A lovely Saturday afternoon. The sun radiates an unusual warmth in downtown
Waiting beside the hotel with a cell phone clutched tightly to his left ear, his sportsman’s yellow T-shirt, blue denim trousers and black baseball hat glowing in the sun, is veteran broadcaster and founding General Manager of Nigeria’s first independent radio, Ray power F.M., Mr. Olusesan Ekisola. As he sees you, Ekisola promptly disengages the person on the other line and hangs up the phone. “Look at this man. I’ve been waiting here all day,” he frowns at you, feigning anger. He then seizes your right hand and playfully drags you down an escalator to the huge conference room where the man you’ve driven down to interview is sitting.
“This is the man I told you about sir”, Ekisola says, facing the dark-complexioned man on the chair. From his seat, Evangelist Ebenezer Obey-Fabiyi stretches out his right hand, which you respectfully grab. He greets you warmly, offering you the chair next to his. The celebrated juju musician, now God’s minister, is in town as special guest of the Redeemed Christian Church of God,
Because of Obey’s tight schedule during his one-week stay in
The reporter then promptly cancelled previous engagements and rushed down to
So here you are in downtown
The Miliki days
In his days as a singer, the Chief Commander, as he was known by his fans, commanded colossal attention on the
For a man who had dominated the stage for so long, transiting from that platform to the pulpit couldn’t have been as easy as sliding a hot knife through butter. Or was it? “The transition was OK,” he tells you without hesitation. “You see, for anyone following the plan of God for his life, such a transition would be smooth. That was the reason I never found it hard switching from the stage to the pulpit.”
How it all started
The music legend says his interest in singing started right from his toddling years. His plan, in those days, was to take music as a hobby while he pursued his other inclinations in life. Did he know he was going to become a celebrity?
“Let me put it this way,” he begins, as he shifted his frame to recline on his seat. “I knew I was going to sing. I knew I was going to become a star. What I didn’t know was that music would become a full time job.” Was there a prophecy along the line that he would grow to become a popular melody maker, you want to know. His response is not the usual yes or no.
“I grew up following my mother to the church,” he explains. “I was told that once at the church, I would rush over to where the musical instruments were, and I would be playing with the instruments. One day at the church, I was messing with the instruments and my mum was trying to take me away from there. Then, the man of God called her and asked her to bring me. I was told he carried me and said that I was going to become a musician. Maybe he just looked at what was happening at that particular moment to make that statement, maybe it was a real prophecy, I can’t say.”
As the young Ebenezer grew in age, so grew his love for music. He became a chorister in his church. And in his elementary school days at the
My love for Adeolu Akinsanya
At the time Obey commenced his musical career, the reigning genre was the highlife. Why then did he opt for juju music? “What we had at that time were the highlife, juju and mambo orchestra. That was the music of Adeolu Akinsanya. Mambo Orchestra? You’d always thought Adeolu Akinsanya sang highlife. “That was the second leg of his music,” Obey corrects you, smiling. “We had the highlife, we had the mambo orchestra, we had the kokoma and we had the juju. But at that time, I was much in love with Adeolu Akinsanya’s music. The way he composed his songs was simply incredible. Have you heard the song, Opa ebiti to wolo laguda?” The song sounds strange. So the minister takes a quick trip back to his singing days and sings the song. “I think I heard it before on OGBC 2,” you say without conviction, eyeing Ekisola. “No, I don’t think they had that song,” Obey says. “I don’t think we did,” agrees Ekisola. Then the man of God continues.
“That was one song that arrested me. The way he composed that song was something else. I fell in love with Adeolu Akinsanya’s songs. Those were the days of the gramophone, and people did not play those records all the time. But whenever I heard the music of Adeolu Akinsanya, I found myself drawn to the music. I knew virtually all his songs by heart. As soon as I heard his song once, that was it. I later got very close to Adeolu Akinsanya. So I started singing like him. That continued until I started my first band between 1954 and 1955.