Since his dramatic entry into the Nigerian music scene, Naira Marley, whose real name is Azeez Fashola, has shown tremendous dexterity in his ability to showcase his music and market not just his talents but that of the other artistes under his Marlian record label. However, the sudden and tragic passing of highly talented street Afrobeat sensation, 27 year old Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba, aka Mohbad has turned out to be a pass for him and his music organization. He probably deserves his Golgotha, given his reckless lifestyle, the gospel of sex, drugs and violence he preaches and the tremendous damage he has caused many households. We hold the view, however, that there should always be a place for contrarians if they are willing to reform and grow up. Today, there is wide-spread anger and a will to take him and the Marlian organization down unless he is able to urgently prove his innocence and work to quickly repair his badly tarnished image.
As news of Mohbad’s tragic passing broke with the accompanying videos which appeared to implicate his former record label and its leader, Naira Marley, there arose a babel of voices insisting that the record label and its founder is responsible for his death. It doesn’t help that Naira Marley has spent his musical career promoting a licentious lifestyle that endorses drugs, illicit sex with outrageous lyrics that can sometimes be shocking even to liberal ears. He has had numerous spats with the drug enforcement agency, NDLEA, and in a strange twist actually gained his initial life giving breadth in the musical world because he was arrested, detained and eventually released. All through that ordeal the then virtually unknown singer was always in the news till the name Naira Marley became a household name. On his release, he wasted no time in putting out songs that celebrated his ordeal and the rest is history. So whether we like it or not, the NDLEA can in a manner of speaking be said to be partially responsible for his rise to fame and fortune.
Despite the whirlwind of accusations around him, Naira Marley himself remains outside the country. The provocative questions include: is he hiding from the long arms of the law? Why is he not returning back to his country to answer questions that require urgent answers? In the ensuing event, different parties and interests have taken it upon themselves to make conjectures about him being the guilty party or not. Some say the killing was masterminded by Sam Larry Elegushi who is seen in some videos violently harassing Mohbad on locations and issuing threats. Others even suggest that Mohbad’s son was not fathered by him and that the five month old is in fact fathered by Sam Larry!
This automatically puts Mohbad’s wife in the firing line, something totally unexpected. Some members of the public are now asking for a DNA test to determine if the child actually belongs to Mohbad or not. Another set of people accuse the wife’s family of being responsible for the death. They blame them for negligence. Things are not helped by several videos where the late Mohbad is heard furiously accusing the wife of several negative acts against him and asking if she wants to kill him and in fact cursing or predicting that if that is what they do in their family (eliminate people), this one (against him) would have untold consequences.
Even the father is not spared of accusations. The haste with which he wanted to bury Mohbad—first at midnight after he passed around 5pm and then, when he was stopped, early the next day—did not sit well with a lot of interested observers. The big question is, why the hurry? It is as if he had something to hide. Some people suggested that he was under pressure to bury Mohbad’s remains in order to ensure all the secrets surrounding his death are buried under a pile of concrete.
If that was the plan, well, it has failed now as a result of the unbelievable outpour of anguish and anger that greeted the late singers demise. Everyone wanted a resolution even when there are so many postulations and accusations. The massive, and possibly unexpected public outcry has had the positive effect of forcing the government and/or police to act, as Mohbad’s remains have now been exhumed and postmortem done on the body. According to a notice sent to the chambers of the human rights lawyer, Femi Falana SAN, the Lagos chief coroner informs that “a Magistrate court sitting in Ikorodu will on Friday September 29, 2023 (tomorrow), commence coroner’s inquest on the circumstances leading to the death of late musician, Ilerioluwa Aloba, popularly known as Mohbad.”
Unravelling Mohbad’s passing promises to be an investigator’s nightmare especially because of the wide range of interested parties, but this is one death where all the questions deserve answers. On Wednesday 27th September, an interview of Naira Marley conducted by Reno Omokri surfaced online. It was a great opportunity for Naira Marley to clear the air on salient issues, but in his slurred nasal articulation, he made a total mess of it. His effort was nowhere near adequate but a huge chunk of that blame must go to the very unprofessional conduct of a well known public affairs commentator, a man that I actually like because of his bold views, Reno Omokri.
Let the truth be told, Reno flunked it. There is a fundamental difference between doing PR and pretending to be carrying out an exploratory interview to enlighten the public on the true state of affairs. I am by no means suggesting that Reno was paid to do this as a PR assignment (I have seen him take up enough causes that he obviously is doing for passion and I have heard his argument about the danger of a single story and I do align with him there). But there is no point barking on behalf of a dog when the dog is already by your side.
Reno Omokri, in an effort to defend a man who was in a position to defend himself, practically went overboard forgetting that he was occupying an interviewer’s seat. An interviewer, even if he is on the side of the subject of the interview, ought to maintain some level of neutrality so that the audience do not become aware of his biased position. Our understanding is that Reno was already convinced of Naira Marley’s innocence (This was embarrassingly obvious), and we do grant him the right to take that position based on facts available to him and his own knowledge of the characters involved.
The issue however, is, for the interview to have credibility, he needed to allow Naira Marley, who stands accused, defend himself. Unfortunately, he did more of the defense than Marley himself. I do understand that this is the way of famous vloggers and online raconteurs of which Reno is one of the top dogs, but crossing to the other side of the divide to conduct an interview, he should have dropped the toga of a vlogger and taken on the persona of a journalist.
In the event, he, in my view, ended up achieving little in what would have being a massive public relations and credibility push for the beleaguered Naira Marley. And be sure that it would have gone far especially as Reno is insistent that he is not paid for this. Even a Reno, speaking for Naira Marley and the Marlian’s in his popular, no holds barred, fact driven narratives on its own would have achieved far more than dragging the obviously unprepared artiste online for this interview where he ended up putting words in his(Marley) mouth.
Naira Marley must understand that if he is truly innocent, no one but himself can plot his way back to relevance. No one can help him prove that truth beyond himself. And no one can do the job of wiping up the slur on his name and image beyond himself. He has started well by offering to return home to defend himself if the police are willing to guarantee his safety.
Who killed Mohbad?
But the reality is that police cannot really guarantee anyone’s safety. So what should he do? We came up with 6 ideas:
- He should appeal to the governor of Lagos state to guarantee his safety. Or if that does not work, the Attorney General and commissioner for justice in Lagos state. The last option is the Commissioner of police himself. Why? Calling on the police to guarantee his safety means any representative of the police can give an undertaken and ask him to return without making the necessary arrangements to guarantee his safety. To avoid that kind of carelessness, very common in this country especially among public officials, his safety must be tied to the public reputation of a particular official. The governor is the best, but if the governor declines to get involved which is possible given the messy renunciation that have happened before now, then the AG or the Lagos commissioner of police, in person, must be held responsible and not the generic Nigeria police.
- Naira Marley must repudiate Sam Larry Elegushi. This would go a long way in proving that Sam Larry was not acting on his instructions. One of the unfortunate outcomes of the Reno Omokri interview was that there was no mention of Sam Larry and his atrocious and violent actions against late Mohbad. How can you want to extricate Naira Marley from this web of accusations without critically examining his connection and relationship with Sam Larry? What was Sam Larry’s motive for going after Mohbad so viciously, inflicting deep physical and psychological wounds to the extent that he had to petition the AIG zone 2. Sadly, nothing happened, for reasons which the police is yet to explain. This one is important because we know that Sam Larry appears to be a reckless roughneck (At least from the videos we have seen) and is likely to respond in kind if he is denounced. We believe Naira Marley will find it difficult to take this step except he is truly innocent.
- Grant a tell-all interview to a recognized, professional media outlet. I don’t want to mention names now but we all know which Newspaper, online or offline publications, TV or satellite TV stations in Nigeria are professionals and seen as credible outlets. What is important is the methodology of the interview, you don’t need an anchor who makes the case or argues a position so clearly and then asks you to agree with a yes or no like Reno was doing all through his chat. It is important that the anchor is not only neutral but seen to be neutral.
- Be sober for a short while. Another problem with that interview was that Naira Marley did not appear to be at his best. He appears a bit stoned. If I am wrong here I do apologize. But I will like people to really study his face, his gestures, his articulation and his general outlook in that interview. It’s easy to conclude that he was a bit at sea. It appears this is why Reno was under pressure to make the arguments for him and simply request for him to accent with a yes or no as the case may be. In one of the last questions Reno asked about Pastor Bakare’s comment regarding Mohbad, to the effect that the singer died because he was interacting with bad people, Naira Marley went on a wild goose chase that had nothing to do with the question and I badly hoped Reno would steer him back to reality so that he can address the very important question. It didn’t happen. He was allowed to wander free without addressing the question. Who in his sane mind will be described in such a manner, a business enterprise for that matter and have a golden opportunity to debunk but rather just roam around?
- Naira Marley must get other influential music industry voices to speak out on his behalf. But he must first admit his wrongs. He needs to understand that when he is accused or blamed for the death of Mohbad, it is not as if he is believed to have gone to shoot him or stab him directly but that his previous and cumulative actions are indirectly responsible for the singer’s death because his actions drove him to his death one way or the other. This is what many believe. So tales about his not being in the country and all that may not cut.
- Naira Marley must admit some level of character failure on his part especially when the unfortunate issue of DJ Splash is brought into the picture. There is also a clear instance of Mohbad being assaulted in the home base of the Marlians possibly under his gaze. There was obviously a bitter ego feud between him and Mohbad. It will not be convincing to sweep that lingering narrative away as if it never happened. His story will lack credibility.
If these issues are real, and they are, it is time for him to sit down and pen his genuine pain at what happened and his regrets. Take responsibility. This is not an admission of guilt but an admission that he could have done things in a better way. And please stop releasing those annoying recorded conversations while you remain abroad. Be a man and fly back home (once the right security arrangements are in place) and tell your side of the story.
We believe these six steps will mitigate the current public anger and help to assuage the pain and anguish of loss. The biggest score will be if he uses this opportunity to promise to stop encouraging the use of hard drugs and take another look at some of his future lyrics. Tone things down!