives positively through our journey in the choir.
Beyond this programme, we also felt we should have a session where people can come and praise with us. We would’ve loved to have a 50 hours of praise, but we understand the security situation in our country and the fact that a lot of peopole will be coming from different parts of the country, so we thought we could have one hour stand for a decade and two hours stands for two decades and like that we have 5 hours of praise. This will happen here on this ground between the hours of 7 to 12. We will broadcast live. It will involve other gospel artistes that are also propagating the same gospel we are propagating. And then come April 15th wherein we are going to have the choir showcasing and reminiscing on our old songs that people already know. Today, a lot of peoiple sing some of our old tunes that they do not even remember came from this church. We are talking about hits like ‘Lehin Jesu ko se nikan, Take Control, Mojewo Jesu Kristi and a host of others, so we would be bringing back all of these old songs which is why we decided that this year’s Choir Day, we will not be doing any new songs just so that everyone can relate to these old songs that have endured for such a long time.
What brought about this year’s theme, ‘In His Presence’?
Okay, we started a seven years journey and we picked all our themes from ancient Psalm 23 that says the Lord is my shepherd. So each year, we pick a verse from that particular psalm to be our theme. And if you read through, the last part says ‘goodness and mercy shall follow me.’ Last year was goodness and mercy for us, this year, he said, ‘And I shall dwell in the presence of the Lord forever and forever. It means that this year, we want to talk about In His Presence. And you all know, as Christians we all say, in His presence there is fullness of joy. In His presence there is bountiful harvest for you to reap. So, beyond that In His presence on earth, we also want to speak about In His Presence beyond this world. Beyond this world means that at the end of our sojourn we can reign with him in heavean. That depicts the fact that we remain in His presence forever and forever. These are part of the things we will be showcasing on April 15 that will remind us of our home because this earth is merely a market place for us. We will pass on some day and reign with our Lord in eternity in heaven. So, that in a nutshell is our programme for the 50 years anniversary.
For the musical concert, I would expect that you will have some few notable artistes join you on that day, can you take us through some of these established artistes, if any?
Of course, year in, year out, we don’t run this alone because we believe we have covenant partners in the propagation of this gospel. Over the years, we have had the likes of Baba Ayewa, Imole Ayo, Funmi Aragbaiye, Timi Oshikoya and lots of other older generation of artistes. And for the younger ones, we have featured the likes Lanre Teriba, Bidemi Ola band, Brother Tessy B, our mother, Mama Are has been here too and fortunately we had her daughter sharing same stage with us last year. So, this year will not be different but we will keep the details in the cooler so that we can keep our people in suspense.
Alright, thank you very much. Let me speak to Special Apostle Gbemi Ladejebi. I have always been curious about the Ayo Nio church choir. Its not just one of the biggest church choirs in the land, it is also one of the most respected on the strength of what they have produced. Can you give us a bit of the history of this choir? How did it evolve to become the phenomenal choir that it is today?
Well, to God be the glory, I am Special Apostle Gbemi Ladejebi, the choir Master of the church. Surulere choir started in 1973, that was when the church itself was three years old. It was organised initially by our father in the Lord who his currently the General Overseer of the church, Senior Special Apostle S. F. Korode. By the grace of God, he was the one given the opportunity to start the choir and this year the choir is 50 years old and by the special grace of God our father is still alive, so definitely he will be with us during the programme.
Over the years we have been trying our best to see that we propagate the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ through our songs. And one thing we have as a policy is that we don’t praise sing any individual, its only God. And from there, many have gotten testimonies and inspirations over the years. They are so used to Surulere choir. To start with, we have ’Paradise’, that was far back in 78. And from there we have been having series of albums to date, I can say that we have a total of about 42 albums right now that have touched individual lives and various families and helped build their faith. And for those that are in one problem or the other, when they listen to the lyrics, they receive divine solutions and recover from their problems. That’s what we have been doing year in, year out. And we will keep doing it until the Lord says we should come back home. Among us we have those who have departed and we pray the Lord accepts them into the bossom of our Lord Jesus Christ, but for those of us who are still alive, we shall keep doing our best to ensure that this church and the choir keeps moving higher and higher to the glory of God.
I know it couldn’t have been smooth sailing to coordinate the choir of the size of the Ayo Nio Surulere, there must be a few challenges to it I suppose because sometimes you will have members who understand clearly the philosophy of the choir and some who don’t?
Glory be to God once again, like I said earlier, it’s our father, Prophet S.F. Korode that started the choir and then later became Choir Master General when we started having branches. As at today, the church is having about 88 branches through out the nation and beyond. So, the bottomline is to be spiritual. Be holy and righteous before God. Like our theme for this year, ‘In His Presence,’ and when you go forward, there is fullness of joy. So, when you keep yourself intact in the Lord, you will be living under his canopy of grace and salvation, and for every member of the choir to do that, they must be looking at their leaders, that’s the exco. So, with that, we can moderate their livingh standards to be sure that they keep in touch with what the scripture says and they live by it. There is no way we will not have a few problems here and there, but by the time we pray over them, we overcome the problems. We allow our members the time to be in their various schools and we have our own ways of monitoring them when schools are in session to be sure that they are following the guidelines as given to them. And you know, through the church, we have what we call the Cand S unification. It was started by some of our members then, and today, we have them in most institutions of higher learning. And to God be the glory, nobody has ever stained the image of the choir or the church, we have always been well behaved within and outside the church.
Can you give us an idea of the size of the Surulere branch of Ayo Nio?
We have about five arms, we have the main choir, we have the DCM, we have the youth fellowship, we have the English chapel and the children’s ministry. If you put that together, we will be like a thousand two hundred or more that on ground presently because we have people traveling out of the country, some are in school, so it is well over a thousand two hundred in size.
How has the church been able to achieve the feat of putting out fantastic songs over the years, this is something that no church that I know has been able to achieve?
Like I said earlier, everything is focused on the Lord. We compose based on inspiration from the Lord, circumstance of life or the situation in our country. And on every composition we need to consult the bible and read the relevant portions of the bible so we can bring out inspirational lyrics from them. So, we all work on the songs. No single individual can claim ownership to a particular song. You bring the song, we all sit down, work on it and do the necessary compositions. If you bring the song, it does not necessarily mean you must sing the song yourself. We may decide to use someone whose voice better suits the song than yours. Like when we had the song, Ki lo se o to mi ronu, it was about one of our mothers. Then, she was looking unto God for the blessing of the womb, and you know, after that song, barely a year later, she gave birth to a bouncing baby boy who is now a man and he himself is married today. So, we operate within love. We rally round each other in times of need and distress. We have so many people who have come forward to give testimonies of what these albums have done in their lives and we give glory to God. The bottomline is that we have vowed we will not praise sing any individual, all our praises will go to the Lord almighty.
I am curious to know, sir, how long have you been the choir Master?
Well, I have only been in charge for a short while. I have been the choir master for about ten years now.
Wow! Ten years is a long time, sir. And how has it been for you handling this massive choir in those ten years?
It has been a wonderful experience. Very fulfilling. You give yourself to the Lord and you don’t joke with your prayers. It has not been such a difficult task for me. We have our own sets of prophets in the choir and in the church who offer spiritual guidance when members are having problems. We tell them this particular member is having some issues please pray for him or her and, within a short while, she will overcome whatever challenges may have come her way.
Let me ask you, brother Olusola, is this the first time you will be saddled with the responsibility to head the anniversary committee of the church?
Well, I think God has a way of preparing people for the task ahead. As a matter of fact, this is not my first time. I am part of the youth choir of the church. By the grace of God, I am assistant coordinator of the youth choir. At some point when I was part of the exco of the choir, I had been the chairman of the anniversary committee even for the youth choir because the youth choir also have their own anniversary. At that point, I was able to run the anniversay committee for three years till we had the 25th anniversay which was a landmark celebration just like we are having this 50th. Beyond that, I have been part of the global committee for some time. So, I have had the opprtunity to learn and understudy and know how these things are being done. In the last three years I have been the chairman of the anniversay committee from 2021, 2022 and now 2023.
LINE UP OF EVENTS
Gathering of Seraphs – January 7
Endurance walk- February 4
Press conference- April 10
Asaph’s soiree- April 10
Hours of praise- April 12
Choir Day- April 15
Choir Revival- April 22
Choir Anniversasry- April 23
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