Adeboye Adebiyi is the first child of the late Bishop Peter Adebiyi, Pioneer Bishop of the Diocese of Lagos West, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion. He is a health care management consultant. He shares his thoughts about his father in this interview
What are your early recollections about your father, Bishop Adebiyi?
I grew up to know him as a priest. Incidentally, I am the first child of seven children in the family. Being the first child there was a lot of demand on me. He made me take up a leadership role at a very early stage in life. I was sometimes punished for the sins of my siblings. That didn’t sit well with me. Over the years I felt he was just being wicked. But I have come to realise it was one of the best things that happened to me. He believed I had to take responsibility for all that happened among my siblings and ensure that things were done right.
I did not know it was a great legacy he was impacting. The lessons he taught me in those early years have made me who I am today.
You grew up to know he was a priest?
Yes. He has been a priest before I was born. When we were at Ikoro Ekiti, he was Vice-Principal of Babatope Memorial High school, he was assisting the late Ven. Adetunji. It was through him that Adetunji became a priest in Ondo Diocese. In those early days, he combined priesthood with teaching.
Along the line, he went to Obafemi Awolowo University for his MA and then Ph.D. He later took up a lecturing job at the then Obafemi Awolowo University Ado Ekiti before it reverted to Ondo State University and now Ekiti State University. When we came to Lagos, he also taught at the Lagos State University along with his work as a priest.
What were the things you consider striking about him?
Despite his tight schedule as a priest cum lecturer, he was a family man to the core. The little time he had with his family we looked forward to it. We had morning and night prayers together as a family.
We had to spend Christmas at Osi Ekiti every year along with our in-laws. It was a tradition to also go to the church for early morning prayers when we were at Ikoro Ekiti. These are memories that kept us and have impacted positively our family.
When I was growing up I recall many extended family members staying with us. We had about 20 people staying with us at every given point in time. My father had so many adopted children that come to our house quite often. People were very free with us. Sometimes it was like partying given the number of people that had to be fed in our home in those days.
Did the number of people staying with you not put pressure on you?
There was no pressure because we grew up to see that type of lifestyle. It had now become a norm. We had our sisters, cousins nephews come around to stay with us. In fact, if at any time we were not many at home we wonder what was going on. That lifestyle has made me accommodating. There was no resentment. Most people who stayed with us are still close to us even when they are not related to us.
What are the outstanding memories of those days?
Despite the fact that we were many in the house, morning and evening prayers were compulsory. If you don’t wake up in time, it is the cane that would wake you up. When I was in Christ School if I fought somewhere even if 20 of us fought, it would seem I was the only one who fought because of the way I was dealt with.
The realisation that I had to live above board has helped me throughout my academic life.
You are not a priest like some of your siblings?
Yes. I studied microbiology. The other three boys in the family are priests. The ladies are married to priests. In fact, the remaining one is preparing to marry a priest. Maybe I would become a priest too, one of these days. But right now, I do not have the call.
One would have expected as the firstborn you would take after your father?
My father knew that I live by my own convictions. I don’t want to say because somebody has done this, I will want to do it. If I had the call or burden, and I received it, I would have been one. I don’t want to say because my siblings have done it then I have to do it. There has to be a calling.
I am sure people had expectations you would become a priest too?
Yes. But in the work of God, we can’t act on emotion. Even at that, I don’t have to be a priest to serve God. That I am not a priest does not mean I can’t be useful in other areas of service to God.
The point I am making is that I needed that conviction to be a priest. But I don’t have it yet. By virtue of my father being a bishop, I belong to the family of the Levites. That I don’t put on the collar does not mean I can’t serve God. If am I called today I will answer God. But he is yet to call me.
I have been people’s warden. I have been in the choir and participated in many church activities. I was in the Guild of Stewards. In those days parents want their wards to become doctors, lawyers and some other professions perceived to be lucrative. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it did not.
Today our children cant be forced to do anything. You just have to advise them.
So how did your father react to your disposition to the priesthood?
He would have loved I am a priest. But I told him I don’t have the call. And he saw reason with me. I appreciate my siblings who are priests. We have a good relationship.
What then do you do?
I am an entrepreneur, and healthcare management consultant. I consult for a number of premium audiovisual companies. I have a healthcare consulting firm. What I do is service to God and humanity. I believe whatever you do to serve humanity goes a long way. I have never regretted not being a priest. I have not been under any pressure either to be one. If tomorrow God says he was calling me to become a priest I will gladly obey him. As of today, I am waiting for God’s call.
That is the reason why my dad and I have our differences but at the end of the day, we reach a compromise. If he had his way I would have been a priest. But I felt I could not be caught doing what I did not want to do.
Given the volume of work of your father at a point in his ministry did you feel any loss of fatherhood?
At the time when he became so busy, we had grown up. We were no longer teenagers that would need his attention as such. I would come to see him like any other person in the office because I had become independent. There were times I had to wait at the reception like any other visitor to see him because he would be busy with some official issues. So, there was no sense of loss as it were
Were there things he could not do before his death?
When he was retiring he had a lot of activities lined up for post-retirement life. He wanted to be lecturing. He wanted to set up the Adebiyi Foundation and do some charity work. He wanted to embark on some travels and carry out research. Unfortunately, it never happened due to sickness.
When I was growing up I always saw bishops retire and still work for many years. He never had such an opportunity. It was painful he could not achieve those things he had wanted to achieve. But then we can’t question God. We are appreciative that he lived a life that was fulfilled. We thank God after years on the sick bed he exited peacefully. We are looking at the things he ought to have done so we could carry on with them as God gives us the grace.
Where were you when he died?
Fortunately, I was there when he died. That evening I was fortunate to be at Ogudu.
How did he transit?
He just went on peacefully without struggle. He lived a great life. It was good for him to go and rest.
Being the son of a priest, what is your assessment of the priest-laity relationship?
I think it is a symbiotic relationship. When we were growing up at Ikoro Ekiti my mother used to have a small garden. Church members used to come to take some of the produce. Some of them also come to give us things, it was a symbiotic relationship. Now it is different. Some church members want to do it but don’t have the capacity. Because of this, the relationship is one-sided sort of.
People treat priests with some respect and honour. Even as children of a priest, people want to help you and support you. In the case of my father, he had to pay school fees for some members.
The perception between the laity and priests is different now. Many priests are not well paid And they have a responsibility to their children. They are humans. When you say they are not doing much you need to look at their own challenges too. That is why I don’t see why members cant bless their priests if they can afford it. Some churches do it but some are lagging. A lot of dioceses can’t provide for their bishops not to talk of the priests.
One of the areas I am interested in is taking care of retired priests.
I have always wondered how they survive, and who takes care of them? These are some of the areas I am interested in. I would like to start an NGO that will look into the plight of retired priests. I discovered that if you are a priest, nobody cares for you again in retirement. For the bishop, it could be okay. But who takes care of the priests who never attained the status of a bishop before retirement. Who goes to check them? Does the church system have provision for them? Who takes care of their children. There are clergy children groups. But we need a forum for retired priests to come together to address some of the challenges. That is one of the things I want to do. The bishops have some leverages but it seems nobody cares for the priests. Even the bishops are lonely in some cases