Her songs and life style have touched many lives, healed wounds and have restored hope to the hopeless. Elizabeth Ngozi Ehigiamusoe, better known as Ehiliz, is a financial expert cum gospel artiste who has always enjoyed the glory of God. Recently, Ehiliz was hounoured with the title, Ambassador of Peace by Universal Peace Federation, UPF, an international organization. The award, according to the Federation is part of its mission to acknowledge individuals whose lives exemplify the idea of living for the sake of others; those who dedicate themselves to practise and promote universal moral values, strong family life, inter-religious cooperation, responsible public media, among other distinguishing qualities. In this interview, Ehiliz, who hosts a television programme, Vivid View, speaks on her music, passions for youths and women development. She also shares some tips on coping with work and home (especially for women executives in corporate establishments), while charging the government to up its game on reducing poverty and insecurity level in the country. Excerpts:
Give us a brief background as to what you have been doing so far. We know you have been reputed for so many things- gospel artist, banking, fine arts and the likes. Give us insight into some of these areas of your life that you have thrived so much.
First and foremost, I am Ehigiamusoe Ngozi popularly known and called Ehiliz. I am a gospel artiste as you rightly mentioned. I am a convener of the popular TVprogramme called Vivid View with EHILIZ, slated to sensitive the youths. I have the belief the if we get the youths right, there will be a lot of peace in our land, so as a gospel artiste, I have actually released the 13th album.I have done quite a number of things in gospel music, singing, going to different places, in crusades, churches, within and outside the country. I have sung in some churches in Canada, in the U.K. and all that. And I have actually been in this gospel business, or ministry for the past 25 years, I released my first album 1994 in Benin City. Thought the testimonies are coming from my fans and those that listen to my music, how it turned their lives from bad to good. That is a very huge achievement to me, life has been well fulfilled. I know I have accomplished that because God actually asked me to do this. It was a like a trance in 1977 when I had the dream, I did not take up that work until 1994. A lot of excuses was given, as a young girl, but God was so patient with me. Then I did the first album in a cassette there were no compact discs, CD then. The title of the first album was called Behold I stand, taken from Rev. 3:20 .The last one I have is called The Future Will Tell, that is what is trending now and the single Onyije, where I described God to be everywhere, because I believe He is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God. He is everywhere, so He lives in me which means anywhere I go, He goes with me as well. That is my description on that music. Then coming to the programme, Vivid View, like I said earlier it is actually to sensitize the youths, because of what is happening around us, what the elderly ones are doing, the youths have not been able to find their feet, I need to stand and say no to this. I, actually want the youths to right the wrongs by the elderly ones because they have been misled. I am not counting myself out of it because I am also an elderly person. But that is what I want the youths to do: to say no to certain things, especially to social vices, especially where they present themselves to be used by the so-called big men to actualize their selfish purpose, by encouraging them to vandalize government properties, vandalize the pipelines, hire some of them for kidnappings, stealing , assassination and so on.I am only asking the youths to say no to them, it’s not really good naturally and any other way that you kill somebody you never had quarrel with for whatever reason, how much are you going to be paid? How much will you use to exchange life? That is what I’m asking the youths to say no to these elderly ones who are not cautious of what they are doing. Who are not mindful of what they are doing: to say no to who they are not having quarrel with, you can’t hire me to go and do anything. They leave their own children behind. Their own children are being sent out to school to study and they want to waste other people’s children’s lives. If the youths can buy this idea I’m canvassing, they can now come together and say no to certain things and I think their lives will be much more better. We have always been hearing that the youths are the future of tomorrow, when is the tomorrow going to come, so I believe the tomorrow is even now. Let them take up what they are supposed to do and have their destinies in their hands and say no to any form of evil. That’s what my programme is all about. I discuss a variety of things, and of course that is what made my logo to be different colours.
You stressed about motivating the youths, but in recent time there have been incidents of suicide among the youths as a result of may be the hardship situation in the economy, what is your perception about this?
It is just unfortunate that some youths decided to toe that line. It is unfortunate, because taking your live will not even solve the problem, it compounds issues, what about the people you leave behind. If you want to take your life as an individual, what about your parents, your siblings, what about your friends that you put into such a hard mood, it is unfortunate that they went to that extent. But what I’m teaching, along with other people is for them to have confidence in themselves first and foremost. They should do away with being naïve, they should do away with low-self esteem. The problem in the country is not peculiar to that particular youth who has decided to take his or her life and it is not only peculiar to Nigeria, as a matter of fact, it’s a global issue, unemployment is a global issue. Although some of the developed countries are coming up with solutions, fast solutions, our own on this side tend to be delayed, tend to be suppressed which also refers to what I said earlier, if the youths can come up together and do something there will be no youth taking lives. I’m not encouraging anyone to go and take life, or to take your life for crying out loud. Remember your parents, remember your siblings, remember those your good friends, do not , but rather brace up like in youths as you are. Government in every part of the world cannot create job opportunity for everybody. It’s the fact, so we are teaching people to be self-employed, just struggle find out what you have passion in doing. If is music, if it is catwalk, just try to learn a skill and with that you start up because Rome is not built in a day. If you want to just ‘hammer’ as you usually use that word, that is where you find yourself, trying to kill yourself because you failed, but if you take life step by step, you will get there, please youths listen to me. Both boys and girls, do not take that decision of killing yourself- committing suicide, that is not best and when you are going to meet your maker and don’t know what you are going to tell him, ‘My maker God, it is because I was depressed, I didn’t have a job, because there is no much food on my table,’ is that all you are going to give God for taking life you have not created. Please let desist from this, There must be solution, I believe so.
And these also run into other crime like drug trafficking, prostitution, illegal migration and all that….
It’s sad. Many of them die on their way; they never even get to the destination. They want to run away to where they can find greener pasture, but unfortunately it is not so. Perhaps some ten , fifteen year ago, there could be , even these countries they are running to are even worst now. Where you think you are running to for greener pasture is even worst. Let all of us stay here in Nigeria. I have opportunity to send my children abroad to study the reason not because the quality of education has fallen so greatly, but this incessant strikes here and there so a programme of four years, takes seven years, eight years. That is just the major reason for me, but I tell you once they finished, they come back to Nigeria, this is our land, we are not going to run away from here. They come here for the one- year youths service, before they got something and start working here. We saw struggling that is how it is supposed to be, so please do not run away you can do to still be who God says you will be. It is not by running away, many could not come back, and they cause a lot of sorrow to their family.
You mentioned that you want to mentor the youths to correct the wrongs. Now the Not Too Young To Run law is in place and we’ve seen some youths in politics. Now we have House Assembly speakers who are as lower than 35 year . Is it a good development?
I want to appreciate government for giving that opportunity to be part of the ruling government. That is a wake-up call. A good development.
But some still have the opinion the most of these youths are not knowledgeable enough, they don’t have much experience to deploy. Could this be true?
That is the problem. it is not only in politics, it also affects employments, when you want to employ somebody, you say, do you have five years experience, now you keep on asking how can I have the experience when I have not been given the opportunity to even work in the first place. The fact remains that there is no way the youths can rule us completely, we will still need the assistance of the elderly ones. But thy must be given the opportunity to be at the helms of affairs. If we keep saying the youths don’t have experience hence won’t be able to occupy the leadership positions, when and how would they do it if they are not given opportunity to do so. So my take is that they should be given the opportunity with the elders being around as guide to direct them. That is how I feel we can develop, if we keep on crying, crying for experience, then when will they have. That is the issue.
In the recent time, Nigeria’s statistics of out-of-school children was below 13 million, like 12.2 million. Many have attributed this to the many crises, especially those happening in the north such as kidnapping, terrorism, and others….
Yes, the insurgency in the north contributed greatly to this and for the fact too that there is no enough encouragement to the parents especially from this region to send their children to school. If we have something like free education I don’t think we will have as much as this number of out-of-school children. Sometimes ago some of our leaders came out with this free education to some states, and we believe that if they had been given opportunity, this free education would have extended to almost all the states in Nigeria for free education, at least if not for secondary school, it could be primary school, or it could be free education throughout secondary school and the parents will be a little bit relieved. If we have this put in place, we won’t have much uneducated people as we have. And what our young ones are doing, that is , going to market to sell, that is child abuse. Most of them are less than 18 years. Some of these children die in the course of hawking as they are knocked down by a fast movingvehicle. So these are the bad effects if we don’t train our children. So what I am saying is that, I learnt that recently, the president said he is going to introduce free education in some states in his speech during Democracy Day, it is a welcome idea, if they can do that, it will be very good that will help our children to go to school and even help us too. Many of the things we suffer in this country are as a result of lack of education. If we are more educated, if the elites are more in number, they would have seen the needs for us to live well, but the elites are just little fragment compared to total population of our country.
You are a financial expert and the president, in his Democracy Day speech on June 12, said he would lift over 100 million Nigerians out of poverty. As an expert in finance, do you see this coming to play in the next four years that we have?
Yes it is possible if they do the needful. Government has the yam and they have the knife to cut whatever they want to cut. It is possible for them to lift more than one hundred million as they promised, it is possible, if they put their things right. Before they came up with that, they must have had the ideas to put on the ground that will make the expected affect. It’s not just coming out and declaring free education; saying it is one part thing and implementing is another thing. But I tell you if our government wants to do anything here in Nigeria, we have what it takes. If they put their plans straight.
We are at the moment world’s poverty capital. Do you see anything that can be done as quickly as possible, being a financial expert with focus on micro financial services?
Yes, we have a lot of microfinance banks, if they can pour money to them through which they can reach the people, that is another aspect. If they also decide to come up with their own microfinance owned by government direct, because there are microfinance owned by individuals, that is another way to reach the masses. They also need to put certain things in place; getting those that are really affected not someone who is already doing something, because that is the problem we have and that is the reason we must try and fight corruption and reduce it to minimal level. Because those who already have money will come and take from there. Government over time has really tried to go to the masses. We used to have Peoples Bank of Nigeria. It was actually created to reach the poor masses in those days, but what happened, the rich again hijacked the money and it went into extinction. So that is why I said the government must give it what it takes. They have the yam, they have the knife and I tell you, quote me, if government want to do something they would do it, they have what it takes to do it.
As a wife and a mother, a gospel artiste, and finance expert, you started your career in 1981, how do you combine these together?
As a matter of fact, I started working in 1981 in the bank, the defunct New Nigerian Bank , which has joined other banks to become Unity Bank. Now I have 16 years experience in banking, I always attribute all to God, who gave me the strength, the energy. I actually have the energy, I’m a grandmother of three kids but God gives me the energy. I also have a little philosophy- ‘Plan your work, and work your plan’. It has helped me a lot. Whatever I want to do, I plan ahead. Even till tomorrow, if I want to travel tomorrow, day after tomorrow, I have already packed my things today, so that I don’t forget anything. When I wanted to go out as a gospel artiste when my children were younger, I would prepare for them: I make good use of refrigerator. I will prepare soup, stew, even rice, package them in small pack and put in the fridge. Even when I was in school, I did the same thing before going for my lectures, work, the same thing. I don’t allow my music to affect my job except once in a while anyway, but I usually have may be programmes during the weekends – Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday. So, you can see that my job is out of it to some reasonable extent. Except if I want to go to studio, I have the opportunity of staying overnight, so that it does not also clash with my job. And I thank my then producer, Wole Oni is one of the best gospel producers. He really did a great job for me. But I have my own record label now, FMSquare Records. I have not officially launch them, but that is my plan and I know by the grace of God I will have that. So it is that one I am using now for the latest one I have released FMSquare Record Label. So, it has actually been nice and I thank God for that opportunity and the energy. And again I keep fit, I do a lot of exercise, I now watch what I eat as well, so that I don’t blow out too much, and again I am also into successful business of Forever Living products and I use their products very well, especially the Aloe vera, the yellow bottle. So, those are the things that keep me fit, as you said.
You have done a lot of things, so what would you consider as a major challenge?
Initially finance was my major challenge, at least for my music, even the studio as well, I delayed, I had that option to open my studio 2011, but I never did till 2014. I felt that the finance involved will be too much for me to open my own studio, that was the advice from my friends. As a human being there is no way you will say you have all the money. And having a good producer, like I mentioned when started in Benin, there wasn’t good producer until I came Lagos to meet Wole Oni. I tell you each album since I came to Lagos 2009, I sold over 60,000 copies and very funny you will not find my music in any retail store, I tried it first time in Alaba, theyAlabalised me, so I had a very bitter experience there so I ran for my dear life. But God provided another way. Some men of God released their platform for me to come and perform and then market my CDs and they ensured that their members bought copies of the CDs, I also use my husband business too, LAPO that is all over the place, I also sell to the women.
Alaba is an Igbo community, I guess you should know how to handle things
Yes, but it is also Igbo man that dealt with me over N1 million is still in his hand and I don’t know how to collect.
Do you advise more women to go into politics. In recent times, we have seen that the number of women in politics is ab it increasing from what we used to have. But then, a group of women journalists, under the aegis of NAWOJ, are pushing for more women pain politics. What’s your take on this?
As a matter of fact I did that because in one of my programmes, I said women and new participation in politics. I do that but I am not a partisan politician, but I know about politics, but personally I feel that is not my call for now. That is why, but those who have that passion I always encourage them to go ahead. I feel happy, sometimes when they do their rally, women speaking , I feel happy, so I want to still encourage more women that have the passion to go into it and let our men too give them that support, because women have been supporting men all along. I want a situation where a woman is elected as the president of this country. Women are known very well for management that is the truth of the matter, you can’t take that away from the them. So the men should give us women a chance to rule and you will see the difference as well. Unfortunately the only women that came out, I have forgotten her name now, (Sarah Jibrin) even we women didn’t vote for her. That was then and that was too sad and very, very bad. But this time around, more women are coming up, we encourage more people to also participate. It is good, because the total population of women and youths outnumber the men, they have up to 60 to 70 per cent of the total population. So it is interesting and very advisable that the women who have this flair should go ahead but let the men too support them. And also, let the women support women that will come out . It is very key. But something I’ve come to realise is that same sex don’t always tend to agree, but they work with opposite sex easier. If women that vote for men actually vote for their fellow women, I am telling you we will win. I encourage them, I encourage women, I encourage the youth to know what is going on in politics; don’t sit down at the back condemning. If they even ask who is the governor of your state, you don’t even know. Some of our youths don’t have interest anymore, they’ve lost interest, but through my programme, I tell them please, you must have interest. There is no way you want to correct the ills in the country without knowing what is even happening in the country in the first place. So the youths should also wake up. I am glad some of them are showing interest now, women too should come on board, so that all of us can work together. We are not going to ask all the men to leave, no, we still need them because they have been there. They have been players, we still need them, but let them give little chance to women, they can accommodate them and if they draw their minds together, I tell you we will move from where we are now to a better level.
What should your fans expect in the single that is coming up?
Like I said earlier, I have 13 albums to my credit since I started and the latest one among them is called The Future Will Tell, I think some TV houses are already showing it. Some radio house are already blasting that. It is to tell people that you don’t treat anyone bad, because you don’t know what the future holds for that person. You don’t look down, you don’t despise anyone. Whether it’s your house-help; your house-help could help you tomorrow, not even your own children. Any house-help, either as a driver, cook, gardener, do not despise them, whoever it is do not despise them treat them well. If you listen to history where house-help mistreat or malign child whatever, it is because he or she was not being treated well by the madam, so he will use the children to revenge. So treat these people well, do not despise anyone, especially we women. Women should learn that for your own children, for your husband and for every good things you wish in life treat your house-help well. That is what The Future will Tell is all about. It’s actually my own life story. When I was growing up, they thought nothing will come out of me, just as the saying, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ And Jesus came out of Nazareth. My family never believed that my mother will birth a child that will eventually become the ‘saviour’ of the family. Nobody believed. It is actually my personal story. You will see me as I transcended from a youth to now, it is there, how we acted it. And then, the second, I just mentioned before is Onyije. That is what I call God. I said it before, because Christ lives in me, as a Christian, and anywhere I go, He goes with me. That is why He is my Onyije. He is also everywhere at the same time. If I am in Nigeria, He is here with me, if I travel to Canada, to the UK, He goes there with me and I also find Him there, so anywhere I go, I find you Jesus. In that Future will Tell, people have been watching and listening to ‘Heal Our Land’; praying God to heal our land. Gradually, you can see what God is doing, God is really answering our prayers. So if all of us, joining our hands together, you do the right thing, I do the right thing, our land will be healed by the special grace of God.
How do you unwind and what is that thing you wouldn’t be caught doing?
I will not be caught participating in any illicit activity. Illicit activity could mean adultery, could mean killing, I don’t think I will survive it, because I have built a reputation for myself and I am praying God to help me.
How do you unwind?
I actually do that by watching movies, television or listening to radio, or play music. I do that a lot because that’s what helps me after a day job. When I get home now, I just do one or two things. I’m a person that never carries work home, except on rare occasions. It’s a discipline I cultivated a long time ago, before I even became managing director of this organisation, I don’t carry work home. That is why when you see some CEOs by the time they retire the next thing that hits them is sickness, because they overwork themselves; you work a lot in office, you still carry it home, when do you now rest. Some CEO will be awake till 2, 3 a.m., they are still working. Well, to God be the glory for them, but they should also consider the aftermath of it. But for me, I relax. Wherever I stopped the day’s work, I write KIV, ‘keep in view’, tomorrow, I start from there. Except, I said except very rare cases, maybe it is so urgent. Otherwise, once I get home, I have a cook, I eat my food. I eat before 6 p.m. Except, something make me, but usually, I eat before 6. May the next thing I could add is water, because I drink a lot of water as well. So, I just relax, watch African movie or any Christian network for few hours and I go to bed. We pray as a Christian and we sleep and once I place my head on the bed, I have gone; nothing to worry me till tomorrow. My husband will say ‘I wish I could sleep like you’, that’s me. But I’m not condemning those CEOs who overwork themselves. But let them also remember that this rest is also very important. God that says we should rest knows why.
Your final words.
To my fans, first and foremost, to thank them for being there for me. I will also advise them to believe in themselves. You can do anything, and run away from anything evil and anything that negates the laws of the land, so that you don’t find yourself at Kirikiri. You can do so many things and still put food on your table and you can be who God wants you to be. To the government, please keep your promises. Like I said earlier, they have the knife, they have the yam, so keep the promises you have made to us, we are your subjects, so rule us well. For whatever position we find ourselves, either as a police officer, Navy or Army, please rule us well, let’s remove brutality from our land, let’s remove hatred and wickedness from our land, let’s remove hate speeches, let’s remove tribalism, we should be one Nigeria that we are. Our size is a plus for us. ‘Who are you, where do you come from, I am a Nigerian, finished. Not northern, not southern, not western, I am a Nigerian.’ That should be our response. Because if we disintegrate now it is not going to pay anybody. Look at Sudan, upon the separation, they are still fighting, so if we disintegrate, it is not going to help us. There are lots inter-tribal marriages, Hausa marrying Urobo, Igbo marrying Yoruba, how are you going to do that. I am crying about it and I want to say it, for me Ehiliz, I am a Nigerian. God bless you.
“I want a situation where a woman is elected as the president of this country. Women are known very well for management that is the truth of the matter, you can’t take that away from the them. So the men should give us women a chance to rule and you will see the difference as well.”
“We have always been hearing that the youths are the future of tomorrow, when is the tomorrow going to come, so I believe the tomorrow is even now. Let them take up what they are supposed to do and have their destinies in their hands and say no to any form of evil.”