Waka Queen, Alhaja Ibiwumi Salawa Abeni was 50 years old yesterday. In this interview, she spoke about her life, relationship with the late Lati Adepoju, the boss of Leader Records; Alhaji Kollington Ayinla and others
Congratulations. You are 50 years old now, how do you feel?
I feel excited. In fact, I am happy. It is an age I have been longing for because I used to attend people’s 50th birthdays and never knew what it meant until I attained the age.
Looking back 50 years ago when you were born in Epe, Lagos State, what has been the experience?
I am just excited, but a lot of water has passed under the bridge. I never knew I would be as great as this, but I thank God that I am reaping the fruit of my hard work and prayers.
What was in your mind when you released your first album in honour of the late General Murtala Muhammed?
Nothing really, because I was very young. Then, I was about 13 years old as I started singing in 1974 and recorded my first album in 1976. When I released the first album, people started looking for me, but I made a lot of mistakes because I never knew I was going to be a star. Sometimes, when pressmen came to interview me, I would be playing with the cork of a soft drink. I was too shy to talk. That shows you that I never knew what stardom was all about then.
Will you now say that people played on your intelligence as a young girl?
As I said earlier, in everything you do in life, you have to pay your own price. Yes, people played on my intelligence but when you learn, you will get to where you want.
There have been speculations that you have retired from music, how true?
How can I retire from music? You know that I have not released an album in the last two years and maybe that is what people meant by retirement. Retire? Maybe you guys have a job for me in your news rooms.
Were you ill?
Yes, you are right, but I am okay now and I give glory to Almighty God.
What was the ailment?
Nice question. I was ill and that made me a complete human being. Those who were speculating that I had stroke, did they check on me? Like the saying goes, ara n fe isinmi, one needs some rest. I love the rumour because it makes me more popular. Well, I thank the rumour mongers and those who visited to find out the truth. Anyway, I was never hit by stroke.
What then was the ailment?
I was diagnosed of stress. I have three doctors. I was in Ikeja, Reddington Hospital, Lagos and also travelled to Germany to rest. The advice given to me was that I should stop thinking. Well, I have to think because since I lost my second child, my life has not been the same. My prayer to God is that I want the joy that will overcome sadness and since I have been planning to host few friends to celebrate my birthday now, I feel his vacuum. Definitely, there is no way I would not remember him, more so that his father’s family, the late Lati Adepoju, held on to my past musical works, about 15 songs, which have been reproduced on CD. One day, I called Adepoju’s first son, Hamed, of Galaxy Records, but he told me those past works were not in his custody.
How did you know that they are with him?
Well, after Adepoju’s death, his younger brother, who read the deceased’s will said all the master tapes of Salawa are hers. In fact, it was read by Demola, Hamed’s younger brother.
Did you press further to gain possession of the tapes?
Yes, when I made an attempt, what I heard was that the family kicked against the release of the tapes because if they were released to me, the kids I have for another man would benefit from the proceeds and I argued with them that their late father already had it in his will that the tapes belong to Lanre’s mother and that is me.
What was Hamed’s reaction to it?
When I called him on phone, he said that the house situated in Iju where his father was buried, was burgled by some unknown persons, who made away with some properties and that I should go and open an account in the name of my late son because his father gave him a block of flat in his will so that whenever he collects the rent, he would put it into the account.
Did you do that?
What for? I told him that the flat belonged to Lanre and now that he is dead, what will I use the rent for? More so, I am a successful musician and what I needed from him are my master tapes.
Did you ask your lawyers to write the family?
I will decide on that later, but all that I know is that Adepoju is gone and the family members are taking advantage of me, forgetting that all of us will die one day. I lost the child I had for him in an accident and now, the family is sitting on my tapes. Well, God dey sha. I hand them over to God.
What new thing are you planning for your birthday after the celebration?
I am working on an album.
What is the title?
I don’t know yet. Maybe my life at 50 or experience about me or my true life experience.
You spoke about your experience with men, what was it like?
Nasty one. Men took advantage of my young age and exploited me in my career and other areas because they used and dumped me. When I was young, the late Leader Records boss, Lati Adepoju, took advantage of me and his family is doing the same now. In fact, he (Lati) maltreated me, you know I am not violent.
Did you try another relationship?
Yes, I did and it failed, so I am now on my own. My kids give me joy.
What about Kollington Ayinla?
Well, I met him before Adepoju although we later got married and had three children together. He is worse because I am the only one taking care of the children even up to university level. Well, I give thanks to one of my mentors, Olori Sidikatu Amosa, a very nice aunt. She knows everything between me and Kollington from the day we started dating. But today, I thank God I have two graduates and the last one is in part three.
How were you able to take care of them?
I used the money I made from music and gifts from friends to take care of them. It is not easy, but I thank God for his mercies.
Mother of graduates, how do you feel?
I thank God. A Primary School Leaving Certificate holder, whose certificate is not enough for her to seek for a job, even that of a cleaner, is now a superstar and able to train her children to become graduates, to God be the glory. They even helped me to brush up my knowledge of English language.
I thank the Almighty Allah, my children and you, the journalists, that each time I make a mistake, they correct me.
You told us about your saddest moment, what about your happiest moment?
My children, they are my joy and fans who are very supportive.
Are you going to dedicate a track to the late Sikiru Ayinde Barrister in your next album?
Yes, of course, Alhaji Agba is my father and I miss him a lot. In fact, when I was ill, he came to my house, spent some time with me and each time he saw me on television, he would put a call through to either praise me or tell me if there was any problem with my voice and other things. He used to call me Omobaba e or daughter and mother because one of my sons is Ilori Sikiru Owodele Olayinka Olatunde, while he is Sikiru Adeyinka Ololade Balogun Salami. In fact, I miss Alhaji Agba and everything about him.