Commander Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi, one of Nigeriaâ€™s living music legends, has remained in the consciousness of many music lovers for more than 60 unbroken years. Obey, who turned 75 recently, said he discovered his music talent through divine encounters when he was in the primary school. He formed his own band in 1957. Undoubtedly, Obey has pushed his music into the evergreen realm, having waxed many records that have continued to be admired especially on account of their philosophical lyrics.
At some point in his music career, Obey branched into gospel music but he is back into his own unique dimension of music, though, still with spiritual undertones. During my interview with him in his Ikeja home, I asked him what he would regard as the secrets of his continued relevance in his trade. He said without mincing words: â€œPrayers, hardwork and unwavering commitment to my assignment.â€ I also asked him what he would like to be remembered for at the end of his life journey. His response: â€œI leave that to the public; I have done my part to the best of my knowledge. I cannot write my own epitaphâ€¦.â€ Please enjoy the insights.
Donâ€™t trivialise Your God-given Passion.
When I look at how I got into music, the only conclusion I could arrive at is this: God is the key influence that shapes us into who we ultimately become. He is the porter and we are just the clay. I was influenced into music from the church. I used to disturb the choir when I was still crawling, pulling their drums out, and they took notice of that. I became a member of the school band, and it was from there I noticed I was popular. When I gained an admission into the school, they would begin to shout â€œObey, Obeyâ€, which interesting enough was not my real name. I got that name from my classmates in primary school because I used to tell them to obey our teachersâ€™ instructions which they were fond of transgressing. They knew me for my expertise; I was good at beating drums, singing, and I used to be in the entertainment group â€“I was the main actor. Ultimately, I formed my own band in 1957, and I have done over 100 records till date.
The lesson is, donâ€™t trivialise the passion God is planting in your heart; it could lead to something great.
To prayers, add hard work and diligence.
Sometimes people ask me what I would regard as the key secret that has kept me relevant for 60 straight years in my music career. Without hesitation, I say prayers and hard work plus diligence. Unfortunately, many people concentrate on prayers alone without adding the key virtues of diligence and hard work. The three must go together. Hard work helped my ambition and aspiration. When you are asking, when you are praying, it doesnâ€™tjust happen. You have to combine this with hard workand unwavering commitment to your assignment. The great lesson I have learnt is, you must put your spirit into whatever you are doing. And, when you combine this with prayers, success is guaranteed.
God always sends helpers in times of troubles.
There is one reality we all have to embrace if we want to enjoy our lives. It is this: whether you anticipate it or not, expect crises to show up. Crises can come at any point in your career and in your life. Nobody has the power to say that he/she doesnâ€™t want crises. At times they may affect you or bring you down, but you must not forget something â€“ that God would also send helpers at the critical time. The greatest crisis in my career came when I made a bad business decision that left me bankrupt for 10 years. But God sent a man to get me out of bankruptcy. He would not want me to mention this,but I have to specially thank Chief Mike Adenuga for allowing God to use him to help me. The level of financial intervention was so huge and consistent that I am afraid to mention it in figures. My prayer is that God will keep him alive and help him. I am also using this opportunity to thank my numerous fans and partners who have always helped in many ways.
No one is disadvantaged in life.
One big lesson I have learnt is that nobody is disadvantaged in life. Your background and where you come from have very little to do with what you eventually become in life: it is what you are able to make out of the little you have been given. Sometimes people ask me how come you speak good English when you did not have more than primary education. When I discovered I would not go too far without working on my intellect, I made it a project. I started to read good books and interact with people who are knowledgeable.As I travelled round the world, I made it a point of duty to learn something new from every country I went and from individuals I met. Donâ€™t let it ever cross your mind that you can fail. I also observed that some of the globalbillionaires we have today dropped out of schools. Some of them ended up engaging professors as staff. My advice: start with what you have, from where you are,and keep pushing.
Donâ€™t be attached to money.
This is one area where many people are missing it,especially when you look at what is going on in the country today where people are obsessed with making money by all means. Some are reported to have even kept money in burial grounds! Money is just a messenger, and you treat it so: send it on desired assignments. People pursue money for the sake of it because they lack understanding. You must not allow money to become your master; you must be master over money. If you want to buy a car, you send money on an errand. Once you start worshipping money, then corruption sets in.
Make your spouse your partner.
This is one great lesson I have learnt. This is especially applicable to men: your wife should be your best friend. If you are going to succeed in life, you must make your spouse your friend and partner. To me this is key. The nature of my work required that I was on the road virtually all the time, moving from one show to another. What I did with my late wife was to sit down with her and craft what I regarded as the rules and principles for running the house and for raising the children. They were strictly biblical principles which we both agreed should be enforced. Whether I was around or not, my late wife enforced all the rules to the letter without exception and that helped us in raising good children and relating with each other with very minimal strains. We were very close. My wifeâ€™s death was very painful. I actually expected that I would die before her, but God knows all. We should all prepare because death can come anytime. That informed why I have not remarried.
Let the Word of God become a food you eat daily.
The word of God should be the food that every child of God should eat everyday. The Bible is Godâ€™s Word. It teaches one how to live in Godâ€™s ways. When the Word of God dwells in you richly, you are removed from the magnetic field of Satan and placed within Godâ€™s protective radar. When you build your life on Godâ€™s Word, you are a wise person because when crises come, you will not be consumed.
Books that have helped?
â€œIn pursuit of excellenceâ€, by Tom Peters.
Myles Monroeâ€™s books
Pastor Enoch Adeboye and Pastor David Oyedepo books.
One, not factoring in the legal angle into business transactions.
I learnt this in a very hard way when I wanted to expand my music business into production of compact disks (CDs). Good enough, there was a company in the US that wanted to sell its CD production line. We negotiated everything and we signed the deal. But just as we were about to start shipping the equipment to Nigeria, we discovered there was a legal issue we did not consider. In short, we could not bring the equipment to Nigeria and I had borrowed money to finance the transaction. That was how I found myself in a messy financial problem. The interest was mounting, salaries were being owed and even some newspapers published damaging reports about it. That lasted about 10 years until God bailed me out. So, I advise that you engage qualified lawyers in all business transactions.
The second was that I fell into the traps most celebrities have difficulties in escaping by having secret relationships outside marriage. But thank God, my wife was understanding, and I became properly born again â€“old things have passed away.
â€œWhen you see, pretend like you have not seen, when you hear, pretend like you have not heard, and when you know, pretend like you do not know, and you would gain more knowledge.â€ I got it from my father. The Lesson? You would gain more wisdom if you can discipline yourself to observe and listen more than you talk. Those pieces of advice have saved me from much trouble.