Lovers and connoisseurs of good music were given a special treat by Los Angeles, United States-based Nigerian artiste, Abiodun Koya, last Thursday at the Intercontinental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Koya had come to deliver a message of love for Nigeria with an album, Lift up Nigeria, as the crème de la crème of society gathered to listen to what she had to say.
Aside from the classical music, Koya’s enthralling voice and spirit drove home the point that East or West, home is best.
Yahama Ambassador, Wole Oni, with dexterous fingers and dramatic display left the gathering stunned, with the shout of encore trailing every performance.
Popular music band, Prof. Laz Ekwueme Chorale, gave a good account of themselves in guttural musical pieces that may re-echo in the memories of the audience for time to come.
The brief remarks by dignitaries re-echoing the theme of Koya’s album were interjected by the musical interludes.
But the atmosphere changed when the host herself, in an emotion-laden voice, shared the encounter that started the journey of the album.
She said that despite initial hesitation, she felt she could share the story since she was in her country.
She said, “I was called by the Ghanaian Ambassador to the United States to perform at an event. The February event was a fundraiser to build a cathedral in Ghana. And he had done everything – bought my flight tickets, arranged for everything.
“Two days to the event, the ambassador called me on the phone and said, ‘We are sorry, we have to cancel your engagement’. I was surprised and asked why. He said he did not want to share the details with me. I said, but there must be a reason for this. I asked if it was my fault, but he said, ‘No. You just can’t perform at this event.’
“Later on, I called the ambassador’s wife and asked what happened and that I really wanted to know. But she said, ‘Don’t worry; it is not for your ears to hear.’ I spoke to my team and manager and told them the situation.
“Later, an insider called me and said, ‘I am going to tell you the truth. When the president arrived, somebody asked why a Nigerian would sing at a Ghanaian event.’ It hurt me. Oh, it hurts. I thought this was not Sudan, Ethiopia or Sierra Leone. This Ghana, my next-door neighbour. Ghana. Really?
“That made me appreciate my country more and I thought my own people would not have done this to me. I called my dad on the phone and I cried,” she added.
Koya said the song was given to her by God in a dream, adding that she had done her part as an artiste and would return to her base in July.
She said, “Whether the country is in good shape or not, whether the country is irredeemable or not, I have to deliver my message. I have done my bit. Lift up Nigeria is a message from God and it is for such a time as this.”
At the event were Chairman, The PUNCH Newspapers, Mrs Angela Emuwa; Chairman, Air Peace, Allen Onyema; former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Henry Ajumogobia; former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni; former Super Eagles player, Chief Segun Odegbami; matriarch of the Kuti family, Yemisi Ransome-Kuti; Commander, Rapid Response Squad, Olatunji Disu , among others.
Owoseni, who gave the keynote address, said the call for state police was misplaced, adding that it could be misused by some state governors who sponsor violence and blackmail the police when they refused to support them in wrongdoings.
He said the Nigeria police used to be vibrant with training and a lot of equipment until corruption set in.
The former police commissioner lamented the sums being collected by politicians as pension package, saying such could not engender patriotism among Nigerians, many of whom were paid pittance as pensions after 35 years of service.
“Some of the governors who sponsor organised violence and ask their boys to go and take over certain areas. Before they go, they will tell the commissioners of police to say, ‘Our boys are going there to do this.’ lf you want to keep to the constitution and your obligation under the law and you stop them, that is when they will cry out and say they are not being allowed to perform the role of chief security officers. They just want power for the sake of power. There is no nexus between police performance and who controls the police. Police performance is dependent on the tools you give them to perform,” he said.
Owoseni urged Nigerians to study the 1999 Constitution, particularly the Fundamental Objectives and Directives of State Policy (chapter 2), and hold the leaders accountable to them.
Emuwa, in her address on Nigeria and its future, said people must hold the leaders accountable, adding that everyone had a duty to “create the Nigeria you desire in every sphere of your influence.”
“We cannot continue to whine and complain. We must join hands and make a great Nigeria a possibility and like Koya said, ‘Lift up Nigeria,’ she said.
In his good will message, Odegbami said Nigeria needed more artistes like Koya, saying he would support her.
Air Peace boss, Onyema, asked Koya to forgive the Ghanaians, saying it was a form of nationalism that was playing out.
The Chairman on the occasion, Prof. Pat Utomi, who was represented, said the day chosen for the album launch was historic. He promised to promote Koya’s work.
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