Bonsue fuji exponent, Adewale Ayuba popularly known as Mr. Johnson, recently in an interview narrates how he became a Christian. Excerpts of the interview with GoldmyneTV.
What does attaining 50 mean to you?
I thank God because it’s a big opportunity. It’s only God that can make one get to that age. I thank God for His mercy over my life and I am grateful to God for the door of understanding that He opened to me. I am always conscious of the fact that we did not come to this world with anything and we are not going with anything. Life is like a test ground where God put us and heaven is home for everybody. I am proud of myself at 50; things I set for myself to achieve by this time, I may not have achieved one hundred per cent but seventy per cent is done and I am very grateful to God.
What are some the goals you set that you have actually accomplished?
God is my planner. I can’t remember a specific day I sat down to draw out my plans or say this is what I will do in the next two or three years, I just do things as they come. But then, as a human being, I used to wish I would be professionally established as an artiste, that 99% of people should know that this is what I am doing and thank God that it’s achieved. People know me as a musician, my name opens doors for me through the recognition I have as an entertainer…I am successful. I don’t see money as being successful but what you achieve through your job. My name opens doors everywhere -in Yoruba land, Igbo, Hausa and even outside of Nigeria so, I thank God for that. The other one is that at 50 years, I have beautiful children given to me by God. I am proud of that. I have people around me, I have people working for me, they are proud of me. I thank God.
Are there goals your new age may have forced you to set?
Hmmm… I told you before that I see life as a very simple thing now; I am not in a haste or say I must have this, I must have that. The important thing to me is that I need to enjoy myself. That is key. If care is not taken, you will just keep on looking for this, you want to become that till you get to your old age and just die or you begin to regret when you get to 70 or 80 that I have never been to Dubai for holiday, I only go there to perform or I have never been to London for two weeks holiday, I only go there to perform. When you go to a place to perform, it’s your work so, you must arrange a date that oh, I am going to London for holiday. I take my children on holiday and it’s not work, work, and work. Now that I am 50, I will do more of that.
Can you recall what your ambition was as a child?
You see, I started singing at the early age of seven. I would call it a calling from my God because it was not as if I had an elder brother who was teaching me or I knew who Kollington or Barrister was. I just love singing. When they send me on an errand, I would be singing. At a point, the my mother started calling me Bobo bobo bonsue. That later became my name. When they sent me on errands, I would forget what they sent me and they would be like, ‘you have forgotten what they sent you, it’s only music that you know…Bobo bobo bonsue’. So, when I was to pick a stage name, I settled for the name they used to abuse me with. That is why I use Bonsue Fuji as my name. At the end of the day, when I was 10 and I wanted to do my carrier, (it’s a carriage that they put on top of our equipment box) what I wrote there was Adewale Ayuba and His Future Fuji Stars, as If I knew what was going to happen. That is why I say it’s God who has been directing me.
At what age did you go professional?
I started by going to parties, singing. I think I started when I was 11 because at that time, I was singing at social gatherings with my friends without a drum. A man saw me at a party. He went to meet my mother that he wanted to establish me that he would get equipment, form a band and I would be the leader of the band. We named the band Sunny Ayuba and Fuji group, his name was Sunday. That was how it all started.
When did you release your first album and what was it like?
I released my first album when Dele Giwa died…1985. It was titled, Ibere (Beginning). When it came out, within three, four weeks, it was all over Ogun State. I lived in Ikenne and it was all over Ijebu, Remo…people loved it. Then, I used to come to Lagos every Sunday to perform what we call Jump and I would go back. I moved to Lagos finally in 1987.
What inspired Bubble which brought you to limelight?
I had five albums before Bubble but I realised elites and educated people hardly listened to it and I didn’t like that. I wanted to do a cross over thing and I didn’t like how my marketer was handling me, particularly when Shina Peters did Ace, I said ‘Wow, this is what I want’. As God would have it, I just saw Laolu Akins and people from Sony Music approach me to do an album. I said ‘Okay o, but me I want to make a project, not album’. I said I did not want to do a local thing and when we had a meeting, we agreed that I worked on my lyrics and that is why you hear, ‘Listen attentively, I’m going to Bonsue Fuji….it’s my desire to move higher high…I will sing my song…, (Mimed his lyrics). You know…we now try to put some English language and change the rhythm, tried to make it faster. You know fuji beat is somehow slow so, we made the tempo faster so that young people can appreciate it and that was how God answered our prayer and we hit the limelight big time.
Were you not discouraged doing five albums without a break before the sixth eventually came and did the magic?
I told you earlier about what I wrote on my equipment carrier. You see this song that I sing, (sings) ‘E ma pe mi ni rave of the moment mo o…eyowo moment loro mi Dewale, se bi eyan ni Michael Jackson l’america? Awa ni champion forever’. Meaning (Don’t call me rave of the moment, after all, Michael Jackson in America is also a human, I am champion forever). I have been singing that song for so long and you see, God put these songs in my mouth and they come to pass…I always see myself as a super star. Up till now, I pray to God that what Bob Marley did to Reggae, he’s the one that took Reggae to the world… I pray to record such a feat. Let God use me to promote Fuji so that when they are talking of Nigeria, they will say oh, this music is from Nigeria. When we talk of Jamaica, we remember Reggae.
Among Fuji musicians, you are a unique brand. How have you maintained that for many years?
You see, I owe everything to my God and secondly to my parents. When I was going to school, my mother would ask me to close my eyes and would ask what I saw and I would say nothing. She would say that is how it is if you don’t go to school, you will only have eyes but you won’t see anything. So, while I was going to parties to sing, they forced me…made sure I went to school. I think it’s the orientation. For instance, marrying a single wife is the contractual agreement I have with my parents. I don’t drink or smoke, it’s an agreement. We sat down at a round table and I signed for them. They said as the last born of our house, what they don’t do in our house, I can’t bring it there, you don’t smoke, you don’t drink and you don’t marry two wives. I see these things as a taboo, I always think of my parents and I thank them for it.
How were you able to juggle singing and education?
Yes, I started getting attention since then but it never affected me. Even though people call me mega star, super star and all that, I don’t allow it affect my disposition. When I was chairman, Lagos State PMAN, they gave me policemen to go around with me but I always left them at home. So that has been me. Back then, basically, I went to school on week days and my shows were weekends.
But the pressure must have been immense when you got to higher institution?
I left Remo Secondary School to OJERE, (now Moshood Abiola Polytechnic) to do my OND. To me, I just wanted to sing. I never went to club….my first night club experience was when Bob D, Bashorun Dele Momodu, was having his marriage. It was this club, what is the name now (trying to recollect)….Niteshift, when they still had it on Allen (Avenue, Ikeja), that was my first time. So, you can understand the angle from which I am talking.
What influence did your mum have on you back then?
Because I am the last child, they call me Omo mummy, (mummy’s child). My mother is one in a million. Like the issue of smoking, my mother does not talk to me in the afternoon but at midnight. She would tell me she saw a boy who was being rushed to the hospital and when I asked what happened, she would say the boy smoked Indian hemp and that he could not be normal again…things like that. And I would tell you things she used to tell me had great influence on me because she used to talk about every area of my life.
Can you recollect an experience that has lingered in your memory?
I won’t lie to you, I have gone through a lot of…I call it obstacles. It’s a ladder for you to move higher. There are lots of bad things, but I thank God. In the course of my career, I had been shot at, had accidents. I had walked to a record company where they asked me, what do you have to sing, go back to school you cannot become anything. I had seen a record company owner who said if I could not sing like Barrister, Kollington, I should forget it that I would not become anything. He said the Bobobo bonsue I was singing could not take me anywhere and that I was making them laugh and they asked me to go. So things have happened.
How easy was it for you to pick a wife?
God connected me with my wife. I saw my wife in New York at my school’s Cafeteria, and I told my friend who was beside me, that is my wife. We returned to eating our food and by the time we raised our heads, it was the lady who was standing in front of us. She asked if we were Nigerians, and we answered in the affirmative. Then she asked us to go to room 202 that we were trying to gather and all that. Eventually, we introduced ourselves and I discovered she lived two buildings from my house and that was how God did it.
How easy was it to convince your parents you wanted to marry an Igbo lady?
I thank God for that o because, my parents…they don’t care. When I took her to my mother, she greeted her but she could not respond, then I told my mum my wife did not understand Yoruba. She held her head and prayed for her. That was all.
How do you cope with advances from women?
Let me tell you. It takes two to tango. Everything comes with a compliment. Things that will take you down starts with a compliment and things that will take you up come with a compliment; it’s for you to decide which one you want to do. Okay, you see a lady telling you Mr. Johnson, I love the way you dress and so on, you say thank you, you did not even wait. I have not seen a man that was raped. If you don’t take a woman to a corner, nothing can happen. Some people would say because I am a public figure, they want to date me and there is nothing I can do. It’s a pure lie. It takes two to tango.
When do you consider as your happiest day?
I will not lie to you. When I remember the day I gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ, I am happy, the day I became a born again, that was my happiest day. Now I realise this life is to worship God.
As a Fuji musician from Islamic background, it is strange that you are a born again. What made you take that decision?
It’s what brought me to Fuji music. I don’t know. I remember I had a lot of Alfas who came to pray for me and when they left, I would still go to my room to read the Bible. I think my conviction was in the Bible. It got to a stage that my children would be laughing. They would say, ‘Daddy, choose one’. But I did not want to pick like you said, because of Fuji. It has Islamic origin, my background, how would my family feel? I don’t want to offend this, I don’t want to offend that but I discovered that religion or belief has nothing to do with your musical life and no one says we are listening to your music because of your personal life or so