I’m a very rich boy’
Evidently, Enetimi Odom, the singer popularly known as Timaya has come a long way from the Toyota Camry 2.2-cruising artiste of 2007, one of the benefits of the commercial success that trailed his debut album, True Story. When E-Punch got to his well-appointed 5-bedroom duplex in Marwa Gardens, Ikeja, Lagos, last Monday afternoon, he was greeted by a glittering Range Rover Sport 2010. Black and shimmering, the ‘expensive machine’ was parked in front of the duplex. Inside, a white Escalade truck valued at about N10m sits in stately grandeur.
“I love cars,” he quips. No doubt. Before he relocated from Port Harcourt, Rivers State where he had cultivated a cult-like following, Timaya was always an enviable sight in Lagos in his bullet-proof Jaguar and BMW X5, both of which, he says, he has given to his sisters. “I get tired easily of cars. When I bought the Escalade last January, I was awed by its sheer functionality and beauty and I thought I would drive it for a very long time. But a few months later, I got tired of it and bought the Range (Rover) which has been like my official car for some months now.”
Apparently, Timaya lives the roller coaster life he sings about. However, life has not always been this sweet for him. In Plantain Boy, the lead single off his current album, De-Rebirth, he talks about his humble beginnings, and how rich he is now which does not beggar much belief going by available indices. But, how rich is he really? Without as much as a twitch, he says, ”A few years ago, I could not afford three square meals; I had nowhere to stay; I was actually squatting with a girlfriend who would send me out of her house at the slightest offence. But now, my story has changed.
“For every man, three things are fundamental, clothes, food and shelter. Those are no longer my problems. So, I‘m a very rich boy. I don‘t need to be as rich as (Mike) Adenuga to know that I am rich.” Timaya admits that sometimes he looks at himself and wonders whether his life is a fairy tale because “Whenever I look at my account, I get scared and ask myself, is all this money for me?”
The plantain boy
Between his first two albums, True Story, and Gift and Grace, a discerning listener could glean Timaya‘s background and episodic musical odyssey. In Plantain Boy, he lays it bare. From an unheralded plantain seller, he became renowned as Timaya. Even when nobody gave him a chance, he succeeded. Life is good now yet detractors, which he almost always gripes about, are trying to pull him down. The AC in the living room droned on. A member of his posse was playing snooker in the sports section of the expansive sitting room while a nearby lectern hoists a plethora of award plaques.
Calm and without his characteristic scowl, Timaya, in retrospect, says he was born into a relatively comfortable home where his father was a top banker while his mother was into different businesses, one of which was supplying plantain to hotels in the city. They lived in an estate in Port Harcourt and had as neighbours President Goodluck Jonathan among many other prominent Nigerians. However, the family was to suffer a reversal in fortunes when his father, having retired after 32 years as a banker, was duped of his retirement benefits and life savings.
“He didn’t want to stay idle,” Timaya recalls, “So, he decided to invest his money in the petroleum business but he was duped and he never recovered from it. Since 1995 till he died last year, he was always ill. That incident affected us so much that we had to depend on my mother‘s plantain business. Despite the fact that I was quite popular in Port Harcourt back then, I would always help my mum hawk plantain. I didn‘t see it as anything then because we had to survive. I don‘t want to experience that life again.”
The advocacy loses traction
Apart from the autobiographical and sometimes conceited slant of Timaya‘s songs, a recurring theme, at least in his first two albums, was the unconcealed anger at the perceived insensitivity of the federal government to the cause of the Niger Delta people. This state of mind was very pronounced on the album sleeves which bore a scowling, furious Timaya.
Through the far-reaching instrumentality of his music, Timaya became an audacious advocate of the emancipation of the Niger Delta. This afternoon, he still talks with fervor and animation about the Niger Delta; how it formed his perception and outlook on life and how he feels there is so much potentials wasting away there. ”I am proud of my heritage; I am a Bayelsa man, a true born Niger Deltan; we say it as it is. I don’t look at anybody’s face before saying my mind. I am blunt.”
Maybe he was, but in De-Rebirth, the bluntness and advocacy have lost traction; the Egberi Papa 1 (the number one town crier) of Bayelsa seems to have come into so much wealth that the pains of the past have been obliterated from his memory. He agrees that indeed the vagaries of life have made him lose touch with ‘the people down there‘. “My people love me so much because I sing about what affects them and because I made Bayelsa popular before Goodluck Jonathan became president. Apparently, times are changing. Those were the issues that needed to be addressed at that time and I addressed them.
“I sing about what goes on around me, everyday realities. I don‘t sing love songs except for when I was in love with a girl in the past. I‘m not feeling any love now. Truly, in De-Rebirth, I didn‘t do much for the Niger Delta people because I felt it was time to cut across, break into the international market. But I will always be their mouthpiece.” On the sleeve of De-Rebirth, the angry mien has dissolved into an impassive expression.
In love with Mo’Cheddah
Timaya loves fast rising songstress, Mo’Cheddah, but not in the Empress Njamah kind of way. According to him, ”I look at all Nigerian female artistes and I really haven‘t seen any that‘s good because they are all trying to be a diva yet, they don‘t have what it takes. Beyonce is a diva; which Nigerian act can you compare with her? The only female artiste that trips me is Mo‘Cheddah. She‘s got everything and she‘s not trying too hard to be a diva. She‘s a great performer; she’s real and she will go a long way.”
‘I am going to end up in the church’
About a year ago, Timaya‘s celebrated relationship with actress, Empress Njamah, hit the rocks. That did not come as a surprise anyway, given the dynamics of the union. It was the manner they fell apart irredeemably that stunned many. In the process of retrieving his car key, Timaya was alleged to have fought Empress inside a Festac, Lagos church. For somebody who was accused of such indiscretion, Timaya says unequivocally, “I will end up as a pastor. I have always had a close relationship with God and as such, could never have fought anybody inside a church. As a kid, I told God that I’d like to be a superstar and he has granted my wish. I have also told him that the next level for me is to be the Governor of Bayelsa State.”
“Are you serious?” E-Punch interjects. ”Yes, I am. I‘m just doing everything I am doing now to be rich and no matter what I do, I‘d still be rich. In fact, my pact with God is that after serving my people, I want to spend the rest of my life serving him. I want to build a church in Nigeria and abroad where I‘d worship him till I die.”
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