MUSICIANS ARE UNGRATEFUL PEOPLE CHRISTY ESSIEN-IGBOKWE
Christy Essien Igbokwe, an actress, a singer and the former President of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria is a delight any day. In this interview with ADAEZE AMOS, she talks about her experience as the PMAN president and her humble beginning.
You have been in the cooler for some time now, and why haven't you released new albums?
The problem is this: sometimes things happen without you knowing why, or without you having a tangible explanation why they happen. I remember a woman of God once told me when I asked her why things should happen like this to some people. She just laughed and asked me what happened. I explained to her what happened.
What did you tell her happened to you?
No, I won't tell you. I don't want to talk about it.
Why not just say a part, not all?
No, I won't.
Can you continue with your story please?
Okay, so the woman now said sometimes God could delay things, especially if he is not through with you. That if he stills wants to use you to touch people's lives and glorify his name, that he could cause some little upsets in your business and in your life. But the only thing is that he will not take your life nor allow you to be sorrowful, but he could cause some upsets. And that if things keep happening to you smoothly, you ought to get worried. I later believed her.
Yes, because anything can happen; you may just die and go. When she told me this, I didn't believe immediately because nothing was happening to me that was that bad. I came back home and I thought over what she said, still doubting. Then when I dreamt, I was told in my dream that what the woman said was right. That life is all about ups and downs, that life is about experiences. When you get an experience that you do not expect, there is something there for you to learn and if you fail to, then you are not being realistic. God is perfect; it is only him that knows us in and out.
You were the president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria. What was the experience like?
Yes, let me start by saying how I became the president of PMAN. Some people came and begged me to come and lead the union. I never said I wanted to be the president. By that time I was supposed to be on tour to the U.S. It was only by God's grace that I was not sued by the company because I got the visa stamped to stay in the U.S. for six months. It was some old men that came to me and begged me to be the president of PMAN. They said that since I formed PMAN, I should come and be the mother of PMAN. I told them that I was supposed to be on top. I told them I had gone for the visa (to the U.S.) and how I had wished I hadn't gone for the visa. That didn't deter them. They continued begging for two weeks and I didn't know what to do. I had to recall my husband where he was then and told him, 'please come, I'm in trouble.' Do you know why I later got worried? My father had told me that when elders come beckoning to you, begging you to do something, if you don't do it, you are finished. So, I said to my husband, 'please come.' I also called a family friend and they all met the seven old men. They kept pleading and my husband and my family friend said I should accept it. I then accepted. It's not as if I went for it.
Your experience as the PMAN president?
Yes, when I got there, God knew I was selfless. Only God can vindicate me, nobody else can. I don't care what anybody says. But you see, I keep saying that they should go and check my records. I'm the first PMAN president that handed over in writing what I saw, what I'm owing before I left. Nobody has ever done that. I'm the first president that didn't use the union's money for anything – accommodation, feeding or even allowance. I even used the commissions due to me in helping the union, which I also accounted for.
This is because I kept an open account that was operated by me and the national treasurer, which of course shouldn't have been so. By right, I was due to my commissions, but I opened an account that the treasurer was a co-signatory to with me and I used that money to take care of the musicians who were in trouble.
I didn't want to use the union's money anyhow. I didn't think it was right. The money for the union should be used for the cause of the union. So, when they said I had commission, I said, 'good.' I opened an official account that was operated by me and the treasurer. And that was my money; I was supposed to go with it because I got the business. But I also accounted for that separately. The commissions I was supposed to have for bringing jobs, but I used the money on the musicians. I told them, 'I said if any day they ever said in any function of the union I took a bottle of soda water, or stout from the unions money, I'm going to give you one thousand bottles of stout because I never did.' I refused to do that. That time, it got to a point where Mrs. Jeremiah Useni, may her soul rest in perfect peace, and Mrs. Mariam Abacha got to know that I was not using the union's money to get jobs for the union nor asked for commission and they asked me 'are you playing God?'
But I hope the musicians appreciated what you did?
For where? Musicians are very ungrateful people.
But you are a musician, aren't you?
Yes I am. I'm part of them, but I'm not ungrateful. I wanted to make a difference in the union. I didn't go there to take their money. I didn't need their money. But very soon God will vindicate me. When I was there, they said all sorts of things, but I just laughed at them without talking. People said why? I told them that my grandmother told me that if you are sure of yourself, what you have done for the good of the people and with the fear of God, don't talk or be hasty to talk. She said you should let them finish talking; that God would vindicate you and that was what I did. It is thieves that call others thieves. If you are not a thief, you can't say somebody is a thief. Although I have left the throne as the president, I still wish them well. I have always been there for them.
Why is it that you have not been participating actively in home videos as an actress?
Well, don't worry about that, but I have acted some home videos. I was in Flesh and Blood. Then I also acted in Tears of Womanhood, which was launched by Mrs. Jerry Rawlings in Ghana. You see, one thing with me is that people bring scripts to me. I can show you many scripts here with me, but you see, if I don't believe in the story line and the part that is given to me, I won't act it. Take it or leave it, I'm a role model. There are some parts I shouldn't do.
Why haven't you been able to produce your own movie?
There is time for everything. I sang it now. It's one of my tracks. Let me sing it for you... 'There is time, time, time for everything (sings).
So that then means you are waiting for that time?
Yes. When that time comes, I will do everything that God wants me to do.
What are you doing to maintain your voice?
I don't do anything. God gave me the voice. God told me that I'm a member of the choir in heaven. He didn't only say that to me, he also told other people that I'm a member of the choir and that is why my voice has remained even without me taking care of it. I don't need to; God said I shouldn't bother; that I should enjoy myself and do what I want to do; that my voice will remain protected.
Do you believe that?
Yes why not? (laughs).