• Jihad is ongoing in Nigeria
  • Super Eagles disrespected the living and the dead
  • Thumbs up for feminism, thumbs down for homosexuality  
  • Tributes to Ras Kimono

I speak with celebrities. As a sports and entertainment journalist, that’s a norm. Today, I will speak with a legend by 2 pm. It’s almost time, let me call him and remind him of the appointment.

“Hello, good afternoon sir, am I unto Deacon Buchi Atuonwu, I am Ediale Kingsley, from National Daily Newspaper. I like to confirm an interview appointment scheduled for 2 pm as arranged by my Editor-In-Chief, Sylvester Ebhodaghe“.

Yes, it’s Buchi, the most unique and distinguished gospel artiste in Africa that has obliged to speak with me this time — the reggae musician that has a Bible in his left hand and a Microphone in his right.

Yeah, that last line above is me plagiarizing Buchi’s It Is Well lyrics.

“Okay, do you know my office location, off Adeniji Jones?” the relaxed reply from the man whose children, all sing. His son has a few songs out and he’s had duets with his daughters.

By that soft relaxed voice off the phone — the first time I would have a direct communication with this reggae-gospel-music pioneer — I should have been able to predict his lifestyle.

However, after locating his office, strolled across his large compound, waited a few seconds at the reception, guided up the stairs to his office, had a warm welcome and started a conversation, I had to ask, ‘how would you define your lifestyle?’

Not a shocking answer. What do you expect from a fashion designer (yeah, I had that look too!), a musician, minister and a writer?

“Things I do are relaxing enough. Nothing is quite relaxing as worship. Nothing refreshes like worship. I make clothes, I’m a tailor. I am almost on a daily basis designing, reading, writing or worshipping“.

One word to describe Buchi’s lifestyle is rest. He works and lives in rest. And little wonder, soon, he would be releasing a book titled The Diary Of A Missionary.

That book would talk about the amazing places of the world, Buchi has visited. He also says the book will contain his words and counsels to the numerous hosts that invited him at various points of his career.

And what’s not to be excited about? Of course, the project should send your adrenaline pump off the sky. Knowing how fantastic he writes.

His book, Ceasefire has sold over 35000 copies and still selling. It was good enough to be adopted as a textbook in a Katsina University. Warri South Local Government ordered 10,000 copies to the direct hands of students around the creeks and riverine areas in Delta State.

And this, the Government does to effect change in the young lads’ orientation. Knowing the book is loaded with tales and contents that have the capacity to dissuade any young persons from taking to a path of violence.

Ceasefire is autobiographical. It’s how Buchi chooses to confess and bury his past dangerous life as a cultist. And it’s surely a productive way to go.

“I will do two sequels to CeasefireCounterfeit and 110 meters hurdles“, promises Buchi.

Immediately I sat down in Buchi’s office. I told him I wasn’t here to make another regular interview. As a celeb, he’d surely be bored by the incessant reporters crawling out of his presence with same of the same questions. So I was here to take something worthwhile from him.

At the end of the day, I got more than I had bargained for:

— We touched on the latest Feminism trend.

— We did football. Yes, Buchi like most Nigerian has mad love for Soccer. He likes Tennis too. As a youth, he played soccer and followed Tennis.

— We spoke about things Gay people and Homosexuals would contemplate breaking our heads for. Luckily for Buchi, he’s always in his hat (I read somewhere that he feels naked without it). So I guess, it’s my head I should worry about.

— We talked about Herdsmen and Politics.

Roll out the drums…

Soccer is in the air, it’s not uncommon to hear people talking football at the moment. It’s the year of the World Cup. Russia 2018 doesn’t have a romantic paragraph for Nigerians. We all got heartbroken as we saw Argentina score a late minute goal to deny us from moving to the next round. Buchi thinks most of the players gave a good account of themselves.

“Nigeria played well. I didn’t know we had that kind of squad. They were well organized. Our loss to Argentina could be attributed to the fact that a few players didn’t live up to expectation. And our coach could have done better by exerting the courage to change people, irrespective of their profile. And our very first game, we didn’t have to lose it. But we lost and as sad as that looks, it came with a silver lining. The euphoria of the game was taking away serious attention from matters affecting the nation.

Like we see in most war films, Generals usually lost major battles during camp parties and drinks. The football became a major distraction to us.”

He went further…

“I wanted to see the Super Eagles wearing black armbands. Acknowledging lives have been unnecessarily lost in thousands, and it was disrespectful to play like nothing had happened. It was disrespectful to the dead and the living. So for now, perhaps our eyes will be opened to what’s going on in the country. There’s a jihad going on in the country. Churches are being burnt. And they are being burnt during curfew if there is a curfew under the implementation of the Armed Forces when then are the perpetrators executing their operations? Questions we ought to start getting answers to”.

And this took us to politics, but Buchi said it has nothing to do with politics. And when I asked if Churches should be ready to make a big change come 2019 elections he had this to say, “It’s just pure religion. And some persons are using politics to execute religious agenda. It’s not just for the church to decide. We are not in a country where Muslim should vote for Muslim and Christians should vote for Christians. It is about everyone voting for people who will do the will of God. Whatever their religion; people who will obey the constitution and give fairness to all, people who will arbhore bloodshed. These are the people I want to see”.

Quite some brilliant analysis, I did wonder if it’s the Brila FM anointing rubbing off on him.

“I didn’t go to radio for the fun of it. Not because I am a professional broadcaster. I did take the show to the radio because God told me to do so, to play Reggae must inspire others to worship him my way. And my way is reggae music. My way is the way I love to do this. So I began producing it. I chose Sports radio because I decided to take the message to the street. To a radio station that everyone will listen to. We had a deal with Brila FM and started with House of Judah show”.

There’s not been quite a time in our existence that our culture has witnessed some strong objections. In this era, two items challenge our system more as a force of trend: Feminism and Gay. Buchi doesn’t think both subjects merit equal periscopic view. He feels one is justifiable activism and the other isn’t justifiably a standard to uphold.

“When women exert their rights I have nothing against that. And God didn’t make women subservient or inferior to men.  The submission is of a woman to her husband. It is in the African culture, which I love by the way, that women seem to be getting the shorter end of the stick. And I think adjustments could be made to suit the times. Cultures are man-made. But Gay is a totally different thing. It’s an affront to the world of God. Like someone said, ‘if God wanted men to marry men, he would have created Adam and Steve, not Adam and Eve’. So let’s follow the scripture. It is clear. It is unnatural and offensive to God. And I do not think it’s hereditary or that people are created that way. It is a defect. Even usually when we have a baby born with a bent leg, we seek surgery.”

Listening to Buchi’s talks had me thinking. 25years into a career and he is still very much relevant. He says his secret is the gospel. As long as he keeps being relevant for God’s work, God keeps him in currency. So if a Buchi and co are quite successful in doing Gospel Music. Why do we have many young artistes frustrated doing such? To the extent, they give up and turn secular?

“If your purpose is the gospel why will you be frustrated in the church? Most likely, it’s due to expectations beyond the purpose. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us (quoting 1John2:19). It’s a calling, not a profession. If you take it as a profession, you will find many reasons to be frustrated. If you are willing to count your profits in souls you will find it fulfilling like I do today”.

Buchi transited from the Nightclub to the choir of his church — Christ Embassy. He didn’t find his kind of music in the church. He found the traditional Africa choruses, which he likes by the way. There was also Black American style of music which he had to put up with. There was no reggae music. So when it was time for him to sing he did in Reggae which had become a part of him.  And as at then, that was what he listened to. That was a part of him.

“And thanks to the ministry I belong. Who was more concerned with the Message. So I just had to stick to my style and push the message. A certain uncle said. We thought he has changed. This may just be one of his ploys, only this time he has taken it to the church. If he wants to do reggae, let him do. He didn’t think both of them could mix”.

And that was one of the many situations that would challenge his mission to proceed in a terrain averse to the brand of music he was promoting.

At one time, himself and band were on a Reinhard Bonnke crusade, singing before millions of people until the plug was pulled off and was asked to quit the stage. “There we were having fun, singing, and skanking and from what I saw from the crowd, I thought we were all good. We were singing Jesus Must Be Honored, What A Mighty God. But the organizers came forth right in front of the crowd and shouted stop! Stop!! We asked for a gospel group, not this!!! We were chased off the stage. I wasn’t really feeling bad because I knew we had made a significant impact on the few minutes we ministered. The irony is many years after, the same organizers invited us and we sang the same songs”.

As we wheeled our conversation gradually to a wrap, I knew this dialogue won’t be complete if I didn’t allow Buchi pay his tribute to Ras Kimono. For it was Ras Kimono that brought him on-board reggae music. It was Ras Kimono, the official Disc Jockey of the Floating Buka Club (a nightclub inside a permanently docked ship by the waterfront of marina) that put in a word and invited Buchi to be a second Disc Jockey in 1987. And until the floating Boat went down. Buchi was a resident DJ there. And then, Massive Dread was a strong music body to reckon with, a group of reggae artists that had Buchi and Ras Kimono amongst other talents. It was Massive Dread that released Kimono’s album, Under Pressure, and Buchi was going to be the next project after that album, “but I was born again, my message had changed, my conviction had changed. But until his death we were friends. And we maintained a cordial relationship”

So at the end of our chitchat, Buchi leaves the last line for his fans and mentees, “whatever you choose to do, get some education especially in your chosen area, music cannot be an alternative to education”. Can you imagine a better last word? Buchi remains a living legend and his salvation story is one he talks about frequently.