Evangelist Obey Fabiyi who turned 72 recently shares some of his life experiences in this interview with ADEOLA BALOGUN
Well, at 72, I want to first and foremost give thanks to God Almighty who made it possible for me to be alive. It’s the wondrous work of God and at 72, I feel great. I am a very happy person because the Lord has been so good to me, and I thank God for who he is because he’s been my all in all and he has seen me through different phases of life: from the time I was born, to when I started talking, schooling and working. I also thank him for bringing out the gift in me and establishing me as a star. I feel great and happy – and I can’t even thank him enough.
Can you attribute that to a disciplined lifestyle?
Before we talk about discipline, let’s talk about the grace of God and his sufficiency. The grace of God is available to everyone; so it is by his grace. Yes, with discipline added to it. But majorly, it’s by his grace. I grew up in a disciplinarian family. When my mother looked at me, I knew what she was saying without her saying anything. We were taught to respect elders. If someone was older by a day, we were taught to call him or her brother or sister. We were taught humility. And it’s been part of me since then.
We were taught how to behave well. We were well-disciplined. We respected our seniors and teachers in school and it became part of my life. When I also grew up, I had a personal encounter with Jesus and that brought out the best in me in my music career. So it’s by the grace of God. To be 72 and still be relevant, that cannot be anybody but God.
Are you not still tempted to choose between secular and gospel music?
What happens is that when you are being guided by God, you can’t miss your way. You can never miss your way because God will make everything work out. I started making special appearances 15 years after I quit secular music. God gave me the gift of music; he was the one that brought out the star in me and made me become a minister. So, it is God all the way. Intimacy is what we need to have success in God. If you are divinely guided, you will do well. I always have a direction. When I have special appearances, God gives me direction in a way that one doesn’t contradict the other.
But one thing about music talent is that it’s irresistible.
I have drawn the line. Where I am now, nothing can take me away from God. I have a focus. Nothing can take me out of God’s presence.
Can you blame your fans who want more of what you used to sing?
No. God is love. When you do things out of love, you make people happy. I don’t hurt them. Even now, people have known me for who I am and I even attract respect for that. I also believe the respect people give me is by the grace of God.
When you started the special appearances, people thought maybe Obey was probably broke.
I’ve said it and I am still saying it. There are two things we have to define here; what do we actually need here on earth? We don’t need all the vanities of this world, yet God created them so that we could be comfortable. All my needs, God has already provided. I don’t worry myself. I’m at peace with my God. When I clocked 70, I said, “Father, I give you all glory.” When I look back, all I say is “Father, thank you.” There are no more rivers for me to cross; I am not running after anything. I have put my life in God’s hands. So, who says I’m broke? It’s because they don’t know the God I’m serving. The God I’m serving is a good provider. I have come to realise God is faithful, so there’s no running helter-skelter.
How do you feel being celebrated by Globacom while you are still alive?
Oh, I feel great. I feel excited for Glo, and for the man called Mike Adenuga, Jnr. He is a special person that God brought into this world for many reasons. I cherish what Glo did in celebrating me; it is one thing I really appreciate. For someone to sit down and think of others is a special thing. That the Glo Evergreen Series started with me, I really appreciate it.
Before he started Glo, was Mike Adenuga one of your fans?
Of course, yes. He loves my music, but the love that Mike Adenuga has for me is beyond music. Yes, talking music, he loves my music but now I can see it is beyond that. He is God-sent and we can see, he’s a man who touches life, and because of that, he is blessed every second.
When he extended that gesture to King Sunny Ade recently, did you nominate him or what?
No, Mike Adenuga started the Glo Evergreen Series with me and extended it to my brother KSA whose work in the entertainment industry is awesome. Even with the younger artistes, KSA is awesome.
Recently at KSA’s birthday in Ondo, he dedicated a very big church in his compound. People are insinuating that probably what happened to you will happen to him. Do you see KSA also becoming an evangelist?
You know what Jesus told Peter? “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” I am happy for what is happening to KSA dedicating a church and you cannot be surprised that God is preparing him for His work.
People are still talking about ‘Oleku’, the joint show between you and KSA, should we expect series two?
People have been asking for more here and even abroad. But we are yet to determine how to go about it. But we will extend it at God’s appointed time.
In retrospect now, what inspired you to sing those evergreen songs that are still relevant even today?
That can only be God because it’s not every artiste that has the gift. But I thank God for the gift. Now I go to secondary schools on principals’ invitations to give talks. The one I did last in Ibadan, I was surprised to hear the questions the students were asking me. They wanted to know how I became a musician, my experiences, my songs, etc. I sang for them. It was an exciting moment. They wanted to know how a young man composed those songs 30, 40 years ago. So, I just thank God for that gift. And for the new generation artistes, they are doing well and I’m happy for them.
One would expect that you will encourage your son Tolu to pick up the mantle as you are aging
He wanted to do music and he’s doing it. I am happy seeing him do it, now that he’s even cut a niche for himself. Tolu plays juju music. There is nothing bad in it. I encourage him to do what he wants to do.
But you encouraged others to be pastors.
Those who are pastors are pastors because that’s what God wants them to be. I’ve never forced any of them to be this or that. I taught them the way of the Lord and they know what they want, so there is nothing like force anywhere. All I care about is for them to serve the Lord.
People think you also influenced Oba Adedapo Tejuoso, the Oshinle of Egba to become a born-again Christian. Who influenced who?
Oba Adewale Adedapo Tejuoso became one of my fans a very long time ago and even all his friends. So the relationship started since that time. When I quit music and got into the ministry, he too had his own ministry, even as a king. We met after that and our relationship got to a higher level. When he wanted to start Kings’ Day of Praise where he gathered fellow kings to worship God, he invited me and I was willing to help. I am happy that the yearly programme has become a very big event in his kingdom and I am also proud to be associated with it. Through that, the royal fathers come together to worship God. They pray and God does wonders.
What has been the impact of the programme on Egbaland?
It’s not only traditional rulers from Egbaland, we have the royal fathers from all parts of Nigeria and other African countries.
Do you still miss your wife?
Oh, there’s no way I won’t miss her. But I know she’ s gone to be with the Lord. My wife would have been 69 years old on March 24 if she was alive. We would have been expecting to celebrate her 70th birthday next year. But the Lord is a good Lord. On March 23, we had my first great granddaughter. My granddaughter gave birth to my first great granddaughter and I am clocking 72 in a few days. So, we are in a thanksgiving mood.
How do you cope without a woman in the house?
There is nothing God cannot do. He is able to take care and be in charge of everything. I am not lonely. Immediately my wife went to be with the Lord, my son and his wife moved here. So with my grandchildren around me and people taking care of me, I feel great.
What of getting married again?
At 72, I can’t start looking for a wife. I’m well taken care of and occupied. I am not lonely and I doubt whether any woman would be able to cope with my busy lifestyle. My late wife got used to it and for years, she was able to take care of our home.
Or you are afraid of what people will say?
Afraid? Can someone of my age be afraid of what anybody will say? Let people say whatever they want to say, I have my life to live. I’ve not given marriage a thought and that’s the truth. I’m busy in the church, with mentoring and special appearances. By the Grace of God, I’m oganising a crusade to celebrate my 72nd birthday.
People thought if Pastor Kumuyi could marry another wife after he lost his wife as a church leader, you too could follow in his footsteps.
It is a thing of choice. It’s the Holy Spirit that leads every church leader. What Pastor Kumuyi did is a very good thing. I don’t feel like doing that and I’m happy. Apart from that, no woman can cope with my schedule. Well, God can do anything; he can provide someone to take her place, you can’t rule that out because we are still alive and well.
Who took over your wife’s position in the church then?
In the service of God, you don’t say because my wife is gone, someone should replace her. She went to be with the Lord. My son is the pastor in charge of the church and his wife is there to support him like my wife did. We also have other pastors whose wives are supporting them. You don’t necessarily say since my wife is gone, we need to find someone to replace her unless I decide to marry someone from the church. But for now, this is the way that the Lord has made it.
Concerning waxing records, how often do you do that?
I do that all the time. People know that I am good; and I am a very good composer. The easiest thing for me to do is to compose. So I still do special releases for people.
Your evergreen series are supposed to be lifetime sources of income for you, how do you cope with piracy.
You see, piracy is the main problem that we have here. But I do special releases for people and those ones cannot be pirated because they are not for public consumption, though people still demand for some of them. So when they demand for such, I get paid.
What about royalties from your old songs?
I’m in charge of my music. I handle my company, so I cannot complain about anything. I oversee everything. Artistes only complain about recording companies. I have gone above that. I am a recording company myself. I am Mr. Music.
Perhaps if you did not become a musician, do you think Obey would be this famous?
I don’t want to bother myself about that. I’ve been what God wanted me to be, and I am fine