For some of us, everything gets better after we die. We are the ones who need to lose our lives to find it. My story is a story of loss. The story of a boy who lost everything for a man to have it all.
Remember the theme song for the Multivite commercial that ruled the airwaves in the 80s and 90s? “That’s Multivite, that’s Multivite, good supplement for the family…” I was one of the children that sang that song. Remember the theme song for the Planta butter commercial around the same period? I ‘plantaed’ my lungs out on that song. I made it to over 40 editions of Tales by Moonlight. I even lent my voice to a track made by the late great Sunny Okosun. My parents had it figured out. I was going to be the Alex O of the future.
When the home video industry revolution began, I made a smooth transition to acting though my roles were quite small; I was a child after all. However, the people in the business kept saying my voice would take me places. Fate had other nightmarish plans though. It began with one of my dad’s hotels getting burnt to the ground but thankfully no lives were lost. Still, that was the flagship hotel of my dad’s chain of hotels and the one that spun the most money. My dad’s friend whose job was to roam Nigeria arrived at our Akure home with a proposition he had picked up somewhere in Warri or Port-Harcourt. The fastest way to raise enough money to build a new hotel and insure the others was through bunkering. Simple! He knew all the police and army officers, all the local contacts, all the captains of more than a hundred ships, blah, blah, blah…and my trusting dad mortgaged his other hotels for the deal of his life. Everything went down the drain of course, including my dad’s friend’s life.
You can guess what happened next. My dad scratched the bare earth to raise money to salvage his hotels but he had left his destiny with the wrong banks. We endured the terrible taste of poverty and slid down it’s dark and deep underground dungeon daily. That was when the trips to the churches started. My family was made up of people who were either out of school or jobless so it was very easy to discover churches and hunt down pastors from Monday to Monday. I soon took up and perfected the role of the ‘talented’ voice in every church we discovered. It didn’t take me time to lose my faith in God. That loss was to help a lot in the next path I chose.
After years of confusion,I left my home in Akure and moved to Benin city where I was sure no one would recognise me. I had already made up my mind that I was going to be a bus conductor and I didn’t want to do it in Akure or Lagos where I could run into an old acquaintance. Earlier that year, a Benin choir had been to my church at the time and I met a few teenagers like me who sang as a pastime but lived the street life and we had exchanged addresses. I went to Benin in search of them and a new chapter in my life began.
In less than three weeks, I became the classic Benin bus conductor. I was at Ring road every morning after creeping out of the hell-hole my friends called home in Upper Saponba. I preferred the Ring road – Ugbor route because the passengers were on the average more civilised than the Uselu barracks – Ring road ones. I was always the first among my friends to arrive at Mama Osas’ spot, a makeshift joint close to the Ugbor park. We would assemble daily before 4:30 am at least, smoke the best Benin weed rolled without a single seed or stalk and send down shots of special paraga with ‘healthy’ doses of herbs in them till the drivers were ready to move. It was a smooth routine that ended with good money in my pocket everyday. I was living the life.
In six months, I knew all the policemen that ruled the streets. I and my friends would rob people who were stupid enough to walk past Ring road after dark knowing that we were covered by the street kings in black. It was fun and added to my conductor job and other illegal dealings like retailing and supplying weed to people who wanted, I was soon able to rent a house along Ekehuan road. In four months, all my street businesses peaked and I bought my own bus.
When I became a driver,I figured it was good news so I wrote to my parents with plans of sending them money if they still lived in Akure. They wrote back and were happy that I was still alive but insisted I should come home and study to become a pastor. I wasn’t about to leave Benin now that my ‘hard’ work had paid off so I wrote back and told them I wouldn’t but gave them my address just in case they felt like visiting. I was on the fast lane to riches and had a long string of ladies at my beck and call. Religion was the last thing on my mind.
Around 11:30pm, two days after I had sent the letter to my parents, I was approached by three of my closest street friends for a deal that they claimed would eclipse every other deal we had done. A notorious five-man eastern gang had robbed six Mack trucks transporting electronics worth close to thirty million naira from Lagos to Kano and were currently ‘resting’ at Ore to avoid any problems with overzealous policemen. The gist was that they figured this would be their last operation and wanted it to be smooth. However, one of them wanted twenty percent and was offered five since he had participated in just two previous major operations. He was our mole in the group. The plan was to ambush the gang as they sped from Ore to the East where they could sell the goods slowly. All I needed to do was to help transfer the goods from the point of ambush at the Benin/Lagos bypass to a hideout one of us had kept prepared for an opportunity like this at Isihor village. The time of attack would probably be between 4am to 6am so three of my friends would wait for the trucks while I would keep my vehicle ready for the trips to the ‘warehouse’. I suggested using a Coaster bus used for evangelism by the church members of a pastor friend we worked for once in a while because it was much more bigger than mine and it was accepted. My share was to be twenty percent of the total sales. When the money involved was mentioned,I felt my brain melt and I knew before the plan was divulged that I wanted to be part of this deal. Now that I knew we had a mole who would help take his men out, the small role I was supposed to play and my share of the deal, I almost wept for joy. I was ready. I escorted my friends out and went to make arrangements for the bus.
I don’t know what happened the next day. I just remember seeing the bodies of my friends and more than ten strange men riddled with bullets. I remember dying and placing my shocked corpse in a standing position on the expressway till a speeding saloon car that was probably escaping from the infamous notoriety of the bypass knocked me back to life.
Mr. Gabriel Izebvekhai, the man behind the wheels that hit me back to life rushed me to a hospital in Benin and cancelled his trip to Lagos. He was a renowned voice coach from Edo state who resided in Italy like most of his people and had acquired great wealth from training top opera singers and mainstream music artistes. After meeting and consulting my parents who coincidentally came to the address I had given them the same time he went to pick some of my clothes, he agreed to take me with him back to Europe and to train me. The news was that rival cult groups had clashed at the Benin Bypass and no one had survived so I was not wanted by the police. However, I learnt later that the bloodbath was a result of a clash between more than four gangs. Each member of the eastern gang had grown greedy and recruited smaller gangs to double cross his own gang.
Now, years after my death in Benin, I’m in Europe doing what I was born to do. After years of training by Mr. Izevbekhai, I make more than €10,000 each time I perform on stage. I have fame, money, my renewed and strengthened faith in God, my happy family members who are financially stable once again and a past that won’t catch up with me. I am alive.