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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Obey to interested women: No to remarriage now

‘Why I returned to stage shows’

Legendary Juju maestro, Chief Ebenezer Obey, is rolling in God’s blessing. After conversion to Christ and the berth of a Christian ministry, Obey abandoned a prospering secular musical career to become an evangelist. He said his musical talent was for winning souls to Christ. But his rich friends wouldn’t let him be. They mounted pressure on all sides, as the vacuum le left in the social scenes couldn’t be filled even after a decade. Ebenezer returned to the social scenes, but this time around, he says, “I found a way to use the opportunity to minister to people who could not come to our church. I flavour  the social songs with gospel music!” And right now at over 70, he is overwhelmed with engagements. His children want him to re-marry. He spoke to Paul Ukpabio.
At a time like this, what does Yuletide season mean to you?
This season to me is a time to remember the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Significantly, how he was born in a manger, how He came in a humble way, the messiah was born in a manger. It is certainly a time to reflect, to reflect on his birth. This season is a time of reflection for me.  It is also a time to share the joy with others. The birth of Christ brought joy to the world. This joy, I will gladly share this season.
You are an evangelist and a musician, two rolled in one. How do you combine these two calling at a time like this?
I will fully be celebrating this season, playing my part in the ministry, doing and attending to the gospel ministry work. At the same time, the month of December is a time when I am usually at particular places to minister and in other places to just play music.
Well, these days, it is difficult to differentiate when you are using music to minister and when you are playing secular music. It’s like you are all rolled into one now.
(Smiles) I think it’s a way of life right now for me, like we have just finished our church convention. It was a whole week programme, ministering and participating in meetings. We also had a thanksgiving service. And you know, music was all part of the activities. And then I go to play at social engagements.
How do you find the time to accommodate your social engagements and your religious programmes?
Well, there is time allocated for everything. That is the way I function. I allocate time to every area, the church gets Sundays and mid-week and any other day. I am committed to the church. I do not only minister in my church, I minister in other churches as well.  For the social engagements, I do what I call special appearances for those who engage me.
About your social engagements, is it strictly cash?
These special appearances are paid for, but when it’s fully a ministry thing, I may not collect payment. The special appearances started as special appearances for close friends. But right now, there is a lot of pressure from more people, wanting me to attend and perform at their social events and Christian ministry functions. The good thing about this is that, it has become a ministry unto itself, to reach out to people who are not church people.
I returned to stage performances for my friends and because of those who partnered with us.  But when I started doing that, other people came calling for it.  Like I said, I thank God because I also immediately saw it as an opportunity to reach out to people who ordinarily would not come to our church because of one reason or another. By that, I get a listening ear from people to get to hear the word of God.
Indirectly, are you trying to say that you have won more souls through returning to social stage performances?
(Smiles) Of course yes, but you must know that there are still people there who listen to the music, enjoy it but are still adamant, and there are also those who may not even want to listen to the preaching in the music because of their love for sin.
So how busy will you say that you are these days?
(Sits back to relax) I am the one that is actually controlling the rush. I realised that if I do not control it, I will be having a musical show or engagement everyday.
We learnt you have just returned from an engagement abroad.
Yes, we just got back from Houston in Texas (USA). It was actually a church over there that was having an event. And I was invited to be part of it and grace the event.
So you still do local and international events, how often do you do this?
The pressure, I must tell you, is presently on. Like right now, this particular season, my attention is being sought for almost everywhere.  But I cannot do all the events and shows. Despite the fact that I see the money, I have to tailor acceptance of engagements to what I can do and be being available to do it.
Let’s talk about your health, how are you managing it?
I thank God. It is certainly the grace of God that is sustaining me. I do exercise; I do exercise on the treadmill and other kinds of simple exercises that my body can easily handle.
Do you still do night parties and how long do you stay on stage performing these days?
As regards doing night performances, in our church, we have what we call praise altar. This is an all night praise worship. Apart from that, I do not perform all night for social events anymore.
How about rehearsals, do you still do that with the band?
I still do. However, we rehearse in my house and we do that regularly too.
How about songs, do you still compose new songs?
Now, that is part of my major work. I am still creating, composing new songs. That is my work. I am lucky and happy that I have that talent to compose. The Lord indeed blessed me with that talent. Not so many people have that particular talent to compose.
We know that people are still so endeared to your evergreen songs, but are you looking forward to waxing a new musical album in the near future?
I still do new works; I’m even presently working on a new musical work for the Late HID Awolowo. I believe that the Awolowo family has done so much for Nigeria as a country, and therefore the need to wax an album in their name. Pa Awolowo during his lifetime set a good example, and when he left, his wife continued and was able to hold on. She held on and like her husband did, she also elevated herself for the progress of the nation as a mother, becoming a rallying point.
You were at the recent funeral of Late HID Awolowo.
I had to be there. When the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was alive, I used to play at all of his engagements and even after his death.
Looking back now, which of your musical works brings back fond memories to you? 
Almost all my records bring back fond memories to me. ‘Ketekete’ for instance was released over 40 years now and still a point of reference. It still brings back fond memories to me.
What actually came to your mind at the time that you composed that particular song?
I wanted people to know that it is very difficult for anyone to please the world. No matter what you do, you cannot please the world. So I started the song from the time a baby is born, to the time of growing up as a child, to his youthful age and then when he starts working. I also added that it reminds me of the story of the man with an ass on a journey with his son. The song remains a major point of reference just like most of my other songs.
Do you play your music when you are at leisure?
(Laughs) I do play my music even when I am alone. I enjoy listening to them. But at the same time, I listen to the music of other people. I enjoy all sorts of music and listen to different artistes.
At your age, do you still find friends who you grew up together?
There are still some of them around. Though they are few, but they are still there. There are some of them that we still see from time to time. For some of them, we just speak on the phone; I see some of them at parties, some of them, we arrange to meet. But like I said, there are but a few still around.
Do you have any regret?
No, not really. I do not have any regret. Life to me is more now about my relationship with my God. Everyday, I cherish the relationship and now I have an understanding with God that anything I want, comes to me, especially the ones that I do not think I could get. Anyone who truly hands over everything to God will have the Holy Spirit guiding such a person. Just as it is said in the bible, that it is the Holy Spirit who is the comforter that will comfort. And not only that, the Lord Jesus Christ assures us that the holy spirit will not only comfort but will teach us. So I am one of those who have kept such a relationship with God. When I want something and I do not get it, I do not feel bad about it. That is because I know that at its fullness, God will provide it for me.
You have been blessed by the Almighty God, but are there still some things that you look forward to God to do for you?
Right now, He is the one that supplies all my needs. I totally depend on Him and I have made up my mind to be satisfied with whatever He gives to me. There is nothing that I insist upon for God to do for me. I don’t insist on anything. It is what He chooses to give me that I take. And I remain content with what He gives me.
You have been married and you have been used to having a companion all of your life. Now that she is no longer around, how are you coping? do you miss her?
Well, now that my wife is no longer around, I have decided to still push on without a wife. I miss so many things about her. But it is not true that I have not been able to cope without her. I am not lonely in anyway. I have been able to stride on in her absence. I have people who are taking good care of me: My children are taking good care of me. I am not in need.
But how about the issue of re-marriage? do you consider it?
As a matter of fact, my children are interested in that. They have told me that I should re-marry. They want me to re-marry. They actually said that anytime that I want to re-marry I should let them know. But for now, the need has not arisen.
There may be no need for it from your angle, but as a public figure, how do you handle the pressure from the women who may be interested?
It is true that I have some women who are interested. But at my age, I think I do not have the time for such. I cannot talk of the future, but presently, i do not think that I have the time for a marital relationship.
When you travel out of Nigeria like you normally do, what do you miss?
Anytime I travel, I usually spend not more than a month because I usually want to rush back to Nigeria. I usually want to return home. My mind is always here when I travel out of the country. I am that type that cannot live outside the country even when all kinds of social amenities exist where I go. I am a Nigerian, I love my country. The only thing is that I continue to pray that our leaders have the good conscience to have a good heart for the masses and do the right things.
How have you been able to hold on to your band and keep them going over the years?
I thank God for that. As a matter of fact, that is what I know best how to do, that is, managing people. In our business, if you cannot manage people, you are not likely to get good success. That is because, you cannot play music alone. You have to do it with some people.
How about the new music that the younger generation are playing, what do you have to say about it?
Yes, they are playing good music to their generation. It is their generation that can react to them. The important thing is that the present generation understand what they are saying and singing and at the same time accept them. It is good. The only thing they need to learn from our generation I guess, is meaningful lyrics. They can in addition to what they are doing try to put in meaningful lyrics which will make their music to be there for years to come. That will be an advantage to their music.
If anyone of them call upon you to do a collabo, how will you react?
Of course, I will gladly accept to do such with a young talent.
We hear that you are currently imparting your music knowledge to young people in a citadel in Nigeria. Is that true?
It is true, I teach music at Olabisi Onabanjo University. There, I lecture Ebenezer Obey music and philosophy of music. I am an emeritus professor there.
What kind of Nigeria do you want to see?
I want to see a Nigeria that will ensure the essential things for the citizens. Services like electricity, water, good roads and basic necessities like healthy services available for people just like it is observable in other countries of the world. We travel abroad, we see that people in other countries have access to basic social needs. I want to see a Nigeria where that is also possible for the citizens. Also, I want to see a Nigeria that is corruption-free.
Your message for the season?
I know that we are close to the end of the year, a demanding season indeed. I will appeal to my fans and everyone in general to take it easy. This should be a time for reflection. Let us try and do everything in moderation.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Behold new luxury jet for pastors

The flamboyant lifestyle of top Nigerian pastors will certainly be more enhanced in the year 2016.

More focus will be targeted at a luxurious living standard to help the work of God grow in all parts of the world.

As pacesetters, Sahara Reporters showcased the attached picture of the brand new $60-million Gulf stream luxury private jet reportedly purchased recently by Pastors T.B. Joshua and Enoch Adeboye.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Stella Omu marks 70 years with stylish party

On Tuesday 22nd December, Senator Stella Omu clocked 70 years gracefully with a stylish party. At the seasoned party, was Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State who described the celebrant, as a champion of gender equality.

According to the Governor, "she (Senator Omu) is among the very few persons that fights for gender equality," observing that Nigerian women are still disadvantaged in the area of holding political appointments."

The Governor along with his Deputy, Barr. Kingsley Otuaro and other top government functionaries, also witnessed the launch of a new book in her honour titled 'the unsung heroine.' Senator Stella Omu who represented Delta South Senatorial district in the fourth Senate, according to Governor Okowa, touched several lives, in the course of her work and life.

"She has touched a lot of lives, she was born to serve and she served her community, the state and the nation passionately," said Governor Okowa in addition to other glowing tributes he paid the celebrant, when he took the microphone to speak at the well attended party.

Senator Omu, flanked by her husband, Major-General Paul Omu beamed with smile as prominent Nigerians lauded her life style and wished her many more years on earth.

See more photos from the birthday party below.

Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (right); Major General. Paul Omu (left) and his wife, Senator Chief. Stella Omu, during Book Presentation, to mark the 70th Birthday of Senator Stella, in Asaba.

From right; Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa; his Deputy, Barr. Kingsley Otuaro and the former Deputy Governor, Chief Benjamin Elue, during Book Presentation, to mark the 70th Birthday of Senator Stella, in Asaba.

Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (2nd left); his Deputy, Barr. Kingsley Otuaro (left); Major General. Paul Omu (2nd right) and his wife, Senator Chief. Stella Omu, during Book Presentation, to mark the 70th Birthday of Senator Stella, in Asaba.

From right; Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa; his Deputy, Barr. Kingsley Otuaro and the former Deputy Governor, Chief Benjamin Elue, during Book Presentation, to mark the 70th Birthday of Senator Stella, in Asaba.

Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (2nd right); his Deputy, Barr. Kingsley Otuaro (right); Prof. Sam Oyovwarie (left); Major General. Paul Omu (2nd left) and his wife, Senator Chief. Stella Omu, during the cutting of her Birthday Cake.

Engr. Pius Sinebe (left) and Chief Emmanuel Ogidi, during Book Presentation, to mark the 70th Birthday of Senator Stella, in Asaba.

Cross Sections

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Sally Mbanefo does not need a panel to say she's beautiful

She is the Director General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, the government agency saddled with promoting tourism in the country. Sally Mbanefo has been in the saddle for over two years, the period that has also witnessed new challenges and development in the sector.
An ex-executive director of a commercial bank, a lawyer, wife, and mother, Mbanefo, in this interview with PAUL UKPABIO, looks back to her period so far at NTDC and gives an insight into the way forward for tourism to succeed in the country.
HOW is NTDC coping with insurgency and tourism? Nigeria by nature is a preferred tourist destination, from the diverse cultural heritage and its topography.
The country is rich in natural beauty with long blue beaches, rivers, caves, lakes and forests that make her a preferred tourism destination.
Let me state that insurgency is a global issue, it is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. For instance, countries like America, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Israel, among others, have a history of terrorism.
There are many festivals in Nigeria like the Calabar Festival, Argungu Festival, Port Harcourt Lagos festivals and so on, In comparison with the Rio of Brazil and Notting Hill carnival in UK, how will you rate our events?
Truly, Nigeria has many festivals, fascinating ones. Our festivals are unique, captivating and they tell a story. Festivals like the Osun Oshogbo Festival in Osun State, Mare Festival in Ondo State, Igbo Ukwu (New Yam) Festival in the east, Kano State colourful and popular Durbars, Arugungu Fishing Festival in Kebbi State, cultural dance troupe from Benue State, a dying pit in Daura, Katsina State, and many more are very thrilling.
Our festivals over the years have been attracting lots of tourists. Sango Festival in Oyo State has been exported to over 40 countries in the world today. In spite of Ebola outbreak, Osun Oshogbo in 2014 recorded over 12,000 tourist arrivals with almost N20million related expenditure.
However, in comparison with the Rio Carnival of Brazil and Notting Hill Carnival in UK, our festivals are not really there yet due to lack of adequate funds, inadequate infrastructures, negative image of Nigeria internationally, lack of proper awareness among our people and of course over dependence on oil revenue.
What effort is NTDC putting to ensure the hospitality industry in Nigeria competes favourably with its counterparts?
Under my administration, NTDC is really doing a lot. We have begun the campaign for domestic tourism in Nigeria with the authentication of tourist sites in the six geo-political zones with Aokpe Pilgrimage Centre being authenticated recently under religious tourism. Also, we have compiled a domestic tourism calendar of all our festivals; we have redesigned our web portal to make it more informative and user friendly.
We have also been able to successfully bridge the gap between the public sector and the private sector through successful public private partnership (PPP). NTDC’s partnership with Viko Group of Companies limited has opened six tourism information desks at Abuja, Lagos (2), Kano, Calabar and Enugu airports. This is part of the corporation’s effort towards promoting domestic tourism, disseminate tourism information, assist in gathering and collating data of tourists entering Nigeria and to create jobs for our teeming unemployed youth.
The game changer is a tourism bond and a tourism departure levy. For example, a tourist may have seen the slave trade story from other African countries’ perspectives but the story is not complete until they have visited Nigeria for the last part of the jigsaw. They may enjoy golf and so want to play in the sunshine which we have an abundance of, but be surrounded by first-class amenities at a price that represents value. The tourist may want to travel across water to an offshore beach resort just as he does in Tanzania or Zanzibar. He or she may want an ecological experience and yet know that when they get back to base they too have comfort, a great meal and seamless internet connections. The tourist may want a well-planned tour of durbars and festivals but know that at each place he will be spending the night in comfortable world-class accommodation that enhances the experience. We want to create family-holiday destinations whether these are at beaches, water parks or even focused around Nigeria’s numerous lakes. There are ideas that we need to focus and galvanise to create a product that meets all health and safety requirements.
It is being said that countries like UK, Russia, Ukraine even Ghana are making a lot of money through educational tourism. Many of our people go there for study. What can NTDC do to help Nigeria gain from this thriving industry?
We have begun talks with the Ministry of Education to see how tourism can be included in the curriculum of primary school level education. Children can visit zoos, understand ecotourism and visit tourism sites as part of their schoolwork. That way we can create a paradigm shift from a very young age
Nigeria depends on crude for sustenance and in the face of dwindling fortune of crude oil, how do you think tourism can be positioned to generate revenue?
Tourism is about providing assets for people to invest in. We intend to launch a tourism bond underpinned by what will be secure revenue stream generated from a prospective tourism development levied on departures. The bond will give us the money we need for investment in the six projects today and these investments will create jobs; careers, transfer of skills and the right product.
The yield on the bond will recognise that we want investment and recognises where we are on the tourism ladder today. It’s all about upside. People will not invest in assets unless there is a revenue stream from that investment and a return on their capital. What are the assets we have in Nigeria? Nigeria is blessed with waterfalls, caves, hotels, parks, sandy beaches, large lakes, and historic sites. Nigeria is able to offer a range of tourism experiences applicable to the general holidaymaker as well as the traveller looking for something off the beaten track. To invest in tourism, there must be clarity on how people can invest their tourism dollars for a fixed period, how they can monetise this tourism investment and how they can see a clear path for exit or onward sale of their investment, if need be. My idea is to identify for investment, tourism projects aimed at specific tourists and to create an enabling environment that respects and encourages this investment.
And the first step is to identify six projects in the six geopolitical zones that will benefit from investment and bring these investments up to a world standard. I see a read-across for Nigerian tourism with countries like Morocco, Tanzania, Vietnam, Zambia, Rwanda, South Africa, parts of the Caribbean and even Peru in terms of creating a unique experience not to mention beach experience and golfing experience, where with the right type of investment we will provide alternatives to Morocco and parts of the Caribbean. We are a friendly nation welcoming of visitors. Once identified, I intend to put the six (specific) projects into a prospectus which should be a document that forms the compendium of opportunities we are inviting people to invest in.
Where do you see tourism in the next five years?
With the right funding and necessary support in place, Nigeria will become the most preferred destination of choice. Tourism in Nigeria will be very competitive as with other countries of the world. Nigeria cannot continue to remain a mono economy. My dream for Nigeria’s tourism is for youth involvement in tourism, make Nigeria a thriving domestic tourism haven; in two years, have at least one decent tourism site per geo-political zone and 2-3 in five years in each zone, encourage developmental journalism by Nigerian press, include tourism in primary and secondary schools’ curricular. Domestic tourism is a phenomenon identified to hold key to the development of many developed countries. If it is properly planned, developed, controlled and marketed, it is capable of sustaining the economy and checking rural-urban migration in Nigeria.
Being the executive director of a commercial bank, lawyer, wife, mother, a technocrat, amongst many other things, how has it been as the DG so far?
Being the DG NTDC so far, God has been faithful and merciful to me. Since I became the NTDC DG in May 2013, I have given the corporation a new direction. I have drawn up a new roadmap navigating new frontiers in tourism. An important priority here is the focus on creating synergy by developing the local content of the tourism industry. Creating synergy is crucial, that is why the promotion of domestic as a source of generating revenue and creating jobs is on the right line.
You are also a philanthropist; the founder of Sally Mbanefo Foundation, being the NTDC DG in a country that an average person lives below the dollar, how have you managed to make your tenure a success?
My success is putting my staff first by treating them as a human capital asset; the most valuable asset. Philanthropist may not be the word to describe me, I believe that God blessed me with careers that have empowered me and as such all that I have earned or received from God belong to God through the poor. I do what I do because it is what God expects from me. Not because I am a philanthropist who would give back without thinking of God. I give because I believe all I have belongs to God and I will make every under privileged child happy by showing my love for God through them. I love working for God because he says whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me.
This came to me as a surprise, when researching you I found out you are also a painter. I know women multitask but this is taking it up the notch. Do you drive tractors too?
Yes, I love trucks and tractors, and art is my life.
On a lighter mood, were you ever a beauty queen?
No, of course not! I don’t need a panel of judges to tell me whether I am beautiful or not. I believe every one created by God is beautiful in one way or another, some subtler than others, yet God has created a fit for every creature he made.
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