The Unknown Ebenezer Obey: A Loving Father and A Darling Husband
By Toyin Falola
(This is the third report on the interview conducted with Chief Ebenezer Obey-Fabiyi on April 18, 2021. With viewers on three platforms now at over 16,000, there is a strong loyalty between him and his admirers. For its entire recording, see https://youtu.be/nAJbdi0nJUw)
The circumstances that led to Ebenezer Obey’s birth are not so common, and in a way, they had significant impacts on the man the Juju legend turned out to be. Nathaniel Fabiyi, Obey’s father, was not his mother’s first husband. His mother was first married to a station master in Lagos, and after twenty years of childless marriage, they got divorced. After the divorce, Ebenezer’s mother sought a new life in Idogo, where her brothers were stationed. In Idogo, she met Mr. Fabiyi, a carpenter and cocoa trader, determined to marry her from the get-go. They eventually got married, and their union produced two children (Grace Fabiyi and Ebenezer Fabiyi)–the first to mark the goodness of God to Mrs. Fabiyi, and the second as proof that she has leveled up with her fellow women as far as procreation was concerned, having given birth to both male and female children.
It could be said that the best thing about Obey’s mother’s marriage to Mr. Fabiyi was the birthing of her children; in all other aspects, her marriage was nothing to write home about. Obey’s mother was not the only wife Mr. Fabiyi had. She was the last of three wives, and soon after she gave birth to her second child, the cocoa trader returned to his other wives and children in Lagos, leaving Mrs. Fabiyi with her young children. Although Ebenezer Obey’s mother did her all to ensure that her children had the best while growing up, the absence of a father figure in their formative years affected him. This is reflected in the rueful way Obey talked about his childhood and his father’s abandonment in the several interviews he granted media houses.
According to Obey, he did not see his father till he was seven years old, and even when he saw him, it was a brief reconciliation. He harbored no animosity against his father while the late Nathaniel Fabiyi was alive. Nonetheless, the lack of a father figure during his developmental years could have been one of the major reasons why Ebenezer Obey chose to set his family at the center of his heart, choicer than his career. The Chief Commander fits the definition of a darling husband and a loving father.
In 1963, Ebenezer Obey met Juliana Olufade. The same year, the Chief Commander moved to Lagos to seek greener pastures for his musical career, and it was during his struggle for an endorsement deal that he met Juliana, to whom he was immediately drawn. Juliana was the younger sister of Obey’s musical colleague, and they met during one of his visits to his colleague. On seeing the 19-year-old, Obey was immediately convinced that she would make a good wife for him. However, courting her seemed initially difficult because the Olufades were against the union. At that time, Obey was a struggling railway station clerk who earned three pounds monthly. He was only striving to couple music with his job, and there was little assurance then that he would make a name in the music world. This made the young lady’s family counsel her not to marry the young Obey.
As love would have it, Juliana agreed to marry Ebenezer Obey, and that same year, he got married to his heartthrob and soulmate. At the time of their marriage, Obey was 21 years old, and his wife was 19. Their marriage was blessed with three children: Oluwashina, Oluwabukola, and Folarin. Aside from these three children by Mrs. Juliana, Ebenezer Obey also had Oluwarotimi, Toluwalase, and Olanrewaju. Ebenezer Obey is a loving father who took the cue of unconditional parental care and sacrifices from his mother. Just as his mother gave all her resources to take care of her children, ensuring that Obey and his sister were well taken care of even in the absence of a father, Ebenezer Obey also cared for his children. He prioritized his children’s education and sent them to the best schools at home and abroad.
Another good qualification of the loving Obey is that he allowed his children to become whatever they chose. He was not lucky to enjoy a mother who readily accepted his ambition, as he had troubles convincing her that his dreams were valid and that he should be allowed to follow through with them. As early as when he was eight years old, Obey’s son, Folarin, told his father that he would love to be a minister for God. Ebenezer Obey did not object to his son’s ambition; he rather supported it. Today, Reverend Folarin Obey is the Deputy General Overseer for Decross Gospel Mission, Ebenezer Obey’s church. He also did not restrict his children from becoming musicians. Obey’s understanding of individual differences and the dynamism of every child makes him a fulfilled father in all walks of life. His son is a minister of the gospel, one of his daughters is a UK-trained nurse, and some of his children are musicians, including Tolu Obey, also a Juju musician.
Despite how busy Ebenezer Obey was during his prime time, he tried to have time for his children. He did not have a father who was there for him and his sister, which influenced him to spend quality time with his children. Obey is a father who carries his children along in important decision-making processes. One of such was when he wanted to switch from secular music to gospel music. He duly informed his children and sought their opinions. There is a level of confidence that gets ingrained in children when they are allowed to participate in decision-making processes with adults. It helps them become responsible decision-makers who can hold their own among their agemates and in society. Ebenezer Obey is a loving father who is always thinking of and planning for his children. Another way the Chief Commander showed love to his children was to invest in real estate properties in their names to create generational wealth. Ebenezer Obey’s love for his children extends to his numerous grandchildren, who are offspring of the Obey dynasty.
Ebenezer Obey’s life as a family man is in two parts—on the one hand, he is a devoted father, and on the other hand, he is a darling husband. Mrs. Juliana Obey-Fabiyi was godsent to Chief Ebenezer Obey. She was his lover and soulmate, a woman who perfectly understood him and sought to make his life easier and his purpose more pronounced. When Obey received the mandate to venture into gospel music, he was initially reluctant. However, the mandate became more pronounced than he could reject, and he shared it with his wife. Ever supportive of her husband, Mrs. Obey-Fabiyi took God’s call in good faith and helped prepare her husband for the mission.
The Chief Commander took good care of his wife, and he immensely loved and respected her. He set up businesses for her, was always seeking her opinion on matters. She was a humble and loving woman who treated all Obey’s children equally, whether they were her biological children or not. Mrs. Obey-Fabiyi’s death in 2011 was a huge shocker to her husband. He was devastated by the loss of his wife and companion of 48 years. As a way of respecting and protecting the memory of his wife, Ebenezer Obey swore not to remarry.
Ebenezer Obey is known to many as the guitar-striking, Juju-singing Egba man. He is a renowned musician who won the hearts of many with his enjoyable music. Beyond the musician, entrepreneur, celebrity, and busy businessman, Obey is a devoted family man who loves his family and enjoys an equal measure of love from them. It is a blessing and a thing of happiness to live one’s old age in a house full of laughter, young-blooded people, joy, and fond memories. Such is the old age that Chief Ebenezer Obey, the Chief Commander, is enjoying.