D’banj in secret marriage ?
D’banj, one of Nigeria’s hottest musical stars turned 34, on Monday, June 9. And as expected, activities were rolled out to mark his birthday anniversary, at Four Point Hotel, Lekki, Lagos, courtesy of Heritage Bank. The Koko Master seized the opportunity offered by the gathering to unveil yet another significant aspect of his career, a strong entrepreneurial initiative focusing on Agriculture and Agro-economic enterprise called Koko Agropreneu as he donated N50 million to empower the Nigerian youths.
In this exclusive interview with Showtime Celebrity, D’banj shares what he feels was the mistake he made while the partnership with Don Jazzy lasted as his former business partner. He also talks about his relationship with top Nollywood actress, Genevieve Nnaji among other issues.
You are celebrating your 34th birthday anniversary as well as your 10 years on stage, this year. How has the journey been so far?
It has not been an easy one. Though, it’s been interesting, full of ups and downs; sobbing and smiling. But importantly, it’s been rewarding. God has been so good to me. What I have achieved in my 34 years of life, as well as my 10 years as a performer, it’s only the Almighty Lord that could have done it for me. I am so honoured and privileged.
When you look back from where you started 10 years ago, what were the mistakes you made you wished you didn’t make?
I don’t really like to recount my mistakes. This is because I believe that for every individual, there is always a learning process. A good friend of mine used to call it ‘school fees.’ So, when you go through a bad experience, just have it that you have paid an expensive school fee.
What you should have asked me is that how many schools fees have I paid in the past 10 years? I would tell you that as every other human being, I am not perfect. I have made my own normal mistakes. But in my own opinion, there has not been any mistake I made that has been detrimental to my career. God has always saved me. Thank Almighty God for mercies.
Could you recall some of those mistakes?
One major mistake I made was not doing something differently in the past, considering all that happened between me and my ex-business partner, Don Jazzy. This is because we never really had issues. I believe, people that fueled the problem. May be, I should have fought more for what I brought up.
I personally found and signed everybody that belonged to the one time popular record label, ‘Mo Hits Records’ consisting of major artistes such as Wande Coal, Dr. Sid, Prince, K-Switch and co-partnered with Don Jazzy. I recall one time when he told me that he wanted us to go our separate ways. I also remember asking him to give me about six months to fashion out modalities for the separation.
May be, I should have requested for one year. But like I sang in one of my songs “Top of the World”, I have no regrets parting ways with him. However, I should have tried harder, which I did. But in all honesty, I’m grateful to Almighty God.
But would you say, you are missing Don Jazzy in all ramifications?
Not more than the ordinary. You know, when you say you are missing somebody, it means you need the person in your life. No, I don’t miss him. But I saw him at the MTV music awards, in South Africa. We ran into each other every now and then. People are alleging that we have come together again.
Who told them that we are quarreling? It’s just that we are running our own different businesses now. He has his own record label called Mavin Records, while I have my own label, DBM Records. Nobody is saying, we cannot do music together, or perform on the same stage again. In fact, while I am celebrating my 10 years on stage, it also means that Don Jazzy is celebrating 10 years of his musical career.
Does the break up affect your relationship with him?
Of course, it affected our relationship for a long time. It’s close to two years since we broke up. But we have been seeing each other. Probably, we will get into the studio soon to do songs together.
How do you react to the aged-long rumour that you are dating top Nollywood actress, Genevieve Nnaji?
There have been so many rumours about so many things. I don’t like to talk about my personal relationship again because people always misunderstand me. But rumours must always be rumours.
But it’s always good to put the record straight?
Honestly, I’m not dating Genevieve. Let me clear the air now.
You had a huge crush on her?
I never did.
At 34 years, is D’banj not thinking of settling down?
Of course, I am thinking of settling down. Who said, I am not married? My private life must remain private, especially to the press.
Meaning that D’banj is secretly married?
It could be so.
Who is the woman in your life?
I wouldn’t disclose her identity so that they don’t plan to kidnap her.
Could you share your memorable moments on stage in the past 10 years?
I have so many memorable moments.Just yesterday (Sunday), I was on stage with Trey Songz, at the just concluded MAMA awards, in Durban. We performed his monster track, Bottoms Up. I have been on the same stage with Kanye West, Kenny Rogers. I was on stage at the World Music Award, in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
I performed at the Mandela Charity Event in South Africa. I performed my hit track “Top Of The World” that became the theme song for the Africa Cup of Nation, which Nigeria eventually won. Every time for me is memorable.
I have adorned a lot of international stages. But I would say, that each time I’m on stage, something new happens to me, always. I am looking forward to the Grammys.
What do you think could be done differently in the Nigerian music industry?
I think we need to get to that level where the musician will be a heavy investor. There is so much money in the industry at the moment. But we are not well structured to diversify. So, we need to put structures in place. We have made so much money. Now, think of when we put structures in place.
We used to say that we live by example. With the kind of partnership I am doing with the Heritage Bank today, I think it’s not just for Agriculture alone. It would involve so many other things. One will see how you can become a musician and at the same time invest wisely in other sectors of the economy.
Could you recall one of your greatest embarrassments while on stage?
I don’t really see anything as an embarrassment because I am an entertainer. But there was this show, Koko concert which I organized long time ago. I was performing on stage, and suddenly, my trouser got torn. As it happened, I bent down to conceal it but I was pretending to be dancing. Don Jazzy, noticing it, came to block me while I disappeared from stage. However, it wasn’t embarrassing for me because the audience did not notice it.
What’s your new “Koko” Agropreneur initiative all about?
I am 34 years, this year. And this year also happens to be my 10 years as entertainers. My first single was released in October, 2004. This year, marks my 10th year as an entertainer.
When I look back, I feel humbled by what God has done in my life in such a short time. That’s why I have decided to give back to society. This is not the first time; anybody would embark on a charity project. Last year, I decided that I was going to do something differently.
Me and the Head, of my Business Development, Mr. Tony travelled to South Africa where an organisation approached us to work with us. Initially, I was not interested in the project, but after listening to their presentations, and how the organisation has been working to eradicate poverty in Africa, I immediately developed interested in the project.
When they told me the role they wanted me to play; that’s to champion the cause of the campaign in 2014, following the African Union’s declaration of 2014, as the year of Agriculture.
This is because the mass of land that we have acquired as Africans and, going by the world’s projection, we would depend on Agriculture to feed about 70 per cent of the population. They also told me that in 2013, at the African Union summit, all the African leaders signed an agreement, which stated that each country would commit at least 10 percent of its annual budget on Agriculture. And today, you can see that there is a concerted effort to encourage Nigerians to go back to the land.
Today, everyone wants to become a musician because of the success that has been recorded in the industry. And that’s why the African Union decided to embark on this project.
Even though, I wasn’t interested initially, my Business Development manager prevailed on me to consider the importance of being part of the project to unlock the wealth that is hidden in our natural resources. So, we kicked off the project, and they took me to Ghana’s Coco plantation which is about three and half hours from the main town.
Later, I was introduced to the small scale farmers who I would say are responsible for producing about 60 percent of our food. In January, I was at the African Union summit, where I signed as the first African youth, the exercise that would concentrate on Agriculture, because if we don’t feed ourselves in the next five years, we end up depending on foreign assistance.
But if we all go back to the land, we will be able to feed the rest of the world. That’s how the project started and that’s why I am partnering Heritage Bank to make the dream come true. Ten years ago, the music industry like Agriculture was nothing to write home about.
When I told my parents in 2002, that I wanted to become a musician, they objected to it. I relayed my experience in my first album; how my International Passport was seized by my parents. But 10 years down the line, I am still standing tall in my chosen profession. Then, they said music was a hobby, but today, music has become a serious business. We can use the same passion to go into agriculture because, while growing up, agriculture to me was perceived as a demeaning job. But the richest man in Africa today is a farmer.
Dangote is into agriculture. So, I decided to practice what I preach. I have been doing some researches with my team on the social media, and we discovered that there are so many youths across Africa, especially in Nigeria that want to venture into agriculture. I met with the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adeshina, who told me that he likes what I am doing, insisting that he wants me to do a song that would promote the project.
According to the Minister, the budget for agriculture has been increased by 1.2 percent. He also disclosed that the federal government has set up a programme that the youths can benefit from. I was privileged to listen to the Minister as he asked me whether I would like to be the ambassador of the Nagropreneur initiative called Nigeria Agricultural Entrepreneur. The project is geared towards empowering about 750,000 youths in Nigeria that are interested in going into agriculture. I want to kick off the project by showing example. I believe that by flagging off the project, I’m not only giving back to the society, but I’m also empowering the youths.
This is my own little contribution to the development of the nation. As a result, I said on my birthday, I will give out N50 million to boost the agricultural sector of our economy. The essence of this, is to encourage the youths to embrace agriculture. My new initiative is aimed, on the one hand, at providing practical leadership and encouragement to the massive youth population to embrace the agriculture revolution being championed by the Minister of Agriculture, as part of the national socio-economic transformation agenda. Vanguard