by Patrick Oguejiofor
I first met Patty Obasi in 1996 in the office of Pastor Daniel I.K. Egboka, then the regional Pastor of the National Evangelical Mission, Maiduguri, Borno state. That was when I was doing the mandatory National Youth Service Corps. The church had organized an open air crusade in collaboration with other churches at the Wulari district which was fondly called New Jerusalem because of the cluster of churches within that area. The popular Igbo evangelist, Rev. Uma Ukpai was the guest preacher while Patty Obasi was the guest artiste.
I remember he quickly picked interest in me immediately I announced I have been longing to meet him. I had always been fascinated by his creative genius but was shocked to the marrows the moment we met. He was simple and down to earth and very unassuming. It was hard for me to believe I was face to face with the famous crooner of the Nwa Mama Iwota fame. Unfortunately we could not talk for long as he was rushing to rehearse with the local band group against the evening’s function.
But when I met him the next day at his Chez Cone hotel room at the Federal Housing Estate along Baga Road, we spent hours talking. It was as if we have known for ages. He told me everything about his life and work: his challenges as a musician, the piracy problem as well as the issues he had with his earlier marriage and so on. He then invited me to visit him at his Enugu residence. Although we remained in touch through the telephone, I never had the opportunity to honour that invitation throughout the rest of my stay in the north east. Whenever I visit the east, one issue or the other will come in the way.
When I finally did- more than a decade after our first meeting- he was recovering from a kidney related ailment. He had not changed residence but now has a wife. It was still the same Nanka Street at the New Heaven Area of Enugu. Finding the house was easy because the first person I mentioned his name to simply pointed to the three story building or so located at the crowded street. Unfortunately, I could not meet the wife because he told she was away for a women’s problem at their church. He spoke glowingly about her. I had been told of his health problems but I never knew it that bad. He looked very frail. Although we talked at length, I decided I will not do the interview I plan to use for a story I was doing on him. I planned to do it later when his health might have improved. This was never to be as that meeting turned out to me our last.
It was not long after my visit that I learnt that his ailment took a plunge. He had lost his 2 kidneys and the doctors at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Ituku Ozalla, Enugu told him he needed a kidney transplant that would require 10 million naira in faraway India. Having been sick for a very long time and ‘off stage’ as a result, he was consequently unable to raise the money.
The Nigerian press did everything humanly possible to help him by bringing his plight to the attention of the world. In the TV and newspapers, an ailing Obasi pleaded with his fellow pastors, governments, senators and fellow Nigerians to come to his aid to no avail. Neither the government nor the churches he worked so tirelessly to support their activities using his talent came to his aid. I felt miserable watching him on the television begging for donation to save his life. Patty Obasi was known to have traveled to every nook and cranny of Nigeria using his God-given talent to minister at churches, crusade grounds and at public functions. Tragically, none of the churches or any of the rich Pastors (some of whom are known to own jets) harkened to his cry of distress even though he was an ordained pastor and a member of a prominent Pentecostal church.
And that was how this celebrated gospel singer and prophet passed on to the great beyond at the early hours of Friday, October 16, 2012 at his Enugu residence. He was aged 61. He passed away exactly 2 weeks after his return from St Nicholas Hospital, Lagos. It is really heartbreaking that the Nigerian Pastors and churches never practised what they preached. They are very good in asking and receiving to do God’s work but poor in giving out to save lives. Although I did not attend his funeral ceremony, I was told it was well attended by who is who in the gospel music industry in Igbo land who performed the so called ‘Tribute Night’. If only the artistes had organized a fund rising concert to save his life. That would have been a better tribute even if he eventually did not survive! As the saying goes, dead noses smell no noses.
Born on May 15, 1951 at Mmaku town in Awgwu LGA of Enugu state, Revered Patrick Obasi was no doubt the greatest gospel singer Nigeria ever produced. It was not the famous Nwa Mama Iwota that shot him to fame as the press wrongly claimed following his death a year ago. It was actually Bianu Kanyi Kele Jehova that announced him as a master. This album still remains his magnum opus till date. By the time his second album, Onye Isi Agha, his second album as not only a house hold word but also a worthy successor to that ever green maiden outing. Nwa Mama Iwota, though very successful commercially (it won him a platinum), merely consolidated his fame and added a cubit to his already larger-than-life stature.
His ascent to greatness was further boosted with his fourth and fifth albums, Okara Akapa and Billionaire in a Crate. By the time Walking with Jesus and Ezi Nwaya Di Ukor (the later was dedicated to his wife), he had already become a living legend and an international star. Ubanase was his last outing. He had many imitators and influenced a whole lot of artistes some of whom copied his work verbatim. On the whole, he recorded a total of 8 albums, all great works which have already immortalized him. May his creative soul be accepted by God.
Patty Obasi is survived by his wife of 12 years, Esther and three children, two boys and a daughter. May his creative soul find rest with his Creator.
Patrick Tagbo Oguejiofor is the Vice Chairman of the Abuja Chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors; he works with the Federal Judicial Service Commission, Abuja, Nigeria.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.
Watch a music video of the late, great Patty Obasi below;