I was born into Christianity so I grew up being ‘Christian’ by religious denotation. In my early years, my family worshipped in the Anglican Church. Then it wasn’t really a thing to identify as being born again in that congregation. My parents did their best to guide our lives with the fundamental Christian principles they inculcated in us, so I ended up basically being a good boy at home and everything else outside among my peers, as we experimented with the things of life.
I was never in the church band or choir. I picked up Pop, R'n'B, Hip Hop music and dancing as early as age 5 from radio, television and my older siblings who were music-loving teens. I fell head over heels with music, started miming songs, dance steps and began to venture into songwriting by the time I was 15. All the while I got encouragement from peers, schoolmates and relatives who felt there was something special about my singing and dancing. I heard next to nothing about gospel music, save for hymns and choruses sang in church. Up till my mid-twenties, I practically had no direct exposure to the contemporary gospel music I’m doing now. Occasionally I would see teens in the church band, doing some not so strong contemporary singing and I would get pricked by my conscience like this is what I’m supposed to be doing. However, to be the next ‘Michael Jackson’ was a strong desire and passion I already had and was grooming myself for; I didn’t see any reason to aspire otherwise. Sometimes, I would rationalize in my mind that the boys and girls singing in the church band were too holy and consecrated and there was no way I could be part of them.
My desire and ambitions for music led me to meet two sets of older people just before I finished Secondary School. Firstly a couple of university students whom I joined in a rap group called Nigerian Rap Syndicate and later on a live band that sang in a popular Enugu restaurant. From there on, I started performing and learning the ropes of secular music and entertainment within Enugu and the eastern Nigeria environs. I would get into trouble with my Dad who had become worried and at times furious about my passion and occasional late nights. However, under my mother’s understanding and guiding advice, I was able to move on to study at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. On-campus, I quickly rose in the social scene and became a campus music star.
I recall some encounters I had with God through these early years, which I didn’t realize was His call upon my life at the time. In my childhood years, I would dream and see very tall beings, dressed in all white, standing all around me like they came to visit me. I would be scared. A prophetic minister whom my parents invited to look into the matter told my parents that I was being visited by angels and that I would become a star. Towards the ending of my university days, I got into some academic trouble which would have tainted my otherwise very good results. It made me pause with my frivolous campus lifestyle briefly to seek God. Somehow, I knew to vow an offering to Him, if He would miraculously deliver me. God came through mightily for me, I redeemed my vow, but then I moved on with running my life my own way.
After I released my first album in 2006, things changed for me. I had migrated to Lagos and started knowing the music industry. Fame and celebrity came quickly as I scored my first hit song upon the release of my first solo album. I quit my regular job in a bank to go full time into my life-long musical dreams. The following year 2007, the nominations and the awards came. I wasn’t doing badly at all for a debut solo artiste. However I had a problem, I wasn't yet seeing commensurate financial success with the fame and popularity I had. My management then believed and worked assuring me that it would only get better as I move on. This was the first stimulus to my seeking God intentionally as an adult. It made me question my faith background, being born into Christianity and I wondered if it was all real. I wondered if God cared if He would help out, what He really thinks about my gift and what my gift was for. I’m glad God didn't allow me to continue with unfettered career success, I might not have stopped to look for Him.
The second problem was a moral one. I found myself living a frivolous and highly immoral lifestyle with the pecks of my newfound popularity and celebrity status. It was a lifestyle that seemed to come with the secular music industry because all around me, many industry colleagues were living and enjoying it. It was a lifestyle of clubs, parties, women and alcoholism. Although I was more of a social drinker, I was very much into women. Whenever I came to my senses, I never had peace with living this kind of life. Something kept telling me that I wouldn’t end up well if I continued on this path. I sang love songs and I believed in true love, I wanted a great wife and a great family but somehow, I knew it wasn’t possible with the way I found myself living. What alarmed me the most was the ease, this type of living came by simply trying to push my brand, attend events and do my work as a secular artiste. At a point, I tried to change myself by myself by being good by myself and staying away from the things that I knew were killing me, while trying to do my job as a secular artiste but I kept failing and falling back.
At this same point, I started studying and observing many pop music icons of my generation. In most cases, the very talented ones all seemed to fall to pieces somewhere in the middle of their lives. It seemed like historically, it was extremely difficult to find a pop music icon, who led a good life and ended up well, I didn’t want to end up like that. This second stimulus really drove me to search deeply for God. I didn’t want to die young or old and useless and after trying, I knew I couldn’t help myself. I turned to God to help. Somehow, I figured it was through Him I would receive the power to resist an immoral lifestyle, build and live the kind of life I desired to live. Eventually after much back and forth, rising and falling, I answered an altar call and gave my life to Christ at a new year’s eve service on 31st December 2006.
For most of 2007, I still struggled with my issues, but somehow I was more determined to dust myself up anytime I fell and find a way to continue pursuing God. One good thing that helped was that I stopped skipping Church on Sundays and also started attending mid-week fellowships at my local assembly. For the first time in my life, I started using my gift to sing unto God publicly, as I occasionally led in praise and worship. I started buying Christian music and acquainting myself with contemporary gospel music and musicians. Prophecies started coming for me, some confirming what God had started then to show me in dreams. In a particular unforgettable dream, I saw Jesus walking with me as a little child. Next, He picked me up and carried me on His shoulders. As He did, I could see the whole of the city where I was from that position. I wanted to see more, so His height increased and I could see the nations of the world as far as Japan. I wondered if there was more and He stretched further and I felt myself entering into outer space. I got scared, so He came back to the former level. Through these and other events, God was establishing His calling upon my life, deeper than the born-again experience.
In February 2008, I had an encounter that took my faith walk to a whole new level. After my born again experience, I just wanted to sing inspirational songs, lyrics and topics that weren’t really against the tenets of my faith. The intention at that point was to be a secular artist who was different and a good Christian. A minister used to prophesy that I would go full-time gospel and I used to refute it strongly, I couldn’t imagine it with my musical ambitions. However, something still didn’t feel right. It was like I was born again but didn’t have complete peace about it and what I was doing. On the evening of February 20, 2008, something special happened. I was strolling home alone after worshipping at a mid-week fellowship. I felt so elated by the worship and looking up into the starlit sky, I was beginning to say, “Lord, I love you so much now. I enjoy worshipping You so much now... I didn’t know this was what I was missing. Thank you for saving me. I’ll do anything for You now…”
In the midst of that thought, I was interrupted by another strong and clear impression asking me, “If you love Me so much now, why haven’t you given Me what is most precious to you, the very thing I’m asking you for?”. I stopped dead in my tracks. I couldn’t deny it anymore. I was enjoying God, worship, the gospel but this was the very thing I was scared of all the time; to give everything about me over to God, including my ‘precious’ music talent and the gains I had made thus far. I was tired of struggling with this continuously battering thought (which was His calling all the while). Somehow, I mustered enough courage to say “God, You owe everything, there’s nothing You cannot do. I admit I’m scared to do this, to give up my music, fans, achievements and my precious musical ambitions to answer Your undeniable call to go gospel. I don’t know what will become of my life from here on, but I’m going to trust You as God and give You everything. Take it all Lord, do whatever You want with me and my music”. That moment I felt an incredible peace and relief like never before; it was as if a heavy burden had been lifted off me. This experience was my answering God’s call to ministry and soon after things started happening to strengthen me and confirm His call. I started getting strong dreams and revelations like never before. God confirmed and made promises to me of what He wanted to do with me and where He is taking me.
The path of walking in God’s call from those days till today can best be described as intriguing, a great best-selling thriller with enough plot twists to keep you forever on the edge of your seat. Through it all, God has proven Himself to be nothing short of faithful, sustaining me in my highs, reaching out and pulling me up in my lows. He has taught me that His presence is everything and that if I must stay this course, I must constantly seek His presence for refreshing. There had been times I wanted to quit, but in the place of worship, He just comes and makes my inspiration fresh like morning dew. He has surprised me with many miracles, signs and wonders that have kept me in awe of His awesomeness and ways. He has taught me that waiting for His promises upon my call to fulfil, is a ministry on its own, which honours Him before men, prepares me, and anoints me to be a blessing to those who have to wait for one thing or the other. He has taught me how to relax and enjoy Him where I am, on the way to where I’m going. He has blessed me with many things, especially the beautiful things of life that money cannot buy as well as material things. He has never failed to supply my needs. Despite tests and trials which He allows to build and prepare me, He always comes through. Above all, He has given me confidence, an assurance, a peace which passes all human understanding and the experience of a love which mere words cannot capture. At this point, I want to say: Thank you, Lord, I love you so much, Lord.
I believe this story is resonating with someone out there. Let today be the day that you take the leap of faith as I did; the day you decide to try Jesus for size and give up all your ambitions, reputation and self-government to follow Him. He will not disappoint you. You will never regret it.
My name is Obiora Obiwon, this is my salvation story.
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