Archive for the ‘Nigerian Heroes’ Category

Adeboye: Living the dream

March 18, 2008

This piece was first published in The Nation, Lagos on Wednesday, March 5, 2008

He started dreaming as a child. He has pursued his dreams with total commitment and with the aid of some hardly revealed leadership tools. What is not in doubt is that at 66, the General Overseer of the RCCG has come a long waypastor-adeboye.jpg

Hidden secrets of Pastor Adeboye’s success

 As he marks his 66th birthday with the three-day Special Holy Ghost Service, some of Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye’s not well celebrated secrets of success are revealed by Group Arts and Culture Editor SOLOMON TAI ADETOYE Humble beginning

Now coated in cement plaster and paint, the three-bedroom apartment building seems to greatly aspire to escape its past. The discerning could easily visualise what it must have looked like 66 years ago when the son was born to the Adeboye household of Ifewara in Osun State – cracked mud walls graced by thatched roof the outdoor kitchen out of which oozed waves of smoke from firewood at evening cooking time.

Travel down to metropolitan Ilesa a few kilometres away and you’d encounter one of the citadels of western education in colonial Nigeria. Although the building no longer serve the purpose, the corner where Enoch Adejare Adeboye’s bed stood in his days at Ilesa Grammar School as a boarding student in the 1950s was pointed out by a classmate with nostalgia. “This was our hostel. That was the location of his bed space.”

“He used to keep to himself a lot,” Dr. M. M. Omole, an Ilesa-based agriculturist who was in the same class with the General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of Christ, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye continued. “I am sure it had a lot to do with his poor financial state when we were in school here. He spent more time studying that he spent relating with other students.”

His mother had “retired” from bearing children. With daughters and a son, the junior wife of the senior Adeboye felt she had had enough. Then tragedy struck. Her only son died. Relatives and neighbours – especially siblings of the dead son –appealed to the Ilesa-born petty trader to try and have one more issue. Who knows, it might be a replacement for the son that is gone. Their prediction proved true and on March 2, 1942, the earth welcomed a son who was destined to be a world changer of no mean stature, Enoch Adejare Adeboye.

Growing up a peasant farmer’s son in the village was one thing. Attending what was then an elitist post-primary education facility was quite another kettle of fish. By the time Enoch Adeboye entered Ilesa Grammar School in 1956, the sharp difference between his socio-economic status and that of his mates was glaring.

“I did not were trousers or a pair of shoes until I was 17 years old,” Adeboye has said more than once.

“When we were here,” Dr. Omole recollected, “there was a day we students decided to boycott the dining hall to protest against the pap and akara we were being served. The only student who went quietly to the dining hall to take his meal was Pastor Adeboye. I am sure it was not because he was so desperately hungry. Yes, he would have had difficulty purchasing what to eat. But at the same time, I think it had more to do with his loyalty to the principal, Rev. Canon Akinyemi who was his benefactor.”

Disadvantaged background and strict upbringing bring out different qualities in different children. No doubt, the combination of the two had done well for the man his followers love to call Daddy GO. Raised by a disciplinarian father and a hard working poor mother, Adeboye picked up the qualities that would make him what he is today quite early in life. His relationship with late Rev. Canon Akinyemi, father of Professor Boloji Akinyemi is a pointer to his later development.

 Great dreamer

“When I was young,” Pastor Adeboye told the crowd that had gathered to spend “a day with the GO” at the MUSON Centre at Onikan, Lagos in 1998, “a bishop visited our village. Schools were closed. Hunters lined the road firing dane guns into the air. Cocks and eggs were gathered as presents for him. I took a look at the pomp and pageantry and said to myself, ‘One day I will be a bishop.’”

If anyone takes his PhD in mathematics as an indicator of the fact that Pastor E. A. Adeboye is a clinical practical man who does not allow dreams into his realm of operation, such a person cannot be far from the truth.

Abacha for life campaign was on. A million-man march was organised for Abuja. Half way across the globe, Pastor Adeboye was travelling in the company of two of his faithful followers in Miami, USA. There they saw a large number  of people gathered at the beach for a musical festival.

“Why can’t we have a two-million-man gathering for Jesus?” That was the dream Adeboye’s mind produced out of the two events. The result? Lekki ’98 the first Holy Ghost Festival that up to that time was arguably the largest religious gathering in Nigeria if not Africa as a whole.

The gathering now holds annually at the Redemption City and its tag has become Holy Ghost Congress. The most astounding aspect is its purpose. Adeboye believes that through the means of his annual congress, Nigeria will become the greatest nation in the world. Tall dream wouldn’t you say?

From his childhood dreams to catching visions for growth for the mega church he leads, one of the secrets of Pastor Adeboye’s success is his ability to dream of great things. Commitment

Of what use is being able to dream if one is not committed to pursuing it to logical conclusion? Late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once spoke of an outstanding quality of the bulldog. When the bulldog grabs an object, one of its unique virtues is its ability to keep on breathing without letting go.

“In the early days of our marriage,” Pastor (Mrs.) Folu Adeboye, the GO’s wife once told a writer, “we used to quarrel. He would return from class at the school where he was a teacher, take his meal and immediately proceed to attack mathematical problems. Whenever I tried to take the books away from him he would pretend to need to ease himself only to go and lock himself in the toilet to attend to his mathematics.”

From his travails as the favourite of the late founder of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Rev. Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi, to the present day, to say uneasy lies the head that wears the crown in describing Pastor Adeboye is an understatement.

Once he sets his hearth to do carry out an assignment, Adeboye simply pulls all the plugs.

He wanted the International Office at the Redemption City ready under a month, he simply moved floodlights to the site and personally supervised construction workers round the clock.

Some years ago, while worshippers gathered at the auditorium awaiting the arrival of the GO at a particular Special Holy Ghost Service, the unthinkable nearly happened. As Pastor Adeboye stepped out of his office to enter the four-wheel drive that would take him to the auditorium, the gangly man of over six feet in height staggered and nearly fell.

“When I am fasting I am fasting and when I am feeding I am feasting,” those are the words of a man who would fast up to the point that one would wonder if he was on hunger strike for one fanatical cause or the other. To him, realising his dreams is so vital that no price is too high. Having embarked on stretch fast – fasting without breaking at the end of the day – for several days would rise every night to conduct prayer walk around the Redemption City every night. When the event he has been preparing for comes, there he is standing at the pulpit to minister as if nothing had happened. Where he gets the energy to conduct those services is definitely beyond mere human explanation.

One thing Pastor Adeboye understands is that there is nothing like a free lunch. There is always a price tag. So, whatever he desires – miracles for his congregation, financial breakthrough for projects or whatever, he is committed enough to pay the necessary price to make it happen.

 The warrior

One aspect of Pastor Adeboye that is not easy to perceive is that he is primarily a man who operates with the instinct of a military man. His humble mien notwithstanding, he is one general one would not want to face with regular weapons. In the spiritual real especially and in church growth drive that reaches up the level of what business analysts would describe as mergers and acquisition, Pastor Adeboye is a dogged warrior.

“When you are fighting a wise man and he surrenders,” he once told his ministers, “know that you are finished.”

Strategies for conquering new territories and retaining those already in his possession are what Pastor Adeboye executes without even the closest people to him realising it. He is not a fire-fighter tactician. Whatever brought the RCCG to where it is today did not begin today. From the formation of his ministry, Christ the Redeemer’s Ministries, while Rev. Akindayomi was alive to the establishment of Christ the Redeemer’s Friends Universal set up to reach out to the upper echelon of the society and other such tactical moves, Adeboye works within the framework of his vision making moves according to his long-time strategic moves.

“The Lord is a Man of war” is a favourite quote of his. And no doubt he does not perceive himself as a bastard. Like Father, like son, he is just as well a warrior as his heavenly Father.

 Empire builder

When his friend, fellow Ijesa man co-lecturer at the same department and Christian brother W. F. Kumuyi needed a location for his midweek Bible study and miracle service events, Adeboye did not hesitate to seek the help of his spiritual mentor, Rev. Akindayomi. When Kumuyi moved his mostly youthful crowd-pulling programmes away to go and establish the Deeper Life Bible Church contrary to his early expressed vision of only running a teaching ministry, Adeboye saw it not as a setback but as a stepping stone. Through his own ministry, he began his midweek services.

One of the qualities of empire builders is that they convert disadvantages to stepping stones.

Pastor Tunde Bakare started the first “model parish” for the RCCG. When he moved on with the entire congregation of over a thousand worshippers but for twelve to start Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Adeboye simply picked up the pieces to build the success story the model church has become today.

His vision of a parish of the church within every five minutes walking distance within Lagos has been surpassed. He is reaching out for greater heights.

 Authority

Pastor Adeboye grew up under a father who was an authority figure in the true sense of it. He too does not care about hiding the fact that he believes in absolute loyalty to authority.

As a student, the school principal Rev. Canon Akinyemi who happened to have been from his Ifewara hometown helped him by allowing him to stay on in school even when his school fees were not paid. No doubt, the Anglican reverend gentleman must have played a role in securing a loan for Adeboye from the local Anglican church. As a result, he would not join students to protest an act of the principal no matter how justified his colleagues were or what repercussion he might face later.

Up till this day, Adeboye expects total loyalty. If anybody has any illusion of sharing of power in the RCCG hierarchy, the person should just seek out the mission’s organogram. Pastor Adeboye, the mathematician that he is, has fashioned out an ever-changing system that ensures nobody is in the position to challenge his authority. When Pastor Tony Rapu, one of the most outstanding “captains” in “General” Adeboye’s army was growing too big, he ended up out in the cold – literally. His Freedom Hall parish was quartered and shared among four assistants while he was “exiled” to Europe. He ended up leaving the mission to start This Present House.

The last Deputy General Overseer retired in 1998 and has not been replaced. No Assistant General Overseer (AGO) knows what to expect from the GO who would move a retired secondary school principal from the position AGO Training to AGO Family Matter, whatever that means, and replace him with a retired carpenter! What used to be the highly exalted position of State Pastor is now Provincial Pastor with as much clout as the then Area Pastor.

No matter what anybody says, such firm grip has helped Adeboye forge ahead with his plans for the ministry. Even the seeming anointed successors in the waiting of a few years ago had been sent to Siberias of missionary fields in past years.

 A different person

Attempt to blend in makes a man nothing different from other people. Pastor Adeboye is a man who does not fear being different. While his contemporaries pursued glamour, he took the Gospel message to the world with humility and gentle mien. Here is a man whose pen – one of the things he treasures in life – would pay for the glamorous fellow’s entire attire, yet he would carry it in a way that displays no outward self aggrandisement.

Sometimes ago, Pastor Adeboye had just three cars. One was a Lexus jeep, another a Lincoln Navigator and the third a Lincoln Town Car, a sedan that requires servicing once in four years. Yet nobody would perceive him as being ostentatious.

A sharp wit who cracks wonderful jokes, Adeboye does not really talk. He would rather communicate with even his immediate staff through notes – notes that are full of abbreviation that a new staffer has to learn his code! This sets him free to spend time in prayer and meditation, two things he does literally “without ceasing.”

Over the years, Pastor Adeboye has brought a lot of changes to the church he inherited in 1981. At the same time he has devised several ways and means for reaching the perishing world with the Gospel which is what he sees as his primary assignment. In all such pursuits, he does not shy away from being different. A state chief executive who is a Moslem invited him over to minister annually. He was always there to use the platform.

However, some had had cause to criticise him for carrying along wrong fellows in the name of church growth. Some glaring unchristian behaviours by some leaders had been overlooked while others paid highly for less sins – that is if there is anything like less sin. There was a year when the second wife of a prominent monarch and the second wife of a state chief executive were ordained in a church that is avowedly opposed to polygamy.

However one looks at it, Pastor Adeboye takes it all in the stride and heads in the direction he feels God is leading him. Like all heroes of all times, he is not perfect. But in him is a mix of qualities that has helped him build what is probably the largest Pentecostal church in Africa. He yet dreams of making it the biggest in the world!

Life’s a party

March 18, 2008

This piece was first published in The Nation, Lagos, on WednesdayMarch 12, 2008. Poeple know him more in the sports arena than in any other area. He was a civil servant till he retired at the age of 60. Art is his passion. But Chief Frank Okonta believes…

Chief Frank Okonta is better known as a sports administrator than a public officer. What is less known about him is that he is a man who takes life as one long leisure cruise. He is also an arts addict whose collection is one of the most enviable in Nigeria. Group Arts and Culture Editor SOLOMON TAI ADETOYE learnt much about him in the hours they spent together at his home and galleryokonta-2.jpgokonta-4.jpgokonta-1.jpgokonta-5.jpg With wife, Patience

He’d rather be called Frank Okonta without the complication of a “chief”. So do not expect him to tell you where he bagged the chieftaincy title. But that is just one of the many things Chief Frank Chukwuma Okonta himself cannot define about himself.

Where was he born? This is a question that is as difficult for him to answer as what he did with eight years of his life in Europe. Don’t even bother asking him where he grew up.

“My mother told me,” he responded to the question about his place of birth, “that when she was eight months pregnant, my father sent her to the village to deliver. A month after I was born, she returned to Lagos where my father was based then.”

Thus Frank Okonta was born in Lagos, although the delivery took place at Ibuzo, his parents’ hometown. By the time he was old enough to begin primary school, his medical officer father had been transferred and he started his educational pursuit in Bauchi. His father, who was a nurse/dispenser, was again moved and he finally completed his primary education at Jos thereby earning the nomenclature “Dan Jos”. By the time he was entering secondary school, his parents were on their way back to Lagos where they were when he was born. Although he went to secondary school in Kaduna, he traces his living in Lagos back to those days.

“I attended St. John’s College in Kaduna,” Okonta told The Nation.

He spoke about his college days with uncommon enthusiasm. But that is the way he speaks about everything. He never believes in any negativity in life. To him, all developments contribute to the building of the whole man.

“Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu was our PT captain,” he recalled. “Even then we used to call him ‘major’. He would go into the houses to ensure that all students come out for sporting activities. In fact, sports was so much active at St. John’s College that no student participated in less than three sports.”

If the sharp reporter goes to Chief Frank Okonta’s Frank Okonta Close residence at UPDC Estate at Lekki in Lagos, he would be wrong to come armed with a recorder to tape a one hour interview. This writer did not make that mistake and his gamble paid off. The appointment was scheduled for 2 pm. But considering the notorious Lekki traffic, early start guaranteed this writer got to his house before one o’clock.

What should have been a one-hour engagement did not end till more than four hours later. From his residence to his gallery, Frank Okonta chatted like an old friend. The age gap was no barrier for him at all. He spoke on different subjects with equal enthusiasm. Here is someone who loves life and does not care to hide it.

Born on August 3, 1939, Frank Okonta’s father wanted his son to follow him into the medical field. After leaving secondary school Frank’s love for the media world led him to the Radio School between 1959 and 1960. Thereafter the father thought it was time for his son to pursue a “real career”. In 1961 he was sent to England to pursue studies in the medical field. His elder sister who ended up with a glorious career in the medical field was already out there building herself up in the same field. So the second born being the first son of the family was expected to better the father’s career success.

It took the whole of between two and three years for Frank Okonta to turn his back on the stethoscope and scalpel. He had finally made up his mind that the world of television production and documentary films would suit him better.

He proceeded to attend a television and film school in England and thereafter launched into a life that the average parent would not want to discuss with his relatives and friends.

“I lived more or less as a hippy in those days,” Frank Okonta said. “I had a very, very good time.”

He did not bother to pick up any regular job. Instead, he made contributions to British Broadcasting Corporation and the Office of Information among other media houses. He travelled all over Europe generally having fun. In the process he took time to take a course in Political History at Oxford College of Technology. Although it might not appear in his CV, he also made his first forage into the high-tide world of marriage.

“I made a mistake,” Frank Okonta said in his usual jocular manner. “I thought love should be the sole basis for marriage. Love is one of the basis for marriage but it is not enough. There are other factors that must be considered.”

When he speaks about his wife Patience, whom he married much later, there is no doubt that he has made a greatly successful comeback.

“I deeply pity those who do not have happy homes,” he said. “If a man is not happy in his marriage, it is a great problem. I thank God for the woman I married. She has been such a great source of joy for me in life.”

Okonta’s first marriage was not without any blessing anyway. It produced a daughter, Nkem who became an artist. Okonta’s gallery at Lekki was named after her. As it happened, she died of cancer a few years ago. His second marriage has produced children who are doing well in their different fields.

By the time Okonta returned to Nigeria towards the end of 1972 he showed no interest in picking up a regular job. He spent a year with the Midwest TV producing a programme on farming. Then he moved on to join Tam Fiofori at Sunart Production to produce a documentary of the Rivers State people.

Recalling his days at Midwest TV, Okonta said he used to travel to Lagos every week to process his films. Sometimes, according to him, he would leave Lagos at eight pm to head back to Benin.

“Crime rate was low then,” Okonta said. “You know I have been living in Lagos for much of my adult life. Even while I was schooling in Kaduna I spent all my holidays in Lagos because my parents were in Lagos. My father was in the civil service while my mother was a successful business woman. She built quite some houses in Lagos here. I still have a place at one of houses and my brother lives there.”

To him, the freewheeling life of travelling around shooting documentaries was fun enough. The security of paid job with hope of retirement package simply did not appeal to Okonta. For him, his beer, wine, champagne, cigarette and later cigar were all that made the world go round. The night clubs where life bands played and sporting events were enough fun.

Frank Okonta’s love for sports had taken roots before he left St. John’s College, Kaduna. He recalled how he and his brothers would walk from their Ebute Meta residence to King George V Stadium, now Onikan Stadium to watch football matches.

“Lagos was much safer then,” he recalled. “Life was much sober. Whenever one walked down the road, there was no apprehension that someone might be out there waiting to snatch your bag or car. We moved around freely at all times.”

By the time the one-year project of documenting the people of Rivers State was completed, Frank Okonta moved on to another temporary engagement. This time around, he worked with Prof. Nwachi of the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs as a liaison officer alongside the Yeye Oge of Lagos Chief (Mrs.) Opral Benson. Preparations were then in top gear for the Festac ’77.

Then came the change. Close to the age of forty, Frank Okonta finally decided there was the need for some sort of stability in his life. First he went out in search of a regular job and ended up at the Ministry of Information. Secondly he met the woman that has since remained his lifetime companion, Patience. He got married to her and the family settled at 1004 Estate on Victoria Island where they lived for several years.

At the Ministry of Information and Culture – the two ministries were one then – Okonta found a perfect home. Operating in the areas of protocol and liaison, he travelled widely. “In fact, I’ve been to virtually all the continents of the earth.”

Apart from travelling widely Okonta utilised the opportunity to pursue one of his greatest passions in life – African arts. As he travelled, he took works of Nigerian artists along using every forum to market African arts. In the same sweep, the avid films and documentary lover had more than his take as the Nigerian Television Authority among other such media agencies of the Federal Government were under the supervision of his ministry.

It was during this period that Frank Okonta became renowned as a sports administrator. He spent so much time at sports administration meetings that, according to him, his wife often wondered which came first – sports or the family. He held several positions including those of President of the Cycling Federation of Nigeria and Chairman of Boxing Association of Nigeria.

Another great change came in Frank Okonta’s life in 1999. Clocking 60 years of age, he retired from the civil service at the position of a Deputy Director.

“When I retired,” he said, “I chose to live a sober life. I wanted no more headaches. So I left the world of sports and other such things and opened this gallery.

“The world of sports is very turbulent. Sports administrators in Nigeria are hungry people. There would be five naira meant for a project and someone who does not even attend meetings would come and ask you to account for how you spent the fifteen naira you got. If you buy a new car or build a new house the suspicion is that you had stolen money meant for sport.

“The politics in Nigerian sports administration is so much that a good number of administrators have no problem moving into partisan politics. Both are about the same except that they are not sending hired assassins after themselves in sports administration politics.”

Why did he then choose art?

“I’ve always loved arts. I love beautiful things. I’ve been collecting works of arts for several years. I have works of masters like Ben Enwonwun as well as works of younger ones. I have paintings, carving mixed media works and all sorts of works.

“When I come into this gallery, I feel fulfilled. No doubt I am a wealthy man. My wealth is not in digits stored in a bank. But how can one derive fulfilment from going to the bank manager and asking him to let him sit down and watch his savings. I come into this gallery and I see things that make me happy.”

Last August 3, Frank Okonta’s Nkem Gallery hosted the opening of a one-week exhibition of painter Larry Isima to mark Okonta’s birthday. Immediately after the opening ceremony was over, the other side of Okonta took over.

His residence, a walking distance from the gallery, has a large garden. No doubt his architect wife and his partying spirit must have connived to create the fairy vista. There a lavish party was thrown where friends, especially fellow arts lovers, wined, dined and chatted till late.

“My philosophy in life is to be happy,” Frank Okonta told The Nation during the interview conducted recently. “In my house, we always look for an excuse to throw a party. If I offer to throw a party for a friend and he has nothing to celebrate at that point in time I will ask him to locate a friend of his who has something to celebrate.”

Now he has stopped drinking and smoking for health reasons. But Frank Okonta’s love for the bottle and the butt was legendary. Although he does not regret his teetotaller status he still speaks about champagne and cigar with the relish of a man who would not mind spending his entire life between France and Havana.

Well that is what he has actually done. His entire life has been spent living. While a good number of people spend their days worrying about problems that might never manifest, Okonta spends his days just being happy.

Among guests at Frank Okonta Close at Lekki on that August 3 were prime arts collectors Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, Engineer Yemisi Shyllon and Chief Sammy Olagbaju and painter and arts teacher, former Lagos State Chairman of Society of Nigerian Artists, Kunle Adeyemi. The four have something in common. They are all arrow heads of the Visual Arts Society of Nigeria (VASON) a co-sponsor of the exhibition. Frank Okonta is a patron of VASON, an organisation that seeks to do for visual arts what MUSON is doing for music.

At 68, Frank Okonta’s nothing of retiring into total sober peaceful life just cannot include staying away from his passion for arts and partying. Bubbly and easy to approach, Okonta radiates the air of someone whose arrival at the most sober funeral would create a cheerful atmosphere. To him, life is one long party. And the party just goes on.

Peter Igho: Long walk through the stage

March 18, 2008

This piece was first published in The Nation, Lagos on Wednesday, February 27, 2008

igho-2.jpgigho-1-ed.jpgIgho, the Dan Jikan Kabi

 After a lifelong career in the entertainment industry, 33 of them spent at the NTA where his network productions were household names and he rose to Executive Director, Marketing, Peter Igho is retiring at 60, moving on to…

The next level

Peter Igho bows out of the organisation on March 28 upon attaining the mandatory retirement age of 60, he would have put in 33 years into the tube industry in Nigeria. However, his romance with the stage has lasted longer just as he plans to still remain in the industry that is his life as he told Group Arts and Culture Editor SOLOMON TAI ADETOYE

The Argungun Fishing Festival in Kebbi State is one of the nation’s leading tourist attractions. This year, it holds between March 12 and 15. Apart from the usual events, one special event will feature in this year’s edition of the festival. The special event is to celebrate the Dan Jikan Kabi, Peter Igho. It is the beginning of a series of events lined up to celebrate the 60th birthday of Peter Igho and his impressive career in the Nigerian television industry which winds up as 60 is the mandatory retirement age in the nation’s civil service.

A day after the festival winds up, there will be a special dinner put together by friends and associates in Lagos. The Abuja version holds on March 22. Coincidentally, Igho shares the same birthday with his alma mater, University of Ibadan which was established the year he was born. On March 27, he will be heading there for a double celebration – his and his alma mater’s birthdays. The following day, the exact birth date, his Victoria Island, Lagos home will play host to fireworks display that promises to be as impressive as his distinguished career. The following day is slated for the birthday thanksgiving service at St. Gregory Catholic Church, Obalende, Lagos while reception of guests follows at the Air Force Officers’ Mess at Victoria Island. He will spend March 30 with his friends at the IBB Golf Course in Abuja where he is a member.

Peter Igho has good reason to celebrate life at 60. When one speaks of the television industry in Nigeria, it is impossible to name the top ten people without his name being included. He has won the movie industry award. At work he won the Director General’s Best Executive Director’s Award. Nationally, he holds the National Award of MFR. Looking back at his journey through life, he said, “The people we grew up together, especially those who had more privileged backgrounds, where are they today?”

His journey in life is like a script – a lot of which he wrote. It is one of positive outlook, determination, hard work and most especially talent triumphing over initial challenges.

Peter Igho was born on Easter Sunday, March 28, 1948 in the mining city of Jos in northern Nigeria. Of Urhobo parentage, his own father had lived in Jos from his youth where he worked as a miner.

“The mining industry then,” Igho recalled, “wasn’t much better than it is today. Sometime digging would be carried out for several weeks only to find out there is no mineral at that particular site. Meanwhile one would have spent much money paying labourers doing the digging. When there was success we had good life. My father was not rich but he was comfortable.

“One thing told me how things were financially in those days. It was the state of our accommodation. We lived in this face-me-I-face you kind of accommodation. Whenever things were in good shape, we occupied four rooms. When things took a downward turn, we managed two rooms, a situation that led to our things being piled up along the passage and corridor.”

Of course, two rooms should be sufficient for a modest family. What was then the problem? Was it that his father had a large family?

Asked how many children his father had, Igho surprised this writer with his response. “When we got to around 35, I stopped counting. But I think in all we were around 45.”

Legendary wouldn’t one say? The senior Igho married four wives of which Peter Igho’s mother who had six children was the first. But the definition of his siblings is unconventional just like it is in many parts of Africa.

“Apart from biological children,” Igho explained, “there were children of my father’s brothers and other relatives who were either dead or still alive. Beyond this, we even had children of neighbours living with us. We were treated equally as children. In fact, when I was growing up, I was closer to one of my step-mothers than my mother. She had some delay in having her own children. So, I was the one who was close to her. Coincidentally, I was born on a Sunday, when she finally had her own son, he was born on a Sunday. Beyond this, when I went for my baptism, I chose the name Peter. He too on his own chose the same name when he went for baptism. So, in the family, there are two Sunday Peter Ighos. To differentiate, people refer to us as Sunday Peter Bida and Sunday Peter Lafia.”

As Igho narrated the story of his growing up, one could perceive the joy of the recollection. It was a warm morning and we endured the heat as we chatted. The idea of postponing the interview did not appeal to any of us.

The first time it was to hold the drugs he was taking for typhoid which had put him in a state in which he could not really undertake it. We only spent time in his sitting room chatting mostly about his younger days when he took time off from University of Ibadan to night-crawl in Lagos visiting leading night spots like the late Bobby Benson’s club.

Another schedule was scuttled despite chasing him to his Victoria Island residence and to the local and international wings of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport. He had an urgent flight to take to Abuja. Schedules and postponements followed and at a point in time he was out of the country to attend to an eye problem that required surgery.

During this eventual session, more than once the unassumingly friendly Igho more than once expressed his appreciation “for your endurance.” As the interview ended, he was asked when he would be leaving for Abuja. The answer came without hesitation: “The moment you leave now.”

Whatever energy propelled Peter Igho through life seems not have diminished at the age of 60 – at least not noticeably. One can only imagine what the below average height entertainment legend was like growing up. He, however, spoke about his life with fervour. “My childhood years were some of the happiest in my life.” He said. “Although we were not rich, we were happy. I recall that I wore shoes only during Christmas.”

His childhood also prepared him for what he became in life. From the stories his parents told him, the books that were read to him and that he read and his frequent visits to the cinemas, Igho developed a passion for the stage. Late theatre legend Herbert Ogunde came to Jos around this time for a drama production. Igho said this production had such an impact on him that it was one of the factors that shaped him into what he later became.

After primary education at a Catholic school in Jos, he proceeded to a Catholic secondary school in Kaduna. “In those days,” he recalled, “if you attended a Catholic school, you would learn Igbo because most of the teachers were Igbo. If you attended an Anglican school, you would learn Yoruba as most of the teachers were Yoruba.”

Beyond perfecting his Igbo which he had grown up with alongside children of Igbo people whom his parents lived with in the same neighbourhood, Igho began his sojourn into the creative world while in secondary school in Kaduna. In school, he was one of the best English students. He was also active in literary and dramatic activities winning the prize in the Kennedy Essay Competition organised by the United States embassy then.

After his secondary school examinations in which he secured the much coveted division one, he proceeded to pursue higher school certificate at the same institution. When he completed the HSC, he taught for a while in the school during the months between the final examination and resumption date at the university. This period can be said to be the beginning of his career in entertainment.

“While teaching there,” Igho recalled, “the principal called me and said, ‘Look, you are interested in literary activities, why not organise an inter-house drama competition among the students?’ I took up the challenge selecting plays like The Incorruptible Judge for the houses. But I faced a challenge. There was a house that had no play. So, I took up the challenge of writing a play for the house. The play was entitled Gods of the Ancestors. As it happened, I left to resume at the university before the competition took place. When next I saw the principal, he congratulated me. Surprised, I asked him what he was congratulating me for and he told me that the panel of judges that sat at the competition adjudged my play the winner.”

With such interest and background one would have expected Peter Igho to study theatre arts at the university. Yes, he wanted that but University of Ibadan did not offer theatre arts as a major course then. So, he opted to study English with theatre arts among others as a subsidiary course.

There was just no way his creative mind could have rested while in the university. Even in secondary school, he had formed a music band named The Heart Renders where he played the piano and accordion and was the lead vocalist. Now in UI, he and some like minds put together what has remained arguable the greatest band in the history of UI, The Q Mark. Its inauguration which the authorities were generous enough to allow them use the famous Trenchard Hall came as a surprise to many on campus as people were wondering when they formed the band and where they had been rehearsing. “We were rehearsing deep in the bush behind the campus,” Igho said.The Q Mark performed at different occasions on campus and outside the proceeds of which went into payment of equipment rentals and a little earning that supplemented the financial base of the generally financially challenged band members.

Peter Igho secured employment before leaving the university in 1972. As it was in those days, prospective employers came to the campus to recruit. Igho opted for the civil service.

“During the interview,” Igho told The Nation, “they asked me if I was prepared to serve in the northern part of the country. Obviously they only paid attention to my name and added that to the fact that I had schooled in Yoruba land. They didn’t know I had grown up in the north raised by parents who spoke Hausa and Fulani fluently.”

They finally posted him to the Northwest State. Upon resumption at Sokoto, he was posted to a teachers training college at Bida. A sleepy town, Bida was a sharp contrast to Ibadan that Igho was coming from. But before long, he had turned the town into a hub of activities that attracted people from far and near. Again, it was his talent and interest in entertainment that gave birth to this.

Bringing in students from a nearby female school – hardly a conceivable idea then – he wrote and produced a drama piece that was to run for six days. It ended up running for six weeks. Then the community demanded to see it. That one ran for a month. By then the fame of the presentation had spread throughout the state leading to a state-wide tour. To cap it all, the state governor requested for a command performance. It went on to be the state’s entry that won award at the 1974 Festival of Arts and Culture. This feat led to its being one of the plays chosen for performance at the Festac ’77 for which the ’74 was preparatory.

Despite his promotion in the teaching sector in 1974, the Ministry of Culture which organised the festival struggled and succeeded in attracting him to be one of the pioneering staffers of the NTV, Sokoto that took off in 1975. He was the one-man drama department.

In 1977, the different television stations in Nigeria were brought together under the new name NTA. In 1978, NTA organised a competition among all the stations. Perceived as an outpost, NTA Sokoto’s entry’s winning the competition came as a surprise to not a few. The entry was Moment of Truth written and produced by Peter Igho. This led to his being selected to produce a series aimed at promoting the ideals of the Federal Government’s Operation Feed the Nation (OFN). The initial one-page material handed over to him is far from what Nigerians later saw in Cockcrow at Dawn.

To produce Cockcrow at Dawn, Peter Igho approached a village head that his father had had a relationship with as a miner. That made the series the first of sort completely on location in Nigeria apart from it being the first network soap in the country.

After producing about 38 episodes, NTA decided Igho would be more useful at the headquarters in Lagos. As a result, in 1983, he was promoted a General Manager in charge of network programmes. Peter Igho’s experience in production soon came to the fore in managing network section forever transforming that area of television broadcasting in Nigeria.

“Upon my arrival in Lagos,” Igho said, “I saw a lady rehearsing a production. I told her to see me after rehearsal. She was Lola Fani-Kayode. That was how the network production, Mirror in the Sun, came on board. I soon brought other regional productions on board the network ship. Samanja from NTA, Kaduna; The Village Headmaster from the west; and The Masquerade from the east, which became The New Masquerade.

“Others like Behind the Cloud also came on board. No doubt, 1983 was the beginning of the highpoint of network programmes in Nigeria. We ended up with a network programme nearly everyday.”

To appreciate iconic stars in the industry, Igho began the Stars of the Tube which featured musicians like Ebenezer Obey and Eddie Okonta in 1996. In 1997 he was transferred to NTA Enugu where he served as General Manager until his return to the headquarters as Executive Director in charge of production in 2006. Thereafter, he was moved to the marketing section where he handled the marketing of such projects as the English Premier League. It is from this department that Peter Igho is ending a most outstanding career at NTA.What next?

Having being denied enough time with the family and for rest due to the nature of his chosen career, Peter Igho intends to spend some time resting. Since 1972 when he joined the civil service and 1975 when he joined the television industry, it has been all work. No doubt he deserves it. Thereafter he intends to go seek other ways of, as he put it, “earning my daily bread.”

Of course, he intends to remain in the industry operating in the area of content, marketing and consultancy. As it happens, his children, all of whom had graduated, are in such fields as movies, animation and musicals.

When he was asked as a parting shot to recall any sad moment, the nature a man who has lived his life on stage came forth: “I read a lot of books while growing up – Greek classical and Shakespeare inclusive. This and other things I have experienced taught me that events of ones life cannot be isolated. The total person is a product of all he has gone through, good and bad. So, my tears and smiles all come together to make Peter Igho who he is. If you ask me what I’d like to alter if I were to live my life all over again, I’d tell you nothing.”

What a fulfilling way to end a career in a particular sector of the society. But Igho’s career is not ending yet. He is simply changing gear to move to the next level!