THE STORY OF INNOCENT IDIBIA
There was no sign of pending rainfall when we packed ourselves into the green Volkswagen Beetle.
But five minutes later, the clouds had changed their moods. And the downpour was really unbearable. Not because the rain was particularly heavy, but if you’ve even been in a contraption-called-car; whose wiper had gone on strike, with windows that won’t roll up on time, then you’ll know that even a slight drizzle could wreak havoc.
The music was loud, and we spoke in loud shouts; as if we were in a market place. But Ayo Animashaun, who owned the Beetle, liked his music loud. And we, the occupants, were in no way eligible to complain. We were wet and cramped and our heads hit the roof as Animashaun entered one pot hole after another.
‘‘Was it not better to be out in the rain?’’ we thought in our minds, but no one spoke a word of getting down.
Until we got to Toyin roundabout, in Ikeja, and my co-passengers – Innocent and Augustine- alighted to keep an appointment. It was still pouring and they were drenched within minutes, but as Innocent, a lanky, likeable young singer put it, the meeting (with a potential sponsor for their music project) was extremely important and no rain or fire would prevent them from making it.
We continued our journey- Animashaun and I- to Oregun, where he stayed at the time. But I took along with me, the determination of innocent and his partner Augustine.
The year was 1999 when it was not this fashionable to do music; there were no established R&B bands and there was no explosion of a wide range of multimedia formats as there is today. Yet the brother-friends, now popularly known as 2face and Blackface, had their eyes fixed on their goals. They had raw, genuine talent, and they were proud to brandish it wherever they went.
Of course it wasn’t too long before the industry noticed. And, with their Nelson Brown-produced debut single ‘Knock mii off’, they established themselves as a talented duo to court, and a pathfinder of sorts, for true R&B in the Nigerian context. You know the rest of the story: from Faze joining the band, to the days of mainstream glory, big-budget concerts, endless tours, wailing women, and eventual break-up.
Now, 2face Idibia, the first Plantashun Boi to go solo, and the most decorated of the trio, is looking back and thanking God for seeing him through the first decade of his career. Idibia, now 33, is looking back at those early days of uncertainty; those days when he first arrived Lagos; when he squatted for months and had no food on his table. Those days when he had no bus fare, or like the day of the beetle, those days when he got drenched to his pants, as he combed the streets of Lagos, looking for a helper.
Just 1o years down the line; now, he’s launching his own football academy, floating his own NGO, and looking for other possible avenues to give back to a society that made him.
From an unsure kid who arrived Lagos in 1997, Idibia has become a heavyweight on the African music scene; and he remains the most celebrated; the most decorated and the most iconic African pop star of this generation. Unfortunately, he has not been as lucky with his life off the stage: nearly half-a-dozen babies from different women; repeated baby mama dramas; leaked erotic tapes and alleged romance with marijuana have all connived to rob him of the perceived innocence that endeared him to many in the early days of his career.
As he marks his 10th anniversary in the coming weeks, I know Idibia and his minders are aware that his career is at a very precarious point: he’s suffered so much media battering that his image is now in tatters; his ‘Hypertek’ business structure is wobbling and vulnerable; while his income has dwindled remarkably. Pop music is taking a different route, while Idibia is becoming more and more confident to take another – the narrow path of reggae music.
At 33, I’m sure they are aware that if he’s ever going to open up to that international break that has been knocking on his door since 2005; then now is the time. So after all the 10th anniversary celebrations; he must indeed prove that he is unstoppable by moving on to conquer the rest of the world. He’s got the talent and potential; now is the time to put up a structure that’ll ensure he gets there. I’ve said it times without number that there are a few homegrown acts that can achieve that elusive global success and recognition. Mr Idibia is one of them.
And he should not be bothered whether Nigerians still love him or not; whether we will support him or not. Yes – he let us down and let us down and let us down. But what his failings have shown is that the young man is just human, just like the rest of us.
Let he who thinks there’s no Idibia in ALL of us cast the first stone.