Christy Uduak Esssien-Igbokwe, in her time, was regarded as Nigeria’s First Lady of Songs. Sadly, her fame was short-lived as death took her away too soon.
The Akwa-Ibom State-born Christy Igbokwe, according to the predictions of fortune tellers, would be a great icon. True to the foretold destiny, Christy was one of the foremost, being the first female president of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), the Chairwoman and Managing Director of Soul Train Entertainment Limited, and winning several local and international awards.
The First Lady of Songs was born on November 11, 1960 in Okat, Onna Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. After the passing on of her mother (when she was 12), she went to live with her mother’s friend in Aba, Abia State, who encouraged her to develop her talent into a skill. She – her late mother’s friend – further expressed her support by buying a radio cassette for Christy to record her songs.
Christy Essien-Igbokwe commenced her musical career as a secondary school student. She sang at various clubs such as Uka Onu’s Club and Unikoko in Aba. At the age of 16, she was featured on a show – Now Sound – on Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) Channel 6, Aba. Not too long after, she was offered a role on The New Masquerade,a popular sitcom also showing on NTA in 1976. She played the role of Akpenor, wife of Jegede Sokoya (played by Claude Eke).
Building on the fame playing Akpenor earned her, she chose RnB as her specialized genre and launched her music career in 1977, releasing her first album, Freedom. Her following albums were all a hit, but Ever Liked My Person, produced by Lemmy Jackson in 1981, was the most popular among all her song albums, selling above platinum well past 2009. Christy sang various songs in English and various Nigerian languages – Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Efik, and Ibibio.
Owning to her keen interest in addressing issues affecting women and children, she played roles in some Nollywood movies such as Flesh and Blood and Scars of Womanhood, both of which addressed issues of child abuse and female circumcision.
Besides singing, she was also a business woman. She owned a shop at Etinan, Akwa-Ibom, where she sold printing machines.
In 1981, Essien-Igbokwe pioneered the first meeting that brought about the founding of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), with the intention to make life better for Nigerian artistes. The following year, King Sunny Ade was made the first President with Sonny Okosun as his vice. By 1996, Christy became the first female president of the association, serving till 1999.
She was a founding member of the Performing and Mechanical Rights Society (PMRS) of Nigeria – a society concerned with the general responsibility of negotiating, collecting and distributing royalties on behalf of musical copyright owners who are mostly its members. She was the second Chairperson of the Board for two consecutive terms, after Chief (Mrs.) Keji Okunowo.
During the tenure of Military President Ibrahim Babangida, there was a plan to scrap the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) or to merge it with the Nigeria Police Force. Through her intervention, the Commission has remained as a separate entity till today.
Having been hosted on various local and international, she had the honour of composing an unofficial anthem, titled Akwa-Ibom Mmi (My Akwa-Ibom), for her state of origin, Akwa-Ibom State.
Christy Essien-Igbokwe won several local and international awards, including:
- “Silver Prize” Winner at 6th Seoul Songs Festival, South Korea (1983);
- “Outstanding Performance” Award at the World Song Festival, L.A. Arts Academy, USA (1984);
- “Gold Award” of 25 Nigerian Celebrities (1988);
- “Distant Accord” Award at the FIDOF Festival in Hollywood, L.A., USA, (1990); “Certificate of Honour” by the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Anambra State Council (1990);
- “Award of Excellence” as Matron of the Great Eni-Njoku Hall (University of Lagos chapter) (2000); and
- “Nigerian Woman of Valor” Award by National Centre for Women Development, Abuja (2010)
- “Entertainment Icon” by West African Women in Leadership Conference (in Ghana) – 2011
- “Excellence in Outstanding Performance & Hard Work” by National Association of AkwaIbom State Students (NAAKISS) – University of Lagos Chapter – 2011
- She was honoured on her 58th posthumous birthday with a Google doodle on November 11, 2018.
- Freedom (LP, Album) Anodisc Records 1977
- Patience (LP) Anodisc Records 1978
- Time Waits For No One (LP) Blackspot (2), Decca 1978
- One Understanding (LP) Afrodisia 1979
- Give Me A Chance (LP, Gat) Afrodisia 1980
- Ever Liked My Person?(2 versions) Lagos International Records, Skylark Records 1981
- It’s Time (LP, Album) EMI (Nigeria) 1982
- Taking My Time (LP, yel) Soul Train Records 1986
- Hear The Call (LP) Ivory 1990
- Mysteries of Life (LP) Soul Train Records 1992
- All of a Sudden(LP) Soul Train/Apex Entertainment 2011 (TBR)
Family & Death
Christy was married to Chief Edwin Igbokwe and they had several children together, including Kaka, with whom she performed at the Inspire Africa Benefit Concert in January 2009.
Essien-Igbokwe turned 50 on 11th November 2010. Soon after, she fell ill and was diagnosed with gastro-intestinal disorder. The illness ultimately led to her death on June 30th, 2011. It is reported that she had foretold her death, saying if she lived beyond age 50, it would be a blessing from God.