NOT too long ago, you were said to be very ill. Can you relive your experience?
I was actually down with a gall bladder stone. I had a terrible stomach condition, which the doctors were worried about as it was considered close to the cancer of the stomach. Surgery was considered as an immediate option. But along the line, I didn’t do the surgery. So, I was placed on medications to see if it could alter.
I’m now relieved and back to work, back to music; though I’m still on regular checkups. The only worry now is my children who all stay in America. We insisted that I should wait till they return to take me so I can do the surgery in America. Either of them should be here to pick me. That apart, I’m up; my music looks good and the future has a good smile.
How old are your children?
My first son is 27; the second is 26 and my last born is 24. They said they want to come so they can give me good care.
When did you have them?
I finished having my children at the age of 21.
Why so early?
I got married very early in life.
At what age?
I was 16 going on 17!
What moved you to get married at such a young age?
I think I was just crazy then. And the other reason was that, when you come from a polygamous family, you want to believe that maybe, marriage could be a way out. But sometimes at the end of the day, it may not turn out well.
Was your mom the second wife?
No, my mom was actually the officially wedded wife, but not the first and not the second. She was the third wife of my father and the only officially wedded wife. So, you can imagine the pressure then, which was more on us her children. At that point, I wasn’t afraid of marriage. I think he was able to give me some of the things that I needed back then: the attention, the understanding and listening ears. So, I believed that was it. But at the end of the day, I found out that we were not compatible. His family was very tribalistic. I was into music already and they didn’t like it. He actually wanted me to be a full-time house wife, which was not my dream or ambition. I wanted to pursue my musical career and even do some other stuff too.
At that time, did you feel that you had what it takes to go to the top and be a music star?
Yes, I did know I could do that. As at then, I had started going to the studio. I had started singing right from when I was a child still in school; I was singing in church and I always had this passion for writing songs.
Did your husband know about that?
He knew. I thought he was going to encourage me, give a boost to my musical career but at the end of the day, that was not what he wanted. He wanted me to be a full housewife. But my musical career was important to me. So, that became one of the major reasons that made me not to accept to be a housewife. And it was a very abusive marriage.
When you say ‘abusive,’ what do you mean?
He used to beat me. He was about 13 years older than me. He was really beating me and at a point when the beating was getting out of hand and became life threatening, I decided to pack it up.
How long did the marriage last?
Oh, it lasted seven years.
What was the attraction to marry him?
He was a nice guy. And at that point, I wanted a friend and he was able to give me some of the things I needed back then.
Why did you allow the children to go to America?
Their father is an American citizen though he is a Nigerian by birth. He said he wanted the children to come over; I too thought it would be a better opportunity for them. So, I allowed them to go. It is not that I couldn’t have gone, but at that point, what happened was that he was actually having an affair with my younger sister, who is at present living in America through him. And when the children were going to America, the documents were altered. My name was removed, while my younger sister’s name replaced mine. So, when it was time for me to go to the US, I was denied visa. I have been denied visa three times now. It has got to a point where a DNA test is required to prove that I am the children’s mother and that is the point where it is. So, it’s only when my children come here that I can think of going to America. It has made my travelling out of the country very difficult. And that was the original plan, which was to frustrate me and make me unable to see my children again. But with God, things are looking good.
But he couldn’t have married your sister?
But they dated. It was just to have a baby for him that was left. They dated and she was able to use him to set a standard for herself. I understand. And it is okay. I have forgiven her. I don’t have any more grudges. My children are grown up, we relate and that’s all that’s important to me.
If you were to meet someone else now that asks your hand in marriage, will you accept his proposal?
Yes, marriage is sweet and okay if you meet a nice person, who is also a friend and ready to be supportive. Marriage is interesting and sweet.
So you will gladly accept another proposal?
Well, I still have this phobia for it, but if I meet a guy that can drive the fear away and give me the assurances, of course I will throw away my fears.
You mean there’s no man in your life at present?
I have a couple of friends that I relate with; we play together, but I cannot say that I have an intimately strong relationship right now. At present, everyone around me is a friend. When you are a single mother, it becomes an issue with some guys because of our cultural background. It’s not easy to take a lady that has three children to your mom and tell her, this is the person you want to get married to. Maybe if I were outside the country, that will be easy.
But it happens in Nigeria
Have I seen any? No. Though I see them date. And when they date to the point of marriage, it is either a family tie or something poses as a problem at that point. But if the man insists on marrying her, it’s either the woman is financially good enough or has some other things that the guy can benefit from.
So, having your children outside Nigeria made you to concentrate on music?
Yes, my children left for the US 10 years ago. Before they travelled, I had to survive and balance my career in music as a working mom. But after then just when I was up there, getting it all right, I started facing the gall bladder issue. I am actually coming back strong now. I am in the studio. I have an album that is almost ready and I am feeling real high up there. I have recorded three singles. And the album has taken shape. My producer is ready. I am shooting a video on Friday (yesterday). I feel great. But I need to continually be on my supplements. Right now, I want to do a single to push for promotions and then the album for a launch. I would also be going back to my acting career as a movie producer. For now, it is not like before (smiles); I have to do it one at a time. Health is wealth.
Were you scared of death when you were ill?
I was. And I told God that if I die, I will hold you responsible if I go to hell fire because you did not allow me to see my children and do some other things. And I begged God to forgive me because I didn’t want to go to hell fire. You know in Yoruba, some people would call it Ofa (evil arrow) but I couldn’t tell. I just knew that I was ill and somehow miraculously, I came back to life. For those who were able to see my pictures back then, it was pathetic.
Coming back at this time with lots of new faces already on the block, isn’t it going to be tough?
I know I need re-branding and a lot of work to do, but I believe that I have all it takes. Back then, I used to do contemporary gospel music and sometimes hip hop. Since I recovered from the illness, I have realised that this world is really about living one’s dreams. I see people, pastors trying to limit me by saying you are a gospel artiste; don’t sing hip hop; don’t sing this, don’t sing that. Now I am myself; If I feel like singing hip hop, I will sing it because that’s the new me.
You sound as if you are disappointed with the church?
You see, even when I was down and out, the so-called pastors were not there for me. They were not interested in me at that point. So I have realised about life that people are only interested in you because of what you can give to them. They were just interested in my tithes and the testimonies of people in church. Another thing I realised is that some of those testimonies were calculated and manipulative. I feel used and dumped by pastors.
So, coming back, for me, is coming back to please God for myself. I don’t keep friends as I used to keep them before. Now, I wait for the leading of the Holy Spirit. I have made my children my friends. We talk, we plan together. The only people who stood by me then were my children who were calling regularly. I have a new song; it is called, ‘I heal’. When I thought about everything and how God raised fans like Niki Laoye, Nathaniel Bassey and Funke Akindele, for me, I thank God. Those were the major people who contributed financially to my rescue. These are people that are not pastors, but they were able to help. A pastor actually heard about by illness and called for my tithe records! Wow, if God does that to us, will we get anything from God? I am tempted to be a female version of Daddy Freeze. Another pastor said they couldn’t assist because they are building a mega auditorium. So, is a mega auditorium more urgent than a soul?
Do you still attend church service?
Yes, I still do when I’m invited. My mom is a pastor too. She has a church, Christ Aflame Ministries in Lagos here. Sometimes I attend her church and some other times, I go somewhere else. Sometimes I just sneak in and sit with no airs. Then sometimes I go to the Celestial Church of Christ.
Is that where you were delivered?
(Laughs) I think I still prefer their spirituality. If you know what I mean. They preserve some things in the Old Testament like women not going into the altar. I know even there, there are pollutions but then, Celestial Church is still closer to the message of the Bible.
Are you ready for the big shows and concerts?
Totally ready. But as usual, I don’t really like those a lot. I love to create my own events and shows. There are people in the industry that have already heard my new songs and they nod their heads and say ‘she’s back.’ People love the songs. What I have heard so far is very encouraging.
You are actually bubbling and bouncing. Where are the bubbles coming from?
When you have gone through life the way I have, you bubble. I know people who didn’t go through half of what I have been through and they gave up. I know someone who was just sick for two weeks while I was at the hospital and died. I know someone who was lying down next to me and the husband was telling the doctors, whatever you people want in cash I will give you. At that time, they had already spent about N3.7 million, but his wife died. But here I am alive; so I must bubble. That means God loves me. Money will come. There’s time and season. This sickness has made me to realise that my children really love me. They told me to fight back for me and to fight back for them. I keep remembering that. I am different now.
Has your fashion sense changed?
I am not explicit anymore; no more showing of body, but just looking good. I am mature now. I have left that for my daughter.
If your children come to take you, does that mean you will relocate to America?
No, I have a lot of things to do in Nigeria.
Are you looking at collabos?
(Laughs) There’s only one person on my mind I really wish to collabo with and that is Whizkid!
Wow, Whizkid, how about Tiwa?
No, I am not competing with her. There is this calmness and maturity that I see in Whizkid that makes me to respect him and his music. He is a cool guy. Most people who are close to me know that I am a Whizkid fan. A collabo will make great sense with Whizkid. And for gospel music, I would love a collabo with Sinach.
Now that you are back, are you returning to the movies too?
I will love to go back to the movies but through the right channels. I don’t want to face what I faced the other time. Then there were lots of sexual harassment except people
are not coming out to say the truth. If you didn’t succumb, you don’t get a role. That was why I did more of music back then. At least with music, you know you are only paying your producer. Coming back into movies, for me, is being the producer of the movie. That will be a better platform for me.
What accessories do you not do without?
Not really an accessory like that. But I love wearing a face cap. It hides my face, gives me a good disguise. I wear lots of face caps. You know, it’s not easy when you have a famous face. Wherever you turn, it’s a greeting or people pointing at you, ‘Ah this person has a familiar face.’
Has any fan ever embarrassed you?
More than once; there was this particular day, I was just taking a walk and this lady just appeared from nowhere and started screaming my name repeatedly. That is Gloria Doyle! I was like ‘Oh My God!’ But then, it’s fun too when people recognise you.
Do you still get ‘toasters’?
Funny enough, it is the younger guys that get the confidence to toast me. I don’t know whether it is my star. The younger guys have more boldness. They walk up to me and tell me they like me. I tell them that I am a single mother. They say it is okay. But the real mature men just look. So, I don’t know.
What does that mean to you?
Of course, I don’t get carried away by such admirations. I have to make a good choice. Sometimes, I just need my peace of mind.
Your beauty secrets?
None, except that I use my body lotion, have a bath at least twice a day, stay out of stressful situations and that’s it.