– Completes N20m Surulere, Lagos home
+ Gets N6m Land Rover
FAMOUS music producer, Babatunde Okungbowa, better known as OJB Jezreel, is back from India after a successful kidney transplant.
Speaking with ENCOMIUM Weekly on Friday, December 6, 2013, at his Gbaja Street, Surulere, Lagos home/studio, OJB shared his surgery experience, detailing the pains and lessons it taught him.
ENCOMIUM Weekly also heard first hand, that contrary to the speculation that his landlord had kicked him out of his house, he is actually the authentic landlord of the modest property.
Work has even been completed on the building that must have cost the legendary beat maker and songwriter about N20m, courtesy of his fans and admirers.
And now ready to start a foundation to assist Nigerians with kidney-related diseases, OJB told ENCOMIUM Weekly he would be soliciting for the assistance of government and non-governmental organizations to subsidize the cost of their treatment and upkeep in India.
OJB Jezreel has been battling a kidney disease since June, 2013. He left our shores on Friday, August 23, 2013, after a successful fund raising campaign that fetched him over N26 million, much more than he needed for the kidney transplant. The father of eight with three wives returned to the country on Saturday, November 30, 2013…
I feel wonderful to be back here in Nigeria because, no matter the situation in the country, there is no place like home. The moment I got the clearance from the doctors that I was free to go, I felt very happy. So, I’m really glad I’m back home.
When exactly were you discharged?
I was actually discharged about five weeks ago. After I was discharged, they had to run some tests. It was in the process of this they realized I had small artery problem with my heart a bit enlarged. So, I had to go for another surgery. It was a quick one, though. After that, I headed home.
Where exactly did you take treatment?
I had the surgery in Columbia-Asia Hospital, India. It was good I went there. I was planning to go to the United Kingdom or United States of America. But it would have been more expensive in the States. When we tried London, the process was getting too long, especially the paper work. That was why we went to India. And getting there, I realized it was even the best option.
Can you recollect the pains, the most traumatic moment…how was it?
There were pains, no doubt. The painful moment was before the surgery because it got to a point the dialysis wasn’t working again. A lot of dialysis is not good. That’s why people can’t live with it forever. After a while, your body starts reacting to it. So, the only solution is to have a transplant. So, that was a painful period. It got to a point that it was as if the dialysis wasn’t working again. Of course, after the surgery, you wake up with scares all over you. That was really painful but the joy out of it all is that for the first time I saw my true colour come out, my looks and all that. Of course, the most painful one the Nigerian man remembers is money (laughs). You will remember you have not been making money.
When we got to India, everything was like a VIP treatment. I didn’t even know they have been following the news about my kidney ailment. So, when we got there, it was private everything. And to give us that kind of special attention means a lot of money. But when you look at yourself now in the mirror, you wouldn’t remember the pains and the cost of the transplant.
I would say they are one of the best in the world. They are even the ones that train specialist doctors. It was actually at the source that we went for the surgery. It was just on point.
How did you get a donor?
We had six people ready to donate their kidneys but there was one issue or the other. It got to a point that one of my wives, Mama J had to inform the family of the new development. She met with the rest of them so they could do something. I didn’t even know when they were doing this. It happened that the three of them were okay for me. But she had a higher point. It was done willingly not because she is my wife.
Before you travelled out, there was serious concern about the state of your health. There were prayers and donations, which particular one touched you most?
When the whole thing was happening, I went to a church for prayers and as I was coming out, there was this particular petty trader at a junction who recognized me. She emptied all the money she had. Though it was not up to N1,000, I really appreciated it. I would have given her back the money, but I know it was spiritual, especially with her prayers. That showed me that people really care.
Again, there was this impression that a lot of artistes you had influenced their career surprisingly didn’t identify with you at the moment of your travails. Are you keeping any malice against them?
There is no malice. Not at all. The truth about this business of ours (music) is that it is very funny. You can wake up one morning and you have N10 million, the next day, you are left with N10,000, N1,000 or even nothing! Maybe those who wanted to donate might not have enough that period. So, I don’t hold it against them. It was a free donation. It’s natural for people to expect certain people because these people passed through my tutelage. D’Banj, 2Face, Wizkid. So, it’s natural to think they should have identified with me. Maybe that was their period of downturn. So, you can never tell. So, I don’t hold it against them. I forgive them all.
I won’t lie to you, the most difficult time was the fund-raising period. It was difficult because some people said on the internet it was a scam. And that was very painful. Some others kept saying it was alcohol and smoking that damaged my kidneys. But what they didn’t know was that I had no alcohol in my system. I challenge them to come take a look at my medical reports. Then they were catching fun by cyber bullying me, but they were discouraging those who were wishing to help. It got to a point that some government bodies that wanted to get involved had to step back. It was a difficult period, not just because of the money, but my character. That was what I cared most about. I didn’t want anything to damage it. Who is that sensible man that would say he is sick just to make money?
Then came the $150,000 donation from Rivers Governor Amaechi?
I think God used him at that point to meet my need. I honestly don’t know Gov. Amaechi. He doesn’t even want me to come and say thank you. That is the level we are. The point is that I wanted to reach out to my state (Delta) but they weren’t forthcoming. That was the time God sent Gov. Amaechi. The moment I got the cash, I stopped the fund-raising.
I have learnt my lessons of life. I would rather be counted as a man of the people now than a celebrity. I’m now looking at approaching some hospitals to see how to help those with kidney-related ailments. So, we are starting off a foundation to source for subsidized transplants. India is good. They do about 10 to 15 surgeries in a month. It is not like here, where you do one or two in a year. So, they have the experience. We spoke with some of them and they agreed to subsidize the cost of the surgery, feeding and other costs to just $25,000 (N4 million). You can’t compare it with my own which was a bit higher because of the VIP treatment they gave me.
Shortly after you travelled to India, the story in town was that your house had been demolished. But now you are back here, what really happened?
We even heard funny stories like my landlord kicking me out of my house. That only God knows where I would be staying now. They hoped I wouldn’t begin to raise fresh money for accommodation and all that. Check out people that went through kidney transplant usually relocate from where they were to an environment that can accommodate them health wise unless the money is not available. So, what I decided to do was to make an extension to the house. There was already an existing extension, so I needed to renovate it. So, that is where I would be living. We had the studio and my living room together before now. And that can’t work. One of the donors, Felix Edebor, who lives in Abuja has been very helpful. The first day he came, he gave us $1,000. And as he was going, he dropped N6 million cheque. It really encouraged us to start off the building. Even when we went to India, he visited at the time I was going through the minor surgery, he gave us $10,000. He later started talking about my mobility. And days after, he bought a Land Rover LR 3, 2010 model for me. I just feel that what happened was not human, the whole fund had God’s Hands in it. Interestingly, I don’t know the guy from Adam just like Governor Amaechi.
That means this is your property?
Yes, it is.
What are you going to have here at the end of the renovation/construction?
A studio and where I would be living with my family.
Music production work has started for you?
Definitely, work would go on. But what comes first now is the foundation. We are kicking off with Lagos State.
You have definitely been receiving lots of calls and people are happy you are back alive and healthier.
That is it. Nigerians have been quite concerned and I appreciate them all. My family has also been there for me. If I want extra blessing from God now, I have to give back. And the reason I went through all these is to help others.
– UCHE OLEHI