By Ogbonna Amadi,Â Entertainment Editor
Emma Ogosi may not be a house hold name today, but history will forever remember him as one of the pioneers of country music, a genre of music made popular in Nigeria by Bongos Ikwue.Â A former Air Force officer who passed out from the Air Force school with the likes of the late Chief of Air Staff,Â Air Marshal Ibrahim Alfa, Gentleman Ogosi, as the Asaba, Delta State born ,is better known by friends and relations, has certainly paid his dues in the music industry.
A founding member of PMAN and currently first vice-president of the association, Emma Ogosi is better known in the music industry for discovering Evi Edna- Ogholi, perhaps, one of the greatest female reggae musicians the country ever produced.
As a matter of fact, whenever the name, Emma Ogosi, is mentioned, the first thing that comes to the mind of most Nigerians is the face of that young Isoko woman, Evi Edna Ogholi, who tickled the nation with her home brewed reggae music in the late 80â€™s and early 90â€™s. Such was her fame that no party was complete without her music ruling the airwave.
Although, most of her songs were rendered in vernacular, Nigerians simply loved the cool soothing feeling of her rhythm.
Emma Ogosi may have been the man behind her success. Few Nigerians knew this, and even when they did, they never cared, as long as the rhythm from Evi ruled.Â Suddenly, the rhythm like a broken down windmill groundedÂ to a slow halt. The will of fortune had halted.
And with the halt came the painful realisation that the party was over.Â When this happened, Evi disappeared from the scene. Initially, Nigerians thought it was a joke but 10 years after, Evi Edna is still missing in action.
Ogosi couldnâ€™t place a finger on the real reason why Evi chose to jump ships. But he would painfully say to this writer in his Ikeja office that, â€œ I think Evi left when she couldnâ€™t cope with the sad reality that our fortune had changed. She couldnâ€™t come to terms with the fact that the party was over.
â€œAnd after four yearsÂ of having to struggle to try and make ends meet, she thought she could change things. That was when she decided she needed to take a break and travel to the West Coast to pursue some of the bootleggers who were busy pirating her works.â€
Did he give his blessing?Â â€œOh, yes, I didâ€, Ogosi affirmed.
â€œWhen she left, we were in touch, until she decided to move to Abidjan, Cote Dâ€™ Voire. But I was advised not to let her go into that country because of the crisis. But before I got to her, she was already in. And for three months, we heard nothing from her and thought something had happened to her.
But knowing Evi for her resilience, I kept faith and was, therefore, not surprised, when one day, she called to say she was in Paris.â€
Paris? This writer wondered out loud. â€œYes, she called from Parisâ€ Ogosi assured. â€œShe may have joined a CNN crew to escape as I gathered.â€
Ten years after keeping faith, is the fire of love still burning, I sought to know?
Well, Ogosi began, â€œI kept faith for nine years but right now thereÂ is a woman I â€˜m seeing. But I haveÂ told her there is a woman whom I love and who is still my legal wife. And if she returns today and wants her home back, well… .Â She understands this and she is not complaining.â€
Sometimes women act funny. Did Evi ever try to find out if he was seeing anyone?
â€œYes, and that was eight years ago when she asked the daughter.â€
If you have enjoyed this little bit, well this is just the beginning. Ogosi has more to say.
Not much has been heard from you lately…
I still sing. Let me embarrass you a little bit. You have in your possession a demo of mine. Remember? But Iâ€™m looking for a good record company that will pump in money for the video and recording proper of the demo. So I still sing. But I cannot sing and market myself, or should I?
Itâ€™s over a decade you released an album.
All I know is that I have been writing songs and my voice is still very intact. My love for the business of singing is intact. All things being equal, you should hear from me before the end of this year, by His Grace.
Youâ€™ve been in musicÂ over four decades…
I have been in the business professionally since 1967. My band called the Expensives performed at IBBâ€™s wedding on 1969 in Kaduna. But my name was not Emma Ogosi then. I was known as Cherry Manuel.
Werenâ€™t you a member of the Nigerian Air Force then?
Of course, I was in the Air Force. I left secondary school in 1962, joined the Air Force in 1963, August 3 to be precise, with the likes of the late Ibrahim Alfa (retired Air Marshall) and also the late Air Marshal Yusuf Nururimo.
We all flew out of Nigeria on the same plane on August 23, 1963, to Germany for training. The former Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar,Â was also one of us in the Air Force. But he was a year our junior,Â having joined in 1964.
Why did you leave?
The civil war was raging, the Airforce was in its embryonic stage with no structure in place. The longest you stay as an officer cadets is six months and you are commissioned as an officer. And if we joined in 1963 and by December 1967 we were still officer cadets, frustration will certainly step in. And the war compounded the situation. Some of us left, Abubakar also left about that time to join the Nigeria Defence Academy. I became a musician by accident for that was not what Iâ€™d planned to become.
Was that when you formed the POGO Group?
No. The band called the Expensives was formed in January 1963 and we were invited to play at IBBâ€™s wedding in 1969.
You knew IBB…?
Of course, he was in the 4th Battalion and he knew me very well…. Please, donâ€™t let me say things that had happened in the past if you donâ€™t mind. At this point nobody, knew he was going to be Head of State.
Were you close to his wife, Maryam?
Apart from coming from my own place, my mother, who died three weeks ago, died as the eldest daughter of their family in Ogwogo village in Asaba. We have the same blood running in our veins.
You knew all these persons and yet you never sought their financial assistance. Why?
Donâ€™t mind me- o! I keep wondering too. Apart from not using them, some of them wanted to help me by force. For instance, in the early 80s, one of them wanted to me to relocate to Yola,Â so he could help. But I just wouldnâ€™t do that because of PMAN. I also think it had to do with my upbringing. My father was a teacher for 50 years, and my mother a full time housewife who made sure we were beaten into line. As a young man, I never stayed out late. And even now, I donâ€™t keep late night.
Even when you didnâ€™t seek help from them, did you keep in contact with them?
Yes. When the late Alfa was Chief of Air Staff, he was visiting my family when we lived on Adeniyi Jones. To begin with, he was the first friend I made in the Air Force. I was born on August 13, 1942. He was born on August 14, 1942. I joined the Air Force on August 8, 1963 and he joined on August 15, 1963.
I had settled first in the hotel we stayed preparatory to leaving for Germany. And as more enlisted cadet officers joined the Airforce, they met us in the hotel:
On the 14th as I was being hosted to a birthday at the hotel, he sauntered in.Â And instead of acting like a new person, he walked in with this swagger and exclaimed, â€œI have not joined the Airforce yet and you people are already celebrating my birthday.â€ He was gangling and as thin as a rope. Yet he had this sense of humour and thatâ€™s how our friendship started.
Iâ€™m still surprised that you couldnâ€™t bring yourself to ask for your friendsâ€™ favours?
As a young lad growing up I was influenced by the likes of the great Ghandi of India. He had no shoes, no house, nothing one could call his own. Yet he was able to change the course of the history in India. He had millionaires, educationists and the business community deferringÂ to him. And without firing a single shot, he got independence from the British for his country, India.
I was also influenced by the late Aminu Kano. With his humility, he was able to gather his followers and faithfuls. These persons were my role models. Worldly things donâ€™t count to me.
Abubakar Abdulsalami was once in power, were you in touch with him?
I would have wanted to, but you see like the Queen bee, the soldiers and the workers will never let you get close to him. But since he relinquish power, weâ€™ve met a couple of times. Recently I went to see him during one of those Muslim celebrations, in December 2007.Â I got there and after sending in my card he sent a reply through an officer and asked me to go back to the hotel and wait for him till 4pm. In addition he sent the officer with more than enough cash to settle my hotel bills. By 3pm a soldier picked me at the hotel and by 4pm I got in. He was waiting for me. We hugged and of course he came short of saluting me. In fact, he almost did.
A former Head of State trying to salute you?
Itâ€™s the nature of soldiers. If you were my senior in the force, by the time we leave the force, I will still have the compulsion to salute.
As we settled in, he introduced me as his senior in the force to some of his friends who were with us.
And youâ€™ve never regretted leaving the airforce, especially when you saw some of your juniors rose to become big shots?
Most of my colleagues are dead. Not just through war, but by natural death. Secondly, most of them were not as happy as I am. If you are doing what you like you are happy. Although I never wanted to take up music as a profession, but I had to. Maybe occasionally I did regret when I saw my colleagues, I never dwelled on it.
And you flew planes while in the airforce?
I did fly for a while but I failed the course eventually so I had to go for aeronautical engineering. But if I find myself in an aircraft with the pilot dead Iâ€™d fly the air craft.
You settled in as a musician how well off will you say you are today?
I am as comfortable as a country musician would be in a country where they donâ€™t value country music so much.
Having put in more than two decades into PMAN, will you say it isÂ Uhuru yet?
No. Somebody once said, we should enact Draconian laws for the musicians, but the truth is, no matter how Draconian the law may be, it was made by man and it could be still be changed by man. What is happening in PMAN is happening everywhere.
What was it like with the ladies especially in the late 60s and 70s?
I like women very much and my liking them is respecting. I think you may be insulting a woman by taking her to bed when you donâ€™t want to marry her. Unless of course if she forces herself on you and you like her enough.
I can do without a woman or sex for many years. But if Iâ€™m in love, youâ€™d know straight away. And no matter what she does, Iâ€™d go with her.
So how many times have you fallen in love?
A couple of times and two of them ended up in marriage.
Can we talk about your first marriage?
I was a producer with NTA Benin and she came from Port Harcourt on attachment. And by my estimation she was very beautiful.
One day she walked in and (I recognised her as one of those trainee persons), and said â€œoh Iâ€™m having my birthday the next day and you guys must come.â€
And to prevent to trouble, we all said weâ€™d come, but Pat Finn my friend blurted out saying â€œDonâ€™t mind him o! He wonâ€™t come.â€
And that was when she told Pat to make sure I attended the party.
On the day of the party, we were in the stationÂ when the then area manager of NTC came to say heâ€™d been ordered to bring me.
And to cut a long story, I ended up on the dance floor with the lady who incidentally hadnâ€™t danced with anybody before my arrival.
I found her beautiful and heavy upstairs. I like them big and bold. Eventually we got married and we had two kids, a lady who has made me a grandfather four times and a son who is getting married in September this year.
What broke up the marriage?
I cannot tell. As I said, I was a producer with NTA Benin and by the time she left, Iâ€™d put in about nine years.
When Okilo become the Governor of Rivers State, her family who had close family ties with him tried to talk me into relocating to Port Harcourt with her. But I refused because I had a career ahead of me as a producer with NTA. And because I refused to go with her, she left..
And so, it became a part of me to drive from Benin to Port Harcourt every weekend to see my family until one day, I decided I couldnâ€™t take it any more and I quit. As I speak to you NTA never replied to my resignation letter nor did the management send an acceptance letter to me.
Now when I got to Port Harcourt it was a different situation that I faced. It became more of a victor and the vanquished situation. I couldnâ€™t cry to anybody because my family had virtually abandoned me after calling me names for following a woman home to her people.
When Laolu Akins surfaced in Port Harcourt with the information that they were trying to set up PMAN and that I was needed, it was the opportunity I needed to escape. I relocated to Lagos.
Of course divorce followed after that.
And after the divorce?
She never remarried and never had another child for any man . God knows it wasnâ€™t my fault.
Evi Edna comes calling…
I wrote a song for Evi then which was titled, â€œJust pretend you are feeling lonely, feeling confused and lost. If you think youâ€™re loving some one who doesnâ€™t love you and you look around to see someone new, will you fallâ€
Thatâ€™s why I said I was a victim of love. After my experience with my ex-wife, I waited for about two years and suddenly she came into my life (Evi) And when I looked into her eyes I saw plenty of love.
Was it love at first sight?
Yes…O! And it was knock out
Was that why you devoted all your time to her?
Not really, but any woman that comes in contact with me and we get up to the stage of loving and making love, she can never remain the same. She must have been transformed in one way or the other. For instance if a woman who cannot cook comes into my life, Iâ€™ll make sure she learns how to cook. Iâ€™ve always been a catalyst in the lives of women.