I won’t advise anyone to have more than one wife –OJB Jezreel
AUGUST 2, 2014 BY NONYE BEN-NWANKWO
Music Producer, Babatunde Okungbowa popularly known as OJB Jezreel, tells ‘Nonye Ben-Nwankwo about his health challenges and why he is married to three wives
City People Entertainment recently honoured you, would you know why it decided to celebrate you?
I think the organisers felt if you have been in business for over 20 years, you deserve to be celebrated. I am not the only one, we are many.
So you have really clocked 20 years in the industry just like that?
I have actually clocked 28 years.
Even before you had the health challenge, you were at the background for some time, nothing much was heard about you. Could it be because the younger ones came and overtook you?
It had nothing to do with the younger ones coming to overtake me. Even if you look at it like that, my prints are still in the younger generation’s works. They all passed through me. My influence is crested in that generation. It had nothing to do with my health. I had to take a breather. I had to be away from activities. You have to reinvent yourself. It mustn’t be work all the time. You have to reinvent your personality and your general persona. I was losing weight as well and I had to work on my weight. That was part of what happened then.
The younger ones also came and changed the face of music, how would you rate the crop of producers we have now?
I am happy with the trend of things. It shows we did our home work well. We have given birth to new generation and new sound. At a point, we were like that. It is an age thing. The older they get, the more they would want to redefine the music. Also look at the way the economy is, people just want something fast. It is affecting music and that is why the current type of music can’t last.
Your latest song, Not Afraid, was it released based on the health challenges you had?
Funny enough, I had done that song even two or three years before the health issues came up. It was just like a prophecy. The older you get, the more you become realistic with life. That was a stage in my life when I was known and popular yet I struggled to pay the rent. When I released the song, so many people said I was talking to them. Celebrated and popular people confided in me they could relate with the song because they were having such issues.
But how come you weren’t able to pay your rent?
The bottom line is that when you come out as an artiste and you don’t ‘blow’ immediately, you have to climb the ropes. But even when you are so popular, it doesn’t mean that you are earning the money that is equated to the popularity. You find that it is hope on hope. But I am here now, I own my property and it is a different ball game entirely. At that time, it was just hustling. People would shout OJB, OJB but really, the OJB behind was nothing.
Regarding your health, how are you feeling at the moment?
I would say that I am a lot better than how I was last year. But post surgery experience is different in different people. Some people get lucky and they don’t experience anything mega. But I have had some ups and downs. But those are just challenges that when you weigh them, they are still better than what they were last year.
Your ill health generated a lot of publicity, wouldn’t you have preferred nobody heard that you were ill?
As a person, I would have loved it if it was quiet. But when you think of the fact that I am alive today, I don’t really care about the publicity. Things happened that shocked me and those things showed the power of the brand. People printed T-shirts and were selling them to raise funds for OJB. People from all over the world were contributing. I didn’t even realise the brand was this big. I think the publicity has two ends to it. I learnt the humble way. You have to let go of your ego. My daughter was sick before then and we needed to raise $50, 000. I didn’t tell anybody to raise it for me, I raised it myself.
What was wrong with her?
She had heart disease. We didn’t beg anybody for that. It is not so easy for a man to sit back and people contributing money for his health. But after this experience, I realised that the ego should be forgotten. Life is better to be saved than ego.
Some people may have thought the fund raiser was a quick way of enriching yourself…
Well, at the end of the day, we came out and said people should stop contributing because we had got what we wanted. If we had wanted to turn it to a money spinning thing, nobody would have known. The governor of Rivers State, (Rotimi) Amaechi, didn’t want anybody to know that he completed the money for us. So we could still have gone ahead to collect more money from people because more people were ready to give. But we had to stop. The essence was life. I will categorically tell you that we didn’t make anything extra. If we had made so much, I wouldn’t be staying in Surulere (Lagos), I would have moved out and bought the latest car.
Would it be correct to say you now have more affection for the wife that donated her kidney to you more than the others?
Definitely. In fact, affection is not even the word to use. I don’t even know what to say. She just did it. It wasn’t as if she was supposed to do it. I was shocked. I just look at her and I don’t say a word. I am not the kind of person who feels that she must donate her kidney because I am her husband, no. Such decisions should come naturally. Right now, I have more than affection for her.
Your health challenge opened up a whole lot about your personal life; most people didn’t even know you had more than one wife and may be still counting…
I have reached the bus stop, there is no other wife coming.
Was it by choice or design that you have three wives?
It is everything. But predominantly, I think it is by design. Some people believe in destiny while some others don’t. I think it was destined to happen. I believe in destiny. I don’t think I would have survived it if it weren’t destined to be. People get shocked that I have three wives because I don’t live like somebody who has three wives. Come to think of it, there is no particular way to live life. Am I supposed to wear three shirts because I have three wives? I don’t even advise people to have three wives and when I talk about it, they are shocked.
But you married three?
Oh yes I did. When I was growing up, I even said I was not going to get married. I said I would just have children. But see, it is not the same story now. I just feel it is destiny.
Don’t you regret it?
There is no regret. Initially, you would tell yourself that if you had one wife, this would have happened or that would have happened if you didn’t. But then again, you have to check and understand that life is in stages. I am appreciating life the way it is. Out of the marriages, I have eight beautiful children. When I look at them, I am happy. They are my investment.
Still on your health back then, was there a time you lost hope?
There was a time I felt I wouldn’t come up with the money. The risky thing about raising funds is that you still have current expenses you have to service. When I saw what was coming in, I felt this is where God wanted me to be. I felt I had done my bit and that was it. I started thinking of how my property would be shared. Even when the funds were coming in, I still lost hope somehow.
Did friends desert you during the health crisis?
To a large extent, it happened but I think it happened because of misconception. The impression they had was that I was capable of taking care of myself. It was just a perception. When the reality dawned on them, they started to come back at the last minute. But then, we had raised what we wanted.
So what are you doing at the moment?
It is still music. I will drop a single soon featuring Ice Prince. I have another one with J Martins. This is just what I do. I don’t intend to dust my certificate and go to the bank. It has always been music except when I was a primary school teacher. I taught for one year.
You stayed in the UK for a long time, why did you come back to Nigeria?
It was a case of having a burning idea that I needed to express. I couldn’t penetrate in the UK industry because I wasn’t part of the setting. I had so many ideas. I felt if I came back home, I would express the idea better. I was inspired.
When did the big break come?
So many people felt it was with Tuface’s African Queen. But no. it was the biggest job but the break came when I was able to produce songs that could be played alongside foreign songs. The first song they played alongside foreign artistes’ was from a group called TF. Nobody even knows them. That was in 1994/1995.
Before now, some people felt you carried on airs around you…
That would be strange. I have never been known for arrogance. There are some producers who are on top of their game and you need to see the way they are introduced when they are about to enter a club. I didn’t have such airs. There was no need. By the time we made it, we had even become grown men, we even had families. So it wasn’t like that at all.
Was it fame that made you to marry three wives?
I don’t think it has anything to do with fame. There are people without fame yet they married more than three wives. Those people are not even rich. I think it is destiny; there is no other way to explain it.
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