BY KATE HALIM AND BOLATITO ONIPEDE ADEBAYO
After weeks of media war with controversial pastor, Apostle Johnson Suleman over an alleged sexual relationship, the preacher’s alleged
traducer and Canada-based Stephanie Otobo might have gone back to her first love, music.She recalled that as a child, she was at the forefront of children activities in the church and that strengthened her resolve to become famous through music.
After releasing a single, ‘I depend on you’, Stephanie says she is less bothered about negative comments or being rejected by people who feel she should have buried her head in shame over the scandal that rocked her life.
In this interview with Entertainer, Miss Otobo during a visit to The Sun Corporate Headquarters in Lagos, recently, opened up on her sex life, music and other allegations preferred against her. She revealed that she is focused to making something out of her life by ministering to others through song.
When and how did you get into music because what was being promoted about you during your controversy with the man of God was that Stephanie was a stripper in Canada?
I have loved music since I was a child. During children functions at the church, I would take the lead roles. I did choreography and worship. Since then, I had loved to sing when I grew older and become a star. I was doing secular music beforeI came out with my gospel single.
Last year, while I was in Canada, I tried to make music but it didn’t have the Nigerian taste in terms of the production of the song and the music itself. Over there, their songs lack that distinct Nigerian flavour. I care about afro music, which is taking more of African music into the western world.
I travelled to Nigeria and made a song entitled ‘My Girlfriend’ using my stage name Kimora. I came to Nigeria to make a gospel song because I have always loved gospel songs. Having been in church since I was a child, I had wanted to flow with that passion. I met with some people I was supposed to work with and they explained to me that if I go into gospel songs, I would be wasting my time.
They told me that my song might be everywhere but I won’t make money. They said the best it would get me was popularity but nothing else. They said nobody would invite me for shows because I don’t attend any of the big churches in Nigeria nor belong to any famous choir.
I was told that I won’t make money because people don’t know me.
They explained to me that later on, I can go back to gospel songs because I am still very young. In life, you don’t have to rely on your own wisdom alone, you have to listen to the people who are in the business. It made sense to me that secular music was okay for now and later I can change to gospel, but originally, gospel was my thing.
Immediately, I changed to secular music. I got into the secular lifestyle. I started music last year officially.
In essence, it wasn’t as if you had formal training in music, it was something you picked from the church?
No, I didn’t go for training. I tried to go for training though. I moved from Toronto, Canada, to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada just to kick start my music career. I was struggling to find a way out and stand on my feet as a musician. It’s like starting a business, you know you need capital, but you also need other things too. I didn’t know how to come out as a musician. I enrolled to study music at the university but after moving to a new state, I couldn’t get myself to begin school. I told myself I could actually achieve my dreams without going to school.
At what point did the issue of stripping in clubs come in?
I don’t know if it’s because I’m an entertainer. Generally, as you sing, you are not just singing, you’re dancing and using your body to attract others and entertain your fans. I don’t know if that was why people claimed I was a stripper. I was just an entertainer.
So you were never a stripper?
No, I wasn’t. My life currently is like a whole new experience. Whatever I had done or practised didn’t please God. I don’t do them anymore. I left them all behind in the pool of the drama with the man of God. Old things have passed away and this is a new me.
Now that you’re doing gospel songs, how did you get the inspiration?
What really inspired me was my experience in jail in Nigeria. It was the fear and terror I lived through while in jail in Kirikiri prison. I live in Canada and if I was a thief, one day I would expect to go to jail. If I was a killer, one day I would expect to go to jail. I have never done anything that would make me think that I could ever go to jail.
So, going to jail in Nigeria was terror. I remember what my father came out to say some things about me then when I was in jail. Even though he couldn’t do anything to help me, knowing that I have his support meant everything to me. The experience in prison made me ask God for mercy and for His help to scale through.
Why are you running back to God seeing that you were disappointed by a man of God, and someone who represents God hurt you?
What I understand about God is that if you are in God, you don’t have the heart to do things that you ordinarily want to do to please your flesh. If you are in Christ, the Holy Spirit will tell you what to do and not you going to do that because you want to. Now, instead of me facing my old life on this man like I used to do, I have changed and I have to face God.
I see all these people insulting me and calling me names as still facing the man of God and treating him like God. I took him like God before but when I saw the truth that this man is not God but just a man that deceived me, hurt me and broke my heart, I had to face God. It is now that
I am not going to blame anybody who is negative to me or finds it hard to accept me. I won’t blame anyone who is not on my side now. I know what the word of God says and I know that if they know what the word of God says, they won’t be deceptive about it. Don’t accept me but accept the word of God.
There’s a misrepresentation of you out there about the way you dress. An average Nigerian has a mentality that a Christian should dress in a particular way, but it didn’t take you a while to change, how did you transform so fast?
My moving forward so fast came from what Jesus said about dying for my sins and shame. If I am not ashamed anymore, why won’t I move forward with my life? Why will I stay home and wait for the world to continue judging me? If the Spirit of God wants me to start my life afresh, why do I have to hide from people because of what they will say? I am not ashamed of the things I have been through because God has used it to change my life.
When you released your music video, some people alleged that you started the controversy with the Apostle just to create publicity for your upcoming song, how true is this?
Maybe he saw my future and tried to make that possible. He is the one closer to God and he’s supposed to see the future, not me. Even if I had planned to do all of these for publicity with a man of God, how possible would it be in the long run? Who knows tomorrow, me? No matter what you plan today, it doesn’t mean it would work out tomorrow exactly the way you planned it.
I can’t take such a risk. I can’t risk my whole family. I can’t risk my father coming out to talk about me because I know who he is and how he behaves. Some of my family members rejected me. My friends rejected me because of this issue. They are all ashamed of me. I won’t risk all of that just to sell my music.
And secondly, he started it. I didn’t start the whole issue. If I did, bank statements would show it. I would be caught collecting money. I wasn’t blackmailing him. He froze my account just to get back at me. I went to get money from my account and got arrested, maltreated and pepper sprayed. I was embarrassed and handcuffed, so how could I have planned all these just for music?
You are coming out a different person, but were you into sex, drugs and prostitution in Canada as alleged by some people?
I am just a normal, young lady. People get lost and that’s why God said only the truth can set you free. It means you have to be lost in order to be free. I wasn’t really into these things but I know I had lived a normal life. I go to club once in a while. I enjoy my weekend but I don’t know anything about sex, drugs and prostitution.
What do you do in Canada?
I am fully into music. I was working. I tried to move on because I like to go round and experience different cities. I worked; I stopped working. I went to school, I stopped school. I even went to beauty school for a couple of months. I have tried many things.
At your age, how were you able to cope with the stress of what you have gone through?
The word of God is my shield and buckler. Everything I have gone through have brought shame and disgrace to me and my family but I am better now because Jesus Christ died for them. I don’t have to hide myself anymore from the world. When I knew that Jesus died for my humiliation, my pain, my ugliness, I held onto to Him and He helped me.
Were there people or group that reached out to you for support during your ordeal?
In Canada, the president of the Nigerian Association who is a minister of God reached out to me. He was my support. Other people reached out to me and offered emotional and spiritual support. They gave him messages for me and he passed it across. I never met any of them in person and they stood by me.
How was your childhood like?
I went to church a lot as a child. I grew up in a Christian background. My mom would always take us to church in Warri. I was born in Lagos but my family moved to Warri when I was little. I grew up mainly in Delta State. My dad and mom separated. My dad was in Warri and my mom was in Sapele.
At what point did you leave Nigeria?
I was almost 16 when I left Nigeria for Canada. A family member adopted me. I didn’t leave on my own.
Growing up, what kind of child were you?
I was a happy, beautiful and outgoing child. I was always in front during children functions in church. People loved to see my face and I loved it too. I enjoyed the attention I got as a child.
Now that you have returned to gospel music after you were told it won’t fetch you money, how do you intend to make money or are you not interested in money?
It’s not about the money. If someone was about to die and I saved him or her, I would want the person to be appreciative. God has saved me and I knew how scared I was and wanted everything to end so I would be okay. When I was convinced that doing gospel was not good for me, I didn’t have much faith like now that I have to be
where God wants me to be even if the music is not popular.
I made a secular video on Monday and was arrested on Friday. I put in energy, time and resources into that video. I made a pink hair for it. I wanted it to be the bomb among music lovers, but God had other plans for me. God turned everything around when he took over my life. Now, I will relax and allow God to lee take over.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
I see myself closer to God and doing the things He approves of. Given that people don’t expect God to be so magnanimous with me, it would be a beautiful thing to serve God well. I want to live my life to the glory and praise of God’s name. I want more of Him and less of me.
In this part of the world, there’s a dress code for gospel singers and you are a sharp contrast to that with your hair colour and blings, how do you intend to make your music acceptable in Nigeria given your look?
I believe that as time goes on, I will adapt to what is acceptable here in Nigeria. I adapt well and I believe that God will give the power I need to move forward.
Have you reconciled with your parents now?
I was not happy with what my mother did but I wasn’t angry with her. I saw her and my friends differently. I saw that they thought they were doing what was best for me and I was not angry. I would offer them forgiveness.
What kind of man catches your fancy?
I know many girls would go for a cute face and handsome looking man. I want any man I can handle being around me and I can handle being around him. Along the line, it’s tolerance that matters. How you can be with the one you have chosen and not be tired of him. I don’t want to be with someone who will get tired of me or who I will get tired of living with.
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