If you say he is the progenitor of Igbo gospel music in Nigeria, you will not be wrong. If you say he is the man that gave gospel music its first strength of character again you will not be wrong and if you describe him as the soul of Igbo gospel you will be hitting the nail on its head. To every person who has come in contact, and there are few who have not among Ndigbo and all lovers of good gospel music, the name Patty Obassey evokes a string of different emotions
But one commonality that runs strong across all is the avid love for his music. People tell you his voice is sensuous, captivating, sonorous and good for the worship of God and thanksgiving for His infinite mercies. People also talk of the quality of his lyrics and enthuse about his unique way of singing his lines. But Obassey says all he strived to do was create a place for gospel music in people’s heart, and that he did.
“I wanted to give the gospel music a general acceptance, a good outlook so that people would know what it means to associate with gospel music. Associating with gospel music will mean associating with God” he said from his sick bed recently
For many years Patty Obassey ruled supreme among gospel musicians in the country especially lovers of Igbo gospel music.
For the most part of the 70s and 80s his voice and songs were so captivating that it was the headline at religious and social gatherings in the south east and anywhere Ndigbo were present. His songs were for most people an elevated way to praise God
What many may not know is that the owner of that voice that brought many succor, happiness and peace of mind at times of confusion, worry and agitation is very sick today. Yes, Obassey the crooner of the hit gospel track nwammy water is seriously sick and dying if nothing is immediately done to rescue his failing health.
Obassey is now a shadow of his ebullient self. Reduced to a heap of wrinkled face and frequent bouts of pain and sorrow, Obassey could not manage a straight one hour interview due to fatigue and exhaustion. According to him “for over a year now, I've been in a bad state of health. The problem is kidney problem, holistic kidney problem.
The strain in the ones captivating voice was evident, “I don't know how it affects the body. But they said it affects the digestive organs or system. God has been helping me to survive; because according to the doctor, my two kidneys have failed, so what is keeping me alive must be God; prayer of the saints; that's how I feel”
But Obassey knows that while prayers have kept him alive this long he would require urgent medical intervention to stay alive for a longer period. This is because specialist doctors managing his condition at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Enugu, UNTH, have told him that if he does not undergo immediately kidney transplant his days are numbered
“He said all that I will require is kidney transplant” he said adding quickly “that is where the problem is because l do not have money for transplant and the doctor said it will be in India”. The cost for the trip and medical costs in India is N10 million a sum Obassey confirmed is totally beyond his reach
Asked if any of his numerous fans in the country and diaspora have given indications to help him he waxed philosophical.
“Well, I find it difficult to answer this question because people always have their intention in their mind. If they make their intention known, praise God; if they don't, I keep waiting”. But wait is one thing doctors advise against. How about the governors of the five South East states? Again Obassey demurred.
“I have not been able to reach the government and I don't know any state administration I shall reach for assistance; not yet, I'm still searching” adding though he will be eternally grateful to any of them who donates to keep him alive
“God will bless you. God has promised to bless anybody who blesses me, and He is a good God” he prayed
Obassey says the treatment he has so far received at the UNTH has been lifesaving but traumatic.
“When I took the drug that was recommended for me; my whole body was irritating. I was feeling pains all over and I don't know whether it has solved my problem. I don't even know whether it has helped me” which is he says the consultant “recommended transplant. So I'm neither here nor there” he added
Obassey released about 15 albums during his music career including the multi hit album Nwammy water heard in almost all homes in the south east and homes where Ndigbo live across the length and breadth of the country but had very little in terms of financial returns from the hit tracks, no thanks to pirates the ruled the music industry in the 70s and 80s
He however blames the devil for what happened. “Of course the devil will always want you to be humiliated; to make you feel that all is not working well. He is at work; the devil is at work, and that's the way I look at it”. Asked if thinks so because he sang against the devil in most of his albums he said “it may be, most likely”
Though in pains for the most part of this interview, Obassey could not help but show a glimpse of his reflective mind that made his music a general appeal whenever and wherever it is played, even today.
The spark in him busted out when asked if he ever encountered a Mammy water (water mermaid) in life that inspired him to write and sing the hit track. “Now, how can I have encounter with mammy water? I don't serve mammy water, but I know their works.
Somehow, somehow, I know her works. Mammy water and her agents are not good people. From my own perspective, they are not good people. They are dubious. They are exploitative. They are terrible. So, through that song I was only sounding a warning to those who may fall into their trap, to be aware that all that glitters are not gold. They may look lustful but they are not good. Is not everything that arouses our lust that is good. We just have to think about our destiny in life.
Using his experience on the mammy water album to illustrate his disposition he said “it made a huge impact but I didn't make the money. So what else can be responsible for such a calamity; is the devil. Is the devil that does such thing”
Becoming the preacher that he is in his songs he spoke with a tone of finality on the returns on his albums, he said “whether producers or pirates, if they are devilish; the devil didn't want me to realize something from it so that I would not be encouraged to do more. He wanted to frustrate me; he did everything to frustrate me” adding “I must confess that I was almost frustrated but God is great. God has never gone to any battle and came back defeated.
He is still the Lion of the tribe of Judah. I know him to be Almighty God. There is no other Almighty. There's only one Almighty. So no matter how the devil tries, I know he is not almighty. It is Almighty God that is almighty; only God is God. Every other spirit is trying to fake God. This is what I want my fans to know”
But Obassey says he would also be happy to receive financial donations and other forms of contributions that can help him travel to India for the transplant.
One man he says he is looking up to for help is Senator Ike Ekwerenmadu, the deputy president of the senate and senator representing him at the Senate. Obassey is from Mmaku in Awgu local government of Enugu state
“I would like if he will have the chance to show interest and assist me. I will like it. I know he is a very busy man and he has a lot of responsibilities. If he can concentrate on my own health problem, I will like it and I will appreciate it” he said
Obassey says individuals and groups willing to assist him can do so through Dr Ijeoma at UNTH Enugu.