A social media activist brought to the attention of Nigerians the deplorable and pathetic living condition of Igbo music icon Mike Ejeagha.
Many cultural expositors have expounded on dangers of extinction facing some African cultures and traditions. While civilization has made the lives of Africans easier as a result of quantum of developmental strides that birthed with it, its advent has posed a huge challenge to the sustainability of African cultural heritage. Music is one of the avenues Africans expressed their true identities and preserved our revered cultural heritages. Igbo nation is the worst hit in the cultural drought ravaging what gave us identity in the past—culture. Traditional Igbo music legends who taught ancient wisdoms, using folklore have been relegated to the dustbin of history and left to languish in abject poverty.
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Social media got agitated recently when a social media activist called Charles Ogbu, brought to the attention of Nigerians the deplorable and pathetic living condition of Igbo music icon Mike Ejeagha. For those of you that are too young to know this music trail blazer, he is a folkloric ideologue who has promulgated wisdom-riddled folklores, using the instrumentality of music. He is a philosopher, storyteller, musician—all rolled in one personality. He has contributed a lot in promotion of Igbo culture in particular, and African heritage in general. Till date, some of his folkish songs—several decades old, remain true custodian of Igbo values, philosophies and ideologies. Using his songs, he propagated folklores that oriented Igbo nation; and others who understand Igbo language, on the need to eschew greed, pride, jealousy, treachery, selfishness.
Iconic Mike Ejeagha taught Igbos contentment, selflessness, true spirit of brotherhood as epitomized in love, being our brothers keepers, etcetera. Some of his popular melodious tracks are: omeka agu, uwa emgbede, obi aku, nnam eze, etcetera. At a point, his philosophical songs and ancient folklores assumed the conscience of Igbo nation. He is one of the few legendary Igbo highlife musicians who did not sing-praise any wealthy man. He remained true to the ideological tenor of his musical career—which spanned several decades. He did not fall to the temptation of sycophantic hypocrisy to massage egos of rich people by praising them. Ejeagha did not allow obsessive quest for materialism corrupt the philosophical purity of his folkish songs. Many of his songs have remained ever-green, after several decades they were conceptualized and released.
When the heart-breaking condition of this living legend was brought to the public on social media, I nearly broken down in tears. From the ugly account of Charles Ogbu, who paid him visit in his Enugu residence, iconic “gentleman” Mike Ejeagha has been left to perish in penury and obscurity. His deteriorating living standard and that of his sick wife, melts even a stone-hearted fellow. That Igbos would forget in hurry cultural cum Igbo music legend like Mike Ejeagha, tells a lot while most of our priceless cultures are on the verge of extinction. It also shows where our priority lies. It will amount to tomfoolery, for us to expect current and upcoming Igbo musicians, to follow the legendary philosophical and ideological footsteps of Mike Ejeagha — seeing how miserable his life has become.
He sang songs to teach wisdom, uphold moral torchlight and refuel our souls.
Some present-day musicians are alluding to the fact that quintessential Mike Ejeagha is poverty-stricken today, because when his contemporaries were enriching themselves by praising influential people of the society—most of them with ill-gotten wealth, he was telling folklore that “promoted” animals and their kingdom, of which impacted his fans with great wisdom.
This is one of the reasons our values are vanishing into thin air today. No artiste wants to be associated with Ejeagha kind of folkish songs again—for singular fear of ending up poor, obscure and abandoned by the same society he laboured for.
This is the genesis of Igbo moral bankruptcy and cultural degradation. On this altar of philosophical pervasion, our core value system as a people was murdered, those who managed to survive were greatly, albeit unfortunately, corrupted and prejudiced. The avaricious spirit possessed our musicians and influenced them into promoting inordinate desires for wealth and immorality via their songs.
Music videos became semi-porn scenes. And our society is worse off today for neglecting supposed musical role models. The near extinction of legendary philosophical musicians like Mike Ejeagha, heralded a society where our youths see avarice cum sudden ill-gotten wealth as the only pathway to prosperity and power. This is why most of today’s song writers began building their songs around materialism and sexuality. This is regrettable.
The visit of Enugu State governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to the Ejeaghas less than 24 hours the story came to limelight on social media courtesy of Charles Ogbu, became a healing balm on a deteriorating sore. Mike Ejeagha’s hope was rekindled. His personality dignified again. Governor Ugwuanyi’s august visit did not only give him a sense of importance, but reassured him that the society he enriched through his musical cum philosophical prowess, would not abandon him at this trying period of his life. I learned that the governor promised to take care of medical bills of his sick wife. This is truly commendable. Gov. Ugwuanyi has shown leadership, other Igbo leaders and non-Igbos whose lives were touched and shaped by the folklorist ideals of Mike Ejeagha, should emulate him.
This music legend should be showered with as much love he can get while he is still alive. We cannot abandon him to die in penury and obscurity, to be celebrated with mind-boggling resources and opulence when he finally joins his ancestors. Leaders of thought, especially in Igbo land should once again identify with this music colossus and folkloric maverick while he is still alive. He has served us, this is time for us to honour him.
I propose that historic monument should be named after him in Igbo land, as one of the influential music custodians of Igbo cultural heritage, especially while he is still living. Paying tribute to him now he still breath in his nostrils, will inspire upcoming artistes to tow his path of traditional philosophical songs, that will help to stem the tide of gross erosion of Igbo values, as expounded by iconic like Mike Ejeagha.
Nwobodo writes from Abuja