• Korede Akintunde
  • April 29, 2024

The late Olawale Olugbenga Labiyi was one of the few best organists in Nigeria. He belonged to the Hall of Fame of Nation’s creative organists the likes of Fela Sowande, Thomas King Ekundayo Phillips, Ayo Bankole, Godwin Sadoh and oldest Kayode Oni.

Olawale Labiyi wizardry on the keyboard was ably attested to by Bishop Michael Oluwarounbi of Yewa Diocese who preached the sermon at Wale’s Funeral Service at the Cathedral Church of the Advent Gwarinpa on March 15 2024.

Bishop Michael Oluwarounbi of Yewa Diocese.

Bishop Oluwarounbi spoke of how he and the deceased connected in 1976 at the inception of the first Anglican Church in Abuja which is located in Wuse. How the church that later became the first Cathedral in Abuja first started from a makeshift residence. Then there was nothing like music instruments but humming of songs for few members to re-echo.

Gradually the church dramatically grew and first organ was bought and Olawale became the first organist and remained same for unbroken 37 years as a pianist to pipe organist.


Wale was born in lbadan on 17th February, 1961 to the family of late Chief Joseph Ayoola and Mrs.Winfred Subuade Labiyi, both of blessed memory. He was the second born among his siblings.

His parents were Anglicans and renowned educationists in Ibadan. He grew up as a toddler within the premises of Lagelu Grammar School Agugu Ibadan where his father was the founding principal.

Wale started his formal education in the kindergarten class at Omoewa Nursery and Primary Institution, Orita Mefa, Ibadan in January of 1965. He changed schools probably due to frequent transfers of his parents but completed his primary school education at St. Luke’s Anglican Demonstration School in Ibadan in June 1973. For his secondary school education, he attended the famous lbadan Grammar School between 1973 and June 1978 where his father was both old student and Principal of the school for a brief period while Wale was a student there. At lbadan Grammar School, he was a member of the sports team and he represented the schooin lawn tennis matches. He was also the school Organist and Head Boy.

He thereafter bagged his first degree in Geography at the then University of lfe, lle-ife now Obafemi Awolowo University. After participating in the compulsory youth service programme at Bida in Niger state, he promptly enrolled for his post graduate studies at the University of Ibadan where he earned his Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning in 1985.

Wale began his working career at the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) in Abuja as a Town Panning Officer and rose through the ranks to retire as a Director of the Monitoring & Inspection Department of the FCTA Secretariat, Abuja in February, 2021 after attaining the compulsory retiring age at 60.

He got married to his sweetheart on 16th November 1991. The union was blessed with two children. Wale loved his family and strived to meet their needs. One of his priorities as a father was to ensure that his children were well educated, and he was able to achieve this aspiration during his lifetime.

‘Wale never forgot his Alma Mater. He was a member of the Ibadan Grammar School Old Students Assocation of the Abuja Branch where he was president for several years.

In the Anglican Church, he was one of the founding members of the Torchbearers Society both at All Saints’ Church, Wuse, Abuja-the initial Cathedral and at the Cathedral Church of the Advent-the

current Cathedral.

Wale was a pioneer member of the Choir at the Diocese of Abuja mother church at All Saints and was the first organist at the inauguration of the choir in 1987 where he served until he

relocated to the current Cathedral at Gwarinpa upon the directive of the then Primate after the completion of the building of current Cathedral. He gladly accepted the assignment.

Again, he was one of the pioneer members of the Choir at The Cathedral Church of the Advent and was the first organist at the inauguration of the choir at the Cathedral. He served God diligently with his talent as the Church organist until the Lord called him home on 11th February, 2024.

As a composer, he was instrumental to the current Anthem for Carnival for Christ and the Abuja newly Diocesan Anthem.

Apart from being a music composer, ‘Baba Wale” as he was fondly called by Choristers loved playing challenging anthems, chants and the rendition of beautiful hymns. One of his favorite hymns is “O Jesus I have promised to serve Thee to the end”.

On the day of his home-call, ‘Wale played the organ as usual during the 10 am service and no one could believe it would be his last. Indeed, he served the Lord to the end.

His service as an organist within the Anglican Communion in Abuja spanned for a period of about 37years.

As a colleague, neighbour and a church member, Wale was a peace loving fellow known for his kindness and empathy. He impacted positively on those who came across him.

He was always eager to be of assistance and would perform any role that was assigned to him with due diligence. His humility is worthy of emulation. He is survived by wife, children, siblings, cousins, in-laws, family members and friends.

May the Lord accept his soul and grant him eternal rest. Amen.

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