By EBUN SESSOU
Affiong Odebode is a seasoned banker who worked for 14 years at the International Merchant Bank, IMB. She was born into the family of Mfon, in Cross River State. Her father, late Asuquo Ima Mfon was an engineer with the Nigerian Ports Authority while her mother, late Amah Evelyn Mfon, nee Dadzie, was a Ghanaian and Cameroonian.
She was a nurse at Lagos State General Hospital. Mrs. Odebode, the last child in a family of five, grew up in the Surulere area of Lagos State. She lost her parents at a tender age but she didn’t give up in life. She pursued her dreams with determination. She had a good education and later got a job in the bank where she also met the love of her life. She runs a hospitality firm, Soteria Parkview Hotel, in Lagos.
Today, she shares her experience and how she came up with her first album, “Reborn” a gospel song which she said was fashioned out to direct people to God. Enjoy!
What informed your passion for music?
Music has always been part of my life. I was in the choir as a student in Queen’s College, and during my University days, my sisters and I were part of late Steve Rhodes’ Voices. We joined the band and we traveled around the world with it. I’ve been singing at various functions and over the years, friends and families advised me to produce an album and by the grace of God, I was able to come up with my first album, “Reborn”.
For me, it was not about popularity or fame. A lot of people do not know the reason why they do some things. Our motive should be promoting the gospel, talking about Christ and directing people towards heaven. Singing was something that came naturally.
It was not hard work. I love hymns and one of my favourite hymns is derived from Psalms 24. I also got inspiration from dreams and that was happening over a period of time. Once I got an inspiration from a dream, I would quickly write down the song and rehearse it over and over again and that was how it continued.
My mother used to be a singer too and so it was a natural gift.
Is any of your children committed to singing?
My son plays the piano and drums with his band whenever he is less busy. My two daughters are part of my back-up vocals. I take my children along with me because they are part of the ministry. And whenever their education permits them, they help me. One of my daughters plays the trumpet while the other plays the piano and both of them sing beautifully.
We lost our parents at an early age. But what saw us through were the values and morals that were instilled in us. We were able to stick to those values. What also helped us was the fact that the older ones set a good example. We worked hard and got good jobs and stayed on that straight way. We didn’t have our parents with us for long, but we were guided through life by what we had imbibed from them while they were alive.
How old were you when you lost your parents?
I was eight years old when I lost my father and 12 years old when I lost my mother.
What challenges did you often face in your upbringing?
The number one challenge was money. But God is a good provider. He provided all that we needed for our education but we didn’t have a life of luxury.We had all we needed. There was no space for wants, but our needs were taken care of. We could not satisfy our wants because there was no time for it but we certainly had everything we needed. Public schools were still the best in those days and so, we all had good education and did not allow that opportunity to pass us by.
We realised that there was nobody to turn to and the fact that we needed to sort our lives out became necessary for us to provide for the future. Being the youngest, I was able to emulate the older ones who also set a good example and none of them derailed. And that example gave me a lead.
The first time you got your job, how did you feel?
It was a very good experience. The work ethics was inculcated in us unlike what obtains today. People want to earn fat salaries without actually earning them. And that is what has changed in the system. In my time, it was hard-work with less money. People were interested in learning the rudiments of the work and to deliver high standard. Earning my first salary was a step to my independent life.
I could afford things for myself and help anyone around me who needed help. It was a good feeling. I didn’t experience any problem in the bank where I worked. We were all raised with the right values and those values were important to us. I am the last born in the family of five. Three of my siblings have passed on but I have a brother.
Can you share the experience?
The loss of my three siblings was painful to the point that it almost destabilised me. But I am happy that they were born again Christians before they died. And I believe that we shall meet again.
How did you meet your husband?
I met him in the same bank where I worked, though we were not in the same department. IMB had a very good working environment and people genuinely cared about other people. Although we worked very hard, yet people were able to blend that with their leisures. For me, meeting people in different social gatherings including office, church and family members, friends, clubbing environment was key to a balanced life. No one could tell who was going to be very important in life.
The first time he proposed to you?
We started as friends and somewhere along the line, it was obvious that he wanted to cement the relationship. And so, we progressed gradually and became one.
How did you feel marrying a Yoruba man?
The Nigeria that I grew up in didn’t discriminate then, and so, it was easy for me to choose my husband. We were not bothered about ethnicity and therefore, marrying from other parts of Nigeria was not difficult. Nevertheless, I grew up in Lagos and I am used to the Yoruba culture.
Life as a full-time housewife?
I became a full-time housewife when I left the bank. At that time, I had to adjust to a new type of life. It was difficult because I was used to the rising early to go to work. But I adjusted and I thank God that I was able to use the opportunity to care for my children. Being a parent and moulding another person’s life and making sure that they fulfill their purpose in life were my major concern.
I would have been on top of my career if I had not left the banking industry. But I am happy that I was able to impact the lives of my children. There are times and seasons in one’s life. But the only season that never changed in my life was singing. I started singing as a child and I am still singing.