Thursday, December 30, 2010


It was during Christmas. No, actually some days before Christmas. Edna woke me up with a ring.

“Hey beautiful, Merry Christmas in advance” I answered with dreamy eyes.
 “Hi, handsome, how was your night?” she asked.
“Mine was wonderful, I saw you in my dreams,” I was just about to dive into the actual lines of Brad Paisley’s song when she cut me short. Normally, she would have let me finish the first lines.

“Please can we see later today, it’s urgent,” she said.
“You missed me that much, didn’t ya?” I teased. She laughed cautiously.
“You can say that. But, please… this is very urgent,” she said. Was that a shudder in her voice?
“Hey, but I thought we agreed to meet tomorrow?” I asked confusedly.
“Sorry, plans have changed, this is about something else,” she replied. If there was one thing I have not learnt yet, it was refusing Edna’s requests.
“Oky doki, aboki. Your wish is not necessarily my command. But you know I would do anything for you,” I said matter-of-factly.

“Yes I do,” she replied, seriously. She always said that with a chuckle. And my thoughts went into speed mode. That sounded really good. I could only visualize one thing. I remembered father’s words. “No ‘buts’. Be decisive. Still, think it through. Pick your favourite spot. Or better still, give her a surprise. But make sure you do it right. Seize the moment and make her yours. Take a chance," father had told me.
Was that ‘right’ moment presenting itself now?

“Em, it better be good, with you interrupting a beautiful dream and disrupting my schedule today,” I replied with a hesitant chuckle.

It was like the phone went dead. But I could still hear her breathing, anxiously.

“Hey, what’s the matter baby? You know you can always talk to me…” Before I finished, the taps opened at the other end. Edna is never one to cry out loud. But I could hear the hurt in her tears as she dabbed it from her cheeks and sniffed repeatedly. Many times in the past, I have been a shoulder for her to lean on. “Though my shoulders are not so muscular and broad, it would always be here for you to lean on,” she often teased me with that.
“I can’t talk about it on the phone,” she managed to say after she calmed down.

Six hours later, we were together at our favourite hang-out. This was where I ‘officially’ asked her out. Maybe this was our ‘it’ moment. I got there before her just to make sure I saw her come through the doors. She did minutes after I got there, looking all resplendent and as beautiful as ever. Yet, I could feel something was missing. Her smile from afar when she saw me was plastic. On a closer look, there were traces of uncertainty in her eyes. It was so unlike Edna.

“I’ve missed you,” I said as we hugged. The last time we saw was a week ago as she had to travel on official duty. She melted into my arms and held me tightly for a while longer. I could feel her heartbeat. Tensed. Rapid. It was not in sync with mine. Brace yourself, I whispered to Me.  When we eventually sat down, after like ages in each other’s arms, I handed her an early Christmas gift. It was enclosed in a wrap decorated with the love emblem. She hugged me again.

"Thank you so much, dear," she said with a pool of tears welling in her eyes. Just when I was wondering why the emotions were running high, she unveiled a rude Christmas surprise I never wished for.

Approximately ten minutes later, a few days before last Christmas, Edna and I became history.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Most times, first impressions always count. After thirty days across five cities and a thousand and one pleasant memories afterwards, one can confidently say that the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa certainly lived up to its hype as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
After a five and a half hour flight from Lagos Murtala Mohammed International Airport, to Oliver Thambo Airport, Johannesburg on Sunday, June 13. At Johannesburg airport, my 2010 World Cup memoirs began. I met with Nigerian music superstars, Alariwo and Sunny Neji, who had also just arrived. After exchanging pleasantries and taking pictures with them, the South African airport cab driver welcomed me to his country with a five hundred and fifty rands (eleven thousand naira) fare for a less than forty minute drive to the guest Lodge situated at Randburg, a prominent area in the heart of Johannesburg. On a later check, I discovered that the fare could have been at least one hundred and fifty Rands lesser. Well, that was my unofficial welcome. The next day, in the company of other Nigerian journalists, I went to get my FIFA accreditation badge at the Ellis Park stadium. The process was smooth and it was less than five minutes, a different scenario to Nigeria 2009 FIFA Under-17 World Cup, where the accreditation process in most of the centres left much to be desired.

With all the news about the rate of crime in South Africa plus the unfortunate experience of some foreign journalists’ just days to the World Cup kick-off, I deliberately refused to go into the city alone until three days after my arrival, when I visited the Supermarket and went sight-seeing to get used to my new environment. With that, the fear factor was effectively silenced. My Nigerian colleagues took a cue and also were bold enough to explore Johannesburg beyond the now routine private taxi shuttle between the guest lodge and Ellis Park stadium.

Reliving any World Cup experience could make a book series. So, let’s just stick with some highlights of the good, the bad and the ugly. Of course, the memorable experiences were more numerous - meeting honest, hardworking Nigerian professionals, discovering a Nigerian restaurant where one could get weekly doses of eba, pounded yam and egusi soup or vegetables, travelling to watch the Super Eagles play in Bloemfontein and Durban, meeting current and ex-football stars, international media icons like CNN’s Pedro Pinto and ESPN’s Gabriel Marcotti, networking with people across the world, getting Arsenal and Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas to sign an autograph, exploring South Africa’s social life and the popular FIFA Fan Fests, having an exclusive chat with the renowned Danny Jordaan (the mastermind behind the success of South Africa 2010), daily witnessing how much football ignited passion, inspired patriotism and united a multi-racial and cultural society, 
witnessing the heroic reception accorded the Black Stars of Ghana on the streets of Soweto, and of course watching the 2010 World Cup matches live, including the Spain versus Netherlands final in Soccer City - these were some memorable experiences. I also met a lot of friendly South Africans and amazing football fans from across the world during my stay, including one football loving American who had attended five successive World Cups starting with USA 1994.

The good thing about South Africa was its cultural, organisational and infrastructural delight. Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban or Capetown was almost as good as being in any of the notable European cities; organised traffic, twenty fours electricity (except for the few hours cut I witnessed once due to South African Power company ESKOM’s bid to manage high electricity consumption rate during the World Cup), the speed of internet browsing, and ease of shopping and transportation. Although, every country has its vices and law breakers, South Africa, unlike Nigeria, is a well structured and regulated society. On numerous occasions, fellow Nigerians lamented when they saw the level of organisation in the South African system and way of life. After further trips and experiences, it was a depressing to admit that Nigeria, acclaimed giant of Africa, had a lot of growing up to do if it was to catch up with South Africa in terms of infrastructural development.

Although there are many hard working and respected Nigerian professionals in South Africa, there were still some whose actions greatly malign the image of the country. But like is common with humans, some South Africans make the mistake of assuming most Nigerians are scammers, 419ers or drug peddlers. Before one of the matches at Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, I had an interesting interaction with a cheerful South African family. The moment I mentioned that I was Nigerian, the man quipped, “Oh, do you have pills (drugs)?” And the daughter blurted out “Daddy!” in a bid to reprimand his sarcasm. But, ‘Daddy’ was not done yet. He continued, looking at me slyly. “I will tell you anything you want to know, but I won’t be giving you my bank account details,” That got me. I had to ‘rebrand’ him about Nigeria being a great nation and Nigerians being good people. In the end he made me see understand that, although South Africans unfairly generalise Nigerians under the tag of 419ers and criminals because of a minority group, the Nigerian government seems not to be doing much to publicise or showcase the good things about the country to the rest of the world. “Your government should talk more about these good things so that the world would see your country differently. See what the World Cup has done for the image of South Africa,” he pointed out. I totally agreed. Afterwards, we threw some more banter and took pictures together. Dora Akunyili should have been there to watch me ‘rebranding’ Nigeria for good.

The bad news was that the crime stories were not fabricated. During a stroll with a friend outside Ellis Park stadium, we sighted a suspicious looking man monitoring our movement. Luckily, a policeman was around the corner. So, I walked up to him and explained my fear. “Don’t worry, he cannot get near you. We Johannesburg police carry arms,” he said smiling, as he showed me his weapon and then continued with controlling the traffic to the stadium. Although, the South African police and security operatives should be commended for their efforts, the reported crime rates were as real as the thieves who stole the photograph equipment and laptop of an American journalist in the media shuttle; as real as the passengers who robbed a Ugandan journalist of his accreditation badge, expensive phones and a sizable amount of money on his way home; and as real as the touts who tried to rob me at Johannesburg Park Station, on my way back from the Germany versus Spain semi-final match played in Durban on July 7. On alighting at Park Station, I decided, on intuition, to pull off my accreditation badge. Just a few minutes later, two park touts came from nowhere and blocked my path. They both asked me to give them a hundred Rands each for ‘drinks’. I was miffed. I brought out all the coins, cents, maybe about 10 Rands in all, handed it to them and made to proceed. They stopped me on my tracks and one threatened to shoot me if I didn’t give them more money. My laptop, digital camera and other essentials were in my bag. So, on a second thought, I channelled my anger to my feet, shoved them off and dashed into the closest building, a supermarket. From afar, they watched me while haggling beside other buses. When I explained what happened to the Indian owner of the store, he was understandably annoyed. “You should have punched him in the face,” he reasoned. 
Luckily, I got the store’s security guard to escort me ten minutes to the nearest taxi station. “They are just lazy, hungry black men who don’t want to work to make decent money,” the security man said. Out of appreciation, I handed him ten rands. He hugged me grateful. At least, there were still honest, hardworking black South African men out there in crime-infested down town Johannesburg.
Although South Africa’s crime rate looked indeed scary, but it was not the prediction of doom and gloom that most of the Western media projected for the World Cup. “Many of the countries who raised this issue actually came to me to apologise personally, to say that, ‘you know, we were wrong about a lot of things in your country, because we had a wonderful time here. The people of the country have been wonderful, warm, embracing and celebratory, and just made us feel so welcome,” Jordaan told me days before the final match on July 13. Making sure South Africa hosted an excellent 2010 World Cup had been his mission for the past sixteen years and he handled it not only professionally and productively, but patriotically as well.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Sani Kaita certainly qualify for the Ugly. For reasons best known to them, they denied Nigeria a chance of extending their stay at Africa’s first World Cup. The next day after the match against Greece, there was much talk in the South African media about 1,000 death threats to Kaita. It made cover headlines in some South African newspapers. Peterside Idah had to clarify the issue with the international media a day to Nigeria’s make or mar match against South Korea. It was a tense press conference atmosphere. “In Nigeria, when someone says, ‘I go kill you oh,’ it does not literally mean that he wants to kill you. That person is just trying to tell you that he is really angry with you,” Idah tried to explain to the bewildered international media and FIFA officials. 
Everyone in the hall had a good laugh about it and after the Eagles’ press conference, the joke was now on Nigerian journalists present. As we walked out singularly or in groups, the foreign journalist would look at us and go “I go kill you oh,” and another round of laughter followed. But, Yakubu Aiyegbeni’s blunder in front of goal (arguably the miss of the tournament) the next day June 23, the joke was all but lost. As a result of the Eagles’ ouster, many of my Nigerian colleagues made up their mind not to stay a week longer in South Africa. But I vehemently refused every Kaitastrophic or Yakubutrocious happening from spoiling my World Cup party. Eighteen days later, I was live in Soccer City on July 11, lapping every bit of a golden World Cup experience as Spain lifted the FIFA World Cup trophy for the first time. 
It's certainly a privilege to be part of the pages in the golden books of history.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Renowned as Africa’s biggest music award, the MTV Africa Music Award (MAMA) which held in Lagos recently, lived up to its hype.
On December 11, 2010, the New Expo Hall of the Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos, witnessed a spectacular transformation like never before when it hosted the third edition of the MTV Africa Music Awards, otherwise known as MAMA. And with the high level of efficiency and deft organization on display, the organizers seemingly gave their Nigerian counterparts an intensive study lesson in sound arrangements, choreography, stage craft and lightning, choreography and camera works. Most importantly, MAMA lived up to its reputation as Africa’s biggest music award with its excellent organization.

Probably the most visible lapse was the delayed start of the event, which started one hour late. When the night eventually opened up, it was worth the wait; with an explosive performance by US hip hop superstar Rick Ross, which got the crowd caught up in musical rapture. US hip hop diva and actress Eve didn’t help matters when she later made a spectacular entrance onto the stage as the host. Later, she also performed alongside Sasha and other African acts. MAMA’s Pan-African nature was also in full display. The collaborations among African artistes and the infusion of different styles of music from around the continent were major highlights; from Nigeria’s Tuface Idibia’s afro Hip Hop fusion with the sound of South Africa’s rock band Parlotones, to Fally Ipupa’s Congolese dance moves and the up tempo beat of South Africa’s Jozi. The other memorable performance was the scintillating ‘African remix’ of Banky W’s Lagos Party which featured Barbara Kanam from DRC, Carbo Snoop and Paul G (from Angola), as well as South Africa’s trio Big Nuz. Another highlight was when Nollywood diva Genevieve Nnaji and music superstar Dbanj came on stage to present one of the awards, only to stoke the fires of their rumoured love affair.

However, Africa’s biggest music award night belonged to Tuface and Fally Ipupa, who carted home two trophies each. Tuface won for Best Male and Artiste of the Year, while Fally won Best Francophone Act and Best Video for Sexy Dance. 20-year-old Mo Cheddah became one of the youngest winner of a MAMA when she picked up the trophy for Brand:New, a category which recognizes rising stars tipped by MTV for success. Considering Mo Cheddah’s vocal intelligence, very few would disagree with that assertion. Sasha emerged the Best Female in a category that included 2009 MOBO Award winner Nneka while P Square picked up their third consecutive trophy for Best Group. Cabo Snoop became Angola’s first MAMA winner as he emerged the Best Lusophone act, while Kenyan Gospel artist Daddy Owen won the inaugural Best Anglophone award and also became the first gospel artiste to ever win a MAMA. It was two for South Africa as the South African pop/R & B group Liquideep won the Song of the Year category for their enchanting 'Fairytale'. Big Nuz went home with the newly introduced Best Performance award. The prestigious Best International act was won by Eminem who accepted the award via satellite from the USA.  The MAMA Legend award, won by the late South African songstress Miriam Makeba, was presented by Public Enemy founder and hip hop pioneer Chuck D. Guest presenters and celebrity guests included Nneka, Daniel Amokachi, Oluchi, Julius Agwu, Genevieve Nnaji, Ba Ponga, Dama do Bling, and fashion designer Lisa Foluniyo. 

The 2010 edition closed with a memorable performance by US Hip Hop star T-Pain and the rendition of ‘Win’ featuring T-Pain, Rick Ross, Da LES and Tuface. When other artistes came on to join them on the stage, the crowd made their own curtain call by chanting the names of both Rick Ross and T-Pain. The 2010 edition of the MTV Africa Music Award was sponsored by Airtel in association with MasterCard.  Other partners supported the event include Arik Air and the Lagos State Government. “Tonight’s MTV Africa Music Awards with Airtel was a joyful and uplifting celebration of African youth culture and music. It brought together the best talent from across Africa to showcase the incredible music that Africa has to offer to the world,” noted Alex Okosi, Senior Vice President & Managing Director, MTV Networks Africa.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Five months ago, she wrote on her Facebook wall, “Life is beautiful, how many see it thus? Full of energy and opportunities,”… Maybe that was what defined Efemena Orevaoghene Benedicta in some ways. She was beautiful in every sense of the word, charming and so full of life. Her energy and enthusiasm was so contagious and she unlocked opportunities, with her gift and effervescent personality. Oreva was simply an amazing woman.

I can’t exactly remember my first meeting with Oreva. But I can certainly recollect the impression. She was one with a special gift and exuding so much passion for life. I remember the joy of her laughter, the way she relishes her every infectious and heavenly smile. I remember the way she bobs her hair and turns her head… “It’s a like a dream. And we are moving through the motions. Oreva has acted her script and has exited the stage of life,” wrote Fome, her elder sister on her Facebook wall. She’s not alone. Someone please wake us all up.

I remember one of my many performances in WLCF. This one was special for many reasons. One, it was one of my very outstanding acts, two, it was so full of energy, inspiration and impact. Three, it had Oreva, along with Ivie Onakpoya,. They were the major reason for the other two. I needed backup vocals for a gospel rap I was to perform that Sunday and couldn’t find one then. So I called up Oreva. Despite the short notice, she made out time from her studies, minstrels schedules etc to rehearse the chorus with me. The rehearsal was brief, because I was dealing with a pro. She walked, talked and lived music. When we did the song, the finesse, skill and richness of Oreva’s (and Ivie’s) voice doing the chorus came through like Alicia Keys on Jay Z’s Empire State of Mind. Only that this was a God State of Mind. Oreva was the cream. Ivie was the sugar. Both combined to make that gospel rap performance a hit that many asked me later who did the original. Funny, that was the original. Oreva and co were simply divine and original on those chorus lines. Oreva was special. Like she always was in every other performance. In every ministration. In every song. In life.

It’s all coming back to me now. I don’t have the tape anymore, but it plays vividly in my memory now. All I can hear now is Oreva’s silky hooks, dynamics, lines and vocals. I called her our own Lauryn Hill and she would laugh (Alicia Keys wasn’t really famous then). After that performance, I listened to the recording many times on end, beyond my rap verses, to hear the richness of her silky, beautiful chorus lines. … “I know I can. Be what I wanna be. Do what I gotta do. Go where I wanna go….” Dear Lord. She’s gone now. Oh, the wonderful memories…

Oreva was gifted. She was amazing. She was truly special. The way she sings. The way she shed tears of reverence in the throes of leading undiluted, unbridled worship to God the King at ATSCAN Hall and many others across the nation. The way she danced, bobbed her hair, turned her head, totally enveloped in Heavenly praises. The way she literally lifted people with her energy, finesse, skill, passion and power while leading praises, singing with the WLCF Minstrels or doing a solo…

Ah Oreva! You could have given a cue.

On Peak Talent Show audition, where she sang Asa’s Jailer, that was Oreva at the least of her vocal prowess. She was one of the most gifted and passionate female vocalists I ever knew. Maybe her unexpected exit is a wakeup call to those others whom God has so blessed with such amazing gifts to rise up to the calling and music of the Kingdom. It was all that mattered for Oreva. She was consistent, focused, independent, so much passion for God, her calling and ministry, passionate about life and people. Passionate about making things happen. Despite not being an official member, I remember when she joined Publication Team on one or two Sundays, just to help ‘market’ WLCF bulletin… she just wanted to be involved, to contribute her quota to Kingdom cause. As programmes director, I remember how she just literally wanted to make things happen. She loved taking chances, seizing opportunities with both hands, trying new dynamics; she desired much for herself, as well as for others….

It’s a call for us to live better lives; lives that God and Heaven would be proud of, every inch of the way, every moment of our stay here on earth.

Oreva. You embodied excellence for God’s Kingdom. I wished I had kept in touch and let you know that I felt so excited and proud of you when I read your interview piece in the Punch newspapers. I wished I had called to let you know that your performance on Peak Talent Show was awesome and that you could certainly do much better. I only told you on Facebook. I hope you read my post and saw that I was proud of you, and how consistent you were with using your God-given talent to reach out and bless people.

I screamed in delight when I saw your interview in the Punch and watched you on Peak Talent Show audition. Now it all feels so numb. So many questions. But who are we, mere mortals, to question the I Am That I Am. Who are we to question His Omniscience? God knows best why He had to let you go now when we thought you had finally come to lay your rightful claim to the music stage for Him.

Ah Oreva! Gone too soon. But, yes you are Oreva4ever, for the melody of your beautiful but painfully short life would forever play in many hearts. From Delta, Ekiti to Lagos and beyond; in the lives of those you touched and influenced with the sound of your music, your gift and personality. God, who loves you more, knows why He let you go at this time of your life, just when you were poised for more impact. If there is any solace in this, it is that another glorious angelic voice has departed to join Heaven’s chorus.

“Sweetheart, you ran with all God placed in you. You exuded so much life! May the Lord comfort your family and friends. It's so hard to believe. May your soul rest in peace even as the Lord says to you well done, thou good and faithful servant. Longevity has its place but when you impact lives the way you did, we can berest assured knowing you are happy in heaven. Keep being an awesome minstrel. Much luv Oreva,” wrote Alero on your Facebook wall. I would like you to know that your name is beautifully engraved on the walls in the chapel of the cathedral of many hearts.

Oreva. For the impact you made. We will always remember.Yours was a celebration of life!
Oreva4ever. It doesn’t matter how you died. All that matters was how you lived. Rich. Full. Special. For God. For humanity.

Rest in peace. And may the Lord comfort your family and friends.