Posted by By SEGUN AJAYI and TESSY OKOYE on
Popular musician, Evangelist Sonny Okosuns, is dead. He was aged 61. The freedom fighter turned preacher died in Howard University Teaching Hospital, Washington D.C, United States of America last Saturday, at about 7:00p.m. Nigerian time. Okosuns finally succumbed to death after a prolonged battle with cancer of the colon.
Popular musician, Evangelist Sonny Okosuns, is dead. He was aged 61. The freedom fighter turned preacher died in Howard University Teaching Hospital, Washington D.C, United States of America last Saturday, at about 7:00p.m. Nigerian time.
Okosuns finally succumbed to death after a prolonged battle with cancer of the colon.
His younger brother, Charles, who was on hand yesterday to receive sympathizers in the deceased’s Aguda-Ogba home in Lagos, told Daily Sun that the Oziddi maestro passed on in the presence of his wife and children. He said that he was yet to receive words on when his corpse would be flown into the country.
When Daily Sun visited his residence, which also houses the House of Prayer Ministries, which the late Okosuns pastored, the mood was pensive.
“The news came to me as a shock, but what can we do?” Charles sermonized. “We have no choice than to give glory to God almighty. Death is a debt which every man owes and we cannot redeem ourselves with money,” he philosophized.
At the deceased’s residence yesterday, the mood was expectedly solemn. Even though the church auditorium was empty, four members of the church who knew about the news of Okosuns death were around to sympathize with the family.
When asked to explain the contrast between the preacher’s death and the celebration of Nigerian music via the Nigerian Music Awards held last Saturday in Owerri, Charles simply said, “actually, it calls for prayers for all music stars, so that God can see them through.”
Another of the deceased younger brother, Momoh, who is also a senior pastor in the House of Prayer Ministries, narrated how Okosuns, like someone who had premonition of his death, re-organized the church when he visited the country about three weeks ago.
His words: “He told me as his deputy that the job is in the church and that I should plunge myself into it.”
Momoh, who also described Okosuns as his mentor and benefactor, described his last encounter with the man of God. “After the anniversary, he called us together and asked questions about the progress of the church. I told him that the church was making progress. However, he told us that before he returns to U.S, everything would be put in order. I thought he was talking about restructuring the church. But before he left, he ordained some members as deacons and deaconesses. On the day of ordination, he gave us a word, that the authority of the church should be followed strictly, because the church belongs to God, not him.
He warned that if there were people coming to the church because of him, such a persons were already failures. He told the newly ordained church leaders that they should know the type of work for which they had been called because they were the pillars of the church and others should take orders from them,” he added.
According to the cleric, he thought it was an advice which any man of God would give his followers until the unexpected happened.
Also speaking, Henry Arumogbe, Okosuns’ personal driver and bodyguard for 18 years, described the late cleric as a very nice man and told Daily Sun that the last time the musician visited Nigeria, he drove him (Okosuns) in a car to his village in Irrua.
According to Henry, Okosuns informed him about his intention to build a small bungalow in his village and thereafter he visited his mother’s grave. “After that,” he narrated further, “Okosuns went to the market and gave money to the villagers.”
“When I asked why he was doling out money, he replied that it had been long he visited his kinsmen. After that, we made a stop over at Benin, on our way to Lagos, where he preached the gospel,” Arumogbe added.
Since he was diagnosed of cancer in a U.S hospital last year, following several failed attempts to identify the cause of his failing health in Nigeria after he woke up one morning to discover he could neither urinate nor use the toilet, Okosuns, sought medical services abroad, a move which has seen him in and out of the hospital in the last one year. The news that his body was being ravaged by the cancer of the colon was broken to him in the United States after which he underwent surgeries.
Many times rumours were rife in the media about his death, but he always rose to debunk such.
It was a jubilant congregation and fans that received him last month when he flew back into the country after a successful surgery. His return also coincided with the 9th anniversary of his church, which was celebrated with all pageantry.
In his last interview with Daily Sun, the renowned musician, who against all odds danced despite his frail frame, said he had bounced back and would live for another 70 years.
Born in Irrua in the Esan Central Local Government Area of Edo State, Sonny Okosuns launched into stardom in the early 70’s with his fiery Oziddi music, in an era when highlife music was at its peak of popularity. He first started with Help then Fire in Soweto. But his music, which took the country by storm, and which was acclaimed to be his best, was Papa’s land.
He was a strong voice and advocated a popular ideological struggle in the fight against apartheid through his songs.
He was also a founding member and past president of Performing Association of Nigeria (PMAN).
In a telephone interview with Daily Sun, Mr. Dan Aigbavboa, Chief Press Secretary to Edo State Governor, said Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, was very saddened by the death of the illustrious son of Esanland.
“It is a very sad loss to the people of Edo State, Nigeria and the music industry,” Osunbor said, adding that the state government will do everything to immortalise the late music maestro.
Meanwhile, Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Prince Adeotkunbo Kayode, in his condolence message, commiserated with Nigerians on the death of the veteran music evangelist, describing him as a freedom fighter, lover of the downtrodden and a true religious leader.
The minister also condoled with the entire nation, but particularly with families of the 44 soldiers and two civilians who lost their lives in a fatal road mishap, which occurred last week.
Kayode’s message, which was conveyed in a statement, also described the soldiers as heroes who fought to defend their fatherland , praying that God would avert such tragedies in the future.
Lamenting further, he noted that Okosuns’ death came at a time when younger musicians were being celebrated in Owerri, Imo State at the Nigerian Music Awards.
The minister, however, added that Okosuns music, which was devoted to fighting causes, such as apartheid in South Africa as well as unity in Nigeria, would remain an inspiration to many young Nigerians.