Fans rally support for Mike Ejeagha, Igbo folklorist

A Facebook post by Charles Ogbu, a social media activist and freelance writer, Thursday, triggered memories of the heydays of Gentleman Mike Ejeagha, legendary Igbo folklorist, songwriter and musician, prompting many fans to rally support for the ageing artiste.

Ogbu, who said he visited Ejeagha’s home in Enugu with some friends, described him as “a man who has brought honour, glory and majesty to the Igbo nation and kept the ancient ways of our ancestors alive through his music delivered mostly as folklores”, “the only Igbo folklorist who never did praise-singing for any big man even for once in any of his songs”.

He said he and the other visitors saw Ejeagha “living in abject poverty, complete lack and total sense of abandonment”.

“As I type this, his wife has been gravely ill for long. Himself doesn’t look strong even. The condition I met this living legend and his family is something I will not dare write here out of respect for the dignity of his person,” Ogbu said.

He called on government officials and well-meaning individuals in the South-East to come to Ejeagha’s aid and not wait for him to die so they would sing his praises in death and spend millions to give him a befitting burial.

He supplied Ejeagha’s account details which, according to him, was “on popular demand” by fans, adding, “Please be informed that he didn’t ask me to beg for money for him on Facebook. We are simply doing this because we feel it is the right thing to do for a living legend like him.”

Following this post, which had garnered over 1,100 reactions, 440 comments and 532 shares as at 6:00pm on Friday, many fans began to throw in their support. While some said they had instantly transferred money to Ejeagha’s account provided in the post, some said they would do so subsequently, while others said they would make arrangements to visit the living legend at his Abakpa Nike residence in Enugu.

Some other fans raised the issue of piracy, saying some criminals must have been benefitting from Ejeagha’s hard work since his music is still being played on YouTube and his albums on the platform have many thousands of views.

“Someone or organization seems to have been making money on YouTube with his music. Perhaps it’s time to find out who and get the person to either settle the family or face the law. Media houses have been using this man’s intellectual property for ages obviously without compensation. His works are still being circulated in the open market, who is doing it? Is he being pirated? By who?” said Chidozie Chukwubuike, former chairman, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Imo State chapter.

Onyedikachi Omeke, however, suggested that the surest means to help Ejeagha was to get him back on his feet to start performing in ceremonies.

Born August 1932 in Imezi Owa, Enugu State, Mike Ejeagha has been influential in the evolution of music in the Igbo language for over six decades, with his distinct storyteller-accompanied-by-guitar style and his lyrics laced with proverbs.

He began his music career in the mid-20th century, making his first hit in 1960, the year of Nigeria’s independence, and has contributed over 300 recordings to the National Archives of Nigeria produced during his field work to investigate Igbo folklore highlife music, according to an entry on him on Wikipedia.

Most of his songs were recorded under the Premier Records label and include ‘Uwa Mgbede Ka Mma’, ‘Onye Nwe Ona Ebe’, ‘Onye Ori Utaba’, ‘Omekagu’, ‘Nwa Bu Onyinye Chukwu’, ‘Onye Ndidi’, ‘Mbe Na Enyi’, ‘Anyi Ga Adi’, among numerous others.

CHUKS OLUIGBO