THREE years after a kidney transplant operation in India, popular Nigerian music producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist, Babatunde Okungbowa, better known as OJB Jezreel, died in the early hours of yesterday in a Lagos hospital. He would have been 50 years old next month.
According to a family source, OJB’s kidney had completely failed since last week and he was on dialysis to overcome the relapse before he gave up the ghost yesterday.
The late music producer’s body was deposited in a morgue at the General Hospital, Isolo, Lagos.
He is survived by three wives, Mabel, June and Korede, and eight children.
Last year, it was rumoured that OJB, who featured in a Yoruba movie after he returned from India, had suffered a setback and was in hospital. But the embattled song writer and producer refuted the rumour through an SMS broadcast.
It would be recalled that the dreadlock-spotting producer was flown to India for a kidney transplant in 2013. The surgery was successful and he returned to Nigeria with his wife, Mabel, who donated the kidney.
A statement released online by a family source reads: “It is with sadness in our hearts that we report that Babatunde Okungbowa, known to the world as OJB Jezreel, passed on early this morning, Tuesday, June 14.
“His kidney transplant had failed completely since last week. He was down with kidney-related disease, and consequently was flown to India for a transplant in 2013.”
After the successful surgery, OJB showered praises on his first wife, Mama J, for being there for him and donating one of her kidneys to save his life.
He had said: “She is a wonderful person because it is one thing if God is telling you to do something but another to do it. It takes a lot of courage to actually do it.
“Even when the doctors came to tell her that they would have to cut her all the way to the back and would have to remove a rib so they could have access to the kidney, she still agreed to go through it. It takes courage to go through with it. So, I will say she is a courageous woman.”
It would be recalled that shortly after his return to the country, OJB set up a foundation called, OJB Foundation, which he used to solicit support for those suffering from kidney-related diseases.
He stated that the foundation would mainly act as a dialysis centre, providing financial relief for patients who spend their life savings on dialysis.
Speaking at the ceremony, the legendary music producer had thanked those who came to celebrate with him and called for support towards his foundation, saying “after surviving the major operation, I thought of how to give back to the society, and this is one of the ways I would love to do that. I want you all to help make this dream come true.”
Last chat with Vanguard
Recounting the horrible experience, he had, while battling the life-threatening disease in an interview with Vanguard, the respected producer said he was tempted to consider the possibilities of giving up the ghost.
According to him, “what was going through my mind was basically what was going through the minds of over 30 million people that have kidney related problems. Honestly, when you are younger, you do not think about death. But for some reasons, I had to think and consider death.
“I considered the possibilities that it could happen. And of course, when I start considering the possibilities of dying, everything starts flashing back to me: did I do enough? What didn’t I do right? If I die now, what is going to happen to my family and business?
“The pressure of the thought begin to increase upon you, as the days go by. The psychological trauma is bigger than what you can imagine.”
OJB said while the trauma lasted, he did not give up the fight to survive because he was “blessed during that passing phase of his life.”
Colleagues pay tributes
However, since the news of his demise broke, the music producer’s colleagues and friends in the entertainment industry have been paying glowing tributes to him.
K-Solo, a singer and music producer, was the first to pay tribute to the deceased. According to him, “All glory be to God Almighty, who gave OJB to us and has taken him. OJB will never be forgotten in my career.”
Also, Peter Okoye of P-Square fame, said: “Another day, another sad news. You will surely be missed my brother, OJB Jezreel. God knows best.”
COSON said: “We are heartbroken at COSON as we mourn the passing on this morning of our front line member, the immensely-talented singer and producer, OJB Jezreel who worked with 2Face to craft the monster hit, “African Queen.” COSON condoles the family, friends and fans of this music maker.”
Destiny Awanfo, alias Ocean P, said: “OJB is just like the god of the street because he has been there for so many of us. He has written songs for so many great artistes, and produced them. Even when you do not have money for your production, OJB is not that kind of man that would let you go back to where you are coming from.
“He must give you a reason to smile even when you are just coming up and does not know what to sing about.”
OJB, however, would be remembered for his work with Oxygen, Paul Play, Ruggedman, X-Appeal, Jazzman, 2face Idibia among others.
He produced pop icon 2face Idibia’s classic debut album ‘Grass to Grace’ and the seminal, industry-redefining 2001 rap single ‘Ehen Pt. 1.’
His Silverpoint Studios in Gbaja, a neighbourhood in Lagos Mainland, was for many years a Mecca of sort, for those seeking an entry into the Nigerian music industry.
OJB may not have recorded significant success in his career as a music producer, but he had been the pillar behind the music of most successful Nigerian artistes. Some of his solo hits include “Jah’s is my lite,” “Searching,” “Beautiful as you are,” “Pretete” and “Shitta Anthem.”