From humble beginnings, ex-Plantashun Boiz star, Tuface Idibia rose to become one of Nigeria’s most famous singers, inspiring millions of youths across the globe. Aside winning multiple awards, earlier in the year, the Department of Music, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife inducted him as a fellow of the School of Music. After weeks of chasing him all over Lagos, this reporter finally caught up with him at Eko Hotels & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos where we settled down for a chat.
Tubaba, as he is popularly called, narrated how it all began. He also dwelled on his happiest and saddest moments, the Plantashun Boiz days, 20 years on stage anniversary, and of course, his wife, Annie’s role in his life and career. Enjoy it.
A while ago, you kick-started celebrations commemorating your 20 years on stage, when you look back, how do you feel?
I am grateful to God for the talent and opportunities. Here is a big thank you to my family, fans and friends, and all those who have contributed to my growth. When I look back, I am overwhelmed with joy.
Twenty years ago, did you see your career becoming this huge?
When you start something, you pray and work towards it and hope for the best, and that is exactly what I did. You see, you can’t picture exactly how it would turn out; you believe it is going to work out but you don’t know exactly how. Dreams metamorphose. At some point, you dream of one thing, you pray and work towards it, achieve it and then you move on to a bigger dream. That sums up my journey so far.
What has been your happiest moment?
Wow! I think it is the fact that the first time my song was played on radio; the entire country was spellbound, including the whole of Africa. Imagine walking on the streets and hearing my songs playing at the bus stops, bars, inside cars and everywhere. The feeling was awesome!
Can you recall the early years when there was so much uncertainty and doubt?
The stories plenty o (laughter). Sometimes, there was no money and no support. It was raw hustle all the way, and there were many ups and downs, but we kept the faith. There was no point when I felt like quitting. It never happened. Right from when I was quite young, music has been my first love. So, for me, there was never a time I felt like quitting, no matter the challenges.
Twenty Years the king, how are you celebrating your anniversary?
There has been a lot of stuff. I have toured Europe, America, and a couple of months back; I had a major show in Abuja. I am holding the grand finale in Lagos on December 28. I just got a special recognition award at AFRIMMA Awards in Dallas. There have been a couple of charity events as well. Also, I was inducted as a fellow into the School of Music, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. I was overjoyed.
You are still churning out hits when some of those who started with you are no longer relevant. How do you keep reinventing yourself, what is that thing you do differently?
I think it is majorly based on the kind of music I put out, and I always say that my fans are the ‘baddest’ in the world. And it is also a lot of work. You just can’t say you have made it and start feeling like a ‘gee’, because it is all by the grace of God. I don’t know what I am doing differently. All I do is whatever Tubaba does (laughter).
What advice would you give to your son, Nino, if he wants to go into music?
Keep your head straight, improve on your lyrical content and do quality music.
You shot a very controversial film, Power of One last year. How did it do at the box office?
It was tremendous, brilliant! Many people are not politically inclined hence they prefer comedy and ‘nyash things’ but we are getting around that (laughter). It (the film) was based on true events that actually happened in my life.
Considering the success of The Power of One, are you using it as a springboard into Nollywood and filmmaking?
Generally, making movies has become part of my business, but it is not the major thing I am focusing on.
What is the next level for the Tuface Idibia brand?
I am into one or two businesses. You know, I am also into real estate and hospitality business. I have two nightclubs. I am into anything that brings clean money, so expect a lot from me.
In the last 20 years, who would you say has influenced you the most, career-wise?
My manager, Efe Omorogbe. He is wonderful! He is like my big brother, friend and confidante. He is awesome!
What’s that event that happened in the last 20 years that made you cry?
It was when things were happening to me and I saw them as blessings, but the press and many people were using it to make fun of me. They kicked me all over the place but I just didn’t let it affect me. I was sad and was like ‘why?’ Despite this, I felt it was a blessing and I kept talking to the media because I have to tell my own story. Nobody can tell my own story except me. The media is just like the police, which is your friend (laughter).
You sang a song dedicated to Annie Idibia; how has she impacted your career this last 20 years?
Annie has been my friend, backbone and musical ear. Back then, if I composed a song, I had to sing it to her first, and if it didn’t make the cut, she would just tell me ‘this song is wack!’ She is part of my story right from the very beginning. She met me when I had nothing.
Was it love at first sight?
Yes, the first time we met, there was this spark, this instant chemistry. I just knew she was for me. She’s a very intelligent young girl, sharp, straightforward and beautiful.
Tell us about your late dad and how he contributed to your success?
May his soul rest in peace. Dad was the kindest and most humble man I ever met in my life. He instilled in me discipline and taught me that ‘my lane is my lane’. God sent us all here for a purpose, so don’t get carried away when you see other people making it. Respect everybody; treat them the way you will want to be treated. Do your thing and do it well.
What is your relationship with your mum?
She is based in the US now and I don’t see her as often as I would love to, but we still have that mum-and-son bond. And you know, naturally, you will always be a baby where your mum is.
Do you get to spend quality time with your family?
Sometimes I feel very bad I don’t spend as much time as I would love to, but I try to create time. No matter how bad it is, whenever I am free, I hook up with them. Sometimes, I cancel important events just to be with them because it is not all about money but love and family.
20 years after, any plan to retire from music?
I will not retire but some things will reduce like stage performances and some kind of outings. We don’t have retirement in music as long as inspiration is still coming. Even if I don’t sing, I will write (songs) for people.
Plantashun Boiz brought you into the limelight. Any hope you guys are getting back together soon?
My brother, that whole episode is just unfortunate. I am the one still keeping the Plantashun Boiz’s name alive today. You understand? My original idea was ‘let us do some solo stuff and still do stuff together as Plantashun Boiz’. It would have been blissful, nobody (can) hold anybody down. But there was an unfortunate turn of events; I don’t want to go there. It makes me very sad. It is a mental problem; Plantashun Boiz have mental problem (laughter).
What do you miss about Plantashun Boiz?
Those beginning days were awesome! The laughter, the jokes and many things like, you know; but apart from that, we have all grown and moved on.
Recently, Blackface released a controversial audiotape. What is your take on that?
Let me put it like this, you just go on air and start spinning lies. I have never said or done anything bad to Blackface, but he just goes on air and starts lying all the time because he wants to spread hate. It is a smear campaign. He keeps saying he is going to sue me, so I am saying sue me! You know say I no thief your song, you just want people to hate me. Stop the nonsense. Anytime he comes on air, ask him ‘wetin im do wey make me sue am? Ask am whether I no write am letter before say guy stop this thing, I did not steal your song’. What have I done to him? He just hates me. It has become an obsession and it is not healthy for him anymore and there is nothing I can say or do to help his dilemma, so I don’t know. It is not like I am giving up, but it is all up to him now. He has to free himself from that bondage. Everyday, he keeps digging himself into this mess and now he has kids growing up. It is unfortunate. Before, I was quiet but he is always blabbing. Had I taken it serious from the beginning, we wouldn’t be here today. Legally, I have done my own bit, so I don’t have anything to tell him. The funny thing is that he has a problem but nobody knows what the problem is. So, if you will not sue me then shut up! Stop killing yourself; it is becoming too embarrassing. I can’t get him arrested and sent to a psychiatric hospital, so please, people around him should talk to him.
What are your tips for success?
Work hard, keep your head straight; nobody will do your work for you. As you lay your bed so shall you lie on it.
Your forte is reggae. Do you have any plan to release an all reggae album?
I have had that plan for so long. As a matter of fact, I have started recording the (reggae) album. It is a work in progress.
Do you have political ambition?
I am more of a creative person. I just want to have things done correctly. I want my country to maximise its full potential. I want to see my country grow; Nigeria is the greatest country in the world.
Twenty years after, is any of your kids taking after you?
A couple (of them) are and I am encouraging them.
Nigeria is going through rough times, what is your advice for youngsters?
Nigerian youths should realise that, despite the madness, you have to remain focused and keep your head straight. Look for opportunities and pursue them. There should be dignity in labour. If you want to be a shoemaker, there should be no shame. There should be no shame in being a bricklayer, farmer, tailor or whatever. The idea is to take the game to the next level, so pursue your passion and package yourself for the next level.
No regrets, nothing!