You don’t have to go naked to be stylish —Sabina Umoren

Sabina Umoren popularly known as NaijaPastor is a gospel artiste and a broadcaster with  Naija FM. In this interview with TAYO GESINDE, the graduate of University of Lagos speaks on the challenges she faced when trying to introduce a new concept into gospel music and how she has been combining her career with the home front. Excerpts:

Growing up

I’m the last of eight children. My father was Rev erend Alfred Okhalagbe, a retired principal, while my mum is Deaconess Winifred Okhalagbe, a retired teacher. I had my primary and secondary school education in Edo and Kano states, then proceeded to the  University of Lagos.


Foray into music

I have been singing in church and other meetings since I was Nine years old. But officially I stepped out 11years ago. Music for me is a divine calling. It has been a lot of challenge mixed with lots of success but I try to press on no matter what. I’m not there yet but it’s a journey and I believe I’m on the right path. I have an album and many singles out including a few videos. I put up my own concerts periodically too. I’ve performed within and outside Nigeria on several occasions. I have my own band PRealm, and I also organise music network meetings periodically.  My album is entitled: Beautiful, it’s an 11 tracker including: Gidigba, Jesus Le, and High Praises


How I got into broadcasting

Broadcasting or public speaking has been my thing right from primary school days. Professionally, it started six and a half years ago. I got a call to show up for a meeting, that was it!  I’m presently with Naija FM 102.7, operated by Megalectrics Limited, owners of Classic FM, Beat FM and Lagos Talks. I co-host the Morning Runs show on week days and I host the multiple award winning Sunday Best Show on Sunday mornings.


Challenges faced

Introducing something new into the music ministry which is a bit different from the regular church music was not too easy. But today, the results have proven that the risk was worth it. Also funding is a huge challenge because most of the concerts and charity outreaches I organise are 90 per cent self-sponsored but all thanks and glory go to my Master Jesus Christ. Today I and my team have convened over 35 outreaches. Funds to produce good videos is another challenge but we’re not stopping. Another major drawback is marketing but everyday, we’re getting closer to the mark


My role models

My number one role model is the American mega gospel music icon, Shirley Caesar. Apart from her, I only have a few others who inspire me a lot like Tasha Cobbs, Yolanda Adams, Tyre Tribbet, Hezekiah Walker and Kim Burrel. I’m sorry they are all Americans, I guess it’s because of my background as a choir girl. In Nigeria, my sister and friend, Anietie Ezeimo, is a major source of inspiration to me


How I have been coping with competition in the industry

For me, there is no competition when you’re on your lane. Moreso, I’m not in it because someone invited me. I’m here because I’m called. The competition is with life itself, ensuring you improve yourself steadily and keeping true to yourself and your calling. No one can do me like me, and I can’t do anyone else but me.


Assessment of the gospel music industry

As of now, what we have in Nigeria may not have matured into an industry, but it is a gradual process. The level gospel music in Nigeria right now is applaud able compared to about 20 years ago. We have better produced songs, audio/visual; also gospel artistes are a bit more united but the marketing of gospel music is nothing to write home about at all. Hopefully, it will improve with time. Also, we now have better packaged gospel concerts. Gospel music is a huge market right now but brands are yet to key in. I hope they do soon.


On the allegation that gospel albums released these days are purely for entertainment and not soul winning

We can break gospel music into smaller parts. But two outstanding parts of gospel music are: church music and street gospel. They are both clean music and should direct praises and adoration to God. We can be entertained by gospel music, but that doesn’t mean it is meant primarily for entertainment. One may not be able to reach out to the church folks with the same beat/tempo/lyrics required to reach out to a dejected and hungry man living on the streets, beaten by rain and sun. I think where the conflict lies is knowing the exact message we’ve been given to spread through our music and stick to it. True, we have very shallow interpretation of gospel music by artistes who are not teachable and whose foundation in Christianity is not deep. They only need to submit themselves to be mentored


Driving force

I am driven by the desire to please God and serve humanity. The fulfilment of these urges me on.


Philosophy of life

Don’t hate; be yourself and be happy because nobody can be like you. That’s my philosophy


How I have been combining my career with the home front

It’s all due to God’s grace. I can’t say I’m doing anything special but I can say I’m just being myself. My husband is a very patient and understanding man, he recognises my passion and calling, and he’s been aware of same since our days of courtship. My daughter is everything! My P.A, critic, make- up artiste, style consultant, backup singer, prayer partner, burden bearer, and so much more! So you see, my “home team” is solid. Wisdom also is the principal thing in decision making, I depend solely on God’s wisdom. This helps to balance things up to a large extent. Also, the passion I have for music helps me to overcome the challenges and of course nothing can take the place of prayer. God indeed answers prayers.


My opinion on provocative dressing

No human, male or female, needs to dress semi-nude to look beautiful. We are created in God’s image which means that  we are perfect already. All we need is to maintain that perfection by doing things moderately; that includes our mode of dressing. I don’t succumb to provocative dressing and I advise especially young ladies to desist from it no matter the temptation. One can be easily misunderstood and misrepresented by such. Also, mothers have the responsibility to teach their daughters from day one the essence of good and moderate fashion sense. This they can do by example and by constantly reminding them how naturally beautiful they are. To be stylish doesn’t mean to go naked! They don’t follow at all.


Favourite pastime

I love to laugh, I love to dance, love to make people happy. To unwind, I do either of the aforementioned, but most times, I love to be alone, meditate and draw inspiration from God.


Why celebrities marriages crash and the solution

Well, loads of marriages crash daily but news is usually made out of those of celebrities. But my appeal to celebrities who are married or plan to go into marriage someday is that they should please endeavour to go the extra mile with one another. No man or woman is perfect, we must yield to the value of forgiveness. Forgiveness will sustain any marriage. One more thing, partners should love, appreciate and respect the calling or careers of their spouses. If this isn’t the case during courtship, please, there is absolutely no need to go into marriage. Look for another partner biko!


Secret of my beauty

I’m beautiful, eh! Thanks. I will attribute my looks first to God, then to my parents, and also to a pure and happy heart. My daughter always makes sure my make-up is right on point when necessary and she also tells me daily that I’m beautiful! I really don’t have any beauty “winning formula” but I keep my personal hygiene on top notch.


Definition of style

I dress simple and light most of the time. I would rather be comfortable because I’m a plus size. I don’t add too much fabrics or accessorised fabrics to my figure. You can call my style Afro-Contemporary-Simple. I love the radicality of Ankara. Besides, my daughter is a fashion and lifestyle blogger and an aspiring fashion designer. She makes sure I don’t “fall her hand!”.


Favourite designers

Ejiro Amos Tafiri, Lanre Da Silva and the Sagoes.


What I will like to change about myself

Nothing. I love and appreciate myself.


Special treat

Vacation! I never have time for myself except when on vacation.


Advice to young girls

Young girls out there need to know how special they are and appreciate themselves much more. I want you to know and believe that you are a success story already no matter your background or circumstances. Don’t let societal limitations stop you from achieving your dreams. Abstain from pre marital  sex, be confident of your body, don’t be lured or bullied into believing that you’re a second class human being. Follow the right path, watch and emulate strong successful girls from all over the world, know your strength, find education in whatever level or format. Above all, have faith in God and shine!


How I intend to step up my game

We pray to be better in whatever we do. In the gospel music setting in Nigeria, I’m already standing out because I’m not your “regular gospel artiste” in the sense that mentoring and charity are a huge part of my music ministry. I and my team PRealm have been doing various outreaches for 11 years and still counting. Making music that brings souls to God right from the street is strength of my music ministry. Teaching and training on praise and worship is another way we work the work. So you can see that we are making a difference already and we hope to continue by God’s grace.

Another offshoot of my music is intercession. By now you must have heard about the Pray-4Naija/NaijaHopedey campaign. We are fully engaged in this campaign presently as a means of nation building and I am the chief servant as well.


Fashion obsession

I don’t think I have any fashion obsession. I love anything African a lot though.


 Foreign acts I will like to do work with

If I ever get the opportunity to have Mama Shirley Caesar on any song, it will be heaven! Tasha Cobbs and Hezekiah Walker would be great too.


My strengths and weaknesses

My strength would be the fact that I know God, and I’m aware of the assignment He has given to me; working that assignment and the benefits that come with it gives me strength. I’m also very real. This puts me above the line. My weakness would be the fact that I want to help everyone who is in need worldwide and we know that isn’t possible! Also people take advantage of my kindness a lot but no wahala. Just when people think, oh! She’s finally given up, I show up, with so much zeal! I must say that divine ability to press on is my major strength.