Timaya, a musician, came to the spotlight about three years ago, but has since been greeted with many controversies. He talks about some of the scandals and why he is supporting Goodluck Jonathan in the 2011 presidential election in this interview with ’NONYE BEN-NWANKWO
Somebody seeing you for the first time may not be able to reconcile the controversial Timaya and you as a person.
This is just me. I don‘t have a dual personality like most people think. Most people see me from different perspectives. A lot of people say Timaya is arrogant and they go ahead to say a lot of things. Entertainment is make-belief. We are all acting. Some people can go on stage and act as if they just snuffed cocaine, but they don‘t even drink alcohol. Some people may not be able to do what you are doing unless they get high. That doesn‘t mean that you too will always get high before you do that thing. The way I pose, especially in my album, gives people the impression that I am a bad boy. But I just like the look. I am not trying to paint myself white. I don‘t even want to present a good boy image. I am not cut out to impress anybody; there is nothing you do in this life that will please everybody. I like to live my life.
It is widely believed that you became arrogant as soon as your music became a hit.
I have always been like this. Nobody can say that I became arrogant when my music became a hit because they didn‘t know me before then. I am not arrogant.
Many even believe that apart from being arrogant, you are also rude.
In Nigeria, if you are outspoken, they will see you as being rude. Some blunt people are seen as bad people in the eyes of so many people. If you do anything to me that I don‘t like, I tell you to your face. I also expect you to do so to me if I do something you don‘t like.
It is a surprise that you speak good English.
Oh yes. I am, glad you mentioned it. Some people said Timaya can never speak a correct sentence, but when they listen to me, they get stunned. Because I sing, ‘Timaya don blow‘, that doesn‘t mean I cannot read or write. That is one thing about life.
It is just three years that you hit the spotlight and within these few years, a lot of negative stuff have been said and written about you. Do all these controversies get to you?
I used to feel bad because I wasn‘t used to such things. But now, I don‘t even mind going nude and snapping myself and putting the pictures in newspapers. It makes me more popular. People see me and they think there must be a rifle with me all the time. I just laugh. But then, if you try to kill me, I will kill you first. I can‘t wait for you to kill me and then you will go and serve a jail term.
We hear you are one of the artistes that are supporting President Goodluck Jonathan to become President in 2011. Is it because he is from Bayelsa like you?
He is a nice man. He is the best candidate. We are tired of old people ruling us. Let us try something different. I am not being tribalistic, but let us just try something else for a change. I like the steps he has taken so far.
Critics might also say you are supporting him because he has given you some money.
No way. I support him because he is the best so far. When US President Barak Obama was contesting, Pididy said, ‘Obama or I die.’ It didn‘t mean Obama gave him money. I will not lead my people in a wrong way. Nobody really knew about Bayelsa that much; I made people get to know Bayelsa. A lot of people have a wrong perception about Bayelsans. They think we are fighters and kidnappers. But I love Bayelsa. Chief Timipre Sylva is like a father to me. I have always said in my song, ‘whom God has blessed, let no man curse.’
Are you cooking something for Goodluck in the studios?
Of course. It is not out yet. I don‘t like rushing things; I am taking my time. But I am not doing this because he is my godfather or anything. I can‘t barge into his office because he is from Bayelsa. I am not a beggar. Goodluck Jonathan‘s elevation to the office where he is today is a practical show of divine intervention. If you move around the four corners of Nigeria, you will sense that beyond tribal sentiments and regional barriers, Nigerians have a renewed hope and faith in the leadership of Goodluck Jonathan.
As a Bayelsan, have you tried to disuade militants by spreading the message of the negative influence of militancy?
Everybody has their business. I don‘t tell people what to do. They know the right thing to do. If that is their own means of getting money, that is their business. I have sworn to God that I will never do anything bad. Everybody has his own lifestyle. If you live by the gun, you will die by the gun. Remember they are fighting for something; it is just that they are fighting for it in the wrong way.
We hear you are into rituals
People keep saying this. It is a good thing. In life, if people don‘t talk about you, that means you are nobody. If you achieve something significant in a short while, what people have been trying to achieve in a long while, it will amaze them. I hold onto God. I believe so much in God. He has everything, including life, good health and money. It is a prayer point in my life, the day I put my hands on anything fetish, let me die that day.
Why do you sing about yourself all the time?
Why should I sing about some other person? I am talking about myself and you are complaining. I don‘t know how to gossip. The story of my life will not finish because my life has not come to an end. Life must go on. I know I am inspiring a lot of people‘s lives. The God that did it for me can do it for you.
So most of your songs are true life experiences?
Yes. I sold plantain. I have every reason to sit down and thank God. There was a time N5 was like 1bn to me. Now, I have millions of N5. Sometimes, I just burst into tears because I now know that God is too much.
Was life that bad back then?
It was too bad. I didn‘t have anybody to help me out. My mother was a cleaner in the Niger Delta University.
Were you people that poor?
Not really. My father worked in the bank for years. He was a bank manager. But then later, things went bad. He became sick. It is better for you to be poor than for you to be rich and later you become poor. It is a terrible experience.
Did you decide to go into music when things became bad?
No. I have been singing right from the time I was in primary school. I knew then that music was my calling. But my father never liked the idea. He wanted me to be a banker. I was so close to my father. We were 15 in the family and I am the last born. He wanted me to be the banker in the family. But I didn‘t want that. I cannot be looking after someone else‘s money when I can make my own money. Before now, people felt that music was for the never-do-wells but now, they have come to realise that there is money in it. There is no country in this world that at least, one person will not know who I am.
When things were so bad, did you ever think that you will be a success one day?
I would have been surprised if I hadn‘t made it. I knew I was good and I believe in God. I wanted music to put food on my table. I didn‘t want to do any other thing that would distract me from my dream.
We learnt you were paid to perform in a show in London, but you refused to perform.
I was given part payment. He (the organiser) was actually supposed to pay me 75 per cent up front, but he begged and he paid 50 per cent, saying he would pay the balance when I got to London. I arrived on the day the show was scheduled to hold. He insisted I should come to the venue of the show and take my balance. I told him I wasn‘t going to do that. I just wanted to be professional, this is my job. He refused to pay my balance so I didn‘t bother going to the venue. He sent two hefty guys to come and force me to come for the show. Can you imagine? I just pushed them out of my way and went into my room and slept off. The following day, I bought my ticket and I came back home.
Some time ago, you used to pull off your pants after every performance; do you still do that?
It was one of the crazy things young men do; youthful exuberance. I can no longer do that. Everything has a stage. There was a time we used to wear blings and chains. Right now, we can‘t do that. You see us going on stage wearing suits.
Have you made up with Nicco Gravity who did a ‘diss‘ song with your name?
I don‘t know him. I don‘t think he is important. If he were important, I would have answered him. If it was somebody like Dbanj or 2Face or PSquare that sang about me, I would readily have answered back. Nico Gravity has no level at all. He has been there since the days of Daddy Showkey. I used to listen to his music then. One guy in Port Harcourt has done another song about me saying, ‘How can a friend betray a friend?‘ Now, I am his friend, see me. I have never been his friend. Well, he wanted to shine using my name. I am hot and I am happy about it.
We learnt you beat up a journalist the other day.
I have never done that. I only shouted at a journalist. I went for a show and I met this guy. A trained journalist would have first asked me how the show was and how I felt my performance was and questions relating to the show and organisers. But this guy just met me and said he wanted a quick interview. I agreed and the first question he asked was, ‘how is empress?’ I was so angry. Is that an issue? Was she the reason we came for the show? I looked at the guy and asked him if he had sense.
But a lot of people say you are a street fighter.
All the people saying this have not seen me fight one day. They say Timaya is rough, but you need to come out with proof. They said I went into a church to fight but they are yet to give me proof. Am I normal? So I no longer have the fear of God that I should enter a church and beat up a pastor? Camera phones still exist. People should have taken pictures when Timaya was beating up a pastor.
Would you allow your current relationship to be publicised like the last one you had with Empress?
The last one was publicised because she was a public figure. Anyway, she was a little bit popular. That was the problem. I never had a problem with the press until I went into that relationship.
Do you regret going into that relationship?
Big time! I have never regretted anything I had ever done in life except that relationship. It is one of those things. I have learnt my lessons, but I wished I learnt the lessons from another person. What caused the problem apart from hearsay? She would tell me she heard I was sleeping with this person or that person. But we all do the same thing.
Will you ever date or marry an actress again?
No way, unless she wants to quit acting.
Can‘t you quit for her?
No. I love my mother so much. Even if she tells me to stop music or she dies, I don‘t think I will quit. If I stop singing, I will die. It is not because of the money. Music gives me joy.
But is marriage on your to-do list?
The thought comes and goes. Sometimes I feel like marrying and other times, I don‘t even want it. Marriage is not something you jump into, you must be ready for it so as not to fall out of it. I know what I am talking about because I am from a polygamous family. The reason I am smart today is because I am the last born and I was close to my father before he died.