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On music, acting and as wife, Christy Essien Igbokwe lived her dreams

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On music, acting and as wife, Christy Essien Igbokwe lived her dreams….
By Emma Agu

Special to USAfricaonline.com and CLASSmagazine, Houston

The multi-talented artiste Christy Essien Igbokwe — popularly called Nigeria’s Lady of Songs — did not allow gender stereotype and myopic views of her native folks back in the early 1970s and 1980s, who saw female singers and actresses as ‘ashawo’ (loose woman) to stop her from reaching her goals. She was devoted to her religion, her marriage and music career. Significantly, she came from a very humble background and made it to national prominence.

When you meet ‘Madam’ as she was fondly called by those of us who knew her one on one, you might see her as an amazon. She was tough, bold, resilient and full of dynamo. Some saw her as being arrogant , hot tempered and cocky. There are others who thought she was a replica of the character she portrayed in the now rested but very popular TV comedy series called ‘Masquerade .’ Her foes, friends and fans would agree with me that Christy Essien Igbokwe lived her dreams. No matter how you saw her, she was a huge success in music. Also, she was a good mother and wife.

I started watching her when I was a kid. Her fans thought her role as ‘Akpeno’ — an aggressive Yoruba woman in the tv comedy ‘Masquerade’ was her final ‘bus stop.’ She was not the only one in the entire cast who dreamt big, however; she seemed the most commercially successful of he whole cast.

When she ventured into the music scene, many saw her attempt her as a joke. Her critics saw her as a flake. Cynics lined up to laugh at her, time after time when she came out with records that never made it to the top. So many people thought she was too ambitious. The woman from the Calabar region of Nigeria soldiered on after making five unsuccessful albums!

Releasing her first album titled ‘Freedom’ on Anodisc records in 1977,she was never perturbed that her debut failed woefully. In 1978,same Anodisc released ‘patience’ which was also a promotional failure . In the same 1978 through Decca when she moved to Lagos,she came out with ‘Blackspot’, this same album met the same fate. Never the one that says ‘I quit’, Christy went on to the Afrodisia label in 1979 where she came out with ‘Understanding’. It was same old song of promotional disaster as that effort with Afrodisia became a monumental failure.

I think it was when her producers and recording label started complaining about her inability to make a hit song that in 1980, she came out with ‘Give me a chance’. In that song, she said,’Give me a chance, and watch me grow’. And so it happened, the lady who became the lady of songs came out with a monster hit after five failed attempts. Christy Essien Igbokwe who folks told to ‘shut up’ after she made records after records that failed to make any impact came out with ‘Ever like my person’ in 1981. In that song was ‘Omo mi Seun ere ‘which became a household song through out Nigeria. The song is one of the most popular tunes any Nigerian artist ever made. The song rendered in traditional Yoruba dialect became the first song done by a non-indigene of Yoruba land that was well received across Nigeria, a country of almost 100 million people, at the time. The song was her defining moment.

When she got married to an Igbo man,the gate of hell opened as her detractors said her marriage to an Igbo man will never last. They saw her as a woman who was overly exposed. Some said she will not give her husband a baby. She proved her enemies wrong by becoming one of the best mothers’ any child will ever have. Her husband Edward Igbokwe is a complete opposite of the woman he married. Edward is a very quiet man who started as a typist at the Punch Newspapers to become its executive director, at the time. Christy Essien was the powerhouse; the engine room that ran the Igbokwe’s family.

Seeing Christy Essien only on Television, I never ever imagine that one day,I would have the opportunity to shake her hands.
Poor me,I never knew my path will cross with that of powerful ‘Madam Christy. It was not long when I relocated to Lagos in 1986 from Ilorin, Kwara State that I found myself, face to face with Christy Essien Igbokwe. It was in Primate Olabayo’s Evangelical church of Yahweh, Lagos, I met one of my childhood most admired stars. I was the organist and music director of this church, Christy was a staunch member,who encouraged and supported me every Sunday morning for what God was using me to do in that church. She gave me my very first opportunity to be on the big stage when I was invited as her guest artist at the national theater.
The ‘ man of God’ in that church told me not to get myself involved in ‘worldly music’, so I naively turned the offer down. I would have made it then as one of her session men but foolishly, I thought it was wrong to play in the church and feature in ‘wordily band’ at the same time. Later that week, Madam told me I wasn’t serious when we met during the Church service.

Unlike many of us who almost wasted our lives following those ‘men of God’,Christy Essien Igbokwe knew better,she was very intelligent and smarter than most people think . When I had my first press interview with Azuka Jebose at the Punch newspapers in 1986, it was her husband who arranged it. When my choir won the ‘All Nigerian choir gospel song festival at University of Lagos in 1986, I recall visiting her at their Punch newspaper compound. ‘Madam personally cooked and served her guest,saying,it was her primary responsibility to cook for her husband despite her very tight schedule.

My relationship with her hit a sour note when I was partially in -charge of the Lagos State Chapter of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria. She was our national President. I recall one day after Fela Kuti died, she told me to accompany her to the shrine. The following day,she also requested I mobilize members for us to go on PMAN -FELA’s march across Ikeja in honor of the late iconic Fela. Though I saw the whole thing as a publicity stunt, I followed her all the way.

She was the first female president of the powerful Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria,PMAN. Let me say this for the very first time, Christy bruised her ego ,her credibility and dignity when she became the President 0f this association. That time,I also fell out with her for accepting to drag musicians to Abuja to support Nigerian’s late despot,Abacha two million people’s march. It was really the turning point for Madam as accusing fingers started flying all around that she ate millions of naira that belonged to the union. Nigerian entertainment writers also fell out with her.

Even if you are a saint,there is is no way in hell you would work for Nigerian Musicians without getting your fingers burnt. Madam was a self made iron lady who had made a name and done well for herself. As soon as she came into office as PMAN’s President,gossip machines started spinning lies, saying that madam was broke and needed to come to PMAN to make some fast money. Though I left the country for another base, I wonder if she ever recovered from the shock, insults and name calling folks heaped on her while she was the PMAN’s president. I do not think she he was a happy woman the day she left that secretariat.

Christy was a woman who started as a social ‘nobody’ and became an icon as an actor. She may not be the best female singer during her time, Christy pushed her talent beyond every reasonable limit in her quest to succeed. She may not be the best songwriter, but she had one of the best hits ever in Nigeria and even across the African continent. She was our own Aretha Franklin. Her story will inspire millions of Nigerian youths to rise in the face of poverty and bleak future. For musicians, her story teaches us to remain positive even if we fall and tumble many times we come out with a CD.

Her death is not only a big blow to the music industry which she worked tirelessly to build,it is a colossal loss to Nigeria,Africa and the entire black race. I choose to celebrate a young woman who came from a minority tribe in Nigeria,from a poor family,she worked her way to super stardom. Adios, Christy Ud Essien Igbokwe.
•Agu, a musician, recording studio owner in New York, is the International President of Nigerian Federation of Musicians(NFM). www.iktune.com

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World SOCCER SHOWDOWN: South Africa backs Morocco; U.S under pressure

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Special to USAfrica [Houston]  • USAfricaonline.com  •  @Chido247  @USAfricalive

“It is an old myth that Africa doesn’t have the capacity, and naysayers should stop using the political argument. Africa hosted the best Fifa World Cup ever and with good support, Morocco can emulate South Africa,” said the SAFA president Jordaan.

Johannesburg – South Africa Football Association (SAFA) president Danny Jordaan has promised Morocco that South Africa will give its unqualified support to secure another World Cup on the African continent in 2026.

Morocco is vying to stage the world’s biggest football prize against a joint bid by Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

The Moroccan delegation comprises ex-Senegal and Liverpool striker El Hadji Diouf and former Cameroonian goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell.

Jordaan said it would be great for Africa to have a second bite of the World Cup cherry, adding Morocco’s bid was Africa’s bid.

Jordaan assured Morocco that he would personally lobby for the Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) and the rest of the continent to rally behind the Moroccans.

In his remarks, Antoine Bell said Morocco had all the ingredients to host another spectacular World Cup.

“South Africa showed the way and I am confident Morocco will follow suit. The country has international standards, from the stadiums to top infrastructure. Morocco can compete with the best in the world,” he said.

By giving Morocco its support, South Africa’s voice would make all the difference on the continent, Bell said.

“When South Africa talks on the continent, the rest of the continent listens hence it is vital for South Africa to support Morocco. South Africa has the experience and Morocco will use this experience to win the 2016 bid,” added Bell. African News Agency

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USAfrica: Catholic priest Etienne killed by militia in DR Congo, after a wedding mass

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Special to USAfrica [Houston]  •  @USAfricaLIVE

Goma – A Catholic priest was found shot dead hours after he said mass in Democratic Republic of Congo’s restive North Kivu province, a member of the church told AFP.

“Father Etienne Sengiyumva was killed [on] Sunday by the Mai Mai Nyatura (militia) in Kyahemba where he had just celebrated a mass including a baptism and a wedding,” father Gonzague Nzabanita, head of the Goma diocese where the incident occurred, told AFP.

The Mai Mai Nyatura are an armed group operating in North Kivu, in eastern DRC.

Nzabanita said Sengiyumva, 38, had had lunch with local faithful before “we found him shot in the head”.

North and South Kivu provinces are in the grip of a wave of violence among militia groups, which often extort money from civilians or fight each other for control of mineral resources.

Last week unknown assailants kidnapped a Catholic priest in North Kivu, demanding $500 000 for his release.

Eastern DRC has been torn apart by more than 20 years of armed conflict, fuelled by ethnic and land disputes, competition for control of the region’s mineral resources, and rivalry between regional powers.

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AFRICA

USAfrica: Nigeria’s LOOTERS LIST and Buhari’s selective corruption targets. By Majeed Dahiru

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PDP vs APC Looters List and Buhari’s selective corruption targets

By Majeed Dahiru

Special to USAfrica {Houston] • USAfricaonline.com • @USAfricaLive

 

Timipriye Silva, a former governor and PDP chieftain, who became a founding member and financier of APC, had his corruption charges quashed by a federal high court and Buhari’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) failed to appeal the N19.5 billion fraud case.

More curious are the missing names of some accused looters with marital ties to Nigeria’s First and Second families. Gimba Yau Kumo, the PDP appointed former managing director of the Federal Mortgage Bank and now son-in-law of President Buhari, who was similarly accused of fraudulent activities amounting to about N3 billion and reportedly being investigated by EFCC, is missing from [Buhari’s Information Minister] Lai Mohammed’s list.

For a party that has been accused of destroying Nigeria by squandering accrued oil revenues estimated at over $500 billion in sixteen years, it is confounding that Lai’s list is not only exclusively comprised of PDP looters but also captures the last two years of PDP’s last lap in power and included just Goodluck Jonathan’s associates, who supported him against candidate Buhari, while also relating only to funds used in the last electioneering campaign of the PDP.

Whenever the obviously abysmal performance of the Muhammadu Buhari administration appears to be gaining sustained attention, and leading to murmuring within the rank and file of his supporters, a tale of humungous looting by opposition elements is usually spun and thrown into the public space to distract people away from the core issue of the failure of governance.

Like a fit of deja vu, the recently unveiled list of looters by Lai Mohammed, a fellow who comes across as more of President Muhammadu Buhari’s chief propagandist than a minister of the federal republic of Nigeria in charge of information and culture, didn’t come as a surprise. The list is all too familiar as the unveiling was a summarised rehash of politically exposed individuals who are members of the opposition party, close associates of former President Goodluck Jonathan, particularly his appointees in government, who have been named and shamed several times in well-coordinated media trials.

First on Lai’s list is Uche Secondus, the chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Lai had this to say of Secondus: “On the 19th of February 2015, he took N200 million only from the office of the NSA”. An unidentified former financial secretary of the PDP was similarly accused of “taking” N600 million from the same office of the National Security Adviser. Lai Mohammed also re-revealed that frontline member of PDP and media mogul, who deployed his media power to promote Goodluck Jonathan by de-marketing the Buhari candidacy in the run up to 2015 presidential election, Raymond Dokpesi, is on trial for “taking” N2.1 billion from the office of the then NSA. Lai also reminded Nigerians that his shouting match and former spokesman of the PDP, Olisa Metuh is on trial for “collecting” N1.4 billion from the same office of the NSA.

Lai Mohammed’s expanded follow up list included the usual suspects – former ministers, PDP state governors, service chiefs, presidential aides, associates and family members of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who were collectively accused of looting Nigeria of close to $2.1 billion through the office of the former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.).

The choice of words like “took” and “collected” deployed by Lai to describe the manner in which those named received these monies was deliberate for the maximum effect of propaganda, portraying the accused persons as looters who broke into NSA vault and catered away boxes of cash at something akin to a gun point.

While the clamp down on PDP looters who supported Goodluck Jonathan and are still members of the former ruling party has been heavy handed, others who decamped from PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the eve of the 2015 elections and supported candidate Buhari’s campaign with their share of loot have been forgiven. For example, former NSA, Sambo Dasuki is being treated as an apostate for his role in the disbursement of funds that were used to oil Goodluck Jonathan’s electioneering effort. He has been kept in detention illegally and in defiance of several judicial rulings. Judging by the Buhari administration’s anti-corruption standard of an accusation being tantamount to guilt, in clear contempt of court proceedings by the resort to the naming and shaming suspects even before investigations and criminal prosecution are concluded and convictions obtained, it becomes curious that Lai’s list didn’t reveal any new name. Rather some names were either missing or omitted from what is a familiar list. This appears so because the bulk of PDP bigwigs who “destroyed” Nigeria in sixteen years of national rule are firmly in control of the APC, from its elected national executives to the National Assembly and appointed members of the federal executive council. The majority of APC-elected governors were also former members of the PDP. Even recently decamped PDP members to APC, such as Musiliu Obanikoro and Sulivan Chime, who have been prominently named and shamed in the recent past, were conspicuously missing from the released list of looters.

More curious are the missing names of some accused looters with marital ties to the first and second families. Gimba Yau Kumo, a former PDP appointed managing director of the Federal Mortgage Bank and now son-in-law of President Buhari, who was similarly accused of fraudulent activities amounting to about N3 billion and reportedly being investigated by EFCC, is missing from Lai’s list. Also missing on that list is Bola Shagaya.

Arguably one of Africa’s richest women, with a reputation for close business and political ties to all first families in the past two decades, Bola Shagaya was exceptionally close to the Goodluck Jonathan family. Often described as a bosom friend of former first lady Patience Jonathan, she has been accused, in numerous instances, allegedly, of acting as Patience Jonathan’s front for the laundering of illicit money estimated at over N13 billion, while engaging in other fraudulent activities involved in state capture. All that may be in the past now as she has found her way back to reckoning with the marriage of her son, Seun Bakare to Damilola, the daughter of Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo. Little wonder then, Bola Shagaya’s name is not on Lai’s looters list.

In a clear display of the arrogance of ignorance, the Buhari administration has narrowed its war on corruption to the hounding of members of the Jonathan administration, other individuals and organisations that were known to have worked against the emergence of the President [Buhari] in the 2015 presidential elections. This is clearly evident in the selective nature of the current anti-corruption effort.

The tone of generalisation of the PDP as the problem of Nigeria, as an indicator of corruption, should make all members of PDP (both former and present) and their collaborators in other parties guilty, hence qualifying them for naming and shaming, while being liable for criminal prosecution.

Therefore, Buhari’s list of looters is devoid of integrity, because his selective war on corruption is indicative of corruption in itself. All that is required of a former PDP looter is to get baptised into APC and profess Buhari as the saviour of Nigeria. This is precisely responsible for the failure and ineffectiveness of the war on corruption. Nothing has changed as the current APC looters continue to loot Nigeria, while the redeemed former PDP looters continue to enjoy their loot in hibernation under the abundant grace of the infallible Buhari.

• Dahiru is based in Abuja 

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