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Gospel Music kept me going during darkest moments of my life – AdaZion

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Mrs Adaeze Onyeakpa Oshi, a Nigerian born, Italy based gospel singer
says inspirations from gospel music and faith in God helped her
overcome hurdles she faced as a girl child, including during her two
years journey through the Sahara desert to Europe enroute Libya.

Mrs Oshi, who arrived Italy in May 2011 after 11 hours journey on a
migrant boat across the Mediterranean Sea, says she was full of
gratitude to God for guiding her through the darkest moments of her
chequerred life and blessing her with a wonderful husband and two
children in her adopted country.


In this interview with Orient Daily’s LAWRENCE NWIMO, Ada-Zion as she
is fondly called, shares the story of how life and decision to go into
gospel ministration. Excerpts:

Kindly introduce yourself…

My name is Mrs Adaeze Onyeakpa Oshi, a native of Azia, a town in
Ihiala local government area of Anambra state but married to an Enugu
man and our marriage is blessed with two beautiful daughters. By the
grace of God, I live and work in Italian City of Turin. Apart from
working hard to further my education up to PhD level, gospel
ministration is the most important project I am committed to for now.

How did your childhood upbringing impacted on who you are today?

Well, I am the last child and the only female child of my mother in a
polygamous family at Azia, a town in Ihiala local government area of
Anambra state. Although, we were eight in number, five later died
leaving only the three of us. Incidentally, both my parents are late
now. My father died when I was barely four years old and that prompted
my mother to send me away to live with one of her sisters who was
living with her husband in Lagos but they had no child. My mother sent
me away to live with them because she could not cope with the
responsibility of taking care of her eight children. It was a tough
decision from a mother’s perspective but, I guess she did it because
she was convinced that my future would be better there.
It turned out to be opposite. It wasn’t the kind of life I envisaged
or the kind of pampering treatment that I was used to in my house at
Azia. I was maltreated and denied basic needs by the couple. They
refused to enroll me in school as they promised my mother. Not that
they don’t have money. They were living fine by all standards and have
everything to take very good care of me but they just chose to
maltreat me.
When the husband was transferred to Akure, Ondo state and we had to
leave Lagos, things became worse. Then I was being forced to do the
kind of things people of my age were not supposed to do. I was denied
food, clothing and other basic cares, even good school by the couple.
When they decided to send me to school, they choose the one that is
most substandard in the area for me. In my school then, whenever it
rains everything will be over because the roofs will be leaking and
water will be everywhere. But, I was determined to make the best of
the opportunity. It was when I reached the age of eight years that I
began to agitate to go home. When I finally managed to send message to
my mother to inform her, what I was going through there, she demanded
for my return. By then I was around 13 years of age. I spent about
eight years with them before they allowed me to go back home.

So, what happened when you returned home?

Incidentally, when I return to live with my mother, I couldn’t cope
with the village environment. Having spent much of my eight years in
Lagos and Akure, it was very difficult for me in Azia. So, I told my
mother that I can’t stay in the village because everything was somehow
to me. After some time, she sent me back to Lagos, this time to live
with one of our family friends. This time around, the couple treated
me well and I was enrolled in a normal school. This time, I had the
opportunity to attend Federal College, Ikeja for my secondary
education.
When I finished secondary education, I relocated to Akure again, where
I sat for university matriculation examination preparatory to study at
the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA). I barely spent one
year at FUTA before the opportunity to travel outside Nigeria came up
and I dropped out of school.

So, how did you travel out of Nigeria?

Well, after finishing my industrial training during my first year at
FUTA, I tried to find a part time job which I needed desperately in
order to raise funds to continue my education. When I could not get a
part time job then in 2008, the only option available to me then was
to quit school and start a petty business. Then, I was already nursing
the dream to become a full time gospel artist because I love singing
gospel songs. So, my goal switched to starting a business and then
combining it with gospel ministration. I was already in the business
when my uncle’s daughter came to persuade me to travel abroad that she
would support me financially that it was better than suffering in
Nigeria. She sounded so convincing and when I consulted with my
mother, she gave me her consent on the condition that I was not going
abroad for prostitution. I assured her that I will never engage in
prostitution.
At that time, I also have a childhood friend, Chioma who incidentally
is the only daughter of her family just like me, who also wanted to
travel outside the country as well. So, when I told her, she was
excited and we started planning for the travel. Funny enough, we had
nothing like international passport for the travel. The travel agent
my cousin introduced to us simply as Ejima told us that his sister
resident Spain and operating a restaurant was looking for two young
ladies to assist her. And that she was ready to sponsor our visa and
other travel expenses to Europe; that once we reach and start working
for her, she would deduct it from our pay. Ejima assured us that the
sister would provide accommodation and feeding for us in Spain until
we complete her repayment. And that he would accompany us until we
enter flight to Spain before he comes back to Nigeria.
We felt everything was genuine because there were many Nigerian ladies
who own saloon or other businesses that usually bring younger girls to
Europe through such agreement. So, we thought the deal was genuine and
we followed him with only small pocket money with us. That was how our
journey of life and death took off from Nigeria on May 27, 2009 to
Birni Konni, a border town in the Tahoua region of Niger Republic from
there we travelled to Agadez.

At what stage of the journey did you began to suspect foul play?

It was when we reached Agadez and spent one week that I became
suspicious of him. I then, told my friend that the man was planning to
sell us into slavery. It was at that point that we embarked on fasting
and prayers, committing the entire journey into the hands of God.

What was it like travelling through the notorious desert route to Libya?

It was a horrible experience; a journey I will never repeat in my
life. When we reached Agadez, the traffickers normally spend one week
or two to make solid arrangements for the trip. It’s roughly one week
of road trip from Agadez to Libya and during this period, you can die
of anything especially thirst. There is a section of Libyan territory
where all of us human cargos will have to lie underneath the vehicle
and they cover us with tarpaulin and goods purchased in Niger or
Nigeria. They said that was done so that desert patrol officials will
never suspect that they were carrying human beings but only goods. You
can imagine what it feels like to be in such condition for hours on a
vehicle travelling in desert.
On our way, we saw remains of those who died in the desert on their
way to Libya. From fresh decomposing bodies to skeletons- everywhere
was littered with remains of people whose hopes and dreams of reaching
Libya and Europe ended on the desert road. Many of them died as a
result of dehydration because of lack of water. It’s horrible sight.
It’s something only seen in horror movies.
We reached a point where we were warned never to disembark from the
vehicle to avoid leaving footprints behind. We were told that it would
tip some desert rebels or human hunters off and they would track us
down. However, we reached a stage where we ran out of water and the
next place to get clean water was like three-four days journey away.
So, we started looking for anyhow water to take. We eventually found a
well in the desert but the water that smelled awful because birds die
inside. But we had no option than to drink from that well to stay
alive.
That helped us to stay alive till we get to the point where we had
fresh water before we reached Sabha, a city in Fezzan region,
Southwestern Libya, about 640 kilometers from Tripoli. It was at Sabha
that Ejima sold us to a Yoruba man as slaves for $3,000 ($1,500 each).
Then, they drove us to a city called Houn, another town in Fezzan
region of Libya where the Yoruba human trafficker, Kabiru eventually
sold us for $6,000 to Madam Pat ($3,000 each). After the last sale,
Madam Pat, an Edo woman took us to her place where we can make money
for them through prostitution. When it became clear that they were
forcing us into prostitution, I revolted, telling them that I had
never done such a thing before and would not start then. The madam
that bought us tried all tricks to force us but we refused. They later
transferred my friend to Tripoli as part of their bid to break us
down.
So, when they took her away and I still resisted being forced into
prostitution. Then, I was locked up and not allowed to go out and they
tried to poison me, swearing that it was better for me to die than
remain useless for her after paying $3,000 for me. Miraculously, I
survived and still refused to sell my body. They continued tormenting
me to the extent that I made up my mind to take my own life instead of
serving the woman as a prostitute.
Then, I was about 22 years of age. It was then that God used a Muslim
man from Niger, Ismail who operates a pizza shop nearby to rescue me
from the slavery. The man had seen me and took pity because I was sick
and dying because of too much beating, starvation and stress they had
subjected me to. Then, they would continue beating me until I pass out
and be vomiting blood. He approached them and asked how much I was
indebted to them and the woman said $6,000. He paid them $1,000 for
them to release me to him, promising to pay the $5,000 balance by
installment. That was how I regained my freedom and subsequently
stayed at the man’s house. He equally employed me to sell at his pizza
shop and he was paying me and saving the money for me. That was how we
raised the money to pay that woman off after six months in June 2010.

How did you eventually found your way to Italy?

It was when they decided to open the Mediterranean Sea so that people
who wish to escape political violence in Libya could use the sea route
that Ismail called me and told me to get ready to use the opportunity
to travel to Europe. Then, my goal was to save enough money that can
enable me to travel back to Nigeria. I had lost interest in travelling
to Europe. But, he said he would support me with whatever I had with
me to make the journey as the country was no longer safe for me.
Honestly, I never consider that guy as a human being but an angel sent
by God to rescue and help me and he really played that role well.
By this time, I had managed to re-establish contact with my friend,
who was taken to Tripoli. I was overjoyed when she also told me that
she had regained her freedom as well and we started planning the
journey to Italy together. By the time I reached Tripoli, everything
needed for the trip was ready. We spent longer time at the base camp
because of bad weather. Then, I started fasting and prayers, asking
God to make a way for us to pass through. And it came to pass that God
successfully led us through the Mediterranean seas safely. Since I
left Nigeria till date, God has never let me down and will never
abandon me.
So, when it was time for us to make the journey and we came down to
the port, I became afraid. It was my first time of seeing that kind of
sea that has no beginning and end in sight. I was scared because I
don’t know how to swim. But Ismail told me not to be afraid that I can
make it. That was how I entered the boat. From Libya coast to Italy,
my eyes were closed and I kept telling God in prayers: “I cannot open
the eyes till I reached my destination-Italy. And I know you will
prove yourself worthy again. You have done it last year and you will
do it again. Last year was battle. This year would be victory.”  We
spent over 11 hours on the sea. It was when they started saying that
we had reached Italy and rescuers were coming to take us that I
eventually opened my eyes.

What happened when you people reached Italy?

We landed at Italian Island of Lampeduse around May 26, 2011 where we
spent about three days. After that we sailed to Genoa on a bigger
vessel and were taken to a migrant camp where they started processing
our documents. I and Ismail were in the same camp. At the end of the
day, I was given one year Italian document and later ten years
resident permit. They asked me what I want to do and I said I want to
learn Italian language and then start schooling. That was how I was
enrolled in a language school and when I got a diploma in language, I
decided to go for primary and later, high school. I studied social
sanitary between 2014 and 2019. I took my final year exam in July
2019. I was planning for my further studies in medicine or nursing
before Coronavirus pandemic came and I decided to wait. I will
continue after the pandemic.

Why did you decided to go into gospel ministration?

Music has always been my first love and something I enjoy doing. I
recall one particular day when my late brother called me and told me
that I would be musician. Although, he did not tell me whether I will
be a gospel artist or secular musician, he prophesied that people
would be hailing me on stage. I was laughing then because I never
envisaged that I will become an artist someday.
As a girl child who was forced to part ways early in life with her
mother and faced with maltreatment in far-away Lagos, music provided
me with consolation. Then, I was too much addicted to gospel songs of
people like Rosemary Chukwu, Chinyere Udoma etc. I remember then, that
whenever my aunt would playing the songs in the morning, I will be
happy and singing it in my heart as well. Those songs inspired me to
be a gospel artist so I can share my story and all the things God had
done in my life through music. I want to let people understand,
through my songs that if you believe, trust and obey God, you will
conquer because God will never let you down. It’s just a matter of
time.

What brand of gospel music do you represent?

I chose to sing through the heart, what I believe and what I am in the sight of God and humanity. As far as am concerned, I represent light, purity and God’s favour and unfailing love. If God saw me through one of the deadliest journey and by his grace, I am about to become an
Italian citizen because I believe and trust in him, then He will do the same for others who believe in him. That is my message and brand
of gospel ministration. I am channeling my music to Nigeria because
the messages in my songs are mostly needed by my fellow Igbo brothers
and sisters. My predicament started from Nigeria and so many people
are passing through what is worse than I went through. So, my goal is
to share my story and testimonies with them so that they can as well
achieve breakthrough. The only means where I can easily reach them is
through songs. In as much as I cannot see them, interact with them and possible offer my help, I believe that my songs will go a long way in
channeling their minds back to God and in living the right life as true children of God. I want to tell through my songs that God sees
our heart, knows our problems and is committed to tackling them at his
right time. That is basically why am devoting my time, energy and
resources into this project.

How many songs have you recorded so far and future plans?

I have recorded about six songs so far with over 20 songs waiting to
be recorded. My plan is to be able to produce the video for the songs
as well as start work on other songs as well. It’s my desire to use my
songs to reach as many people that I may not be able to reach
physically and to inspire them to place their trusts in God. If, I am
able to achieve that, I will be eternally grateful to God because I
believe that God let me live so that people will learn more about his
wonders through me. That is why I consider myself as Adaeze, daughter
of Zion.

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