Personality of the Week: Cobhams Emmanuel Asuquo

Hello dear readers, hope you had a swell weekend. Mine was great, thanks. After some thought, I’ve decided to add a new section to the blog: Personality Of The Week. Our POTW will be selected based on these criteria:

  1. He/she must have contributed to the improvement of the society through bettering people/developing talents/helping the less privileged.
  2. He/she must be successful in chosen career, although he /she may or may not be very financially wealthy.
  3. He/she must be below the age of 50(I’d thought of making this 40 but for some reasons I decided on 50). Any change in this aspect will be for a special reason.
  4. He/she could be of any race, but at the moment our focus will be on Africa and Nigeria in  particular.

This section has been added in the hope that it will be a source of inspiration to someone out there looking to succeed in life despite all odds, and to touch lives positively.
That said, I present to you our very first Personality of the Week:

COBHAMS EMMANUEL ASUQUO


Can I hear an applause somebody?! I decided to make Mr. Asuquo our first Personality of the Week because of my undying love for his music and due to the fact that he always delivers! I remember watching him rap in the song “Mo like Jesu gan” as a young teenager and being so awed at his prowess while at the same time shocked at the fact that he was blind!!! I always looked out for him from then on; from “Mo like Jesu gan” to Rooftop MCs “Lagimo”(how I still love that song!) to the more recent “Ordinary People” and “Do the right thing” featuring Bez. Do yourself a favour and get these songs. Thank me later.
Cobhams is a Nigerian singer/producer/songwriter who is a true embodiment of the phrase “succeeding at your passion”. He has made a definite mark in the music industry, helping produce acts like Asa, Waje, Timi Dakolo and Tosin Martins.
According to his mother, Mrs Gladys Asuquo, Cobhams seemed perfectly normal at birth until about three months after, when she noticed his clumsiness. At the hospital, her worst fears were confirmed: her son was congenitally blind and nothing could be done about it. Rather than bemoan her fate, she resolved to teach him to be as independent and capable as he could. It was not easy, as Cobhams Army officer father was hardly home, so she catered for him and his siblings almost on her own sometimes.

 At a point in time when things became really difficult for them so much so that she had to boil and sell groundnuts to keep the family going, she noticed her son’s love for drums. According to her,” he would beat on anything he could lay his hands on, so I encouraged him by buying him musical toys. Cobhams never went to school to learn to play any instrument; I think it was just an escape route for him”. Unsurprisingly, Cobhams dropped out of University of Lagos as a 300L student of Law to face his passion fully.

Today, 34 year old Cobhams is well known for producing some of the finest artistes in Nigeria, notable among them Asa, whose debut album in 2007 rose to international acclaim. In addition to producing the album, he wrote and co-wrote some of its songs. But before this, in 2005, he signed on to Sony ATV London as a songwriter, and a year later, after working as head of audio productions for Questionmark Entertainment in Nigeria, he set up his own recording facility. According to his interview on BBC’s African Dream, he had no capital, just a computer and ideas that he took to different companies offering advertising and begging for work. He is now the CEO and Head of Productions of Cobhams Asuquo Music Productions(CAMP) in Lagos, which according to him is an all-encompassing entertainment firm.  He has written and produced work for a number of organisations including MTN, Globacom, Etisalat’s 0809ja campaign music, Stanbic IBTC, Cocacola, Close up, among others. Signed on to his label are Bez, Stan Iyke, and others.

Like his hero Stevie Wonder, the musician has never let his lack of sight hold him back. “It is assumed that there are many things you cannot do because you’re blind. And so for me, I had to prove that there are many things I can do because I’m blind, and there are many things I’ve done because I’m blind.”, he says. But he points out that he is not interested in working withpeople whose only drive is the potential financial reward the industry offers. According to him,”I like to work with people who want to create magic, people who want to go a little afield, go a little off the usual path.”

In his words, talent is just not enough. He advises persistence and consistency. He also believe people should strive to be themselves and not a carbon copy of the people who must have influenced them. Some great words from him: “You’ve got to have something unique, whether its your story, your voice or your lyrics, the sound of your instrument, or a combination of all these different factors. I just believe that everything depends on everything and so whenever I have an opportunity, I give it my very best shot”. Note the words I put in bold?That’s some solid advice coming from a great man to everyone looking to excel at something in life

Cobhams got married in 2010 to Ojuolape Veronica Olukanni and they have a son together.To read more about how he wooed and proposed to her, read here.
To read a little more about Cobhams, you check this out. That’s it guys. A dose of inspiration to start the week with. Researching for and putting this piece together taught me a lot and I’m resolved to stand by all I’ve learned so far. I hope you were touched too. You can speak your mind in the comment section! I’m all ears.
Be better, Do better.
XOXO, Chibugo.
photo credit: www.africanseer.com, stargist.com, muzikstreets.com, www.naijashine.com.ng.

While all the brouhaha about Linda Ikeji’s house goes on ……

You all must have read or heard the news trending all over the Nigerian media. Linda Ikeji bought a house on Banana Island. Apparently, this is a really big deal. My first reaction when I saw the news was,:”Way to go Linda!!”, until I began reading the comments all over the place. Seriously?!?! I was puzzled at first, because the message that accompanied her posting pictures of her house was a truly inspiring one, but the comments were baffling. From my observation, they came in these forms:

  • Linda, please go and get married
  • Linda, but you shouldn’t have bought such an expensive house naa, you’ll scare potential suitors away with your obvious success
  • Linda, you shouldn’t be so loud about your success, remember that this is Nigeria
  • Linda, this house is too trashy for N600 million.
  • There is no way in the world Linda made such money through mere blogging.
  • Dear Linda, you should have used the money for charity instead of spending so extravagantly 

Now let me share some things I have observed from this event and my own perspective on them. You don’t have to agree, but just read on, you may find them interesting.

  1. The Nigerian Obsession with marriage.  I have decided to take this as a normal reaction from our well meaning people concerned about her legacy (tongue in cheek). I understand that Linda is a full grown adult, beautiful as well as intelligent, and a good businesswoman. Linda is 35 for crying out loud. If at this stage, she hasn’t been able to find someone she would be willing to spend the rest of her life with, why should her wealth suddenly make her rush into one? To validate her success? My opinion is that everyone wasn’t made to get married at 25. Some were meant to marry and have babies before starting a career, while some were meant to succeed at a career before venturing into marriage. No two destinies are the same. By the way, from her posts, it is obvious her single status is not by choice. Remember her “who will marry me” hashtag? She DOES intend to get married someday. She even indicated that she would move out of the same mansion when she gets married. Who’s to say she won’t even pop a ring on us out of the blues? Another thing, is being single and successful such a bad thing? The funny thing about this is the fact the same people breathing down your neck to get married are the same ones who will make snide remarks behind your back if said marriage goes sour. SMH for our people. Why not just wish her well and pray for her all round fulfillment? Rejoice with those who rejoice, remember?
  2. Bringing down your standards/muffling your success for the sake of marriage: When I was in catechism, I was taught that marriage is the union before God of a man and woman to become husband and wife for the purpose of companionship and procreation. For this, the bible says you will find “the bone of your bone and the flesh of your flesh”. I believe this applies to all spheres of one’s life. Even if she doesn’t marry someone as rich as she is, it is my fond hope that she marries someone whose mind grasps the magnitude of her wealth and remains comfortable with it. This takes a man with a healthy self esteem, who knows himself enough not to be defined by wealth. The wealth is already there, whether she buys a house or not. Why should she have to hide it in order to attract a man? Are we about to begin teaching a 35 year old hardworking woman how to spend her money? Where were all the men when she was 30 and broke? About Nigerians plotting her downfall out of jealousy, or armed robbers/kidnappers setting their sights on her because of her wealth, this isn’t new. A certain man from one of our neighboring towns was kidnapped and his young wife made to pay ransom, and he wasn’t even rich; probably just made his first few millions. Point is, anyone can be kidnapped or attacked. God’s protection is the surest guarantee.
  3. People appoint themselves judges over issues that do not concern them: Let us understand something: Linda surely saw other houses, but chose to buy that one. The money has been paid, and work has begun. People were asking why the pool was dark!!! For goodness sake, it was empty! LOL! Obviously she didn’t pay for just the house. She paid for the neighborhood as well. Hello, did you hear the name Banana Island?
  4. The fact that you did not succeed at something doesn’t mean someone else can’t: When I read people saying she didn’t make this money through blogging, I just laugh. If only they knew how much a single advert goes for on LIB. The other day out of curiosity I counted the ads and I got 20 at a time. Lets assume she was paid N500,000 monthly for these ads(I know she gets more from some). Do the math. Remember that during the elections she was also paid massively for advertising for APC. THAT is on a whole other level. She has repeatedly said she does nothing else but blog from 4am to 12 midnight, and has no other job but this. In a day she posts as much as 50 times! She has been at it for about 9 years, and only started making real money from it about 5 years ago. Despite the inspiring message she posted alongside photos of her house, I guess people will believe what they choose to believe anyway.
  5. We have misdirected grievances: Instead of having hurt feelings when someone with an honest hustle makes it big and then feel entitled to show them how to be charitable, let me ask, why not direct your grievances at our corrupt government officials who cart away YOUR money? Maybe its because they don’t speak of their acquisitions. Why would they, when its bought with ill-gotten wealth and probably overseas too? Lord knows, anyone who worked hard and honest and got well paid would be happy to show the result of his hard work. As for charity, ever heard of Linda’s “I’d rather be self-made” project which she uses as a platform to empower young women and discourage them from seeing prostitution or trading their bodies as the option out of a bad financial situation? It’s surprising that when she does these things, they don’t get as much publicity. You know, she could be a secret giver, who’s to tell? Charity is different from philanthropy anyway.

The society we live in would be better if we could learn to live and let live. When one errs, point it out with love, not with the intention of his downfall. Rejoice with those who rejoice and one day others will rejoice with you too. Those who are pointing out how wrongly she is spending her wealth, please be calm until you experience what she must have experienced while growing up and having to struggle the way she did, maybe then, buying the house of her dreams wouldn’t be such a great deal to you. Her parents aren’t complaining either, since they went through the hard times together. By the way, it’s just a house, she could always sell it since its a prime piece of real estate and is bound to appreciate in value. It is an asset and a wise investment. Just my opinion though. Whats yours? Share! See photos of her house and the accompanying inspiring message here.

People Are Not Always What They Seem

I watch people. It might sound weird to you, but I derive pleasure in observing people and making tentative conclusions about them based on these. Most times I’m right, but sometimes I’m wrong. On this particular day, I was wrong.

Working at my dad’s bookstore, I have the opportunity of meeting new people everyday. One skill you learn quickly on this job is the ability to sum people up quickly by their dress, speech and body language in order to know what approach will work best in ensuring a smooth transaction. On this day, a woman had come in to buy large quantities of books for use in the school she worked at. She had the typical look of the “deeply religious”;ankle length skirt, turtle necked blouse, and a pair of shoes that resembled something dug out of Noah’s Ark. And of course, glasses. How could I forget the glasses? On getting the requested books in the required quantities, she made an unusual request which was made even more unusual by her pious appearance. She asked for the prices of the books to be inflated by about 15% on the invoice. Do the math: she had ordered for more than 100 books! I was astonished. For almost 30 seconds I was like this:

It was a hard jolt. Adidinbilivit! I would never have thought it possible for her sanctimonious looking self to harbour a brain that could conceive such a thought. I often thought of this incident but it never really disturbed me until the day I met another peculiar customer. This slow, hot afternoon, a young lady walked into the store with the typical swagger of the young and beautiful street-smart female who knows she is young and beautiful. Clad in really tight jeans, a ridiculously long weave, and a nose ring, you bet I had to some extent made some conclusions about her. As soon as she mentioned her business and the school she represented, I started mentally calculating the percentage she could ask for. Her coarse manner of speech alone was too ‘street’ for me to imagine the possibility of her not asking for “her share”. But as you may rightly guess by now, she did nothing of the sort. She instead went on to demand for a discount which she insisted should be boldly indicated on the invoice, because in her words,”afterall na our school money”. With a mixture of relief, guilt and shame, I thanked her very warmly, my guilt suddenly making me very friendly towards her. Relief, because I wasn’t made party to any dishonest transaction, and shame and guilt for labelling her something she was not without giving her the benefit of the doubt.

Putting these two events side by side, I see now that people are not always what they seem, and that everyone in one way or the other is guilty of judging too quickly. A natural haired woman sees another woman rocking a long weave and labels her “ashamed of her God-given hair”; A co-worker buys a car everyone knows he/she cannot afford on his/her salary and everyone is quick to summarize that he/she is into 419* or runs*; people see a man rocking dreadlocks or acting effeminate and they are quick to call him gay(and you know what that means in Naija). I must say, I’ve been guilty many times. I don’t know why this fills me with a strange kind of sadness, but you can bet your bank account that I’m firmly on team #dontjudgesofast now.You know its impossible not to judge a little, or at least have an opinion about something. I’m not a people-pleaser, but I wonder how many people have been disappointed because I didn’t quite reach the standard they’d set for me, or fit into the box they’d put me in.

Tell me about yourself. Have you ever been guilty of labelling people? Do you feel that people unjustly label or judge you sometimes? Share!

*419 – Naijaspeak for fraud
*runs – Naijaspeak for discreetly sleeping with men for money

Smile,the land is green… for you and for me.

Its a few minutes to Nigeria’s 55th independence anniversary as I type this, and I’ve been in a sober mood, thinking about this country of ours; its beauty, its history, its diverse people and cultures, and everything in between. Someone I know once referred to Nigeria as “an entity formed from a marriage of inconvenience”, referring to the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates by Lugard in 1914. But, I digress. In the course of its history, Nigeria has been through quite a lot of tribulations (but what nation hasn’t though?); from her struggles during the slavery era, to her time under colonial rule, to her journey toward independence, her discovery of oil and all the trouble that came with it, the civil war and concurrent military rule, her turbulent time of coup after coup, to the current democracy. It has been quite a bumpy ride on the road to Eldorado. It isn’t uncommon to hear statements like “Nigeria na wa!”, or “Nigeria jaga jaga”, both denoting extreme disorganization and inefficiency in the running of the country. While I agree on some counts, (don’t tell me you don’t also watch Nigerian politics unravel itself anew everyday like a seasonal movie), I also have to admit that Nigeria has come a long way, especially in the light of recent events that show that the status quo won’t remain so for long.

It has been argued that the problem with Nigeria stems from its jumble of ethnicities and the babel of languages that it consists of. I believe that Nigeria’s problem is a vicious cycle of bad leadership and corruption in high places leading to bad followership and corruption in lower places, but, mbanu, I did not come on here today to give a diatribe about the shortcomings of our nation. I came to celebrate how far we’ve come and how our diversity can actually work to our advantage(without this sounding like a boring lecture, I hope).

Nigeria has more than 250 ethnic groups. I don’t know about you, but this preceding statement never loses its shock value for me. How possible is it for such a number of ethnic groups to be crammed into one country without constant conflict? I think I have a simple answer: by adopting the spirit of nationalism. Pere. Finish. Feel free to answer this question. When you are asked about your identity, do you think of yourself first as Nigerian before you think of yourself as Igbo/Yoruba/Hausa/Other tribe? Or is it the other way round? I have come to a simple conclusion that Nigerians lack the spirit of true nationalism. A country as diverse as ours will thrive by imbibing a culture of inclusion as opposed to that of exclusion. Which makes me still wonder why when we will forms, especially really serious forms, we are still required to fill in “state of origin”. Oga, abeg, how does my state of origin affect the price of garri in the market? 

Embracing our differences and learning to work together for the common good is a great way to start. It has to go beyond mere tolerance to true acceptance. I know, I know, in the light of the ongoing violence in the north, this might seem like a really hard teaching to accept, but it really is the only way to keep ourselves sane enough for the national wheel to continue turning smoothly. Okay, so you are a northern Muslim and I am a southern Christian, but this shouldn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Everyone has something good they can bring to the table, so, rather than be bothered by tribal and religious differences, let us be interested in common national values and work together to achieve sustainable development. We young people in particular are so uninterested in the framework of our nation and the process of planning for its future, whereas WE are the future of Nigeria. Its pathetic really, but that’s a post for another day. We have to learn from our history, right the wrongs of the generation before us, and try not to make the same mistakes they did.

While on the bus some time ago, something amusing happened which I don’t remember, and it had all the passengers of the bus in stitches. They erupted into what I call The Nigerian Laugh: eyes tearing up, shoulders heaving, lips stretched wide, with the sound coming from deep in the belly. There’s no sound quite like it, I tell you. I took the moment to look around: at the Ibibio woman with a child nursing at her breast, the Hausa man clutching his praying beads, the Yoruba Muslim Hijabi covered from head to toe except for her face, the fat Igbo man in a too-tight shirt, and our ebullient Yoruba driver with a big gap in his teeth, all bent in laughter.  Before my very eyes, our ethnic differences had melted away and we became united in the universal language of laughter. In that moment, we were nothing but brothers and sisters, sharing a good joke.

Unity in Diversity is a challenging but doable task. All it takes is a change of heart. When the laughter is on our lips, it gives no room for any other language, and so we have no cause to be divided, because we understand each other. Nigerians, this piece of God’s earth is ours to share; we might as well make it comfortable for one another. Happy Independence Anniversary.