On Friday, August 23, 2013, music producer Babatunde ‘OJB Jezreel’ Okungbowa left the shores of Nigeria in company of the woman we can call his guardian angel, with no clear-cut assurance that the kidney transplant they were going for would be successful. It was a matter of chance – life and death.
Weeks later, the news of his successful surgery in India littered the internet, with follow-up pictures, showing Jezreel with his Indian Doctors, Nurses and his wife as proof that all was well.
However, that was nothing compared to the viral reports that his return (November 30), generated. OJB has become more popular than he ever was, not only in the entertainment setting, but to many who had never paid attention to showbiz. His popularity has grown widely and compassionately.
How do we then tell the story of this man of the moment, who has been to hell and back, without giving credit to his stronghold – his God and the 1st of his 3 wives, Mama J.? Despite discouragement from family and friends, Mama J still donated one of her kidneys to save her husband. The woman was adamant to let OJB live, even when the doctors told her she would be cut all the way to her back and one of her ribs would be removed to enable them take her kidney. As frightening as that sounds.
‘I will say she is a courageous woman,’ OJB admits.
In their first interview since they returned last week, OJB and his wife, Mama J open up to HipHopWorld, exclusively, telling us all that needs to be told about what they went through – the pain, the gain, the hate and the love…
Why did you come back secretly?
You know it’s a public thing, yet personal too and after the surgery there were lots of restrictions like don’t shake hands, don’t hug people, always put on a surgical mask if you have to go out, for the next six months. So I just have to be careful.
What were your thoughts when you were told you would undergo a kidney transplant?
It was scary because I find it hard to take an injection let alone cutting the body for surgery. I didn’t really welcome it but with time I had no choice than to give in to the idea and hope for the best.
What has changed about your Lifestyle and how often do you take your medication?
I’m more disciplined now especially with hygiene and sanitization. I have to take my drugs like 8-9 times a day. Even when going out I have to have a plan so that I don’t miss my medication. Emotionally my focus is wider because after going through a life threatening situation, my perception of things changed. I value life now. As for diet, you know sometimes we want to be stubborn eating amala, eba and all the heavy foods but it has to be in small portions. To avoid weight gain because I ended up having two surgeries i.e. aheart and kidney surgery because the doctors said there was a problem with the heart which led to the kidney failure. So it’s less starch and more vegetables and protein for me.
Well, some are born with it that way, others could be through high blood pressure or diabetes but mine was due to my sleeping pattern and it kept affecting me with my knowledge. Then I used to sleep as late as 1:00am and awake at 4:00-4:30am and head straight to the studio. I was getting not more than 4hours of sleep a day. I was told it could have resulted to stroke because it started from the heart and then to the kidney but I thank God for exempting that stroke part.
What do you have to say about the controversies that surrounded donations towards your kidney transplant?
Well, there are well meaning and bitter people in Naija. Most people were just complaining and these people didn’t even donate. All the figures flying in the air then were just fake and make-belief from different angles because if we had the money we wouldn’t have the governor donate N16million. Lots of chequesthat some people donated bounced. I don’t want to mention names and when we called them to come for their cheques they didn’t come for it. We didn’t want to talk about it in the media because it was about saving a life.
What would you like to say to people that have supported you?
What I would like to say to all the people that supported me like I’ve kept saying is, I can’t reward you. I can’t give you anything, it is only God that will reward you and I pray from the depth of my heart that God will enlarge you and whatever you have given me, God will give you in large fold. It wasn’t just about the money but about saving a life and they did that, saving a whole family. I’m saying God bless them.
How would you describe your wife, who volunteered to donate one of her kidneys?
I will say 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. Just as Jesus had made the water for Peter to walk on, Peter needed a lot of courage to take that step and that was what she did at that dying minute. 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 and if after that you still go ahead to do it then that is serious courage. I will say she is a courageous woman.
We heard that you are lodged in a hotel for now because your house is undergoing reconstruction?
Yes. Someone by the name Felix Edebo actually spoke to me about that before the surgery and advised I should do a reconstruction because of hygiene during recovery. I was reluctant because of finances, he said he’d give me a call and before he left he gave me $1,000USD. Days later, he called and asked for my account details and paid in N6 million for the reconstruction and still told me he had a gift for me, and then he gave me the keys to a Land Rover jeep. We are having an extension to a bungalow which will be the main house, because the way the house was structured originally had studio with it. It needs to change, people come into the studio a lot and I have to control the hygiene. So I have to separate the two in order to sanitize the house.