Artist Profile - A Tribute to Whitney Houston from Dela Bobobee

Whitney Houston died on February 11th, 2012, at the age of 48. Last week we featured a tribute by Prince Mensah (in both poetry and prose) to Houston and her work in support of the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. Inspired by Prince's contribution, Dela Bobobee sent us this very moving personal account of the role Whitney Houston's music played in his life, and we're honoured to have the opportunity to share both it, and the above-featured poem of Dela's, here with you:
When I was a child, for whatever reason, my dad decided that none of his younger kids would proceed to secondary school without first acquiring Middle School Leaving Certificate (MSLC). I was just 16 years old in 1980 when I completed my 10 year elementary education in Aveyime Methodist Primary & Middle School in Ghana. A lot of perplexing questions that needed urgent answers flooded my teenage mind then. I couldn’t find such answers either in the peer-pressure groups that exerted so much negative influence on me, or from my overly disciplinarian parents, due to the yawing generation gap.

The teeming teenage challenges I faced then in my formative years became adversely overwhelming until on January 18, 1986, I dropped out of school, left my suitcases and other belongings at the boarding house and secretly left Ghana for Nigeria under some upsetting circumstances. Even in Nigeria, the confusion and the harsh realities of fending for oneself so early in life continued. I became disillusioned and had serious self-doubts as thoughts of returning home as a failed voyager crept into my agitated mind. Answers came to me when, on March 14, 1986, "The Greatest Love of All" was released by Whitney Houston. The words of the music describe deep feelings about coping with the great challenges that one must face in life.

In fact, I strongly believe that the words of that song were actually sent from heaven and meant to strengthen me in the specific challenges I faced. It encouraged me to be strong during those difficult times, whether I succeeded or fail. It also talked about passing that strength on to children to carry with them into their adult lives. Those were the only answers I needed. I decided never to give up the struggle; I needed to continue my education that came to such an abrupt halt in Ghana. I started by doing “kayakaya” or porter work in some markets in Lagos, parts of Ogun State, and also did other menial jobs in construction sites, until the opportunity came and I was able to save enough money to enroll in Methodist Boys' High School, 11 Broad Street, Lagos. I got my SSCE in record time, passed the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board exams (JAMB) and got admission into the University of Lagos where I studied for my bachelor and master’s degrees. While still in the university as a full-time international student, I was still doing menial jobs in addition to a part-time job as a permanent night security operative in Dolphin Estate in Ikoyi. Interestingly, I even in some points of time functioned as a falcon that fed its falconer. I periodically sent gifts to my parents and siblings back home in Ghana while still in school.

At the early stages I became one of the greatest fans of Whitney, and her music continued to inspire me through life, especially another hit song called “When You Believe”, which was released on November 2, 1998. That was exactly the time I finished my first degree and was preparing for my master’s programme in the Faculty of Law. This music encouraged me immensely when I was again in self doubt about my potentials, because when I passed the PG qualifying entrance exams I had no money to pay for the course as an international student. And so when the music was released at that particular crucial time, I keyed unto the powerful words of faith in the chorus. It worked, because a miracle did happen, and I was able to successfully complete my master’s degree in Law and Diplomacy.

There can be miracles, when you believe
Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill
Who knows what miracles you can achieve
When you believe, somehow you will
You will when you believe

I got my master’s degree almost fourteen years ago. The point I am trying to make here is that, single-handedly, I sponsored my way from high school through postgraduate school in a foreign country. All this happened in part because of the strength of the deep impact of Whitney’s inspiring voice behind those great songs. Today I am the CEO of my own company with my children as shareholders. I now have a family of my own to nurture and am duty-bound to pass that self-reliant strength on to my children to carry with them into their adult lives. You see, I owe God Almighty all the thanks and praises, and still believe that it was truly God who sent Whitney to sing into my heart and soul all the strength I needed to carry on in those turbulent points in my life, especially when I needed it most.

Adios, Whitney! Today we are all chief mourners who, within our angst, also celebrate your life with elation, knowing that you are finally at peace!


Dela Bobobee is a frequent OGOV contributor. You can read more of his writing here.

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