By Eric Elezuo
Humble, humane and extremely accommodating, Bayo Fatusin is one of Nigeria’s prolific entrepreneurs, busy building industries to absorb the crowd of unemployed youths and professionals. In this brief chat at one his hotels, House J, situated at the highbrow GRA, Ikeja, Lagos, he highlighted what it means to be fulfilled, saying the happiness of the common man on the street is the only reason one can confidently say he is fulfilled among many other ground breaking revelations. Excerpts:
Can we meet you sir?
My name is Bayo Fatusin. I am an entrepreneur. I am from Ondo town in Ondo State. Among the many institutions I attended is the University of Lagos where I studied History and Strategic Studies. I am a practicing Christian, and I believe in God.
What kind of business are you into, and can you itemize it?
I will rather say we, because I am never alone and I can’t do it alone. So, we are into Construction, Real Estate, Agriculture; and as you know agriculture is the new frontier in Africa now, and we are investing heavily in it. Also, we are into hospitality among many other businesses I do for now.
As a business man in Nigeria, what are the challenges?
Doing business in Nigeria is a huge task, and the challenges are enormous, especially when you talk about power, funding and the likes. But what can we do, we believe in the system; we believe in Nigeria, and we believe in what we can do for our people. Therefore, we would stay and work things out until it gets better and better.
Most businesses have folded up as a result of the harsh economic realities, but your organizations are still standing strong. In what way have you been able to surmount these challenges?
By being proactive and continually thinking out of the box. The change we are talking about must practically start from us; within our own establishments – meaning that we have to be a good example to our staff, and we have to advice them to be good example to others and do the right thing. We know the government cannot take care of everything, so the need to support the government has made us refuse to give up. We are supporting the government with the use of Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs). And of course with a lot of social corporate responsibility initiatives to affect the general public as well as making sure that we build and educate people.
While other companies were downsizing and relieving workers of their jobs as the recession bites harder, none of your organizations was reported to have sacked staff. How were you able to retain your workforce during the recession?
That credit belongs to God for not allowing us to retrench our staff during the recession. Moreover, discipline was our watchword, and we tell ourselves the whole truth. There was no room for waste in our system, and a lot of sacrifices were made. We insisted on prudency, and cut down on unnecessary cost and spending; that was how we managed ourselves out of the recession period. Whatever we don’t need, we don’t go for it, and we only sort what we needed. And to the glory of God we are still standing today.
How many people have you empowered as part of your corporate social responsibility?
We are busy creating more employments, and we do that by creating more businesses, and looking for ways to create more businesses. And it is for this reason that we recently diversified into agriculture, and through this, we will be able able to employ close to another 1000 citizens of Nigeria.
Which area of agriculture did you invest in?
We are into poultry, rice and cassava farming. We are also into processing and export. Our base is in Ondo and Oyo states.
Having traveled around the world, which country gives you more insight and inspiration?
I will say the United States of America. Again, Asia, more especially Singapore, inspires me too because of their rapid development. Singapore is one country you can credit with will power because they were once like us. I think the credit should go more to their leaders. To me, Singapore is an inspiration.
Do you believe we have leadership problem in Nigeria?
I am not a politician, and the Bible says we should pray for our leaders (laughs).
You are not a politician now, but is there any possibility of becoming one in the future?
I don’t know, and I can’t tell because business is my calling for now. But if at the end of the day, God says I have to serve my people, I will. I can’t take any step without God.
Based on the CSR you are committed to, and the assistance you are known to have provided, is it not possible for your people to invite you to come and lead them?
I still must consult with my God before I take such decision. If I do anything without God, it means I am ready to bear the consequences if anything happens. I won’t take any step without God. The truth of the matter is that I am not even thinking of any political position unless God approves it for me. All I am doing to make life easier for the people is what I am doing presently. Also I am creating jobs to get people off the street, and put food on their table. When that time comes; when we get to that bridge, we will definitely cross it.
Where do you see this agricultural sector you are investing in, in the next 5 years?
Like I said, it is the next frontier for Nigeria, and in the next five years with the way our government is investing in agriculture presently, I believe it will take us to the next level, because when we are able to feed ourselves; stop the importation of rice and other produce, then we are okay.
One of your business organizations is named House J, what does it mean?
It means House of Joseph.
Your background has nothing to with hospitality, how did you get into hotel business?
It is a passion. I have passion for hospitality even before I came into the industry. This is my passion in life. Far back in those days, my home was just about entertainment, and I’d always known I will make it a business.
You are known to hold fellowships in your establishment on a regular basis unlike most entrepreneurs, what prompted the routine?
This is because God is my only source and my pillar, and always at my back. Not only do I hold fellowships regularly on Thursdays, every Monday, I fellowship with my staff and every first day of the month, we give glory to God; and give praises to Him. And as you can see, business men come from far and wide between 12 and 1 every Thursday just to sing Hosanna to God, because He is the owner of our life; without God I am nothing. And with God, I am everything.
Is there a possibility that these weekly or daily fellowships can lead to a full blown ministry someday because of the passion you have for God?
I really don’t know, but if God says we will operate on that level, who am I to say no… (laughs).
How many children do you have now?
I have four children; four beautiful girls. The eldest is 24, the second is 21, the third is 19, and the youngest is 10 years old.
So, as a busy businessman, how do you relax?
I engage in sports like track and field, and tennis.
When you are not doing your business or engaging in spots, what do you do?
I relax. I read my Bible; I study the Word of God, and that relaxes me more because I want to know Him more, I want to know about what happened in the ancient times. I want to know how to have solid relationship with my creator. So, that gives me peace. Every time I am with Him, I find peace and I enjoy that a lot.
Do you hold a position in church and which church do you attend?
Not at all, I am a catholic. I am not a pastor, but I am a deep believer in the Word of God.
Can you name the people who can be called your product, I mean those you have empowered to stand on their own today?
Uncountable! I can’t mention names; my religion will not allow me to do that.
So, what are we expecting from you in the nearest future?
By the grace of God, to build more businesses; I am looking forward to a day I will have like 10,000 staff, and that will make me really happy.
And are your businesses spread across Nigeria?
Yes. We are in Lagos, Ondo, Oyo and Abuja.
How many languages do you speak?
Three. I speak Igbo, Yoruba and English.
How did Igbo come about?
My late mom is from the East
Seyi Makinde: Celebrating 100 Days of Immeasurable Achievements
By Eric Elezuo
His road to becoming the executive governor of Oyo State on May 29, 2019 was everything divine, little wonder he has not looked back in attempting to do and doing the right thing for the people of the state. His name is Engineer Abiodun Oluwaseyi Makinde. He has just clocked 100 days on the seat of administration and has an avalanche of reference-able achievements in his 100 days kit. Here is a man who waved his immunity as governor, declaring that he wished to be held accountable even while still in office.
Born to a renowned teacher turned accountant, late Pa Olatubosun Makinde and Madam Abigail Makinde of Aigbofa Compound in Oja’ba, Ibadan, Makinde, popularly called GSM, who is the third child of the family, brought with him integrity, honesty, transparency and much more to governance. He gave stakeholders as well as detractors the shock of their lives when he boldly and publicly declared his N40 billion assets. Makinde’s action, which no one is yet to reciprocate or replicate, is a testimony of the fact that he made verifiable wealth, and is not in possession of any form of ‘skeleton’. Not only that, Makinde made a statement of where he is coming from and the destination his vision is set. And in 100 days, watchers and observers can tell the story better, of a man so endowed with wisdom and mission.
Set to celebrate 52 years on December 25, the businessman and philanthropist hit the ground running immediately he took the oath of office 100 days ago, and since then, has left no one in doubt as to the calibre of administration he is bringing to the table.
Down to earth, fearless and people oriented, Governor Seyi Makinde policies and pronouncements have set apart as one who knowns his onions. These have no doubt charted a veritable path to immeasurable success within a short space of time. His first step pointed towards security, and he did what most past governors and administrators of Oyo State could not muster enough courage to do – he proscribed the notorious National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). This singular act has brought easy calm to Ibadan and environs.
Makinde has also reviewed the Oyo State of N285 billion as approved by his predecessor to a more realistic N182 billion.
In 100 days, the subject matter expert on fluid and gas metering has established a foundation for an all encompassing four-point agenda for the expansion of the economy through the agriculture value chain, security, health and education.
Among many of his landmark efforts is the partnership with Agritech Company, Farmcrowdy for Agribusiness. He has put measures in place to revive the abandoned grain silo at Awe as well as conducted on the spot assessment of private owned agribusiness Venture-Ajila Farm and Shongai Farms in Port Novo Benin Republic for the purpose of collaborating with local and foreign agribusiness investors.
While he has procured 100 surveillance vehicles worth over N800 million to further strengthen the security agencies across the state, a new security architecture aimed at complementing the efforts of the police and other security operatives in fighting crime in every nook and cranny of Oyo state will soon be launched.
In education, GSM has cancelled all levies paid in public schools in Oyo State thereby reintroducing the free education policies of the Yoruba sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. In addition, he approved the release of over N400 million for the provision of exercise books in all public schools across the state.
In Oyo State today, 25th has practically been deleted on the calendar, and replaced with GSM day. Any civil servant will confidently tell you that is the day his monthly salary is paid. Salaries are now regular, and payment is in full just as Pensioners gratuity is mandatorily paid monthly.
The youths are not left out as they have been massively empowered in his administration. A 32-year-old man is the speaker of the state House of Assembly, while a 27-year-old, Seun Fakorede, was appointed commissioner among others
Oluseyi Abiodun Makinde was born on December 25, 1967. Quite an achiever, Makinde established his first oil and gas private business called Makon Engineering and Technical Services, (METS) at the age of 29 in the year 1997, after earning years of work experience with international oil and gas companies. Until August 2018, he was the Group Managing Director of Makon Group Limited; an indigenous oil and gas company in Nigeria.
Makinde began his education at St Paul Primary School and completed his primary education at St Michael Primary School, Yemetu, Ibadan. His secondary education was at Bishop Phillips Academy, Monatan, Ibadan. In 1985, he gained admission to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.
Makinde did his national service (NYSC) with Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) of Nigeria, where he was later engaged as a pupil engineer. He served in different capacities; handling and partaking in several key projects between 1990 and 1992. From 1992 to 1997, he worked as a field Engineer (Eket operations) for Rebold International Limited and in 1995, he was appointed as Field Manager in the same company.
In 1998, he trained at Industrial Control Services in Houston, Texas on Safety Shutdown System; and Development of Analytical Competence for Managing Operations at Lagos Business School (now Pan-Atlantic University) in 1999. In 2000, he had training in automation. In 2002, he studied Fundamentals of Crude Sampling at Jiskoot Auto Control Training Centre, Kent, England. Also, in 2005, he studied Understanding and Solving Complex Business Problems at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA.
Makinde is a member of national and international professional bodies notably: Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Council for Regulations of Engineering in Nigeria(COREN), Oil and Gas Design Engineers of Nigeria (OGDEN), International Society of Automation (ISA), Institute of Measurement and Control UK; and American Measurement Institute (AMI).
GSM has had his fair share of political fortunes and misfortunes. On two occasions (2007 and 2011), he had unsuccessfully ran for the senatorial seat of Oyo South Senatorial zone
He tried his hands on the governorship pie in 2015 under the Social Democratic Party (SDP), but lost out in the end. Undeterred, he tried again in 2019, and fortune smiled graciously on him. He defeated his APC rival with quite a huge margin
Makinde is happily married and they are blessed with children.
Babajide Sanwo-Olu: 100 Days of Sure, Steady Strides
By Eric Elezuo
“The Babajide Sanwo-Olu you see today shall not change and try to become something I am not. My prayer is only that I grow and improve as your governor to implement good policies and bring the prosperity you deserve”
The 6th of September, 2019 when the much sought after Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, clocked 100 days on the seat of power, did not come upon Lagosians by accident. They waited for it. They wanted to celebrate it. This is because from day one of his administration, Sanwo-Olu had put mechanisms in motion to create the proverbial ‘greater Lagos’ which formed a major part of his campaign slogan. And true to type, the ever jovial governor did not disappoint. He blessed Lagos State with an avalanche of achievements that most of his counterparts were wondering how he did.
Sanwo-Olu did not mince words when prior to inauguration, he promised to clear the problematic Apapa gridlock within his first 60 days. Today, the Apapa gridlock has undergone creative overhauling that has seen gradual disintegration of the hellish situation.
“In collaboration with the Federal Government, the Task force we set up to remove illegally parked trucks went on tough assignment to return discipline along the Apapa-Oshodi corridor. I am glad to inform you that we have seen tremendous improvement and we are happy with the results in the last 100 days. We will continue to attend to the situation for permanent solution,” the governor said.
Again, the Sanwo-Olu Lagos State Government has set aside N4 billion as grant to Lagosians with “ingenious business ideas”.
This was disclosed by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, during a media briefing herald the governor’s first 100 days in office.
The grant being handled by the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund Initiative in collaboration with Access Bank Plc., is aimed at promoting ingenious business ideas. Presently, 600 people had already been billed to benefit from the initiative.
The Commissioner added that about 1,700 people have been shortlisted to benefit from a World Bank-assisted agricultural programme, and each of the beneficiaries will receive the sum of N2m, bring to a total of N3.4 billion.
Recall that at inception of his administration, Sanwo-Olu hinted that his government will be making Lagos State the Heaven it is meant to be through the the well thought out vision encapsulated in the Six Pillars of Development, with the acronym, T.H.E.M.E.S. This stands for Traffic Management & Transportation; Health & Environment; Education & Technology; Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy; Entertainment & Tourism and Security & Governance. These were carefully formulated to tackle the problems identified in sectors that are strategic to the growth of Lagos State.
Sanwo-Olu in 100 days is one governor who made a promise, and kept a promise, doing it in style as he took steps to build on the foundations of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Mr. Babatunde Fashola and Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, his predecessors.
Kick starting his administration, Sanwo-Olu dished out an executive order declaring emergency on traffic management and transportation in the Lagos State. This singular act brought about reasonable relief to residents in their day to day activities. Not only that, it saw to the speedy rehabilitation of arterial roads, which has in essence reduced travel time and stress for motorists and commuters.
The governor’s Executive Order empowered members of the state’s traffic management agency to increase their shifts so as to control traffic till 11 pm daily. The move has brought an element of sanity on the roads after dark. Their salaries were also enhanced to undertake the great task in a rub my back, I rub your back arrangement. To whom much is given, much is being expected. The synergy has delivered great benefits.
Having a health background as he is married to a medical doctor, Sanwo-Olu has tackled the health sector with the agility of a horse within 100 days.
He has opened a 110-bed Maternal and Childcare Centre (MCC), domiciled in a tastefully built four-storey edifice at Eti Osa Local Government. The whole essence is to prosecute the war against infant and maternal mortality. The end game lies in upgrading the facility to a general hospital. In addition, another 140-bed MCC had been completed in Alimosho area, and will be commissioned anytime soon, and will strengthen the capacity of the state in providing sound maternity care for residents.
For 31 whole days in August, the prolific governor embarked on a festival of surgeries, where a team of volunteer doctors, specialists in diverse areas of medical practice, and other medical practitioners performed thousands of surgeries, especially on children with deformed limbs. This was totally free. The project was christened “Healthy Bee Initiative” and about 25,000 residents benefited.
Again, the state-owned Health Insurance Scheme has received boost to extend its services to more than one million residents in order to give them affordable and quality healthcare services.
In education, Sanwo-Olu has built, in partnership with the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Tabernacle of David Parish in Alaguntan village, Eti Osa, a beautiful school, containing 12 blocks of classrooms and other modern learning facilities.
In addition, plans have been concluded to recruit more than 10,000 teachers for various categories of education and learning, just as resources have been appropriated for the upgrade of public schools, as well as equip them with required materials to aid quality learning.
ENVIRONMENT AND WASTE MANAGEMENT
Before now, the environment state of Lagos has become a matter of utmost concern, as the state had became a massive heap of refuse, necessitating drastic measures. These measures included the immediate upgrade of Lagos’ waste management infrastructure fashioned to achieve efficient services in waste disposal towards realising a cleaner environment.
To this end, Sanwo-Olu, as a matter of urgency improved the capacity of Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) to remove heaps of waste that littered streets and highways. This policy saved the state from an imminent outbreak of epidemic occasioned by the indiscriminate dumping of refuse by residents following the disengagement of LAWMA from waste management duties. As a follow-up to environmental management, the government launched the Blue Box Initiative, designed to recyclable waste for the purpose of creating jobs and wealth.
As a chip of the old block, Sanwo-Olu had pledged not to discontinue inherited projects. Therefore, contractors handling construction of various infrastructure projects had return to site and complete them. He has also ensured that work resumed on the Mile 2/Badagry Expressway project, hopefully to be completed by December 2019, among others. This will further boost tourism and international business.
The administration of Sanwo-Olu has perfected plans to actualise the Smart City initiative, which is billed to hit airwaves in the coming weeks. The high points of the initiative is the deployment of metropolitan fibre optics across the State. The project, when launched would provide Internet infrastructure for the populace to boost aid e-commerce and tech innovation.
The administration has made arrangements with key power distribution firms to distribute 20,000 metres to residents to ease challenges of accessing power.
In his usual modest mien, the governor has has promised that “The coming days will be filled with good governance and more successes.”
Describing the 100 days of the governor, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, said it is “excessively eventful”.
Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu is widely regarded as a public sector expert in
human resources and policy formation a power sector consultant per excellence,
an astute banker, a compelling public speaker and an inspirational leader.
Apart from a robust public sector service experience which spanned over eight years during
which he was Honourable Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Honourable
Commissioner for Budget and Planning and Honourable Commissioner for
Establishments and Training, Lagos State, at different times, the very dynamic governor
also has an enviable background in the private sector and close to ten years of exemplary
banking experience during which he contributed immensely to the growth and
development of Lead Bank Plc, UBA, and First Atlantic Bank (now First City Monument
Bank) in various critical capacities.
He has distinguished himself as a boardroom guru and has since become a widely
recognised force in both the private and public sector, serving as Board member,
Department for International Development, DFID/DEEPEN Fund; Member of the Board
Audit Committee of Caverton Offshore Services Group, PLC and as Director, Light Level
Nigeria Limited, the foremost digital signage company in Nigeria.
A man of admirable social skills, who is generally believed is capable of achieving the greater Lagos initiative, Sanwo-Olu is happily married to Dr. (Mrs.) Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu and they are blessed with children.
Ebenezer Obey: Between Music and Philosophy: Celebrating a Living Legend
By Femi Kehinde
In a society where we celebrate the dead, at the expense of the living, it is desirable to celebrate the living, who had impacted into our lives and essence.
In the music industry, Ebenezer Olasupo Remilekun Aremu Fabiyi-Obey, is worthy of mention and deserving of accolades and encomiums.
Ebenezer Obey-Fabiyi did not create JuJu music, but he and some of his friendly competitors, gave JuJu music its soul, breath and life.
Juju is a popular Nigerian music, derived from traditional Yoruba percussions. The name comes from the Yoruba word- JuJu or jiju- meaning- throwing or something being thrown.
Juju music is played in clubs, taverns, halls and at parties across Nigeria and its neighbouring countries of Republic of Benin, most especially the Yoruba speaking parts of Ajase-Ipo, Cotonou ,Ghana, the Gambia, Senegal etc.
Juju was believed to have been created and popularised by Abdul Rafiu Adekunle king, popularly known as Tunde King who waxed his first JuJu Album in 1937, followed by some other itinerant musicians, most especially, the blind minstrel-Kokoro. Ayinde Bakare, also waxed his Juju album in 1937.
Life beamed into JuJu music, with the entry of Ernest Olatunde Thomas (Tunde Nightingale), an Ibadan native. Tunde Nightengale and His Agba Jolly Ochestra, held regular performances, at the West African Club, Ibadan. He pioneered Sowambe dance (is it there?) possibly, a reference to the beads (Ileke), usually worn on the waist of dancing women. Despite sounding like a Nightingale, he always kept a live bird in his house. Fatai Rolling dollars, from Ede, but lived in Lagos, Dele Ojo, Ayinde Bakare, Adeolu Akinsanya (Baba eto) and his Western Toppers Band, Victor Olaiya, IK (Isaac Kehinde) Dairo and his Morning Star Ochestra, later known as Blue Sports Band, were early pathfinders. H
HoweverEbenezer Obey and Sunny Ade, made this genre, the most popular music by bringing in spectacular innovations.
JuJu was popular then, in places like Lagos, Abeokuta and Ibadan
In the immigrant neighborhood of Ekotedo, Adamasingba, Mokola in Ibadan and the Lagos city centres- in their tavarns, dance halls, night clubs , hotels and brothels, JuJu began to compete heavily with the imported highlife from Ghana.
This was the music, that Ebenezer Obey, popularised and took to a greater height, from the level of its forebears, and from obscurity to prominence.
Human Life is certainly propelled by interests, talents luck, opportunities and the ability to discover a deposited latent power. Ebenezer, made a quick discovery of a life, that would be dominated by music. Ebenezer, was born on the 3rd of April 1942, as Ebenezer Remilekun Aremu Olasupo Fabiyi in Idogo, in Egbado division of present day Ogun State, to Abigail Oyindamola Abeke Toriola Fabiyi an owu woman, from Ago Owu, Abeokuta and his father- Nathaniel Olaseewo Fabiyi, an Egba man, also from Keesi in Abeokuta.
The circumstances surrounding his birth, was quite interesting, amazing and divinely inspired. Abigail his mother, was earlier married for over 20 years to her first husband, without the fruits of the womb, that is, without a child. She had travelled round the northern part of Nigeria with her husband, as a wife, of a Senior Station Manager (SSM), with the Nigerian Railways, before they finally settled in Lagos. The family of the first husband, at a family meeting, proclaimed her a barren woman, and advised her to seek her fortune elsewhere. This shocking news was almost a death sentence, being suddenly discharged, from a man she had married for over 20 years. The family however acknowledged, that she was a good woman, but what does a good woman do, without the fruit of the womb? She was distraught and melancholic. But a man of God had told her, that Gods mercy endures forever and that she would eventually be blessed with her own children.
She left Lagos for Idogo, an agrarian community and Railways train station, in Egbado, present day Ogun State, whose produce from the Idogo community, usually crashes prices of agricultural commodities, food stuffs, vegetables, yams etc. in mainland Lagos, on market days, whenever the Idogo train (Oko Idogo) smiles into Lagos. In melancholy, she moved to Idogo, to stay with her elder brothers, who were farmers.
Around this period, Ebenezer’s father, a carpenter and also a farmer, had also relocated to Idogo, from Lagos. It was in Idogo that Nathaniel Fabiyi met Abigail, his friends sister. Jovial and rich in Egba dialect, he had jokingly proclaimed himself, husband of Abigail and that he was aware of her story. He further prophesied, that Abigail would give birth to both male and female children for him. To her, it was infra, (infra dignitatem), for an ex-wife of a Senior Railways Station Manager, to marry a carpenter. But nonetheless, they became husband and wife, and she gave birth to her first child- Obey’s elder sister, and because this miraculous delivery was a product of Gods grace, she pleaded with Fabiyi, that the child should be called- Grace (Anuoluwamipo) Olasumbo Fabiyi…
Grace was almost 80 years, when she died.
The birth of Grace heralded another bouncing baby boy, that was instantly named- Ebenezer- (God has helped me thus far )- (titi de yi, l’ oluwa ran mi lowo de), with the permission of her husband, who also gave him additional names- Olasupo, Remilekun, Aremu.
In Idogo, they lived in a rented apartment- the first storey building in Idogo. Coincidentally, Fabiyi was the carpenter that roofed the house. Shortly after Ebenezer’s birth, Fabiyi disappeared into Lagos again, where he already had two other wives, and could not surface into the Idogo community, until after 7 years. As a matter of fact, Ebenezer did not meet his father, until he was 7 years old.
In this intervening period, Abigail was making tremendous success in her clothes selling business (Iya Alaso). She decided to build her own house in Idogo, and her neighbour, who assisted her, became her next husband and this union, gave birth to her third child- that was named Clement Oluseye Olusegun Akanni Kembi, who died in November 2018, at the age of 73.
In parenthesis and sweet juxtaposition, Zulikat Wuraola Abiola, was the mother of Moshood kashimawo Olawale Abiola, an Egba woman. She got married to a man in Ikirun, in present day Osun state, and for several years, the marriage could not bear fruits and she was also pronounced a barren woman. She was advised to move back to her home town- Abeokuta, to seek a new pasture.
In Abeokuta, she was introduced to Salawu Abiola, who had also suffered 22 “abikus” that is, none of the 22 children stayed. Salawu, then of advanced age, heard of Wuraola’s case too, and decided to marry her, at least, if for nothing else, but companionship. Wuraola instantly became pregnant and gave birth to a bouncing baby boy, that was given an “abiku” name- kashimawo- let’s see if this one would stay.
Kaahimawo stayed and was only given further names- Moshood Olawale, when he was 13 years, having been assured, that this one would stay. Kashimawo, like Ebenezer, also became hugely successful. They eventually became brothers and soul mates. M.K.O became a business partner and perhaps, mentor of Ebenezer’s music and both bought over Decca West Africa Ltd.
Salawu in his life time, was always happy, that the very first time, that he would enter an aircraft, it was Kashimawo’s aircraft.
Ebenezer grew up in Idogo and Idogo discovered him and his musical talents.
Ebenezer went to Methodist Primary School, Idogo and later finished at the Methodist secondary Modern school, Asero, Abeokuta, in 1958.
In the primary school, he was a band leader. He was a member of the choir in his church- Methodist Church, Idogo.
Obey and his friends, later formed the Idogo boys and girls’ club and also Ifelodun Mambo Orchestra in 1957, that finally gave birth to Royal Mambo Orchestra. Abigail saw these musical talents in Ebenezer and dissuaded him from taking to music as a career, but that she would rather encourage him to become a lawyer or a doctor(Ise ti mama miba mi da moran ki nse) The mother told him that in their own family, people sing their praises and not vise versa – “Kiki ni won ma nki wa Ni’le wa, awa kii ki eniyan.” After much pleadings, Abigail gave Ebenezer her blessings, according to her- nobody knows tomorrow. (Mama lo so wipe, ko se ni keni, to mo ojo ola).
In school, Ebenezer, being a class monitor, was nick named “Obey…” i.e. Obey first, before complain, being his usual admonition, when punishing a rebellious student. The name- “Obey”, then stuck. With the added name- Ebenezer Obey, he relocated to Lagos.
In Lagos, he got a job as a clerk on a monthly wage of three pounds (£3) and lived in Bolade Oshodi Lagos. He was able to buy a guitar. He was at this time, already calling himself a star and afuture star.
It was in Bolade Oshodi, that he saw two itinerant singers-Akinyomi Savage and Bamgbose Jumoda, whom he later helped to secure an amplifier, for a show and also became a part time member of their band, with a rewarding patronage of two pounds (£2) per show and five shillings every day for feeding. It was through J.O Araba, an Agidigbo musician, that he met Fatai Rolling dollars, a minstrel and roving guitarist. This relationship led to the formation of the Fatai Rolling Dollars band, which obey helped to put together. In 1964, he formed his own band- Ebenezer Obey and his International Brothers Band and started with Samson Ogunlade, Vasco Da-gama, Salawu, Oke Aminu and others.
Obey had difficulties in getting a musical promoter/label. After much hassles, he signed on with DECCA WEST Africa limited in Abibu Oki, Lagos.
He married Juliana Olaide Olufade, his heartthrob, in 1963. Juliana, died on the 23rd of August, 2011 and left with several children and grandchildren. However, because of Obey’s insistence that he was a star and a future star, the MD of Decca West Africa- Mr. C.K Kres, showed interest in Obeys music and career.
The first album “Ewa wo ohun oju ri” sold 506 copies, in 1964, after the MD of DECCA, had ordered for 25 copies to enable Ebenezer Obey secure future patronage, by hitting the target of 500 copies. He actually sold 481 copies.
His second album- “Olomi Gbo Temi” (my dearest wife, listen to me) “baby mi, jowo jeka Jo ma gbadun, Aya to mo yayi lo nsefe Oko re, telegan ba ntan e, ko ma ma see gba,” was a slight improvement. His third album- “Palongo, which he also released in 1965, gave him breakthrough and commercial success.
As a result of this commercial success, Obey began experimenting with Yoruba percussion style, expanding the band by adding more drum kits, guitars and talking drums.
Obey’s musical dexterity, lies in weaving intricate Yoruba axioms, idioms and proverbs, into danceable music. Obey started with small Albums (SLPs) and later brought in big Albums(BLPs) that had sold 500,000 copies and received a gold award, and also 1 million copies that also received platinum award.
After the London trip, and in the early 70s, Obey changed the name of the band from International brothers, to inter Reformers band and his fans named him- “Chief commander Ebenezer Obey.”
In 1966, when chief Awolowo came back from prison, after the military take over, he had an album- “Awolowo, Baba wa ti de,” to welcome Chief Obafemi Awolowo. In 1987, when Chief Obafemi Awolowo died, he released an album, to mark his exit- Aaa a o ma se, ile njeniyan” what a great loss!
In 1968, Obey had a hit album- “Ore mi e se Pele Pele.” He also released- “Gbe be mi oluwa, olowo laiye mo,”- Answer my prayers oh Lord and followed with further commercially successful Albums, and in 1970- Ala taja ba la,” 1971- Ija Pari” to mark the end of the Civil War, 1972- Aiye Wa a Toro”, 1973- The Horse, the man and his son, 1974- “Eko Ila”, 1975- Mukulu Muke maa jo” Etc, further entrenched his foothold in the music industry.
Obey had said of his music- “my lyrics are beneficial to society, either in form of prayers or good wishes, and furthermore, that his lyrics are meaningful “with moral lessons and philosophy”
Obey’s music, also brought in his trail, petty envies and jealousy.
He was said to have drank “lukudi” (a fetish local preparation, for wealth)- Ogun Owo and that he had undergone surgery, when a mysterious bird flew out of his tummy.
In London, on a musical tour, he was said to have planted Marijuana (Igbo) in his musical instruments. He had a rich musical band, comprising of- Samson Ogunlade, Vasco Da-Gama, Oke Aminu (who died on Saturday, the 25th of August, 1972, in Lagos, in a motor cycle (vespa), accident. He had left for his house, to change his clothes, to the uniform outfit, worn by other members of the band. Obey was a stickler for band discipline. He died on his way back to join the show.)
Mitui Kekere, Gabriel Adedeji, Giwa Ojo Arigidi, Matthew Baba Legba, Akanbi Oloye, Monday John, Bode Akiwowo, were also band members.
Obey does praise singing of people_- inclusive of non Yoruba people- (Michael inegbese, Alhaji Danjuma in Agege, Osawaru Igbinedion, Alhaji shehu Arikose in Ajase-Ipo, (Republic of Benin) Samuel Ogundele Adedoyin, Abiola Ogundokun, Chief. MKO Abiola,- in three different Albums, and a host of others, which also served as advertisement, for his fans.
Remo carpets, Teju foams, for Tejoosho, adverts for Datsun motors- Datsun 120, 140, 160, 180, for Alhaji Arishekola Alao, Lawyer Omoni, Yinka Rhodes and praise singing of Board Members- Odunaike insurance controller, Adewuyi Barrister Folly Tairu, Bode Osinusi, Chief Samuel Okunowo, Bisi Lola Edionsere, Henry Fajemirokun and a host of others. In these praise singing, he had also, philosophical muses- Owu alantakun, ko seni ti o le fi ranso (nobody can sew clothes with cobwebs)
“kini mama Alaso nta to yegba Dani abi ewure nje lace ni”- i.e.- what is a cloth seller, doing with cane or does goats eat clothes?
And that God gives wealth- “Nibi ta lagbara gbe tin sise, to nse wahala, aro ti o le dide a si ma rise.”
In his album, “ketekete”- the man the son and the horse- he had also philosophically advised- you can never please the world!
He had also advised people not to bury their talents- ma se ri talent re mo le and gave examples of footballers- Teslim Thunder Balogun, Haruna Ilerika, Althlete Deji Obayemi and lady Athlete- Dupe osikoya. He had advised his fans to take it easy. Ore mi, ese Pele Pele- Easy does it and- “so re ni wan”- be careful of being extremely generous. He had also in his 1983 hit album, emphasized and encouraged hardwork- saa maa sise gba ti gbogbo eniyan ko re jo kaluku ni baba pase fun pe sii se, looni
In “oro Kan ni mo fe bi yin?”- he had asked of choice, between parents and the wife- (ninu obi eni, pelu aya eni, ewo lo se Pataki to se koko?)
Obey’s vote was for the parents.
In his philosophical preference, in eniyan ti mofe ran ju”, he had given preference to Iya, Baba, iyawo, omo… i.e. mother, father, wife and children in that order of importance…
Obey does enormous praise singing and Christian praise worships.
He sings- “Baba wa tin be ni orun, (Our Father who hath in heaven) in sweet melody, Oluwa ni agbara mi,(The Lord is my strength)Oluwa ni o, oluso aguntan mi, emi, ki yoo sala I ni o (the Lord is my shephard) and “a njade lo loni” as an early morning prayerful wishes, Mo ma yin oluwa titi laiye” (I will praise the Lord forever) and a number of inspiring gospel songs.
Obey also does Miliki- “e sa ma Miliki o-, ko ma rotate, lo o were were, ko ma circulate lo o were were…”
He does daily prayers, he sings love, he sang the Paulina story in the Bar beach Lagos, episode.
Paulina was a ravishing beautiful lady, whom he saw at the Bar beach in Marina. He sang- “Mori Sisi Kan ni marina to ni nkaloo…”
“Obey said-I was love struck, I lifted her off her feet, singing about her bewitching beauty.
Obey also sang of the sexual innuendo in – “Ina ma wa tan o, Akanbi, 2ce O pe mi wole o… o tilekun mo mi, o ti lekun mo mi ofaro idi mi, terepa ba doyun o, Obey lo loyun oo jare…”
The lady said, he asked me inside, asked me to put off my clothes, and to these, obey said- “when I was a youth, I behaved as a youth.”
Yes, Obey sang praises of Olanrewaju Omo Badmus- Larry publicity and Estate consultant- Fatai Irawo.In 1972, the music legend, celebrated Olabisi Ajala in his 8th Album- Board Members. He had also celebrated the Association of Brothers-UP ASSO.
Obey sang the praises of Olabisi Ajala in the Album-
“Ajala travel all over the world (2ce) Ajala travel (2ce) Ajala travel(2ce) Ajala travels all over the world, alajala mi Omo olola, Ala Ajala mi Oko Alhaja shade, Alhaja los’obokun fun alajala, emi Meje o, emi Meje.”
After a successful music career, yearnings to serve God in HIS vine yard, became real and apparent and this call was spiritually confirmed by the late Arch Bishop Benson Idahosa.
At the peak of Obey’s musical career, he heeded Gods call and for 17 years, he was completely out of secular music and was now majorly, involved in the Decross evangelical ministry. He was in the ministry and he never looked back.
He had troubled and challenging moments. He lost a factory in Ota, Ogun state that produced cassettes. The company was into debts and he had to sell three of his houses, to offset the mortgage. He bought shares and stocks, that went bad.
There was then, another interface in Obey’s life. He had a programme in London, with the late Myles Munroe, where they both ministered.
There was a concert after the ministration. On the day of the concert according to Ebenezer Obey- “when I was performing, a lot of people turned out and thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere. So after my performance, he collected the microphone from me and told me that music is my ministry. He said God told him to inform me not to quit music, because that is my ministry. He said it was what God had wanted me to do. He further advised me to preach less, but sing more, that I should preach through music. I prayed about it and that was how we started special appearances. That was when I began to charge fees ranging from N2.5 million and above and before I knew it, I had made millions. I would take a million for my ministry and the remaining would be shared between me and the band. When you listen to GOD HE would always provide for you.”
Obey had a chequered and distinguished career.
He said- “whenever I hear my music being played, it is like looking into the mirror. Whenever I hear my voice, I tell myself, that is me sounding, that is me singing.”
Obey said of his musical adventure- I am the musician that has the largest number of music tracks, of music released. I agree with the research.”
His versatility in music composition, has certainly endeared him to the world, as one of the best music composers.
Despite the disability of not singing in a universal language, those who do not understand Yoruba, still find it easy, to dance to his music and the melody- e waa gbo melody mo tun gbe melody mi dee”-Come and listen to melody, I have come with my melody.
According to him- “if you do not understand the language, once you hear the melody, you start to nod your head and move your hand, that means the music has entered your body.”
Ebenezer Obey is currently a Professor of music at the Ogun State University, Ago-Iwoye, a recipient of the National award and Doctor of philosophy at the Oral Roberts University, USA.
Life, certainly defines roles, labyrinths and its contours, and has defined that of Ebenezer Obey as a singer, band leader, composer, guitarist, philosopher and a man after Gods own heart. The album celebrating his 70th birthday in 2012, – “Obey at 70”, was also a master piece, after a very long absence.
Ebenezer Olasupo Remilekun Aremu Fabiyi-Obey, stand up and take your EVERGREEN medal… at 77. May you continue to enjoy your life, in good and robust health and continuous prosperity.
HON. (BARR.) FEMI KEHINDE
FORMER MEMBER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, ABUJA,
REPRESENTING AYEDIRE/IWO/OLAOLUWA FEDERAL CONSTITUENCY OF OSUN STATE (1999-2003)
PRINCIPAL PARTNER, FEMI KEHINDE & CO (SOLICITORS)
IBADAN OFFICE- NO 84, IWO ROAD, IBADAN.
LAGOS OFFICE- PLOT A, OLUWALOGBON MOTORS BUILDING,
OBAFEMI AWOLOWO WAY,
NO 8, SUEZ CRESCENT,
IBRAHIM ABACHA ESTATE,
WUSE ZONE 4,