I prostrated when Awolowo called me on phone – Ebenezer Obey


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Legendary musician, Ebenezer Obey has recounted the first encounter he had with the first Premier of the Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

Obey recounted the experience in an interview with Tribune newspaper.

The musician said he was so shocked when he received a phone call from the late sage that he prostrated on the floor on his end of the phone.

Obey made the disclosure while responding to a question on how he became the Awolowos family musician.

He said, “When Papa (Awolowo) was imprisoned in Calabar, I started waxing songs as a youngster to remind the public, especially the masses, of the good things Papa Awolowo had done, noting that he didn’t deserve being imprisoned. This I did till our prayers were answered and he was released. The first thing I discovered about Papa Awolowo is that he was a special human being. I learnt that someone played all the records I did for him when he came out of prison. On a particular day, my phone rang. I picked it and asked who was speaking. I heard a voice at the other end saying, ‘Hello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo lo n soro oo. Ebenezer, emi ni mo n soro.’ I was shocked and prostrated even though it was a phone call. I responded with repeated greetings. He said, ‘I want you to come and play for me at Ikenne on my birthday, March 6.’ I appreciated him for the honour and sealed the date instantly. I told him that we would be there on March 5 to set the stage. He then asked how much he would pay, but I insisted that he should not bother about the payment and that I would come and play for free. ‘I have to pay, because that is your source of livelihood,’ he responded. Then, I told him that I would appreciate any amount and he paid me 10 pounds. Another thing that surprised me about him was when he held a meeting where he said he wanted to appreciate people. He acknowledged many personalities from within and outside Nigeria and lastly, he called me out and said: ‘I want to specially thank Ebenezer Obey in the presence of everyone. You told me not to pay when I called you to perform at my birthday celebration, but I insisted. I want to thank you for allowing me to pay the price of my choice.’ I was astonished and tears flowed freely from my eyes, when I was returning home as a result of Papa’s compliments. I saw this as an encouragement and from that time, I discovered the kind of person he was. Our relationship eventually became solid and I became the family’s band musician.

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