Chris Osaretin Eburu, is one of the younger cousins of the late Prof. Victor Uwaifo. He served as his manager and now stands in as the ‘Okaegbe’, (head and spokesman for the family). In this interview with Francis Ogbua gu in Benin, he recalls his relationship and work experience with the late highlife maestro.
What is your relationship with the late Sir Victor Uwaifo?
I am a younger cousin and manager of the late Victor Uwaifo; I worked with him so closely for the past 20 years as a manager and curator. He was the President and Founder of Africa’s largest tourist centre, known as Revelation Tourist Centre, Benin City. That is where I worked with him as his Manager.
As a close relation, what are you going to miss about the music icon?
I am not just a relation, I was his manager; he was the president and my boss. When he was the honourable Commission for Arts, Culture and Tourism from 2001 to 2004, I was his Personal Assistant and Public Relations Officer. What I will miss about him? Everything! I learnt so much from him. He was quite a hard working person. He was an epitome of inspiration, because he would inspire you; he was strict, but kind to a fault. One of the things I admired in him was that his yes was yes and nay was nay. I said it when he was not there and I also said it in his presence; these are some of the qualities.
If you request anything from him and he says no, forget about it, no matter how hard you pester him he will never give to you. In the same way, if you ask him for anything and he says yes, rest assured that before you prepare to receive it he would have released it to you. He will pursue you with it; sometimes you may not even ask him, he most times knew what you wanted and he would just surprise you. He was somebody who knew how to surprise people. He was an amazing man, quite intelligent. He understood the nitty- gritty of our culture. At the time he started music, musicians were seen as womanizers, never-do-well people, smokers, drunks and drug addicts, that was how they were regarded. But Sir Victor Uwaifo proved them wrong; he told the whole world that a musician can do well in any field. When he started, his father did not want him to play music because his father, Pa WA Uwaifo, was an elite. He would never allow his son to do that. But his son was a very zealous being; he was a musician of international standard.
He decided to prove to the whole world,even his father in his grave, that musician can do well. He proved that a musician could go to school, a musician could acquire a first degree with a first class honours, that a musician could go for a Master’s Degree and a Ph.D. We have done extensive research on him and without mincing words, we found out that true to what he said about himself, he was the most read musician, most educated music maestro, sculptor and inventor in the whole wide world. We did our individual research and found out that he was right. The performers of his time, the likes of Elvis Presley, James Brown were not educated, even the younger Michael Jackson had no record of having gone to school. You can see that while other musicians dropped out of school, he dropped in and made us proud. He was a bundle of intelligence, he was a bundle of wisdom, he was a bundle of talent, everything rolled into one. In the world of Visual Arts, he was to be compared with the Italian artist, Leonardo da Vinci, who painted Mona Lisa. He was Victor Uwaifo of all trades and master of all. As a musician, he played all the musical instruments and he would do it expertly. He would put in some beautiful finesse that made him different from others. To tell you how exceptional he was, he never played in an obituary (burial ceremonies) he never ever played in burial functions not that there was a force behind it, it was a matter of principle. He proposed in his heart never to eulogize the dead while playing his guitar. Many people are still wondering how he made his money notwithstanding that he never played in burial functions. Even some big wigs who wanted him to play for them in burial ceremonies offered him good money. Some offered him N8m, N12m, even N24m. He did not play in such functions not minding the financial inducement. He did not bow to the god of money. He stood his ground. As an intellectual, if wrote any letter on his behalf, you must give it to him to edit; you may be good in written English, but by the time he was through with it, you would be surprised at what it would turn out to be.
What do you expect from both Edo State and Federal Government? What I except from government?
I expect both the Federal and Edo governments to give him a national burial. He was given a national award, Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) in 1983 by the government of late Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Honour should be given to whom honour is due. It was as a result of his vast contribution to nation building that that honour was given to him. He has been declared a national treasure by UNESCO. He has won laurels for Nigeria. He won the 1st Gold Disc Award. When ‘Joromi’ was released in 1975; within three days it sold 100,000 copies and within a year it sold millions of copies. He recorded over 600 albums. He deserves to be immortalised.