Friend We Lost

Just got to read a tear-inducing obituary on page 61
of Punch today that Essien Akpabio, the stylish music
and entertainment manager, promoter and patron of the
late eighties through the nineties died on February 2,
2008. The announcement was made infact by the governor
of Akwa Ibom himself, Godswill Akpabio- who described
Essien as "a great son of the Akpabio clan".
Essien Akpabio was a large, charascteristic and
unmissable image in those very resourceful years of
the entertainment scene when the like of Chris Okotie
and his soulbrother, Obi, Peter k Falola, Berkely
Jones, Emma Ogosi, Evi Edna Ogoli-Ogosi, Tony Okoroji,
Funmi Adams, Lijadu sisters, Ras Kimomo, Oris Wiliki,
Majek Fashek, Victor Essiet, Peterside Ottong, Onyeka
Onwenu, Xty Essien, Uche Ibeto, Tina Afrika Oyibo
Onwudiwe, Stela Monye, Bunmi Fajugbu, Mike Okri,
Charley Boy, Alex O, Alex Xitto, Mustafa Amego, Chris
Hanen, Feladeh, Pat Solo, Excempt E, Godwin Omabuwa,
Gbubemi Amas, Frankie Lee, Andy Shurman, Victor Oris,
Souleman, Goddy K Obi, joined by their fuji and juju
brothers Sina Peters, Segun Adewale, Emperor Pick
Peters, Wasiu Ayinde, Adewale Ayuba etc etc strut the
music landscape. He was one of the movers of the
clubbing scene from the Afrikan Shrine, to Klass (this
was his favourite run by his good friend John Chukwu
who later died and eddy) to Wazobia, to Ozone, to Faze
2, to Deroof, to Lords, to Niteshift, Singerrs Kruise,
Jazz et al etc. He was also part of the great concerts
of the time _ Reggae Sunspash, Lekki Sunsplash,
Badagry Music Festival, Black Water Music Festival,
Freedom Jams, Lagos Jeans Carnival, Roots, Rock and
Reggae Festival, Food and Music Festival, Surprise 89,
Children of Africa, seven up's I got the power, as
well as the early part of the Benson and Hedges
Concerts among others. He worked his artists into the
schemes at Polygramm (Premier), Sony, Decca, Tabansi
(particularly Tabansi!!!!) , Emi... I notice he was
unhappy with virtually all the labels and recording
companies. They are cheats he would always say. He
would go - in his coarse voice that however has a soft
timbre - hagggling with Dean Disi at polygramm, and
drive over to bang on Laolu Akins' table at Sony; he
could have killed somebody at Tabansi, though Aibtonia
seemed his eternal verbal punchbag... But he would
always get his artistes to get a fair deal; and for
poor reporter like me, an autograph copy of the arti
ste's album... Delivered to my office. Then we would
go to the Shak by Adipo market for fresh peppered fish
and Star larger, with uncountable sticks of Marlboro or
Rothmans as damnable victims.
Sometime in mid 90s the tall, fine face chap with whom
a rascally version of one had attempted all the
unimaginables, suddenly declared he was tired of Lagos
- the very city that he had affected with his
goodnaturedness and tireless passion for the good
things of life - and that he was heading home (now I
think it was almost at the time Akwa Ibom State
was created); he said he was going to kick off
entertainment scene in the new state. He left. Not
much was heard of him, except once in a while.
Travelling from Jos-via-Makurdi- through-Ogoja, I had
decided to stop by to catch up with Nico Mbarga (late)
in Ikom, I had run into him at a popular eatery at
Ogoja and he had driven me to Nico's truly fascinating
(oh, those hefty boobs!!!!) Sweet Mother Hotel;
unfortunately Nico was away to Port Harcourt for a
show. After a nite of savouring great rocafill jazz
with Nico's second eleven amidst other indulgences, we
had parted ways. But he had given me a contact to his
club in Akwa Ibom. In 1999, while on a near
nation-wide trip to sign on veteran highlife
muisicians for the second great highlife party, I had
visited his (family's really) modest clubhouse in Ikot
Ekpene situated right along the way to Port Harcourt.
My mission was to enlist his support to trace Ralph
Amarabem of 'Eddy Kwansa' fame. I never got to see the
good old Essien, he was in Calabar on a business trip;
but through phone he was able to direct his younger
ones at the club to give me and the late Renate a
special treat and to link us with the aged blind
musician, Amarabem - who eventually was a top bill at
the great highlife party 2000. I had promised to walk
my path back to Akpabio's club in the nearest future,
especially as I had been presented with a 'kristen' by
the good brothers of Essien. I never made that journey
and now my old buddy, and I am sure a great pal of
many arts writers on the field then, has journeyed
forth to greater service, leaving his loved ones with
lament and fruitless tears.
He had been born 1948, so he died at 60.

Thanks for this jab at a once-upon-a- passionate
past....Akpabio was a great artist manager/promoter.
His constituency was his loyalty to his artists no
matter their marketability. ..As such, Goddy Tabansi
and Phillip regard him as a one man threat to their
sinful music biz practice...always with an infectious
smile, he would bulldoze his large frame into my
production room at The Punch and yell, "Jebose, I beg
you must stop the press...this artist must enter SH
this week"...not with intimidation, but with such
irresistible affection and respect for the profession:
and who would deny such a fine man a STOP PRESS.
Whether he is pushing Victor Essiet and The Mandators,
or Tera-Kota or Late Peterside ottong, he always
believed so affectionately...May his soul rest in


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