He was originally born as Suleiman Shuaib to a Muslim father who was a Chief Imam but when he took up permanent residence as a house hold member of late Fela Anikulapo, he adopted the name Keji Hamilton. Â
Today, the bad-boy whose reign of terror (in Felaâ€™s house hold)Â left many miserable is the Head Pastor of Tabernacle Christian Ministry, and House of Joy, a rehabilitation centre for people dealing in drugs organized by the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
In this heart-rendering story, Keji, who once had his future in his hands when he gained admission to study Pharmacy at the University of Ibadan in 1981, relives memories of how he abandoned his studies after spending one session to pursue another dream.
â€œI was introduced to hemp smoking by a lady,”he said, adding, “when I took it the first time, I lost control for almost 24 hours.â€
But he did not stop at that. After mastering the art of hemp smoking, he graduated into cocaine and heroine. With each sniff, he gradually became a junkie.
â€œInitially, I got the drugs free. Soon, I started buying with my own money. I spent an average of N25, 000 a day. To have a steady supply, Keji soon resorted to armed robbery.
â€œYou know the salary was not much and to have a steady supply of the drug, I became a criminal. I had my own set of boys who worked for me at the time.”
Many times, he was arrested and detained by the police for breaking into peopleâ€™s homes,Â a feat that earned him a nomination for elimination by the cops. Read on…
You have a speciousÂ place. What do you do here?
This is a drug rehabilitation centre owned by Province 16 of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) but Iâ€™m the coordinatorÂ of the centre.Â Iâ€™mÂ here because of the fact that I introduced this kind of work to this particular province.
Did you take a proposal to them or what?
No, I went to preach in one of their parishes and as I was preaching, I told them that some people are suffering out there, while theyâ€™re there enjoying in air-conditioned rooms.
Before then, Iâ€™d been working hand in hand with some other rehabilitation centres like Willspring Rehabilitation Centre, and CADAM (Christ Against Drug Abuse Ministry) which is an NGO.
Because I had been a drug addict myself, I knew that for you to change the perspective of a man, you must learn toÂ paint him aÂ good picture, something better than where heâ€™s coming from.
It was my vision and the excellent spirit of the RCCG that brought about what you are seeing here today and right now, we are playing host to the secondÂ set of victims of drug abuse.
What do you do for these people when they come here?
When they come in here, they go through a sixÂ months discipleship training because drugs are highly spiritual even though some people donâ€™t want to agree but I know this because Iâ€™ve been a victim.
Here, they go through what we call Cold Turkey which is a system where you donâ€™t apply any medicine to allow all the drugs in your system to flush out in six months.
After the cold turkey, what else do you do for them?
The present set of victims came into this place about two weeks ago and weâ€™ve been doing deliverance and casting out different demons from them.
But the deliverance doesnâ€™t make them completely healed. We have to transform their minds. Romans 12 v. 2 says, do not be conformed to the things of this world but beÂ ye transformed by the renewal of your mind. You know some of them have been smoking for 30-35 years, so they already have a mind set that needs to be broken.
We do our best to delete that mind set by giving them lectures. We have 38 subjects and lecturers who come to take them on integrity, humility, endurance, patience, fear of God, marriage and so on.
After that, they write an exam and we grade them. They also go through Baptismal classes and we get them baptised. After which they learn some songs and drama in preparation for their graduation.
Do you have cases where some of your inmates get violent when they canâ€™t get cocaine or even cry?
They cry but they donâ€™t get violent and that is because the violent demon has been cast out.
Do they beg for drug sometimes?
No, they donâ€™t because nobody will give them.
Is there any other organisation that assists you outside the Church?
No, itâ€™s just theÂ Church province 16 and personal donations. Thereâ€™s already a structure set down where by people give, which is the essence of Christianity anyway.
If this kind of place exists, how come you donâ€™t tell the world about it?
First, weâ€™re trying to make sure that we have results because we just kicked off July, last year. Itâ€™s only now that we can actually grant this kind of interview.
People wouldnâ€™t have taken us seriously if we had been talking before now. Right now, we can show you our activities.
Are visitors allowed?
Not until after about five months because it can affect them psychologically.
What about allowing them to go and visit people?
No, they only go out when we have the conventions and the congress at the Redemption Camp.
How did you come about the name Keji Hamilton?
I went to Felaâ€™s house a very young man.
When I heard that he renames people, I decided to take a name for myself. I told myself that I wanted to be the second Fela so I took the nameÂ Morounkeji and thatâ€™s how Keji came about. But I took Hamilton because I liked George Hamilton out of those guys who founded America. How did I meet Fela? Femi introduced me to Fela.
Itâ€™s not true…
He introduced me to his father. We just met and he took me to Fela. I came to the Shrine on a Saturday morning.
Were you already smoking then?
No. I was a virgin. I wasnâ€™t smoking, drinking and I had not touched any woman. I was clean.
But you knew how to play the keyboard?
No I didnâ€™t know anything about music, my story is deep. I didnâ€™t know music before I went to Felaâ€™s house. I had only seen people dance to traditional music and that was all. When I came home, my dad, a police officer who played a lot of Felaâ€™s music, summoned me. We talked, and I told him that I wasnâ€™t interestedÂ in schooling anymore, that all I wanted to do was music.
I wanted him to send me to a music school abroad, but immediately I said I wanted to do music, my father said God forbid. Canâ€™t you see what music has done to that man they call Fela?
At that moment, I told myself everybody knew Fela, but nobody knew my father.Â Itâ€™s just like how young people see celebrities today which is something weâ€™re trying to fight against. Even Christian children have their role models as these stars and most of these stars are not living a holy life.Â They smoke, drink, they do all manners of things, they even go into spiritualism.
When you talk about spiritualism, I was trained by Fela and we became close pals in the spirit. So, when my father finished talking about Fela, I made up my mind I was going to look for Fela.
So, you didnâ€™t have anybody in mind before then?
No, but when he mentioned Fela, I decided to lookÂ for him. Two days later, I went to the Shrine and met this fair young man. He had all those carved gods in the Shrine. I saw him washing them and a woman called Sewa was busy cooking on the other side.
I said hi, he said how are you? and I said fine. He asked me if I lived around there and I said yes.
He asked what I was doing here at the Shrine and I said well, Iâ€™m supposed to be in school but Iâ€™ve just decided that I donâ€™t want to go to school anymore.
When he finished washing and setting all the gods, he invited me and we went through Felaâ€™s changing room to the sitting room. What Iâ€™m telling youÂ today, Iâ€™ve never revealed it to any reporter. So we satÂ in his living room, and Sewa served us fried plantain and sauce.
When we finished eating, he asked me if I wanted to meet with his father and I said yes, so he took me to Kalakuta.
When I saw Fela, I was telling myself, so Iâ€™m meeting with Fela, the same Fela I used to see on albums. In his sitting room, he was wearing just pants but that was his days of poverty.
Fela was poor then. He had no money until he went to jail and came back. Na im, door come open for am.
Anyway, Femi introduced me to Fela and told him that Iâ€™d like to stay in his house to learnÂ how to play music.
Fela said â€˜whatâ€™s your friend’s name? And I said my name is Keji Hamilton. He said Keji? And I said Morounkeji and he said okay.
He asked, do you have any other name? And I said Ifakunmi meaning Iâ€™m full of Ifa. I think he was satisfied and told Femi to give me a room upstairs. So they paired me with Dele Sosinmi whoâ€™s now in England teaching Afro-beat.
How did you get into music finally?
These are the things they donâ€™t want you to hear but Iâ€™ll talk about it. Fela had a library that contained books. They were spiritual and revolutionary books.
The world didnâ€™t know he had a library?
They wonâ€™t tell you but go and ask people like Dede Mabiaku and Lemi Ghariokwu.Â Go and ask them, were they not the young African pioneers? Didnâ€™t Fela go to OAU to deliver lectures? Where do you think he got those information if not in those books? All these guys I mentioned now read those books.
By the time I came in, Lemi and Duro had already found their way. Dele Sosinmi took the place of Duro, so I was the newest generation that came in. I came in when Felaâ€™s music was amalgamating from that single straight way to when it changed pattern to heavy gbedu.
I came in and under studied Fela because I have this gift of getting to the root of whatever I wanted to know. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m still the only one they say still plays the authentic Afro beat. You can google my name and listen to my music online on My Space and read some of the press report on me like the one Mojo Magazine did on me in England. Those people said I play the music just like the master Fela.
So I went into this Library and read lots of books like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Angela Davies and all them human right people and got intoxicated and was like men, the white man is in trouble.
Then, I read the book titled The first Jesus Christ which said that the first Jesus was a black man who came from Egypt and lived for 150 years. I read another one titled How to become a witch or wizard.. But there was this book I read about Yoga.
Inside it, I saw an exercise where you are supposed to light seven candles, concentrate on a particular position and make some chant. So one night, I decided to practise it. As I was sitting and chanting, I saw another me sitting and chanting too.
Abstract projection. I left my body and floated. I passed the sky and hit the second realm. I met with beasts and demons. They took me into a hall and introduced me to three other beasts. And we were speaking with a language they call telepathy.
These three beasts gave me instructions on rhythm guitar, piano and bass guitar. I thought it lasted for 30 minutes but when I came back to my body, I had been out for three days and that was how I learnt music.
So youâ€™re actually a wizard?
I was, yes. Fela no be wizard? Wetin dem dey call am if im dey play? Omo Iya Aje (Son of witch).
So when I came back to my body, I walked up to Fela and told him I wanted to play in his band.
He asked me if I knew what I was talking about.? Were you a musician before coming here? I said no and he said â€˜come on, get out my friend, and I left.
The next day I went back to him and repeated the same thing, he said â€˜Are you mad? Do you think my band is childâ€™s play?’ But I insisted and told him to test me. So he asked me the instrument I wanted to play and I said Rhythm guitar because that was the one I started with. Then he told somebody to bring aÂ rhythm guitar and he tested me.
He started calling cords (A minor G flat bla bla bla) and I was sampling anyone he called for. But unknown to him, there was a being standing behind me giving me instructions on what to do that Fela could not see.
Are you saying the devil really was in you?
So, you donâ€™t believe that even with all his works on earth? The devil exists and I encountered him. Look at me, with all those my fightings at the Shrine, you see any scar for my body? You know how many people I dey stab everyday?
Donâ€™t youÂ know that my major assignment was to make sure that blood touched the ground everyday. And that was the cause of all those my fightings.
If I start telling you about Afro- beat, you wonâ€™t leave here. According to Fela, weâ€™ll leave that one for a future symposium.
The major music that Africa has is Afro beat because it came out ofÂ highlife. Fela started with highlife together with people like Eddie Okonta. By then , I wasnâ€™t born but these are stories he sat me down and told me because by the time he discovered that I had gone to the other world, he said he wished I was his son.
You know that when Fela went to jail, FemiÂ formed his own band and he wanted me to be part of that band. And I told him Iâ€™m not a traitor. If we have to form a band, we must wait till Fela comes out of jail. And that was what separated me and Femi. If not, we were dinning together. Positive Force band was formed on old Awolowo road.
So how did you get into drug?
One Sunday afternoon, one guy just waka come meet me. He said ‘young guy, I like the way you play, youâ€™re good.’ I said thank you.
He said, â€˜you know, young boys like you use something in America which enhances their performance and I asked what it was.
And he said cocaine and heroine, I said what is that? I told him Iâ€™ve never heard of it and Iâ€™m not interested because Iâ€™m okay with the weed. The guy said â€œlook at you, youâ€™re a coward and I said what? You know you donâ€™t tell a young man that heâ€™s a coward.