You have been off the radar for more than 15 years, where have you been?
I have been around. I moved to Nigeria about eight years ago. I went to the US in 1985, I was a kid then. It is really hard to detach and get up and come back home. But now, I have a house in Nigeria and I also have a house in Washington.
So you just left music after Love me Jeje
I have been doing music behind the scene. I funded some artistes in Nigeria here that you would not know about and I may not tell you. I have been recording, I have raised two kids and I also invested in real estate. I built a school here in Nigeria about two years ago. I asked my wife what she wanted and she said she wanted to build her own school. I see that project as one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. She supported my music. So I had to support her. But then, I still record music, I have not left.
You speak so passionately about your wife but most times, Nigerian couples abroad usually break up, what has been the thing that sustained your marriage?
It is the upbringing and the values I decided to uphold. I was raised very well and I put God first in everything I do. People would always have misunderstanding but it is what you do thereafter when such happens that matters. I thank God for the life He has given me. It is His grace that you are a celeb and you are still able to maintain a decent home.
Are you fully back home now?
Yes, I am but I travel a lot like any other person. It is a global economy now. I am here 70 per cent of my time. But in summer, I am not usually here. I take off at that time to spend the holidays with my kids. Children grow up so fast these days. My greatest achievement is my children. They are the ones I will leave everything I have for, so they deserve that time I spend with them.
You left Nigeria when the ovation was loudest, what happened?
As you grow older, your priorities change. When I did Love me Jeje, the structure was not there, it wasn’t even profitable at that point. I was in the US when I released that song. I came home and released it here and I went back. Till today, I still get royalties from that song. You have to do music when you can give it your full attention. I cannot release a song every month like some artistes do. For me, music has to be evergreen. It wasn’t as if I planned to leave but it was just the nature of what I was doing at that time.
But if you had released another hit three or four years after, don’t you think you may still have been much known now?
You are right. But look at artiste like Adele, she releases a song and goes away for like five years. When you reach a level of success, you have to be able to enjoy life. Asa does the same thing. My gap has been a little bit more because of the fact that sometimes I release a single in the US or London and I don’t bring it back home.
Could it be the reason you came back to do a remix of Love me Jeje?
The remix wasn’t what I had wanted to do. For more than 10 years, people have been telling me to remix the song and I said no. Why would you remix something that you released and it was successful? But two years ago, I met Sheezy, Davido’s producer and he asked me to do it again and I refused. He asked for permission to do the song again and I should just bless it for him, I agreed. I came back a month later and he told me he had done the song but didn’t know anybody that would do the lyrics like I would do it. So they convinced me to run through the song so that they would have a guide for the person that would do it. A week later, he told me he was using my voice and not any other. They played it back for me and I was impressed. They decided to use another Nigerian singer as well but they called her and she wasn’t interested. I will not tell you the person’s name. I decided to call my people in the US to give the song a more international flavour. I called Brandy and she loved the song but she couldn’t do it because there was a clearance issue with her label. We called Kelly Rowland, she wanted to do it but she was pregnant. I decided to call K Mitchell. My people here said nobody knows her. I told them she is talented. We flew to Atlanta and she did her part and we recorded it.
Are there times you wish you had stayed back in Nigeria and maybe, release another hit so that you would always be in people’s minds?
Oh yes, I do wish I did that sometimes. The business that we are in, you have to be spiritually sound. I wish I had stayed back because when we did it, it wasn’t like this and if I had continued I may not have had the two kids I have now. I may not have been able to raise them; I may not have had all the business I have now. You have to be smart about your life. You are responsible for your wife and kids first and not music. I wish I had done both at the same time but something would have had to give way.
When did you become a professional musician?
It is a passion. If you have desire to do music, nothing will stop you. I finished college and I decided to take voice lessons. There was a fire inside of me. I have never regretted it.
How did you meet your wife?
I met her in Washington. We were both in the university. I was dating an American girl at that time. I saw her and I felt she was the cutest Nigerian I had ever seen. My mum started praying and fasting and wishing I would marry her because she didn’t want me to marry ‘Akata’ (American). If I hadn’t met her, I would have married an American, I am very sure of that. She was the last person I dated and I married her.