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Stop calling me ‘little Benita’, I’m now a grown-up --Benita Okojie
Punch Adeola Balogun,  Saturday, 26 May 2007

The historic flight named Soul Flight 101, which took prominent artistes from Lagos to Abuja for the revived Nigeria Music Awards last Saturday, provided an atmosphere of conviviality and laughter.

In fact, the mood was so light that those on board forgot they were some 38,000 feet above sea level. That was where Benita chose to reject the tag ‘Little Benita,’ which had stuck on her since she took to music very early in life.

The anchor persons of the programme, Mandy and AY, had called on the youngster to come towards the cabin section to sing a song. They called her by the name she is best known, ‘Little Benita’. The young artiste stepped forward, collected the microphone to render the beautiful number, My Hero; but not before she registered her displeasure at being called Little Benita. Not anymore. She told everyone that she had grown.

Benita later told Spectacles at the lobby of Le Meridien in Abuja, where the stars for the event were quartered, why she had decided to take up anyone who referred to her as little.

She said, “It is not fair, not so nice for a lot of people to still see me as Little Benita. I actually want to shake that off. I want people to see me as grown-up Benita, who has a grown up face, who has a grown up voice, who is changed, and who has a different approach towards life.

“I am not comfortable to be called Little Benita. To be honest with you, I think it is a little bit degrading for people to still see me as Little Benita. I have to remind everybody of the fact that I am grownup.”

The singing sensation, who admitted that music is the best thing to have happened to her in life, agreed that music had made her to grow even older than her age. She told Spectacles, “Music has built me mentally, emotionally, physically and psychologically. I don’t think that what I have learnt today, I would have been able to do that if not for music. Music has built my way of thinking and my composure. Music has made me what I am today. If I had ventured into any other thing, I don’t think I would have grown up this fast. I would have remained just a 19-year old, that’s all. It is a life-changing experience for me.”

Benita, who caused a lot of stir as a very beautiful gospel singer when she was still less than ten years old, reeled out to Spectacles the benefits that have accrued to her and her family, courtesy of music.

She said, “It was the best thing that happened to me. I was born into a family which I may say did not have everything going well. But since I got into music, I can say I have been able to afford what I want. Music has taken me very far. Because of it, I have met people who ordinarily would have remained only in my dream. Because of music, I have met them and I have gone to places where I would ordinarily have been unable to get to in my entire life.”

The fear when she started out was that she might not be able to cope with her education and still continue to sing. But today, Benita has not only completed secondary school education, despite her busy musical schedule, she is today a 200 level student of English at the Redeemer University. She told Spectacles excitedly how she has been able to combine the two and achieve success.

“The good thing for me is that I started music when I was much younger and I had people who tutored me; those who encouraged me and were at my beck and call, so to say. I was able to balance it well when I was in secondary school. But I must tell you that when I left secondary school for the university, it was a different ball game altogether. I realised that for me to excel on both fronts, I have to adjust and balance well. I am trying to do that.”

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 Benita told Spectacles that her dream course of study is broadcasting, which she said matched well with her music career. But now, she is still studying English pending the time it would be suitable for her to pursue her dream.

Describing herself as a very shy person, Benita said she had music to thank for shaking off timidity, which according to her is not in tandem with music.

She said, “I know I am a very shy person naturally, but music does not allow for that. Music has helped me to express myself the best way I can.”

Benita also said the experience of stardom had not made her to distance herself from people. She said, “I mix well, since I am not in a school where I have bodyguards following me about. I am not in a school where people (lecturers) give me any preferential treatment, although some of them are helpful by their understanding that I might have to be away occasionally. I am allowed to mix with everybody. Personally, I think whatever I am today, it is by the support of my fans and most of my fans are in my age group. I am my normal person.”

When Spectacles broached the idea of the beautiful singer considering getting married in the future to a musician like herself, she swiftly turned it down, saying she was not yet near the position to discuss marriage. “I don’t talk about marriage, I think I can’t tell you now,” she said.









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