By Simeon Mpamugoh
Whereever the name Sir Victor Uwaifo is mentioned, one thing that comes to mind is, “Oh! He is a musician.” There is more to this multidimensional celebrity than music. He is an author, musical instrument inventor, philosopher, lecturer, former Commissioner Emeritus for Arts, Culture and Tourism in Edo State, UNESCO’s Living Human Treasure and visiting professor of American Heritage University Southern California (AHUSC), Ontario, United States of America.
He started playing the guitar at the age of 12 before secondary school. It began from the Holy Cross Primary School and the Benin Baptist Primary School, Benin City, to the Western Boys High School, Benin City, and St. Gregory’s College, Lagos, before proceeding to the Yaba College of Technology, where he bagged a National Diploma in Graphics with distinction.
While in secondary school, he was a sprinter. He won secondary school high jump at 17, signalling his journey to stardom and greatness. And like a colossus, he bestrides the narrow part of the world, expanding the frontiers of knowledge from music to the visual art and to the academia. He moved into the University of Benin where he obtained a First Class (Hon.) Degree in Applied Arts at 54, a Master’s Degree in Sculpture at 56, and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Architectural Sculpture at the age of 77. A Nigerian National Honours merit award recipient of Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), Uwaifo is acclaimed most educated performing music legend/artist worldwide.
Renowned for his hit tracks such as JOROMI,, which won him his First Gold Disc in Africa at the age of 24, he sees his later achievements in life thus: “Success in life is a continuous assessment. No one or profession can claim monopoly of success in life. It is a combination of factors, from talent, perspiration and God’s grace. (Divine Favour), Ecct.19:11.”
The legendary music maestro recently joined the league of Octogenarian. The event will be celebrated on a higher note at Ekenwan/College Road, Benin City today March 6. It will be capped up with 600-page biography of the maestro, sculptor and legend book presentation. Since the news of his 80th birthday gig broke, there have been tributes from eminent Nigerians of different walks of life and those in diaspora.
The Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, said in his tribute, “You have seen the world change tremendously, both as a commissioner in Edo State and a lecturer at the University of Benin. You are widely known as a bridge builder and one of the foremost contributors to the development of the civil responsibility space in our dear state. For this, you have remained a source of pride to us and the entire nation. You served with an enviable sense of dedication, and we are pleased to identify with you on this special occasion of your 80th birthday.”
The Oba of Benin, HRM Ewuare II, in a radio jingle produced to mark the occasion, described Uwaifo as lyricist, multi-instrumentalist, teacher of the arts, Africa’s greatest musical icon and entertainment general, while the vice-chancellor, University of Benin, Prof. Lilian Salami, noted, “At 80, you have recorded several landmark achievements as a music maestro, adept sculptor, writer, academic and nation builder. These accomplishments have, no doubt, made you a global icon. As a pathfinder in the area of art, your works have served as a springboard for younger generations and have placed not just Edo State but Nigeria on the world stage. During your stint as a lecturer in the department of Fine and Applied Arts, of the University of Benin, you displayed professionalism, commitment and resourcefulness, and your achievements have added colourful feathers to the institution’s cap.”
From the American Heritage University Southern California comes a tribute from the founder/Chancellor, Professor Tony B.E. Ogiamien, a.k.a Tony Bestman, the only surviving member of the Melody Maestros, Professor (Sir) Victor Uwaifo group. He said, “It is a known fact that you taught me part of what I know today; that one day I could stand on the stage and play the guitar and sing like you. Even though I had a career change in the 70s and never returned to play the guitar on full-time basis again, it is an honour to have you as a role model, mentor, and frien. In the words of C.S. Lewis, ‘You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.’
“You are a very special and unique music and creative arts legend.”
While examining the educational strides religious commitment, appointments and numerous special awards and recognitions nationally and internationally of the célébrant, the Archbishop of Benin City, Augustine Akubueze, sums that all points to the fact that Professor (Sir) Victor Uwaifo is one of a kind. He describes him as a trailblazer and a trendsetter wherever he is found, “You have in these years affected positively the lives of many and have been a blessing to humanity.”
In his encomium, former speaker, Edo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. (Sir) Bright Omokhodion, said: “His works are treasured beyond the shores of his environment and his creativity stands him out as a light ahead of his generation. At 80, he remains an enigma, too classical for the contemporary world to fathom. When the emerging voices of highlife and Makosa were resounding from the tempos of Eddy Kwansa, Rex Lawson, Emmanuel Tettey Mensah, Masakela, Manudibango, etc., the world and Africa was kindled with another evolutionary block-buster single, ‘JOROMI’, adjudged the African anthem of all times. And as Justice of Peace, he has intensified the work of charity by putting smiles in the reddened faces of the hungry.”
Others who sent tribute notes on the occasion of the celebration of Uwaifo’s 80th birthday include Hon. Adaze Wilson Imafidon, the president of African Bar Association (Association Du Barreau Africain), Hannibal Uwaifo and Rev. Felix Omobude, General Superintendent, Gospel Light International Ministries (New Covenant Gospel Church), who described his life as remarkable and eventful.