Why Nigeria’s experiencing different crises – Charly Boy

Charles Chukwuemaka Oputa popularly called Charly Boy speaks on his life even as he begins to count his age backwards. As he marks his 71st birthday today, he tells select journalists that  he would rather mark it as the 70th birthday so that next year, he would mark his 69th birthday in that order. ELEOJO IDACHABA was there.

The man Charles Oputa

Charles Chukwuemeka Oputa is an enigma of some sorts – amazing and cannot stop pulling some stunts here and there. Today is his 70th birthday with little or no fanfare. Last year, Nigerians, big and small, were forced to observe the Covid-19 protocols of self-isolation and social distancing. Charly Boy was not left out, but was holed up in his Gwarinpa home; so he could not celebrate his 70th birthday with glitz, bliss and razzmatazz. One year later, the general feeling is that Charly Boy would mark his 71st birthday today, June 19, but says he has commenced his backward aging process and would be marking his 69th birthday next year. That is the brief background to your question.

Why do you want to count your age backwards?

There is nothing to celebrate going forward. The government in power has not done anything to put smiles on the face of Nigerians. It is confusion, agitation, rape, killings, maiming, stagnation, nepotism, tribalism and clownishness everywhere as if there is no hope for the common man. Since there is nothing to celebrate, I would rather re-mark my 70th birthday this year. Next year, I will mark 69, a process of ageing backwards. I would begin my ageing backwards celebration with the launch of ODUDUBARIBA which simply means a spiritual warrior.

Why do you still want to make the celebration low-key?

With the mood of the country and its people, I will keep the celebration simple and low- key. I am doing this for my fans and myself. Remember that what we are going through in Nigeria today is decades of inactions, docility and ‘my thief better pass your thief’ kind of mentality. We have been living on corruption money since the 60s. We can’t continue to live as if we can’t come to the table to resolve our differences. The injustice in Nigeria stinks, that’s why many regions want to go their separate ways. From day one, the foundation of this country was faulty and the constitution fraudulent. We can’t make progress with a faulty foundation. We have no choice, but to reap what we have sowed over the years. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the reality of our time. 

Are we expecting fireworks, protests, etc, from Charly Boy as he counts his age backwards?

Like I said, the mood in the country doesn’t call for any fireworks, say who die? It’s time for deep meaningful reflection about our dangerous predicament. I am not insensitive to the pain my people are passing through. I have retired from active street protests which have not yielded much. Two years ago, I retired from active street protest after giving it my best for 45 years. I am not a professional protester. I have reviewed my strategy. I’m deploying my frustrations through my music; hence me coming back to one of the powerful tools of resistance, which is my music.

Tell us about the jigsaw that surrounds your date of birth and lifestyle.

The controversy that surrounds my actual date of birth is part of the jigsaw that fuels my enigmatic personae like my alleged sleeping inside a casket, holding a giant sized python, leading a protest against the system for perceived injustices with my motor bike in tow and other ‘weird’ mannerism. I am not like everyone; for instance, my father wanted me to be a lawyer, but I was never a character to be told what to do. I am someone not obsessed with overfeeding and too much religiosity so much so that  at one point even though I went to the seminary to become a priest, I abandoned it after only six months in the seminary school, thereby scuttling the dream of being a Reverend Father. 

What about abandoning the legal profession against your father’s wishes?

As the second son of the late Chief Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, an erudite jurist and Supreme Court Judge, yes, he wanted me to become a guru in the law profession. Because of that, I was sent to America to make that dream come true, but as a different person, I had other ideas. Against my father’s wish, I took a degree in Communication and returned to Nigeria with a Master’s degree in Communication, but took up a career in music. I simply did not want to live under my father’s shadow; hence my decision to sojourn in the opposite direction. 

What about the journey into the Charly Boy brand?

By 1984, Charly Boy had become a household name not only in Nigeria, but internationally. This is through hard work and innovation and has remained relevant until this day. The brand, Charly Boy, no doubt, is the most controversial Nigerian musician. I have seen it all and have carved a niche for myself even though it has brought in its wake a mix of bad and good admirers/haters; the brand means different things to different people. I want you to know that I built this youthful brand to shock and awe ignorant, mongoparkish, analogue, outdated, stupid and idiotic Nigerians out of their potopoto mindset. Not only that, the now-rested television talk show, The Charly Boy Show, though appeared weird, it remains till date a talk show in Nigeria that has generated a lot of impact like no other. I have also used my music to stand up to the government of Nigeria and against the ills of society.

Tell us about your sojourn in PMAN

I became the president of Performing Musicians of Nigeria (PMAN) after the tenure of King Sunny Ade, followed by Femi Lasode. I only did a tenure as PMAN president, but mine was a non-stop era that was bustling with so many activities. For instance, under my watch, PMAN became the hot bride of corporate Nigeria. Nigeria musicians were restored to their glory days. Ultimately, the musicians’ respect was restored and the big pay day for them was assured as I midwifed the first foreign deal involving local artists and foreign counterparts.

At that time, I held this belief that corporate organisations were milking and short-changing Nigerian musicians, so I gave them a fight for their money by warning them against messing up with PMAN.

Until I left office after one term, I was feared and reverred for transparency was the only force to reckon with in the music business. I did not only restore respect and dignity of the Nigerian musicians, I also fought music piracy and ensured that the Nigerian musician has a strong voice in affairs concerning the industry. As PMAN president, I fought for more respect for Nigerian artistes; I fought for more money; I fought for their property rights. Today, Nigeria music and musicians are reaping the fruits of all our struggles back in the days.

Tell us about Charly Boy as an activist

The Area Fada concept as popularly called by the Nigerian youth means that I am an advocate of the masses. I fight for the rights of the average Nigerian who has been a victim of executive high-handedness, those who have been tortured, beaten by the police, army and security agents. Several times, I stood up to the Nigerian government against injustice to the people. In the mid 90s, Area Fada fought for the right of military pensioners during the Abacha-led military dispensation by marching to the Defence Headquarters to demand payment of their pension arrears. I have also campaigned for Nigerian widows and founded the Save Nigeria Campaign during the last presidential election and led a protest during the fuel subsidy removal in 2012. I am also the convener of Our Mumu Don Do group.

When Mr. President took a medical sabbatical for almost 90 days without any explanation to Nigerians, it was Area Fada’s constant agitation that brought Mr. President back from London. Over the past four decades, the Area Fada ambassador has put himself in harm’s way. Not too long ago, for instance, I was tear-gassed at the Unity Fountain Square here, nearly stoned and stabbed to death at Wuse market. I had led 5,000 youth at Dan Anyiam Stadium Owerri and protested against the Supreme Court ruling that annulled the election of Emeka Ihedioha as governor of Imo state which replaced him with Senator Hope Uzodinma. I am no longer a spring chicken, my brother. Sometimes, e dey be me like the pipo you dey fight on their behalf no wan knowI wan face my music for now; carry all my frustration for this country put inside my music. When the youth wake up, we go jam for junction.

For me now, it is a question of strategies and less physical exhibition. Protests do not move Nigerian leaders. It rather makes them go harder on the governed because they are evil incarnates. We are so corrupt that we need to change our mindset. ‘My thief is better than your thief’ kind of mindset cannot work. A thief is a thief, no matter how you try to colour it, most of the people that claim they are fighting on behalf of the people today are mere hustlers; they are fighting for their pockets.

Explain the Charly Boy brand more

Charly Boy is a brand that is always trending. It is a youthful brand built for the entertainment pleasure of the young people, not old school. And the only way to keep the youthfulness and longevity of the brand is to keep trending. There is nobody that can teach you more about the concept of the brand except young people because it is their world. The Nigerian youth need a re-awakening of their mindset. It’s either they are vexed enough to understand what is about to happen or happening to them or they are too scared and rigid to act.  It is the docility of the youth that has contributed to my decision to stay on my own and use my music which is a stronger tool to fight for the people. I still believe that the salvation of this country lies in the hands of its exceptional youth. I still can’t see how these ancestors from the 18th century can defeat the millennial of the 21st century. But for sure, there would be consequences for our docility over the years. Before it gets better, it will get worse. There is a demonic wind blowing across the country now. Prayers alone can never solve this, we must resolve to strategically push back or accept our faith as slaves.

Is there any hope for the country in view of the current situation?

All hope is not lost for Nigeria. But I still maintain that it is still the exceptional few Nigerian youth that would remedy this country when the chips are down.

So far, do you have any regrets?

Life is a journey of twists and turns. I have lived a charming life, 90% of the time on my own terms and rules. I was the underdog; no one gave me a chance, so, I had lived several lives in one and I am not your regular everyday Nigerian. I have no damn regrets; my life is better than most Hollywood fiction. I would forever be my authentic self. I will forever keep pushing my dreams with consistency, tenacity, sagacity, audacity and tremendous focus.