There is an unhealthy trend in the Nigerian entertainment industry that I feel we are not discussing. Everyone is acting all cool like it is not happening, but it is happening and can be addressed whether or not the address would make any difference, but let it be on record that someone said something.
So I begin my exposition with a little story.
In 2004 my elder brother returned from Lagos to our humble home in Owerri with a music cassette on which the picture of young 2face graced the cover. It was titled Face2Face and had eleven tracks. He informed us that that is the reigning artist in Lagos and he would like us to be the first family to play his first album in Owerri. We played it, we vibed to it. We fell in love with all the songs, especially Nfana Ibaga. From that moment, 2face became my number one musician. I stopped listening to Ja Rule, 50 Cent, Nelly and DMX with passion as I used to. And that became a turning point for me, in what would be a cultic followership of Nigerian music with 2face as the most beloved. Before then, I only knew The Remedies, Mode 9, Ruggedman etc, but their music did not resonate with me like the foreign guys till I heard 2face.
I became a conscious follower and changed my stage name then from Naijac (please don’t ask me the meaning) to 2kool, because then I was coming up as a rapper, raping 2pac and Ja Rule. I made it a tradition to buy any album released by 2face and also bought the album of any artist that featured him, whether or not I like the artist. I wanted to keep pace with the discography of my idol, I didn’t want to miss any word that fell off from his mouth and I achieved it. Such was my love, a love that made me popular in my street that my second nickname became 2face and my mother’s provision shop became known as Mama 2face Shop. In my room then, pictures and posters of 2face were plastered all over the walls and I bought any magazine or newspaper that had his name or face on its cover. I remember not eating for days the day I learnt he was shot. In fact, I infected my family with my love for 2face and he became our family’s most loved musician.
So, when on 20th March, 2019, I learnt that the Department of Music, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife would be conferring 2face with an Honourary Degree and a Fellowship Award, I made efforts to be there, even though I was living in Lagos. So why did I make efforts to be there? You might ask.
I have always sought for ways to pay homage to 2face, to thank him for all the good music and honour him for the thankless job of image building he helped Nigeria do; for being the modern musical voice that put Africa on the map and for being the pathfinder of the dimension Nigerian music has taken since last two decades. So while studying for my Masters Degree in English Literature at the University of Ibadan in 2017, I submitted a research topic on 2face, against the advice of many who are of the opinion that the Department of English won’t accept a topic on music for a Masters Dissertation. I submitted one topic, against the tradition of submitting three and allowing the Departmental Thesis Committee to choose one for me. On the day of proposal defense, I spoke with intense passion, arguing strongly on the merits of the topic and why it should be allowed to fly. Surprisingly, they agreed and the problem became finding me a supervisor. I was thrown up and down, from one supervisor to the other, until I landed in the hands of an old hand, a legendary academic whose research interests were broad enough to accept contemporary Nigerian pop music as a field worthy of research.
So I wrote my work, on 2face and 24 selected tracks from his musical oeuvre and came out from UI with a Distinction. So, both my supervisor at UI and his colleague and former student, who happened to be the Dean of the faculty of Arts at OAU were eager to help me meet 2face, show him the work, get his endorsement, interview him and prepare myself to further the research to doctoral level. They helped me get a pass into the famous and jam-packed Oduduwa Hall. I was given a seat behind 2face, at the front row, even when many other dignitaries stood with the eager students. I nearly fainted, being near him and seeing him for the first time at close range. I couldn’t count how many times I lost my breath and boom; the chance came when attention shifted from him, and I bent over, greeted him and showed him my project. When he saw his name on the thesis topic, he went gaga. “Come, na you write this thing?” he asked. I replied in the affirmative, seeing that he liked it, I informed him about my intention to take it to a doctoral level and as such would love to conduct an interview with him; an interview that would give me a proper insight into his mind, music and artistic visions. “Efe,” he called out to his manager, “abeg arrange meeting with me and this guy for Lagos, I go like see am,” he instructed and directed me to meet Efe Omoregbe with whom I exchanged contacts. I was happy, that this was finally happening, that all my years of distant admiration would pay off and that the troubles I encountered on the road from Lagos to Ife weren’t in vain.
Back in Lagos, I gave them two days of rest and began to call Efe. Mind you, when, in 2017, I submitted my proposal and was finally given a go ahead with the topic, I had started calling Efe to allow me interview 2face. He posted and posted and posted me till I finished the thesis in 2018 and couldn’t see him. I angrily deleted Efe’s number, for it was of no use afterwards. So, once again, I began calling him and the postings continued. He would pick and tell me to call back on so so so day, I’d call, he won’t pick. I’d text him and call back again days later, he would pick and give you another date to see or call him. I bore this unnerving rigmarole for three months when he finally agreed to meet me after I sent him an emotionally-laden SMS. He met me on the Island, commented on the work and even commended me and even hinted on how I preempted him with the writing and finalized by giving me a date to meet with 2face. I was consoled. I went home and began to prepare to meet my idol of 15 years.
A day before the D-Day, I called him to get confirmation of our meeting the next day, he didn’t pick. I was alarmed, yet I kept my cool, waiting for the next day. The night seemed longer than usual because I couldn’t sleep and when it was dawn, I called to know where and when I was coming to, Efe did not pick till date. Because of that, I couldn’t submit my proposal on time and missed 2019/2020 deadline for doctorate degree application in my preferred institution.
To be continued.
This article was written by Ifesinachi Nwadike