The gospel music community is in shock as the news of Michael Arowosaiye’s suicide filtered through.
Michael Arowosaiye, a gospel minister of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), allegedly committed suicide due to depression over his accommodation issues according to online news blog Yabaleftonline. Read more
As worrisome as this is, it is no news that creatives are quick to get into depression, but what should be of uttermost concern is the plight of the thousands of musicians and music ministers in the church who lead people in worship every Sunday and Tuesday or Wednesday and yet have issues as basic as accommodation, while their local church is worth hundreds of millions of naira. Probably seated in the congregation Michael ministers to are wealthy people who have the financial capacity to provide that accommodation 1o times over. So the questions are, what went wrong? why wasn’t this provided for? Another question the begs for an answer is, was he entitled to any form of remuneration for his service, was he being paid any money? and judging by what we know about gospel music in Nigeria and the position of most churches, he was probably not being paid as it is commonplace for that sort of service to be voluntarily-mandatory. Voluntary because no one is really forcing you to, mandatory because you are bound to “work for the Lord” if not “God will make things tight for you”. Many churches generally coerce church members to render service in the name of the Lord whether it is convenient or not. Church work is supposed to be voluntary, but people are doctrinally coerced and manipulated to render daily or weekly service mandatorily. The most affected group is the music department, choir members and musicians.
Notable voices like Asu Ekiye and many others have been calling for the regulation and organization of the gospel music ministry such that music ministers will be properly renumerated, but he is seen as a threat to the church even among the gospel music ministers.
The conversation of properly renumerating and taking care of music ministers and musicians has been long coming and has always constituted disagreement in the Nigerian church. Some persons will probably blame Michael for not working in faith and believing God or acting like a proper Christian, but the bottom line is he was broke, didn’t have money, he was homeless, a church was using his gift and was not probably not renumerating him.
We will not also entirely blame the church, the gospel music community will also take some of the blame, that is if one exists. The gospel music community should come together, create a structure and look out for herself and her members. It’s time for this ministry/industry to take a life of its own and not be totally dependent on the church. Gospel music ministers most know that they have a life after church service and if they want to make gospel music a full-time thing, then they music be ready for the sacrifice that comes with it another thing is to look out for a church that has a good music ministry welfare structure and offer your services there.
In my 10 years of working within the gospel music scene, my advise to gospel artists has always been to get a job or have a means of making money while you build on the music. Music takes time to pay most times, so et a job or start a business. You have bills to pay!