Yinke Ayefele, the gospel juju icon, was recently nominated for the Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) National Honours. In this interview with David Ajiboye and Ayo Idowu,

he speaks on the effect of the nomination on his music, as well as his plans in bringing top Nigerian artistes together, for the Nigeria at 50 celebration. Excerpts:

How do you feel on your nomination, as a Member of the Order of the Niger?
I feel extremely happy, especially being the only Nigerian artiste in the nominations. I feel honoured, and I now see myself as a bona fide Nigerian ambassador, especially when it comes to music.

Did you lobby for the Award?
No. As a matter of fact, I did not know that I was nominated for the honour, until I got the notice. Special thanks to the Ekiti State government, I think they recommended me.

What do you think proved you worthy of the nomination?
I don’t know. As I told you, I don’t even know the criteria for the nomination. Perhaps, they considered my closeness to the youth, the influence of my music in every home or my performances at national and international events.

Now that you have been nominated, what are your plans?
Well… I don’t know when the investiture is, but I am getting prepared with friends, family and close associates who want to celebrate with me.

What do you plan doing, when you eventually get the national honour?
I do not have any plans, but to improve on my music, which stands to be the only job I do, that recommended me in good fate.

Do you have any special package for Nigerians, following this honour?
Following the honour, no, but I am working on a special package for Nigeria at 50. I’m planning on working together with some other notable Nigerian artistes, to make a good package for Nigeria at 50. I have spoken with Sir. Shina Peters, Sunny Nneji and a couple of others, to make the package a unique one.

Have you been working hard to remain on top of your game, because of the national honour?
No. I never even dreamt of the honour. I have only been working hard to earn a living and to be the best in what I do.

Do you see the honour affecting your music, since you will now be accorded the rights of a senior citizen everywhere you go?
No, it will not. I have been known with music. So I will only work harder to maintain my integrity and credibility.

What are your plans for the youth?
A big project is getting underway, though, I can’t do it alone it will involve the state government and probably the Federal Government. It is a project that will be used to unlock the potential of the youth.

Can you tell us about your travails before becoming a success in music?
There is nothing special about Yinka Ayefele but God and hard work.

What are the greatest challenges trailing your success?
Scandals and public outrage. I don’t usually feel good when people say malicious things about me. It infuriates me when I discovered that all are lies, falsehood. I wonder what people derive when they spring up untrue stories about other people. I withdraw from people that say bad and untrue things about me. I will not ignore the problem of piracy too. It’s been a great challenge.

A couple of weeks ago, it was all over the pages of national dailies that Yinka Ayefele went to confront Erelu Agbaye in a church; some condemned and some commended the action, what do you have to say about this?
I wouldn’t want to talk about this any longer. We have been giving her cheap publicity. Why not let us stop talking about her, since she has fled?

What are you doing to re-brand Nigerian music?
Re-branding music is a big challenge. I will tell you that Nigerian music seem to be the toughest in the world. The whites cannot play some of our instruments, but we can play theirs and even include our own talking drum and some Nigerian percussion.

Anyone who wants to re-brand the system as you said needs an extra work. I am trying to study all kinds of music In Nigeria though, to see where and how I will make my input, Re-branding is a big challenge.

Can you tell us about your South African experience, going there to perform during the FIFA World Cup?
It was a great experience, but the Super Eagles spoilt the enthusiasm in us with their poor performance. We could not perform as planned.

Should we expect your album later this year, especially during the usual festive period?
Yes, sure, it will be coming out around December as usual, and this time round, it will be coming out alongside the video.

What do you have to tell your fans?
I want to say a big thank you to them. I love them; I appreciate their support, and I want to assure them of re-branded products from Yinka Ayefele.

What would you tell younger ones coming behind you?
Put God first in everything you do, discover yourself, face the job before the money, stay focused and work hard.