Friday, December 2, 2011


There was so much excitement in the air as people from all over the country and around the world converged at the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos that night. Apparently, those who had come the year before couldn’t resist coming again. Though scheduled for 7:00pm, the venue was already alive way before noon with some people arriving as early as 5am.  Early as it seemed, the security operatives were already at work at the gate, the cleaners were tidying and arranging the chairs while the food-vendors were putting up their stalls in preparation for the demand soon to ensue from attendees of The Experience 2010.

This event perhaps means different things to different people. To the hawkers selling whistles, handkerchiefs, sausages, souvenirs and lots more, the event would be a promising market. To the technical guys, it meant lots of cables and tons of equipment to move around. The medical personnel, musicians and ushers might simply just call it too much work. But I’m sure that for many, it is indeed an experience of a lifetime, happening every year.

With some help from a guy, Tolu, who I met on the bus on the way to the event, I arrived in good time myself to see how everything came together. We had a feeling of what was to come as the guest artistes began to sound-check their instruments and equipment. From around 11:50am, Israel Houghton, Mary Mary, Judy Jacobs and Don Moen took turns to get their preferred set ups for sound.

By noon, most of the people around started to leave the open space into the shades to find solace from the sun that seemed to be ‘smiling’ a little too much for comfort. The crowds began to gather in again at around 3:30 – 4:00pm and the air was already alive with an almost steady drone from whistles which seemed to be everywhere as much as were white hankies. Moments later, a resounding blast came from the vuvuzela’s as a sort of echo to the sound from the trumpet of Phil Driscoll as he checked his microphone for appropriate delay. Micah Stampley and Papa San also showed up for their sound checks and by 6:45pm, one could tell that the crowd was ready (and slightly petulant) for the program because by this time, the vuvuzela’s and whistles were in a literal sustain for minutes and the excitement in the air was so thick, you could touch it. I had changed my seating position to a more vantage location when I got the access tag for preferred sitting and was somewhat closer to the stage. Though not so close to the speakers, the thump from the subwoofers sent shockwaves through the ground that you couldn’t just hear the music, you could feel it. There were lots of hugs and greetings in the VIP section which suggested that the meeting was a sort of reunion for many as it was a vacation or retreat agenda for others. I got to see and meet several familiar faces and skillful musicians amongst whom were Nathaniel Bassey and Ayo Solanke.

At 7:00pm, several slides ran across the screen just before Victor Oladokun came to give the opening prayer and introduced Chosen Treasure featuring Timi Dakolo. There was a surprise appearance by Lionel Peterson with the song “Peace” and then “Kabi o osi o”. The next artist came up at 7:40pm and with his appearance, came the emergence of white hankies all over the place. Sammie Okposo kept the stage electrified for about 20mins followed by Mike Aremu after a session of prayers for the nation. Mike’s performance wasn’t without his unique African touch on the saxophone as he sang songs like “e ti mu mi gbagbe o, ibanuje igba kan” (You have caused me to forget the sorrows of the past). The song was timely and a perfect tune to usher in the session of prayers that followed.

By 8:45pm, one of the prominent names in Nigeria’s gospel music came up and saw the crowds singing almost all his lines for him…including musical interludes. It was obvious that the music of Panam Percy Paul hadn’t dwindled in grace as his performance, which featured Jerry Omole and Ahide Adum, brought back lovely memories because obviously quite a number of people there present grew up listening to his music. About thirty minutes later, Governor Fashola came up after the intro by the convener, Pastor Paul Adefarasin. The governor appreciated different groups of people present ranging from all the mothers to the cleaners and ushers.

Like a movie playing out in real life, the artists continued to emerge and I felt like I was watching TBN but this time, I was in the television! Micah Stampley and Bishop John Francis came back to back as they paved the way for Chevelle Franklin who also thrilled the already excited audience with her Raga version of the National Anthem. Her rendition led to another session of prayers by Pastor Taiwo Odukoya and Rev. Dr. Felix who prayed for Families and Miracles respectively. Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor came up right after Fred Hammond who owned the stage for about forty five minutes. His performance seemed to have a story line to it…to say the least.

Pastor Paul came up again at about midnight and was joined moments later by Phil Driscoll who sang and played to the National Anthem alongside Onos. That moment was memorable especially because of a face that came up on the screen of a woman in tears as she sang the anthem. The crowd went agog moments later as the next person, dressed in one of the many varieties of the Experience T-Shirts, took the stage via media – President Goodluck Jonathan. His brief talk drove home the point that being Nigerian meant possibility and greatness amongst other things.

Judy Jacobs came up and Ron Kenoly was next in line doing most of Nigeria’s indigenous worship songs including “I just want to say” and “Jehova, You are the most high”. Both performances were interspersed with prayer sessions by Pastor Damilola Oluwatoyinbo and Pastor Sam Adeyemi for the Youths and the Capacity for Vision respectively. Israel Houghton, Mary-Mary and Papa San came in a successive fashion with comic relief performances from Comedians like Mc-Abbey, Yaw and Gordons in between. As the day’s event rounded up, the traffic outside the TBS gave an idea of the crowd that was in attendance.

Though a year already, it seems just like yesterday. As another episode comes up today with viewing centers across the globe. It’s surely a place to be because amongst other things, experiencing the Experience leaves you experienced!

-‘Bayor | More Resources | Connect with Bayor

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