Which way Nigeria’ was among the songs that shot late Sunny Okosuns to limelight in his brilliant music career that spanned over four decades, but not many know how he started. Back in 1962, when the treetop was the playground of the squirrel, as the Igbo would say, late Sunny Okosuns, founder and leader of the Oziddi music band, was a young man and one of the members of the music group called the Shooting Stars. His music undoubtedly gladdened many souls but not many people know the humble beginning of the man who bestrode the Nigerian music scene like a colossus for many years.
Before the formation of the itinerant band Okosuns was an apprentice mechanic in Enugu where he lived with his mother who fried akara at Ogui Road. The title ‘Which Way Nigeria’ was one of the titles the group led by the young Cyril Ogbonna, now the traditional ruler of Uzi autonomous community in Olokoro, Umuahia South Local Government area, played at the time.
It was originally composed at the time by the band leader, Ogbonna. But after the war, Okosuns relocated to Lagos where he completely abandoned the mechanic training he acquired and plunged full time into music. Interestingly, from that time nothing was heard of the band leader in terms of music.
Just like Okosuns dropped every other engagement for music, Ogbonna, his friend and band leader, also dumped what Shakespeare described as food of the soul for other pursuits. If he ever had anything to do with music afterwards, it was not with the same success that Okosuns had.
The traditional ruler of Uzi Olokoro recalls with nostalgia 55 years later how the Shooting Stars enlivened shows in Enugu and Aba on special occasions and how he spontaneously composed the ‘Which Way Nigeria’ way back in 1962.
“In fact each time they play that Music by Sunny Okosuns, it sends me back to my days in 1962′ when I was a pop singer.” After the war it became clear that Sunny had found his career path in life as he devoted his energy and time fully to it.
His Royal Majesty Eze Cyril Ogbonna says Okosuns so loved music he hardly paid attention to his training as a mechanic.Eze Ogbonna recalled with a sense of fulfilment the days the group held sway in entertainment circles especially in the East as the foundation of Okosuns’ music career. Speaking in his palace on the music which made late Sunny Okosuns popular, Eze Ogbonna said: “The truth is that by 1962, I was a pop singer in Enugu State. My group then was known as the Shooting Stars, promoting the popular Ukaonu’s Club. We featured at Enugu on Saturdays and Sundays, we featured at Aba.
“I vividly remember that by that 1962, there was a seminar organised at Queens School, Enugu, precisely by one South African for all Nigerian students. It was then that I composed the music – WHICH WAY NIGERIA, with Sunny Okosuns and Ajoku, a printer, who is from Owerri.
“Sunny Okosuns was a mechanic, I was then a bird (canary) trainer. I used to make cages and train canaries and was also a vendor. So we were so close. It was after the war that Okosuns developed that song and became popular and the song is known all over the place and is now a worldwide music.” Eze Ogbonna said: “But the initial WHICH WAY NIGERIA was my composition.
I didn’t know what inspired me then to compose that song, but I was trying to let Nigerian students know that Nigeria is our home, that we have no other home. The traditional ruler wouldn’t want to discuss how Okosuns’ parents felt about his friendship with their son but said: “Sunny Okosuns’ mother used to fry ‘akara’ then at Ogui Road, Enugu. They asked me not to come to Okosuns, that I was corrupting him.
True! At that stage, Sunny Okosuns as a mechanic, could not even remember how to fix the head of motor battery, because music took up all our time.” But has the question WHICH WAY NIGERIA asked just two years into Nigeria’s independence and 57 years after, been answered by Nigerians and the governments, the traditional ruler said: “I will just say that even in our own time, I am afraid if Nigeria will answer that question.
The question is unanswerable. “And I don’t know who will be able to answer that question in Nigeria, where there is no electricity, where nothing is going on well, where there is no job for people.
“That is why I don’t blame our youths when they say they want to leave this country because nothing is happening. Otherwise this country would have been one of the richest in the world, but where are we? No electricity, how can you run anything without electricity? No water, there’s nothing. No! No! No! That question is unanswerable.”
The royal father also recalls his opinion of the late singer then. “He was is a very gentle young man and I had no problem with him; later on he became what he is, unfortunately now he is no more. May his soul rest in peace.”
Sadly, since the original music was played and many years after the demise of the man who popularised it, Nigeria has gone through political and economic upheavals yet the question after 57 years of nationhood remains unanswered.