By Benjamin Njoku
….Speaks on why her generation faded away, her son’s ordeal and father’s lifestyle
Her face was dotted with smiles, even as she recounts her pathetic story. In a long while, she has never been seen in that kind of happy mood. While the lively interview session lasted, one could feel her joy, peace of mind and renewed enthusiasm to get back her groove.
Samba Queen, Stella Monye is known to be wearing long face because of turn of events in her life. But on this occasion, she was cheerful and ready to mingle again. After several years of being shut out of the world following the protracted ill health of her son, Ibrahim, Monye is looking good to reclaim her place in the Nigerian music scene.
For more than 18 years, she was by the bedside of her ailing son, who had an accident which pierced his scrotum. That ugly incident has not only affected her psychologically, but also, it has had a huge impact on her career and music.
But the good news is that Monye’s son is doing well now after he underwent two corrective surgeries in New York, last year. His urethra was badly damaged as a result the accident which led to other complications including kidney and liver diseases.
Monye was recently a guest on a Channels Television programme: ‘The Chat,’ anchored by ace-broadcaster, Mani Onumonu, to share her painful past and triumph. It was a moment of rejuvenation for the samba queen who was once feeling isolated and abandoned.
“Sometimes, God uses the trials you face in life to turn your face to him,” she muttered, as she recounts her ordeal. She continued, “It depends on what has happened to you . Of course, it get to that level where you go higher.
“I think my being invisible largely has to do with the accident my son, Ibrahim had many years back. That kind of delayed me, almost ruined my life and made a great impact on my music and career as well as his own career and work.”
However, the samba queen was full of praises to her maker for the life of her son. She said even though her son has undergone two corrective surgeries, in New York, he was due for another surgery last February.
“Recently, I took him to New York where about two surgeries were done on him. We are waiting for the next surgery, in February. I just hope it would the last time, we would be talking about the same issue. There are things that happened to you that would make you to run to Jesus Christ. I have this praise album that I am putting together to thank God for his mercies,” Monye added.
Recounting her ordeal, Monye expressed disappointment with the federal government who never bothered to come to her rescue when her son had the accident.
According to her, Ibrhaim, who’s now 29, had the accident when he was 11. The ‘Oko mi ye’ crooner said she was on a national assignment when her mother called her to share the bad news. “My disappointment really was with the Nigerian government. I was on a national assignment when the incident happened, the government has not even said a word and that is surprising because I have been on many assignments for the country.
I was on tour, NIGERIA ’99, with the best of Nigerian musicians that summer of 1999. We had Late Christy Essien Igbokwe, Shina Peters, Otis Wiliki. We were in Abuja to hand over the FIFA Junior Football Championship theme song to the then President, Gen Abdulsalam Abubarkar. My mother called me to share the sad news. I was on national assignment for Nigeria and I could not leave my colleagues behind. I chose my nation over my son’s painful accident.
If I was at home on that day, my son wouldn’t have stepped out of the house. Apart from the fact that there has been some publicity in recent times, which I’m sure some government officials are aware of, I have reached out to different government authorities but I have never gotten any response.”
Narrating how her son’s ordeal started, the samba queen said he was trying to assist a friend who complained to him as they walked home from lesson that there was no water at their home, and he had not taken bath in days. Inside their compound was a water tanker, barricaded by fences with sharp edged irons for security.
The child pointed toward the water tank as he complained that he needed water from the tank to shower for the day, but couldn’t climb over the fence to turn the tap. Ibrahim volunteered to climb over the fence to open the tap, allowing water to gush. As he climbed the fence, he fell; his scrotum got caught by the sharp iron on top of the fence. It penetrated his scrotum, tore flesh of the scrotum as it pinched deep, painfully inside his urethra.
“And because there was no proper attention given to him at the time of the incident, it started affecting his kidney and liver. It’s a really painful journey. The only thing I did was to encourage him to do a lot of online courses. In his sickbed, he has done a lot courses on IT. He’s a very intelligent young man. But his health challenges somewhat has slowed him down.”
Asked to comment on the music of today, Monye, who gained popularity through her hit track, “Oko Mi Ye”, said the music scene is currently dominated by the children of the rich and yahoo yahoo boys. According to her, her generation faded into oblivion because of the absence of notable record companies like EMI, which left the country at a time. Monye described generation as a ‘bridge ‘ between musical legends and contemporary talents in the Nigerian musical industry.
“ People still call us the legends but the truth is that we are a bridge between the music legends and this new generation of singers. For our generation, we were used to proper channel which has to with going to the record companies to submit our demos and the studio manages would take it up from there. But these record companies left the country because of the activities of pirates and un- conducive environment.”
“Given the development, a lot of us started leaving the country in search of greener pastures overseas, people like Mike Okri jetted out of the country, followed by Majek Fashek, late Ras Kimono among others. A lot of us stop recording because there were no record companies that would take up the jobs.
“This new boys came on board with a lot of cash, some of them are into yahoo yahoo, while many of them are from rich homes. If you look at what is happening in the industry presently, you will notice that a lot of children of the rich are dominating the space. They are also helped by the advent of technology. These days, with computer, they can make songs, but it was not so with our generation. We didn’t have the kind of facilities that are available today.”
On how she began her music career, the samba queen said she started singing in school. “It started while I was in school. I know that I used to be interested in singing, theatre and all of that. Someone reminded me that I have this vocal ability,I didn’t recognize that from the beginning.”
Talking about her debut album, “Oko mi ye” Monye said she didn’t know that the song was going to be a hit when she first composed it. She added that she dedicated the album to her mother because of what she went through in life to keep her marriage.
According to Monye, her father was a Casanova, who never cared for her mother’s feelings. “My mother was one of those African women who really want to stay in their marriages no matter the odds. She was going through some things in life. My father was a Casanova, but my mother stayed back to save her marriage. My father married the second wife and another wife, and my mother never gave up.
She stayed in her rightful position, welcoming the women and never gave them any trouble. At a point, I couldn’t help it, as I decided to do a song for her. I didn’t know that the song would be hit. I was attending one Methodist church then. When I did the song, somebody advised me to talk EMI recording company. The song sold out but I never made a dime from it.”