|Madam Ama Daniel Archibong with her son, Fred inside his Abuja home when Fred was alive|
is exactly 5 years since Nigeria lost art colossus and one of Africa’s greatest
artistes of all times, Fred Eso
Archibong. Fred who was globally famous for his various arts exhibitions
across the world died few months after his 50th birthday (July 1st)
in year 2009.
He died on Saturday November 28th 2009 after a brief
illness which was largely termed as mysterious by friends and associates. Why
this opinion was shared in the Lagos and Abuja social circle is based on the
fact that Fred whose firm, BHS
International won a 30 years built, manage and transfer (BMT) lease for the
Lagos based Federal Government monument Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) soon faced a
deluge of frustrating measures from various interest groups which includes politicians
and some individuals within the Lagos socio-economic establishment who claimed
that Fred as a “Foreigner” shouldn’t have won the bid in the first place. These
dissent forces that allegedly instigated some powerful political individuals in
Lagos against the Calabar Cross Rivers state born world renowned artiste fought
the new owner (BHS/Fred Archibong) to a battle of litigations and what many
suspect to be voodoo. Fred was yet to
begin his innovative turn-around leadership of TBS when he fell sick and died
in a very mysterious way on Saturday November 28th at an upscale
hospital in Abuja.
Olu Adenodi has taken over the management of the gigantic structure TBS which had Fred’s mother, Madam Ama Daniel Archibong as the Vice
President. Although the Ondo state born Otunba
Olu Adenodi has tried to stabilize the management of the monument to a
formidable level but opinion in certain quarters pointed to the fact that
Otunba might have digressed from the real dream of the late Archibong which is mainly to turn
around the monument to a City Center fashioned after great world monuments like
the Sandton Center in South Africa
or something better than that. Instead Otunba is seen to have turned the
monument into a rent-seeking piece of real estate and might follow through that
tradition for the remainder of the Federal Government given lease period which
now remains 23 years. Otunba is alleged to be busy with other interests amidst series
of court cases instituted against BHS
by Lagos state government in
conjunction with other forces and will likely play the role of a passive manger
instead of that of the visionary.
|Late Fred Eso Archibong with celebrity blogger Gbenga Dan Asabe during a special visit to Fred’s Abuja home in 2008|
“In fact he was crying for the company till he gave up. saying “Oh, this company (BHS/TBS), that people have victimized him, he used a particular word that escaped my mind now, he said people have done this to him, done that to him and that he is fifty-something, is he not big enough to own such a structure or monument in his father’s land?”.
number 1 Celebrity encounter blog asabeafrika
spoke with late Fred Archibong’s octogenarian mother, Madam Ama Daniel Archibong (Nee Bob Manuel) during a memorial
service in honor of her late son. She shared experiences with asabeafrika on the life and times of
her late son and she told us many things you wont read anywhere about Fred Archibong.
from Abonema in the Kalabari kingdom of Port Harcourt in
Rivers State, South-South Nigeria took time to open up to asabefarika for the first time on instances that led to the sudden
and mysterious death of her first son in year 2009.
ago, was full of emotion for her most auspicious child as she told us some of
the things he did as a kid; how she nurtured him to adulthood and finally lost
him to the cold hands of death at age 50. To buttress the popular opinion that
the late founder of Bepong Art Gallery and the sole producer of 70 percent of art works in corporate Nigeria died under mysterious
circumstance, Mama who is the Vice President of BHS International revealed how she took her son, Fred to Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye of the Redeemed
Christian Church of God for an altar call with the man of God few
weeks before he died and how Fred eventually missed the spiritual opportunity
with the highly revered man of God. Enjoy the facts revealing interview only on
your Africa’s number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog asabeafrika.
son, Fred Eso Archibong?
son. Fred was a peculiar Child to me; asking me to talk about him is like
telling me to lend you a book I cherish most. Right from his younger age, Fred
has always been close to me, till he passed away 5 years ago, he was my
confidant and right from his childhood days, Fred never hid anything from me.
Even when I was teaching at Port Harcourt, immediately I return home, Fred will
follow me all around the house and tell me almost everything that happened. He
will say “Mama, did you know this happened? Did you know that happened?” Even
before he died, I remember I took him to the (RCCG) Camp for prayer and we
returned around 1 am and he said
“Mama, Please, let’s stay here”. So, everything he does from the beginning of
his life, we were together. But what happened to him really saddened me and God
has been my only comforter.
“I remember in 1977, during FESTAC some white men came and decided to take him abroad, so he called one of his brothers, the fourth one that is now late, to a meeting with the white men. He asked them to give him (brother) some funds to take care of the family on his behalf and he was almost going abroad. And when I learnt of it, I said please, don’t go. I just used the word that ‘if you go, I will die”
|Madam Ama Daniel Archibong to asabeafrika…..’Fred acted the role of a husband and father to me and his siblings while alive’|
learnt you were at the hospital with him when he passed away?
in the hospital with him on that particular day he passed away, he died before
me and I nearly lost my sanity. I rolled on the hospital floor and nobody could
come near me because I could tear anyone that tries it into pieces. I said “Jesus,
you must give me back my child, raise my child for me”, I was shouting and it
was one lady who took courage and came around to pacify me; she said “Mama, for
your action alone, God would answer and raise your child for you”. But we
thought we could pray and cry unto God to release him back but when we saw that
it was impossible, we left. Toady when I
heard there would be a memorial service for him I said ‘no, I must come. My cry
is over; Fred was a success to his generation’. I told my cousin in Port
Harcourt that I am coming and she said ‘no, don’t go there, don’t break your
self’ and I said ‘no, God will guide me. I would go and I won’t break myself’.
I thank God for the caliber of men of God who came here today and the support
of his friends and workers. It has only reinforced my faith in the fact that my
son didn’t die. He only took a rest in the bosom of his creator.
hospital on Saturday November 28th 2009, many believe Fred was
killed by Juju in relation to his winning of the bid to run, manage and
transfer the Tafawa Balewa Square monument
for 30 years under the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s
what I noticed was the fact that he kept complaining about “them not allowing
him to run the business”, he was really bitter. As he was dying, he was saying
things. He was moving slowly because we brought him from the house to the
hospital, he was talking slowly; In fact he was crying for the company till he
gave up. saying “Oh, this company (BHS/TBS), that people have victimized him,
he used a particular word that escaped my mind now, he said people have done
this to him, done that to him and that he is fifty-something, is he not big
enough to own such a structure or monument in his father’s land?”. So, I
quickly said to him “No, you are not fifty-something, you are just fifty (he
clocked fifty on July 1st). He was just going slowly, staggering
into the hospital. So, I remember that day. So, we tried to see if he could be
administered medically but we got it wrong. He was going. In fact the last
discussion he had with me in the hospital was over this concession (The TBS
deal), he was crying that ‘Oh, they have not allowed him to succeed, that instead of venerating him, they have
persecuted him and thrown so many things at him, he was just restless, angry
and bitter with the whole thing. He was crying until when they kept him at the
bed, within a short time, he was talking but it wasn’t audible enough. Even
some of the drivers called for their pastor. Bassey (works at SEC) his
immediate younger brother phoned our pastor in Lagos here, they were praying
for him over the phone. Then suddenly, Fred lost his voice and I told the
pastor that he couldn’t speak again and he said I should give him the phone to
talk to him, I said he can not talk again, and everybody became a prayer
warrior. We were firing and firing, and finally, he left. So, my son, without
Fred, oh! It is hard. There is nothing Fred does that he will not tell me; even
in my absence. He follows me like a small baby even at age 50. When I come on
holiday, Fred will follow me everywhere in the house, telling me what happened.
When we were living on Bode Thomas in Surulere, he will disturb me with every
information. He will stand by the kitchen door if I am inside the kitchen,
talking and we will all end at the dinning table. He will tell me everything. So,
the boy (Fred) really knows who is a mother and he has love for his mother.
Even on his dying bed, he was still a very sincere son to me. When he was sick,
I went to see him at home in Abuja, so I saw his condition. He was not eating
anything and I advised him to take Lucozade
Boost, I dashed out to get a pack for him, when I came back, the first
thing he said was “Mama, come and take your money”, he hasn’t even drank it and
I said “No, the money is inconsequential; we want you to be well”. He said “No,
come and take your money”. If I phone his house, he will say he will pay for my
airtime. I don’t even know it; he was the one who taught me how to use a phone
he will ensure he pays for the card I use. You know my son follow plane (Flies)
so much; he is always in the air. So, during that Bellview air crash, I was panicked. I called his phone and he
answered, laughing. He said “Mama, I am in the house o” and I said thank God o.
At times, we travel together to Calabar.
He was so fond of me, there was a day he was so busy and we couldn’t see
for two days, when he returned he came to my apartment and shouted my name
“Mama” and immediately I was going to the door, I saw him turning back and I
said why are you turning back now?”, he laughed and said ‘because I have seen
you’, that is how we relate. We are almost inseparable. And at times when I
talk, talk, I will call him, even till date, I still call him, even this week I
have called him. In recent times, I
started tearing all his photographs because I can not behold the sight of
seeing them, calling his name and he won’t be there to be seen. It was my
senior sister that warned me against doing such. She took all his pictures from
me, saying she will keep them but I still went to her place and took them and threw
them away. So, I started calling him, if I say something, I will call him and
say “Oh, not you o”, that is what has happened to me but it is God who is our
“They said we need to go to India and when we got to the specialist hospital in Abuja, we discovered so many things and I said well, I will not go to India, instead I will write the man of God. So, one day, I sent in a letter and to my surprise I got a call from one of Papa Adeboye’s assistants; they asked me if I was the same person and I said yes. And they said my prayer has been offered and I have received miracle”
|asabeafrika’s Gbenga Dan Asabe with late Fred Archibong in a rare pose inside his Abuja home|
spiritually attacked by those who wanted to take over the TBS monument from him
because you initially said you took him to Pastor E.A. Adeboye for special
prayers few weeks before his demise?
right. I took him for altar call but he did not even stay to receive the altar
call. I came here, waited for him for so long. You know Fred is one terrific
human being who loves to work hard. But I was able to lead him there, I
convinced him and he agreed and we were there. But as we were waiting, he said
he is going to ease himself; and you know that place is so big, even though I
go every time but I always use a guide because one could easily get miss his or
her way. Fred said “Mama, let me go and ease myself” and he went until when the
altar call was over. When he returned I was so annoyed but I tried to keep it
from him. I said because if I lose my temper he might not follow me there
another day. So, I queried him, I said “Fred, why did you do this to me and
they have just made altar call and it is over?” And he said “Mama, don’t worry
now, don’t worry!” But I knew that if I get annoyed and lambast him, next time
he will dodge me and it will be difficult for me to make him have such grace. I
never suspected that he will go so suddenly like that, if I had known I would
have gotten annoyed and make sure we at least, get the attention of the church
authority and probably get another altar call. It was so sad an experience.
growing up years?
first son of five children (Four boys and a girl). He became so matured at a
tender age because their father died when he was just 13. This girl was three
months then (Her daughter, Stella
Daramole who was with her during the course of the interview), the second
born was 11, the third 9 and the other one that died (Her fourth born died
before Fred died) was 6. So, Fred suddenly assumed the role of a father to the
entire household. Whatever that will make me worry, Fred will disagree. Even if
I am going out of the house, he will rush to me and hold my hand “Mama, where
are you going? Come back quick o”. In fact, even when I was in active service,
teaching in the school, Fred will come and see me and my colleagues would say
“Ah, your husband has come 0” and I will say “Yes”. We do take photos together
and if I don’t see him I will go to his friends’ house, I will go and find him
there. There was this particular friend of his I have not seen before; when I
went to his house to look for Fred, I think his name is Chidi, on getting to his house, he opened the door and said “Ah,
ah, Fred’s mother”. I said how you knew, you have not seen me before; he said
‘Fred has brought your picture to me’, that is the bond. Fred singlehandedly
raised all his siblings. He put two of them in the university at the same time.
care what he spends on them; at times I keep wondering if those children would
have succeeded the way they did under Fred
if their father was alive. Even if they are looking for school fees and they
haven’t gotten, you will see Fred
under pressure; I remember one day at that Bode Thomas house, (Gesticulate how
Fred was behaving), then he didn’t even have a car. He was either going to
chase a debtor or sell an art work in order to pay for the one at the University of Calabar. And not for once
has he ever asked them for return. He always does it like a father will do to
any child. I remember in 1977, during FESTAC some white men came and decided to
take him abroad, so he called one of his brothers, the fourth one that is now
late, to a meeting with the white men. He asked them to give him (brother) some
funds to take care of the family on his behalf and he was almost going abroad.
And when I learnt of it, I said please, don’t go. I just used the word that ‘if
you go, I will die’, I also spoke to two of my elder colleagues, I asked them
to plead on my behalf. I said if he goes away, I will die. And who will look
after his siblings? And immediately, he saw reasons with me and his not going
abroad made him to train all of them. That was the greatest sacrifice he made
for me as a mother, I was just a poor retiree teacher with no pension coming
forth. But because Fred was around, he was taking care of all my children. He
was just like a father. Let me just tell you one story; when Fred had little breakthrough in his
work and wanted to stay alone. He was staying in a hotel somewhere in Lagos
while his younger brother was staying in a make-shift apartment at Iponri. And I went to him and said
‘look, if you will find the grace to be living in a hotel and your junior
brother is in such a place; people have known us somehow; they will say “Ah,
ah, cant their mother connect them together?. Come and let us stay together”.
And Fred left the hotel and came to
where they use plank and zinc as makeshift to leave with his siblings. I think
then, he was doing some art works for the hotel and in turn they gave him
complimentary residency. But he left all that comfort and came and stay with
his younger ones. One of the elderly women living in the area then, saw me one
day and said “Eeeh, Mother is important o”. Later he travelled to Delta state
to market his art works; so one day, I went to visit his brother at the plank
house at Iponri and I discovered that he bought Garri and kept. I said, what
are you doing with Garri? And he said “Mama, your children can eat, let them
eat”. At that small age, you can imagine, he has started going out to buy food
stuff for his younger ones; if he buys shirt, I won’t worry; he will go as far
as looking for Garri to feed his younger ones. Can you imagine such a mindset?
Oh, I don’t know but I know that God will comfort me.
|Satnding with a great son, Madam Ama Daniel Archibong with the great Fred Archibong in his life time|
TBS and BHS?
company BHS International is the owner of TBS—–Tafawa Balewa Square on a lease arrangement. I have committed the
place to God, I came with Pastors and before we see Otunba (The new MD and
former lawyer and legal adviser to Fred Archibong) I will say ‘follow me round,
and we will pray and command things to happen. The battle is not ours, it is
God’s battle. Our Pastors will pray and then we return to Otunba’s office after
going round. I have invited God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit
to be in BHS and TBS. To rule this place; even this morning I committed the
monument to God, that He should direct all our affairs and lead us. Anything
that is contrary to his will, we shall not do but that which is for Him, we
shall do. The Company is very much alive through the grace of our Lord Jesus
Christ. Through the grace of God the Father, God the Son and The Holy Spirit, we
equally have a great team of experts who are running good with the dream my son
left behind. It has been a strong battle in the last four years but God has
been able to sustain us for the best.
the new CEO, Otunba Olu Adenodi, how would you describe him?
when Fred works with people, he studies them despite his workaholic nature but
despite it all, he looks at you with one eye and he will be noting you down. He
could sack an entire workforce today and you query him and he will say ‘no, let
them go’. As for Otunba, I have taken him as God sent. God knew that Fred will
not stay which was not too obvious to all of us, I didn’t know, Otunba did not
know. God is the all-knowing. God knew Fred was going and he made Otunba to
stay with him and Otunba knows how Fred runs things so he could run with the
dream after Fred and to God be the glory, he is getting results. That is what I
can say about him, Otunba is like a son to me. I take him as my son. Before I
landed this morning, he has already called and briefed me on so many things. Everything
he does here, he tells me. Even if he travels abroad, he phones me and tells me
what he is doing, anywhere he is around the world he briefs me. If he is going
to Abuja, he calls and tells me. If he couldn’t hear from me in two days, he
will just call and say “Mama De-Mama” that is how he calls and teases me. He is
a very dependable son. He is kind, I
remember when I was to go to India recently because of my heart problem, Otunba
was here phoning the doctor at Abuja. Despite the fact that they didn’t know
each other, Otunba was able to iron out issues with them regarding my health
challenge. I told them, I said ‘please, let me call the person I think can pay
this money’ and immediately Otunba heard he was totally concerned and started
talking to the experts on my behalf. He is a son.
problem in India?
me to go but I refused instead I seek prayers with Pastor Adeboye; I wrote a letter to Papa Adeboye and he
replied me that they have prayed over my request that I will give testimony;
so, I am giving you the testimony now.
|Madam Ama Daniel Archibong with Son, Fred while cross checking some BHS documents|
from Papa Adeboye?
said one of the valves of my heart was not pumping blood but I got a miracle.
In fact it was discovered after Fred’s death, so I was scared but God helped
me. They said we need to go to India and when we got to the specialist hospital
in Abuja, we discovered so many things and I said well, I will not go to India,
instead I will write the man of God. So, one day, I sent in a letter and to my
surprise I got a call from one of Papa
Adeboye’s assistants; they asked me if I was the same person and I said
yes. And they said my prayer has been offered and I have received miracle. In
fact, it was recorded in my phone but I have lost that phone. They said we have
prayed over your request, it has been answered, you will see testimony. At the
India hospital in Abuja, consultation is N8.000
because they are all specialist Indians with few Nigerians. At the key post,
they are all Indians and I was initially going there until when they said they
wanted to package me (To India) that was when I ran. I said ‘well, God can heal
a failing a heart. God has so favored me I don’t know what to say because I was
almost going. It was God that revived me.
Junior, Fred Archibong’s scion?
three days ago; he is a gentle guy. He is not an artiste like his father, he is
a very, very quite and gentle person. Whenever he greets me, he says ‘Granny’
and he will hold me by the neck. He is such an independent minded young man.
artist like her father?
me two weeks ago and said they were on mid term at her Abuja school. The mother
handed over the phone to me and I said “Zelene, I hope you will take first in
school?’ the girl laughed and I said “If that happens I am sure you will be the
one to phone me” and we laughed it off. He left behind very interesting
children and we are proud of him. The family is fine, we are doing quite well.
for friends and fans of late Fred Archibong especially the Governor of his
state, His Excellency, Governor Liyel Imoke who personally graced his funeral
in Calabar 5 years ago?
all and I pray that God will protect and preserve them till old age and give
them very long live and good health. His Excellency, Governor Liyel Imoke
was generous to us; he gave us a token of five
hundred thousand naira after Fred’s departure. Liyel and his elder brother were Fred’s childhood friends and like
he said during Fred’s funeral, he said people should stop mourning Fred,
because I watched his speech on Video; the Governor said Fred through his works
has already told us what we never knew and many other great people who came
across Fred in his time expressed the same views about him. I am also grateful to
Mrs. Onari Duke, the Former First
lady of Cross River State who also took her time to mourn with us at our most
unfortunate hour of life. I am proud of Fred, and think his legacy stays. I
thank all those that have stood by us during this whole era of Fred’s departure
and the management and team of BHS
International and the Federal Government for their support one way or the