Monday, 5th June 2023

‘Studying music 40 years after graduating as a doctor was fun’

By Godwin Ijediogor, Asaba
10 May 2023   |   4:06 am
It certainly wasn’t a walk in the park when one decides to return to school some 40 years after graduating as a medical doctor, and at 63, to study Music, this time. Even though Okubor said it was interesting, given his background as the son of a teacher and at some point music teacher on a small scale. But that thing was there.


A former commissioner for Information and political strategist to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Dr. Festus Okubor, who bagged a degree in Music from Delta State University, Abraka, recently, told GODWIN IJEDIOGOR in Asaba that he enjoyed returning to the classroom to study Music 40 years after graduating as a medical doctor and at 63.

It certainly wasn’t a walk in the park when one decides to return to school some 40 years after graduating as a medical doctor, and at 63, to study Music, this time. Even though Okubor said it was interesting, given his background as the son of a teacher and at some point music teacher on a small scale. But that thing was there.

It could not just have been accidental. He explained: “One day, I sat down and said to myself, ‘And God said to Satan, have you seen my servant, Job?’ I analysed and told myself this was not a telephone conversation; it looked more like a face-to-face meeting, and I wondered how possible it was for Satan to meet with God and sit down to discuss with Him.

So, it triggered my curiosity and I decided to find my own ‘how?’ And then another Scripture came, that Satan is the accuser of the brethren, and I asked myself to whom does he accuse them and for whom does he accuse them? The answer is God! Considering the number of brethren you have, it means he would nearly have unlimited access to be able to accuse them continuously.

“I decided to search how and why, until in the Book of Isaiah. When you look at it critically, everything about Lucifer was music- movement, sound, clapping of his hands, just everything about Lucifer produced celestial music. That was also why he was the leader of the heavenly choir.

“I realised also that even in this our life, everything about it is music- the day you were born (the sound of crying), naming ceremony, marriage, being honoured, as well as when you die.”

So, he decided to go and find out more about music. Essentially, he went to the Delta State University, Abraka, this time on a voyage of discovery; trying to discover what is music, what is in music, what can music be used for and how can it be used for the betterment of mankind.

He went, studied, and came out, having acquired knowledge, he still believes there is more to acquire, and he intends to go back to further study music.

Okubor stated that the transition was very seamless and straightforward because of his understanding of life and that whatever you need to achieve in this life, you must pay the right price. His price of returning to school was having to leave his comfort zone to make sacrifices.

He had to be in class early, listen attentively, take notes, study afterwards and come out with a good grade. And he is happy he was able to pay the price.

There was no rustiness because of enthusiasm was very high and he was enjoying what I was doing. His younger classmates looked up to him to show good example, so he could not afford to be late to class or dress improperly, for example.

Most times, he had to come earlier to enable him to catch up, since he came in by Direct Entry and had little knowledge about music before then. It was full-time and that was why for over three years, people were not seeing him in the political scene and in Asaba regularly, except he we were on holidays or had no classes to attend.

Asked if it was just to discover and acquire the knowledge or he intends to put it to practice at some point in his life, the political strategist to outgoing Governor Ifeanyi Okowa said any knowledge acquired, but not utilised or deployed is not real knowledge.

Indeed, having acquired the knowledge, he is already deploying it. “I wrote an oratorium of five songs in Ika language. That is the first oratorium to be written in any Nigerian language, and those who listened to it when I performed it in a 70-man orchestra band that I assembled at the last Christmas Carol in Asaba organised by the state government liked it and were thrilled.

“One of my works is titled Emmanuel o in Ika language,” he disclosed.

Though he obviously did not meet his contemporaries in school, Okubor insisted that it was very interesting. “I was in class with some students as old as my children and some that could almost pass for my grandchildren. It was a very interesting experience, different generations with different beliefs, different ways of communication, mannerism, and things that interest them were different. Understanding them was fun and knowledge on its own.

“I had to work with the young ones, who were very interesting to work with every day. It was a good experience living with them and being looked up to for direction. I had to come down to their levels and sometimes spoke their own language, eating their food and playing their plays.

“Some of them, I mean my classmates, called me ‘daddy,’ but we were classmates. So, when we finished a class/lecture and I understood it better, they will come to me for clarification, and when I didn’t understand, I asked them too. We worked as mates in a team, first of all, we were mates anyway.

“I tell you it is an experience you cannot pay for.”

Did he blend easily in the class of 30 students? “Of course, I blended! Music is teamwork, so we had sessions together. For instance, if I orchestrated/wrote a work for 20 instruments, I had to bring in the experts in those instruments to interpret all the jargon, so that anybody anywhere in the world that understands music will play it the same way.”

Asked about the kind of music that appeals to them mostly, Okubor said: “Contemporary music, although you learn all types of music. So, you cannot pick and choose, because you are not a musician, but a musicologist. I write and compose for all instruments, but I also play the clarinet.”

How was his relationship with his lecturers? “Oh well, they were my lecturers, no matter the age, so I respected them as such. There was no question about that.”

He said there is no hard and fast rule about composition, saying: “For instance, when you are sad, you create music that expresses sadness. You can create music that depicts happiness or one that induces sleep or calms the nerves, one that pushes people to fight, like when you are with soldiers on the war front, and that’s why every army has a band.”

On how and where the inspiration to compose comes most to him, the former commissioner responded: “It comes anywhere; it could be at an event. For example, last week I was watching the war in Ukraine on Youtube and I got the inspiration to write a song that I am going to title ‘Bera Tank’ as a gospel and depict Jesus Christ as the Bera Tank that will shoot down all your enemies.”

How much joy does he derive from composing music? “So much; so fulfilling. I want to have something for everybody. I compose, record/perform it, and put it out there. There are people whose specialisation is the marketing of music. There’s a division of labour.”

With the general elections over, Okubor is getting busier politically, but he hopes at some point to have the time for his new love, saying: “In life, you use your time as you desire. Time is not frivolously applied, time is life and life cannot be lived as a happenstance. So, if you put a premium on your family, you create time for your family.

“At the end of every day, you must account for your time. After all, there are times we lie down doing nothing when we could use that time to do something to add value to ourselves. Time is yours to apply.”