Honourable Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonayinma formerly representing Egor/Ikpoba-okha Constituency, Edo State at the Federal House of Representatives has always been a lover of music. His two sons, Eghosa Rodney Agbonayinma (ROW) and Osazuwa Michael Agbonayinma (ZUWA) are the duo who made up the music group popularly known as Roze.
On Saturday, December 16, 2020, he released a reggae gospel single titled “Bigger Than The World” and it has since been generating comments and some positive reviews. While many may be caught short that a highly regarded politician is veering into music the former lawmaker has his ample reason and he made it known in this interview.
What led you into music?
It’s a long story, but let me make it short. It happened many years ago while I was in America, even though I’ve always loved music, way before I left for the United States. I loved all kinds of music; hip-hop, reggae, RnB, Afro-juju and so on, but getting to the United States opened my eyes at the time. I loved going to church to listen to praise and worship. I studied Bible Knowledge and Islamic Religious Knowledge back in the days in secondary school and both religions preached love, irrespective of tribe and ethnicity.
On a particular day in this church I just realised that during praise and worship, we were just clapping hands as there were no musical equipment or instruments available. It was Christ Apostolic Church. God told me to buy musical equipment for the church and I did. Again, nobody could play any of the instruments.
The pastor’s wife and daughter could sing very well and while they were singing one day without instruments, I just started beating the drums. That was how I developed how to play musical instruments on my own inside the church. Initially, people used to laugh at me because I wasn’t very good, but over time they started applauding as I got better. I wasn’t doing it for anything, but for the love, I have for God. Praise worship and thanksgiving is important.
You were once into politics. Is music now a career or hobby for you?
I wouldn’t say it’s a career or hobby. Praising and appreciating God should not be a hobby. It should be part of you. You owe it to God and to yourself. I know people see me now and are like “You’re singing for God”. I’ve been doing it over the years, since 1987 when I was baptised. I’m not just into politics alone. Politics is part of life; it’s about helping people, showing love and doing things for people. I’ve been into politics before I came back to Nigeria.
I was the campaign manager for Bill Clinton in the African community. I was the campaign coordinator at the time for George Bush. As far back as 1988, I was the campaign coordinator for the then Mayor of Houston. A friend of mine who was one of the best in political and campaign consultancy introduced me into politics because he noticed I loved helping people. It’s unfortunate that politics has degenerated to what it is today.
It’s basically about helping the people. I see it as a blessing that I’m in politics because it’s a means for me to impact others. It is not necessarily about enriching myself. Yes, I would love to be comfortable, but the most important thing is how I’ve been able to help the less privileged.
The Bible teaches us to help others. Growing up I saw how the missionaries helped people. I attended a missionary school. Things are different now. I want us to go back to the drawing board. Music and politics are interwoven. Love is God and God is love. When you help somebody, you’re doing it for God. When you’re singing, you’re doing it for God. This is what makes me happy and gives me joy. You are never too big to praise God, no matter how rich you are.
I was born in the village. I tapped rubber, hunted rabbits, went to the farm, fetched water from the stream. If you forget where you’re coming from, you’ll miss where you’re going to. God took me from grass to grace. As a little eight-year-old, whenever I talked about going to the United States, people shunned and ridiculed me, but it came to pass. I went to the US and I came back. America was built by people like us. Why can’t we build Nigeria? Nigeria can be among the leading nations, it’s just going to require the effort and commitment of every Nigerian.
In 1991 when you featured on ABC Network, we were hearing about a reggae-gospel artiste for the first time. Can you shed more light on that?
Nobody wanted to hear about reggae-gospel. I wanted to reach out to people through music. I was younger then.
When you look at God Almighty, you have no other thing to offer him, you just have to do what you have to do to praise him, and thinking of reggae music, it just came to my mind. “Why can’t you do reggae music?” Nobody was doing it, as at then, nobody wanted to sing reggae in the church, it was like an abomination. The late Archbishop Idahosa of blessed memory, may his soul rest in peace, was my mentor and a father to me, he gave me so much encouragement, he was close to the big pastors in America and we used to sing together.
When people hear about reggae music, what comes to their mind is “smoking of weed”. No, we don’t smoke, it is just another medium to reach out to people through music. We have R&B gospel, hip hop gospel, Benin and even Yoruba gospel. When I brought the gospel into reggae, I won’t lie to you, there were a lot of criticisms but the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa of Church of God Mission International stood by me and the late Pastor John Osteen of Lakewood Church. Do you know when I released my album “Jesus is One” the late Pastor John Osteen supported me? People used to go to the library to collect the cassette, listen and returned it then. People from the church borrowed the video, played and returned it to the church.
In everything in this life, whatever you do, some things happen in a way you do not know. God gives me directions on the way I should go or not to go. As at that time, the media helped a lot in America, to attract people. I involved Bob Marley’s mother, Ziki Marley and a few people so we decided to have a reggae festival which was always done on Sundays by that time, different artists, choirs were invited and I also sang.