By Kayode BADMUS
Long before Davido and Wizkid were born, infact a long time before the likes of Pasuma Wonder and Obesere were music sensations, before K1 De Ultimate released his debut album, there was a legendary musical genius named Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi. He reigned supreme even before the late Sikiru Ayinde Barrister created what is now known as Fuji music.
Ebenezer Obey who has now settled back to just a few special performances was at the time the toast of all. His music was heard across the globe and his fans were abound.
Ofcourse, he had a long lasting rivalry with fellow legend, King Sunny Ade who played a similar music. This however isn’t the crux of this story.
For many people who know the Commander these days, he is known as a man of God who sings more conservatively and performs mainly gospel songs but that wasn’t the Obey of the 60s and 70s. That most definitely wasn’t the Commander who owned the 80s.
Back then, Obey was a sociable man. He was indeed a lady’s man and he had his own fair share of the opposite sex many of whom were also fans of his music.
One particular story however stands out in the life of the now Evangelist Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi. His affair with the Queen of Afrobeat, a certain Dele who is renowned as Fela’s first dancer.
Beautiful and highly sought after, Dele Salami created the fast paced rhythmic dance steps which would become the signature Afrobeat dance moves that many later came to love. This was before the famous 27 dancers whom Fela married in a single day.
According to a personal account by Dele Salami, she had an earlier relationship with Fela but they later ended it and decided to focus solely on business. It was after this time she met Ebenezer Obey.
She and other band members had gone to a music festival with Fela in Ghana, Obey was also performing at the festival.
Her performance was so electrifying coupled with her beauty that the Commander couldn’t look away.
“Ebenezer Obey first saw me in Ghana, when Fela went for a music festival. We lodged at Nima Hotel. Ebenezer also came for the festival; during the show we (Paulina, Eva and myself) performed like Ghanaians never saw Afro Beat dancers before. So, when it was dark, after the show, Ebenezer Obey sent somebody to call me,” Dele disclosed in an interview.
One thing led to the other and she spent the night and many other nights with him. This continued even after they returned to Nigeria.
According to Dele, “When we returned, we continued the relationship until I became pregnant, and that became a problem between Fela and Ebenezer.”
Apparently, the legendary Fela wasn’t happy his friend impregnated someone who was an integral part of his band. He didn’t like the fact that she would be unavailable to continue performing with him. Fela even reportedly dissed Obey in the track ‘He miss road’ released in 1975.
Obey on the other hand was elated about the news. He swiftly got Dele an apartment and started taking care of her responsibility. Although he was happily married to Lady Juliana Fabiyi, Obey didn’t shy away from his responsibilities…not until crisis hit.
It is said that it was later discovered that Obey wasn’t the father of the child delivered by Dele Salami. According to her, a certain Awosika who worked with Obey at the time incited the Juju legend against her. Obey was told he couldn’t have been the father of the child because the baby was fair in complexion when compared to Obey who is dark. Eventually Obey gave in to the pressure and did away with her after stating clearly that he was convinced the baby wasn’t his but belonged to her former boyfriend, Tony Benson.
It is not clear if the Tony Benson in this picture is the same Tony Benson who is the first son of the late Bobby Benson who is credited to have created highlife music but Dele Salami reveals that he is from Ikorodu and he was quite excited to accept the baby who bore Benson as her surname until she got married almost 20 years ago.
Today, Obey is 81 while Dele Salami is 73 but this event which happened almost 50 years ago is one of the best kept secret of the Nigerian entertainment scene of that era.