The Chairman of THISDAY/ARISE Media Group, Nduka Obaigbena, last weekend in Owa-Oyibu, Delta State, in honour of his late mother, Princess Margaret Obaigbena, threw an elaborate, no-expense-barred carnival, shutting down a rather quiet town in celebrating a woman of great impact. Adedayo Adejobi writes
You cannot but be puzzled by death; a necessary end that will come when it will (to fetch from the wisdom of the famed Elizabethan writer, William Shakespeare). This was evident in the carnivalesque procession witnessed at Owa-Oyibu, where Mrs Margaret Obaigbena, the late mother of the Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of THISDAY/ARISE Media Group, Prince Nduka Obaigbena, was laid to rest.
Anyone would want to save his pennies to honour their dead with a proper send-off with such a colourful ambience.
The burial was witnessed by eminent Nigerians from all walks of life, who converged on the usually quiet town of Owa-Oyibu, the administrative headquarters of Ika North-East Local Government Area of Delta State, to pay their last respects to the deceased whose remains were interred at the Obaigbena royal family compound.
While some of the Victorian accoutrements and social customs have long since been discarded, Obaigbena, through the ingenuity of Bolanle Okusanya-Feyita’s LTJ Funeral Homes, brought to life the use of horse-drawn hearses. Leading the procession, Okusanye-Feyita, in braided hair art, scarf and gloves, alongside mourners, and pallbearers, wore military-like uniforms and crepe bands around their blue shirts, black hats, cream capes and the ladies wore blue corporate gowns, matching fascinators and gloves while dabbing at their faces black-edged handkerchiefs. Beautifully-decorated horses accompanied the white Escalade hearse carrying the body of the deceased. The dancers were sighted with batons, pages, mutes and feathers as they walked in procession from the royal home to the church and back; with songs, drums and brass renting the air. But then, there was something quite angelic about the choir…
The Heavenly South African Choir
For anyone who knows this choir, and has over the years followed the 80 to 140-man Stellenbosch University Choir, affiliated with Stellenbosch University, South Africa, you’d understand the nature of its distinct performance at the event. For Obaigbena to have had them headline the three-day event, clearly, they must be doing something right with choral music.
Performing among many other songs, their signature song, ‘Baba Yetu’, which essentially means the Lord’s Prayers in Swahili and means ‘Our Father’ in English, one could see the sheer joy and passion of the Conductor, André van der Merwe, who has since 2003 been in that role. Almost, if not all in the hall, had goosebumps. The harmony was mind-blowing, articulating trebles, tenors and altos in sheer interplay with the sopranos and the bass. It was indeed a great day to have ears.
Connecting to a diverse Nigerian audience, other songs performed by the elite choir spanned a variety of choral styles, artistry, cultural influences and a high level of musical fluency through mastery of a wide variety of repertoire.
As indicative of their performances, which cut across African traditional renditions, traditional cathedral choirs and ancient European choirs, the vastly talented students of Stellenbosch University Choir are not just a choir but a symphony orchestra.
On three different stages in three days, the Stellenbosch University Choir showed strength, vigour, excellence and diversity. Ideally, a flurry of thoughts would rush through one’s mind at the mention of South Africa, but when you hear them sing, a fresh well of peace, calm and a great dose of inexplicable joy overwhelms the listener who has heard so much unprintable news about South Africa.
Indeed, South Africa’s 86-year-old oldest Choir, Stellenbosch University Choir, is its country’s promise. They showcased Africa’s musical strengths and potential. No wonder, it is viewed as a leading South African choral ensemble and has toured overseas extensively, where it has won critical acclaim for its performances. For the late Dame of the Anglican Church and a lover of timeless hymns and good music, she would be dancing and all-smiles in heaven at the sight and sound of the mere mortals, yet heavenly Stellenbosch University choir.
Away from the solemnity of symphony and understated moments of mourning, the sound of juju drums jolted everyone’s pulse…
When Shina Peters Engaged Obaigbena in A Rare Karaoke…
If you have never seen Obaigbena lose steam before, the Saturday and Sunday poolside reception was a good time to see him in his full glory, spontaneously singing and dancing to Sir Shina Peters’ evergreen songs. His love and affection for Shina Peters are infectious! That probably wouldn’t shock Obaigbena’s longtime associates who knew him from his earlier years in Ibadan. The Shinamania showman, Peters bedazzled the governors of Sokoto and Kwara states Aminu Tambuwal and AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq respectively; Wale Tinubu, Tonye Cole, Nigeria’s frontline legal luminary Eyimofe Doyle Atake (SAN) and Ruth Osime – all who sat in very close proximity on tables stacked with food, juices, assorted fruits and bottles of champagne. This scene could be anywhere in the world. Indeed, the assortment of guests at the lavish funeral brought New York, Los Angeles, Monaco and Miami vibes to Owa-Oyibu.
Having wowed guests on Saturday, Obaigbena insisted that the Afro-Juju King should wait to thrill guests on Sunday again. In what was supposed to be a rather brisk performance, it turned into a carnival of sorts.
A major highlight of his Sunday performance was when Peters, through his syncretic genre, percussive and melodic rhythms, walked across the poolside to where Obaigbena was seated with his guests and spontaneously praise-singing “I want to be like Nduka ooo, Obaigbena.”
Obaigbena, a Prince of Owa Kingdom, decked in his signature all-white Buba and Sokoto, in his element, took the microphone from Peters and replied in the same lyrics, singing, “I want to be like Shina Peters ooo,” and the crowd burst into a great dose of laughter.
Peters also went further to eulogise Tambuwal, while Obaigbena went on to sing the praises of the governor, lyrically waxing a song to drum support for his 2023 senatorial ambition.
Narrating how he sees Tambuwal becoming the President in the future, the music reached a crescendo when Peters requested Tambuwal and the other guests to stand in the rendition of the National Anthem, prophesying him as a future President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Peters went further to eulogise his prodigy, Akinloye Tofowomo of the Shuga Band fame…
If there is a musician that the Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of THISDAY/ ARISE Media Group has a great deal of love for, it is Tofowomo. It is on account of Shuga’s sizzling performance of classics – highlife, jazz, old skool and Motown all through the three-day event. His guests and family members were wowed by the classics and repertoire lists churned out each day. No performance was the same, so much so that he got the crowd jumping while the guests danced their hearts out.
At the close of the final day, overjoyed by the Shuga band’s performance, Obaigbena, a very reserved, yet observant man, could not help but thank and commend the Shuga Band boss, assuredly telling him: “thank you so much, we will work more.”
For any musician, nothing more could have been deeply satisfying than such endorsement from a person like The Duke himself.
Colourful Cultural Performances…
The three-day celebration, carnival and colourful cultural performances in honour of the late Dame Obaigbena by the various dancers, all of Owa-Oyibu extraction generated consciousness on the indigenous art forms, especially the oral tradition. The various dancers were all about royalty and ‘big’ energy.
Surrounded by male and female dancers, the physical image of the King was elevated as he appeared in special costumes. Next, various acts of submission to the King are reenacted by his chiefs and subjects, followed by praise songs, eulogies or chants, for a monarch marching on to the pedestal of a deity.
Portraying the full glare of its culture and historic tradition, the dancers moved with grace as the King delivered his role as the Chief Risk Bearer. In an attempt to explore and examine the artistic qualities and possibilities of the performances, the rituals and dance performances showed the unique artistic and literary characteristics of the Owa-Oyibu people which had largely remained ignored and unacknowledged with their musical performance, which, when viewed critically, could be potential for tourism.
The colourful cultural display at the three-day event, attested to the ethnomusicology of the people of Ika North-East Local Government Area of Delta State while serving as a reminder of its huge tourism potential, if well harnessed.
Tributes to Princess Margaret Obaigbena…
In his tribute at the church service, the Delta State Governor and vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, eulogised the deceased for her invaluable service and significant contributions toward advancing the cause of humanity.
Speaking to THISDAY, the Chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, described the late Princess of Owa Kingdom as a great community leader. “She really helped her own people; she helped the state and also Nigeria in general. She served and she did her own best and we pray that her soul rests in perfect peace.”
On his part, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, described the late matriarch as a great, humble and virtuous woman who should be celebrated.
The Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Dr. Kayode Fayemi, praised the deceased for her hard work and extraordinary commitment to the family.
Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, described her as a woman with humanity, adding that she cared about people. To the bereaved family, he charged them to “take it in good faith because that is the work of God and they should continue to pray for her.”
In his tribute, Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, said, “Mama was a health care worker, a nurse who took care of people, brought people to life and cared for them through life as a nurse and the way she led her life was as an exemplary life-giver.”
Truely, the three-day royal funeral ceremony was a rich homage to Dame Obaigbena’s life of service to her family and community in Delta State.