Controversy has raged on a recent report of what had allegedly become of Sade Ajala that the Juju maestro, Ebenezer Obey-Fabiyi praised in an old record in the early 70s. The legendary musician praised the woman for her beauty and wealth. But in the story that was well circulated, in the social media, the once famous woman was said to have turned a destitute being catered for by the Red Cross in Ibadan, Oyo State. In this interview with ADEOLA BALOGUN, Chief Obey-Fabiyi talks about the sick lady and the woman he praised years ago
You once sang in praise of one Sade in the 70s but there is a report of the same woman who is said to have become a destitute in Ibadan…
People have been calling me to say all manner of things about a woman in Ibadan that they claimed to be Sade Ajala that I praised in my song decades ago. They said they saw her in Ibadan living as a destitute. Of course, in the 70s, I praised her husband called Ajala. I sang: /Ajala travels all over the world/Ajala travels all over the world/ Ajala travels/Ajala travels/Ajala travels all over the world. Then I sang about his wife, Sade thus: /Oremi kama puro/kamu tegan kuro/Sade dara lobinrin. They said that is the woman that is in Ibadan. But when I saw the interview that the so-called Sade gave, the woman herself said she is not the Sade but that she only loved dancing; that she used to be a good dancer. That was what she said. And when I looked at her, she is not the Sade I praised. The Sade that was Ajala’s wife happened to be two years my junior in school. Her maiden name was Sade George; she had an elder sister called Aina George. So when all this happened, I started to trace them. I have been trying to reach out to our old classmates and friends. I was told that her elder sister, Aina, had died. Somebody said Sade herself is dead, somebody said she is not dead but I have not been able to get the true story. But I told the people that called me that they should please do something for me, go to where they said they saw the woman, even though it is not the Sade I sang about, whosoever Sade that she is, she is a human being. And from the way I saw her, she might be suffering mental challenge. We are not supposed to be mocking her; we are supposed to show empathy. They said she had an accident and she was probably taken to UCH for treatment or something. And I said please go there, take her to anywhere they can rehabilitate her and I am ready to pay. Even though I don’t know her from Adam, if she gets back to her senses, it is better than for her to be mocked around with her reported condition. We should be Good Samaritans that Jesus spoke about in the Bible. In Luke 10: 25-37, Jesus told us the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is about a traveller who was attacked, beaten, and left half dead alongside the road. First a priest and then a Levite came by, but both avoided the man. While the first two Levites that saw him looked away perhaps out of fear of being accused of being responsible for his condition, finally, a Samaritan came and helped the man. The third man took the wounded man on his horse and took him to what we can call a hospital today for possible treatment. He paid for his treatment and said, I am on a journey, please take care of this man. When I return, if I need to pay more, I will pay. That is a good Samaritan; that is what I want to be in this case. So I am ready to be the good Samaritan , I am ready to pay for her rehabilitation but I cannot go to Ibadan to do all those things myself. If it is the old people’s home, let them take her there and from there, let them take her to the hospital; I can take care of the bill. I want to look for a church that can take charge. I don’t have any branch of my church in Ibadan, otherwise I would have asked that she should be picked up. That is the love that Jesus taught, not that we should be making mockery of our fellow human beings. God is love.
Even if it was the Sade that you sang her praise, would you have regretted that you sang for her with what was reported to have happened to her?
My dear brother, people who are alive today, do they know what can happen to them tomorrow? When the president was sick, some people were trying to say uncomplimentary things about his condition but they were cautioned that you don’t say bad things about a sick person because nobody is above sickness. Anybody can fall sick anytime; it is not the prayer of the person that falls sick to be sick. Thank God it is not that Sade anyway. When we were young, they used to teach us a song: enikeni ti wo ba nipa lati se iranlowo fun o, oun naa lenikeji re, toju re. (Whoever you have the capacity to help, go ahead and help because that is your friend, take care of him). We must be our brother’s keeper. It is a pity they say the woman is in Ibadan, if it were to be Lagos, oh, I would send people from my church to pick her and clean her up. Those who are saying the sick woman is the Sade I praised are probably thinking that it is rather strange for a once popular person who caught the attention of musicians in the early 70s to have turned a destitute today. Who knows what can happen to them tomorrow or in the next instant? We must be good people and good people don’t mock one another.
But there is a picture of the same Sade where it was said she celebrated her 80th birthday sometimes last year.
That cannot be true. As I said, she was two years my junior in school. In a few days, I will be 76, so if she is still alive, which I hope, she can’t be 80 years. People are saying all manners of things because a certain woman says she is Sade. So since she is Sade, she must be the one praised by Ebenezer Obey. The social media can be very interesting and anything put up there spreads like wildfire. The picture of the woman that I saw is definitely not the Sade I praised in my song. Thank God the so-called woman said so in her own words. Even if she was the one, what has that got to do with what could happen to mere human beings in life?
Are we expecting an elaborate birthday this year?
This year, all I want to do is about three things and they are all low key; it is not going to be like last year that we celebrated it so big and elaborately. Of course, I must give thanks to God. There is something I will be doing in the church to give thanks to God. And of course, Ebenezer Obey Music Foundation will be doing much. The foundation is doing youth empowerment and vocational training. One thing that is missing in our society today is that the youth are not adequately taken care of. We will be having a music school and mentorship, skills acquisition. We want to have a 250 seater ICT centre, that can be extended to 500 where they are empowered. We believe that it is not enough to be churning out thousands of graduates every year without employment. We need to encourage them in agriculture, in skills acquisition, in music and mentorship and scholarships. Those are the things that Ebenezer Obey Music Foundation will be doing. It is something bigger than myself; it is not what I can do alone but I am getting support from friends and well wishers to realise all that. I believe that I can, with the support of those who believe in me, do all these.
Why are you so passionate about agriculture or are you doing farming aside?
I am venturing into agric because I see it as our tomorrow in Nigeria. All Nigerians must be involved in agriculture; that is the future. The land is there, God has made everything. All we need to do is just to put something there and nurture it. If we can grow the food that the whole world will eat, it can never be enough. If we only concentrate on agriculture, growing what we eat and what others eat, that is enough. I am old now but I can contribute my quota; I can encourage the youth instead of just watching them roaming the streets in the name of looking for job. There is money in Nigeria but many people are shy of doing rough jobs here whereas when they travel abroad, they do all manner of odd jobs. When they get to America, they wash plates, wash corpses and carry shit of old people. When I was young, my mother never wanted me to be a labourer or do any odd jobs; she was ready to provide whatever I wanted but I myself, without telling anybody, would go to where nobody knew me and would do all manner of jobs. I would carry blocks earning one and six; and I would buy ‘kolobe’. I would use three pence to eat in the morning, another three pence to eat in the afternoon, all out of the one and six. And I saved the rest and my mother would never know. I did all that because my mother did so much to labour for her children and I said I must do something to take care of myself. I became a vendor, nobody sent me there. I would wake up very early and go to Idi Oro to go and queue for papers. Daily Times, West African Pilot, those were the newspapers then and I was everywhere selling them.
But you are not a politician, why going into youth empowerment?
You don’t have to be a politician to impact lives. My entire life is nothing but God. I am in the ministry already and in the ministry, we are doing what we can do to make a difference; to have a legacy. It is part of the ministry but it is not religious. If you do something for the masses, for the youths, then we have a better Nigeria.