Bonsue Fuji crooner, Adewale Ayuba, a.k.a Mr. Johnson, is a frontline musician in Nigeria. Ayuba, in this interview with WOLE ADEPOJU, speaks on how he has been handling his female admirers without any rumour or scandal emanating from such relationships, his foray into music, how he got his break and his decision to become a born-again Christian.Excerpts:
What were your childhood ambitions?
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 loved singing. When they sent me on an errand, I would be singing to the extent that my mother started calling me, Bobo bobo bonsue. That later influenced the name I adopted. That is why I use Bonsue Fuji as my name.
At what age did you go professional?
My becoming professional started by going to parties and singing. I think I started when I was eleven, because at that time, I was singing around social gatherings with my friends without a drum, and after that time, a man saw me at a party, he went to see my mother to tell her 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 in 1985. It was entitled, Ibere (Beginning). When it came out, within three to four weeks, it was all over Ogun State. I lived in Ikenne and it was all over Ijebu and Remo; people loved it. Then, I used to come to Lagos every Sunday to perform at what we called ‘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 that the elite and educated people hardly listened to it and I didn’t appreciate it, I didn’t like it. 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 but I wanted to make a project, not an 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 chamber.’ It’s my desire to move higher. You know, we now tried 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 could appreciate it and that was how God answered our prayers and we hit the limelight, big time.
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 with them. They said as the last born of the family, what they won’t tolerate in our house, I couldn’t bring it in. You don’t smoke, you don’t drink, and you don’t marry two wives
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, (he mimes) ‘E ma pe mi ni rave of the moment mo o, 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 came 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 feat. Let God use me to promote Fuji so, when they are talking of Nigeria, they say oh, this music is from Nigeria. When we talk of Jamaica, we remember Reggae.
Among Fuji musicians, you are a unique crossover brand. How have you done 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 me 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, even if at all I was looking forward to going to parties to sing, they forced me and 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 with them. They said as the last-born of the family, what they won’t tolerate in our house, I couldn’t bring it in. 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.
You started singing as a child. How come you never derailed when you were in school?
I left Remo secondary school for Ojere (now Moshood Abiola Polytechnic) to do my OND. To me, I just wanted to sing. I never went to a club. My first night club experience was when Bob D, Bashorun Dele Momodu, was having his wedding. It was this club, what is the name now? Niteshift, when they still had it on Allen Avenue; that was my first time. So, you can understand the angle from which I am talking.
What influence did your mother have on you, back then?
Because I am the last child, they call me ‘omo mummy,’ (mummy’s pet). My mother is one in a million. Like the issue of smoking now, my mother would 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 to him, she would say the boy smoked Indian hemp and that he would not be his normal self again and things like that. Things she used to tell me had great influence on me, because she used to talk on every area of my life.
Can you recollect an incident in your growing up days that has lingered in your memory?
I won’t lie to you, I have gone through a lot. I call them 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, they shot me; I have had accidents. I have walked to a recording company, where they told me ‘what do you have to sing, go back to school, you cannot become anything.’ I have seen a recording company owner, who said if I could not sing like Barrister and Kollington, I should forget it; that I could not become anything.
How have you been able to remain scandal-free?
Let me tell you something, if I leave my office now, I go back to my house. If I offend my wife, my children, we settle it there. I try to respect people and not look down on them. I thank God for everything. People say I am scandal-free, it’s not me but God. I also thank my people in the print media and the media, generally. A literary meaning of one Yoruba saying is, ‘You can’t walk without your head shaking.’ It means no one is perfect. At times, they see things, but they will say this guy is too clean; soiling his image will not come from me. You got my point now, it’s not me but God.
How easy was it for you to pick a wife?
God connected me with my wife. I saw my wife at a Cafeteria in my school in New York, and I told the person beside me, a friend, that that is my wife. We returned to eating our food and by the time we would raise our heads, it was the lady who was standing in front of us. She now 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 away 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 don’t care. When I took her to my mother, she greeted her, but she could not respond. Then, I told my her that 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 start with a compliment and things that will take you up come with a compliment; it is 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, and 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
Which do you consider as your happiest day?
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 all about worshipping God.