* Okposo eulogised at The Experience 2022 gospel show
By Oghenero Ezaza
THE death of Sammie Okposo did not just take everyone by surprise; it stunned the art world where he played a pioneering role in shaping soundtracks for movies and the gospel music coming from Nigeria. No sooner had the news hit town than tributes began to flood the media. The President of Nigeria, Mohammadu Buhari, through his media aid, Mr. Femi Adesina, sent condolence message to Okposo’s family. The governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa also did same. Okposo was a renowned gospel artiste who attained global recognition during his time. He worked with American gospel stars like Kirk Franklin, Israel Houghton, Cece Winans and lots more. He was a Glo Ambassador for up to 10 years and he was United Nations Peace Ambassador till his passing. He won numerous awards, both in and out of Nigeria.
While addressing the congregation at The Experience 2022, a yearly gospel musical and ministration programme at Tafawa Balewa Square, organised by House on the Rock, the lead cleric, Pastor Paul Adefarasin, said: “I’ll like you to stand on your feet for one minute as we observe a moment of silence for a legend in gospel music who passed away about a week ago. I speak of a man who graced this platform many times over the last 17 years who has entered the golden and pearly gates of glory. None other than minister Sammie Okposo now of blessed memory. Would you please join me in your thoughts and prayers? Consider his wife Ozioma and his daughter as we observe a moment of silence for Sammie Okposo.”
Before recounting his numerous awards, here’s an insight into his background. Okposo was born in Warri, Delta State, Nigeria on 30 May, 1971. He was Isoko, his father being from Uzere, Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State. His mother was from Cross River state. When he was nine years old, he played the piano so well to the shock and amazement of everyone. By the age of 10, he was the official pianist at his church in Warri. It was in 1992 that he joined Nollywood as a soundtrack producer, where he was the authority when it came to soundtrack in the 1990s.
In 2000 he released his first gospel music album titled Unconditional Love. This album contained the hit track ‘Welu Welu.’ In 2010 he got married to the love of his life, Ozioma. The woman who stood by him all the days of his life. While the actual is still be speculated upon, his family has requested some privacy for now to mourn the dead.
IT was in 1992 that Okposo joined Nollywood as a soundtrack producer. He took Nollywood by storm and became a regular signature in Nigeria movies during the 90s. He had a unique style of making a gospel message out of every movie, even when the movie itself hardly contained any gospel message. A movie like Escape From Congo was actually about a group of girls kidnapped and how they regained their freedom. In the soundtrack, Okposo sang some lyrics that says Escape From Congo is the escape of the Nigerian youth from the evil vices that had haunted them all along such as drugs addiction, restiveness, etc. The soundtrack gave the movie more meaning than it even dramatised. He also did the soundtrack for the famous movie Onome, produced by his countryman, Opa Williams He did the soundtrack for Narrow Escape where Saint Obi played the lead role of a Reverend Father. Okposo’s lyrics in that soundtrack went like this: ‘No weapon fashioned against me shall prosper/ I am covered with the blood of God…’
His Father In The Lord
IT was the desire to participate the bludgeoning Nollywood industry that took Okposo from Warri to Lagos. Indeed, it turned out to be a successful adventure. Pastor Paul Adefarasin, the founder and Senior Pastor of House on the Rock Church was one of those persons that contributed to Okposo’s successful adventure in Lagos. He worshipped at House on the Rock; in fact, he had a father-son relationship with the senior pastor. He was one of the choir leaders at House on the Rock. The choir was officially known as Chosen Treasure. Okposo featured the Chosen Treasure in his first music album which he released in 2000.
Okposo’s Pacesetting Gospel Music
Arguably, Okposo can easily be said to have revolutionalised gospel in Nigeria and indeed Africa with his unique approach that has given it world music feel. Until Okposo came into the scene, Nigeria’s gospel music was at a pedestrian level that was mostly based on hymnals and lyrics largely lifted from bible verses. But he changed that laidback approach and began to look towards America-style gospel but with a unique Nigerian feel for which ‘Wellu-wellu’ was a signature departure. After that first successful experiment, Okposo’s prodigious talent knew no bounds, as he easily became a gospel artiste of international stature, grazing the limelight wherever he went.
He soon had a string of young followers in his band who would mature quickly into their own musical voices. Okposo’s trailblazing track in the industry is unmistable and largely endeared him to lovers of gospel music across the country and all over the world. Okposo’s early passing is a big blow to the family of gospel musicians in the country and prompted instant outpouring of emotions when news of his death broke.
At the height of his successful career in Nollywood, Okposo released his first gospel music album in 2000 titled Unconditional Love. It was the first track on this album ‘Welu Welu’ that made Okposo a household name across Africa. I personally love that song the way I love banga soup with fresh fish. The next song in this album is where he featured the Chosen Treasure choir.
Okposo’s second album is titled Addicted and released in 2004. The title track for this album has a video which was far beyond the standard of music videos in Nigeria at that time. Okposo raised the bar very high with that video. This album also contained the hit track ‘Naija Praise.’ When I want to bubble to the Lord in the Nigeria style, I play that song.
In 2006 Okposo released his third album titled No More Drama. This is the album that contains the track ‘Na Only You I Know‘ wherein he featured lots of his fellow Nigerian gospel artists including Kefee, also of blessed memory. This was just how Kefee’s death also hit me had. Like Okposo, Kefee was also Delta born.
In 2012 Okposo released his fourth album with the title The Statement. This album contains the song ‘Praise Party’ which would later turn out to be Okposo’s definitive gospel statement indeed. We shall talk about this later. And then in 2017 his last album came. The title is S.W.A.G. (Saved With Amazing Grace). He did a brilliant play on words with this title. The album contains one of his songs I also personally love. The title is ‘Oboto,’ which is an Isoko word that means ‘under.’ It’s just the way we say ‘get under’ or ‘go down low’ when we call on everyone to dance hard to music. The song is done in Isoko language and the sound of the beat is complete ‘ebio,’ which refers to the unique Isoko and Urhobo music sound and beat. In this song, Okposo identified with his Isoko origin. In my Sunday morning radio programme on Kpoko FM, I also play this song at the native praise segment of the show.
Sammie Okposo Praise Party (SOPP)
THERE is just no way we can talk about Sammie Okposo without mentioning SOPP, his signature praise party that would define the sum total of his music as he took to the next level, so to say. ‘Praise Party’ is the title of a song in Okposo’s fourth album The Statement which he released in 2012. He later did a wonderful video for the song which properly captured the concept of a praise party as suggested by the title and sound of the music. The video featured other gospel artistes like Bouqui, Nikki Laoye, Onos Ariyo, Eric Arubayi, also of blessed memory, who was also another of his fellow Delta born. A year later, that is in 2013, Okposo organised an American tour which he tagged Praise Party Concert Series. The tour covered six locations in the United States of America. They were New York, Atlanta, Maryland, Chicago, Houston and Dallas. The tour premiered in New York on 30 August, 2013, and gave birth to what would be known as SOPP, Sammie Okposo Praise Party.
A year later in 2014, the show now known as SOPP would be held at the University of Lagos Main Auditorium on 16 September. And that was how the show changed location from year to year. In the year 2020, SOPP held twice in very distant locations. On February 14 of that year, SOPP took place in Germany, and then two months later in April, SOPP shook some cities in the United States.
SOPP has been a total success. Okposo always featured reputable and world class artistes. The show has also served as a blessing to upcoming gospel artistes. Okposo usually gave opportunities to young gospel artistes to perform during SOPP thereby giving them the much needed platform and opportunity to grow.
Okposo attained global recognition as a gospel music artiste before his passing. In the course of his career, he worked with the likes of Cece Winans, Kirk Franklin, Israel Houghton and lots more. He was a Glo Ambassador for up to 10 years and he was a United Nations Peace Ambassador till his death. Coincidentally, Okposo had just returned from London for his usual SOPP on October 30, 2022 in what must undoubtedly be his swansong musical performance. Legendary actor Richard Mofe-Damijo was on the bill for that show as well.
IT was on November 25, 2022 that Sammie Okposo left this sinful world. Although the cause of death is not known, the family has announced burial plans for the gospel icon. The burial process will take place over four-day period from December 13 through 18, 2022. A farewell praise party and industry night will hold on Wednesday, December 13, 2022 at La Madison Place, Lekki, and Service of Songs on December 14 at House on the Rock Cathedral, Lekki, and a private interment on Thursday, December 15, 2022 while an outing service will hold on Sunday, December 18, 2022.
Okposo is survived by his wife, Ozioma, whom he married in 2014, and who stood by him, and his a lovely daughter. May the Lord give them the fortitude to bear this loss, amen!
A rain if tributes started pouring in almost immediately the death of the gospel music icon was announced. The President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, through his media aid, Mr. Femi Adesina, said: “…The unique platform of worship created by Okposo, as well as his creative contributions to the Nigerian film industry and the inspiring role he played in grooming talents and mentoring them to stardom.”
Also, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Olisa Ifeajika had this to say: “…A great loss because he was valued asset to Deltans and Nigerians, especially as his songs continue to inspire many to worship God.”
His fellow gospel artistes have also been flooding the social media space with tributes to their late colleague, friend and brother. Chioma Jesus (Amaka Okwuoha) wrote: “Rest in the bosom of the Lord, my ‘Welu Welu’ master.” Akpororo (Bowoto Tanimola) wrote “This one enter me.” Nathaniel Bassey said via Instagram: “The news hit me this morning, I am still dazed.”
President of Gospel Musicians Association of Nigeria, said during an interview, “very sad and shocking, not only to me but to the entire body of Christ and the body of gospel artistes in Nigeria.” Esther Igbekele wrote: “Great man of God and pacesetter. Although I did not have a close relationship with him, he was a role model, worthy of emulation.”
Joe Praise (Joseph Ebhodaghe) wrote: “So difficult to take in, but we are comforted because we know you are chilling in heaven; a sure, better place.’
Okposo’s spiritual father, Pastor Adefarasin led a night of tributes for him at The Experience 2022. In 2012, it was Okposo and the Chosen Treasure that led the opening session of praise. In this year’s edition, which was the 17th edition and which held barely a week after Okposo’s passing on, Pastor Adefarasin enjoined everyone to rise and join him to observe a moment’s silence for Okposo. These were his words:
“…I speak of a man who graced this platform many times over the last 17 years who has entered the golden and pearly gates of glory. None other than Minister Sammie Okposo now of blessed memory. Would you please join me in your thoughts and prayers. Consider his wife, Ozioma and his daughter as you join me to observe a moment of silence in honour of Sammie Okposo.”
OKPOSO won numerous awards right from the early days of his singing career up in till his death. A list of the awards this global icon won is stunning. These include Most Promising Male Artiste (Fame Music Awards – 1994), Best Sound Track (The Movie Awards, Nigeria – 1997), Best Sound Track (The Movie Awards, Nigeria – 1998), Best Sound Track (The Movie Awards, Nigeria – 1999), Best Sound Track (The Movie Awards, Nigeria – 2000), Best Gospel Artiste (Amen Awards, Nigeria – 2001), Gospel Artiste of the year (Power of Music and Praise Awards – 2002), Best contemporary gospel Artiste (Power of Music and Praise Awards – 2002), Best Male Gospel Artiste in Africa Nominee (Kora Awards, South Africa – 2003), Artist of the year (Teen Choice Awards – 2005), Best remix Album (CNA Awards – 2005), Best Male contemporary gospel Artiste in Nigeria (Amen Awards – 2005), Best Male Gospel Artist in Africa (Kora Awards, South Africa – 2005/2006), Best Sound and Music Score – Amazing Grace (Nigeria Movie Awards – 2006), and Gospel Artist of the year (Nigeria Music Awards – 2006).
Others are Best Gospel Artiste in English (Afro Hollywood Awards UK – 2006), Gospel artist of the year (Nigeria Entertainment Awards, New York – 2007), Best contemporary Gospel Artiste (Nigerian Music Awards – 2008), Best Gospel Video (Nigerian Music Video Awards – 2008), God zone award for excellence in entertainment (GOD ZONE Awards – 2010), Best music video producer (Nigerian Music Video Awards – 2011), Grass root ambassador of the year (Real Soccerfest and CAN – 2012), Trailblazer award (African Gospel Music Awards UK – 2012), Best male Christian artiste (Pastor Bimbo Odukoya Foundation awards – 2012), Positive impact awards (Inside Out media awards – 2012), Artiste of the Year (Crystal Awards, Nigeria – 2013), Album of the Year (The Statement – Crystal Awards, Nigeria – 2013), and SOAR Award (USA – 2022).
* Ezaza, lawyer writer and spoken word artist, has a poetry collection titled Reflections, with Oguname as stage name and hosts a radio programme on Kpoko FM, Warri. Twitter @ReflectPoems