Our Personality of the week is Mr. Taiwo Edwards known as 100 percent Mr. T. He is an afro beat artiste from Agbor Obi, Ogbemudien community based in Germany. He was born on December 1967, in Ondo State thus the name Taiwo, attended L.A. Primary School in Ondo State until his family relocated to Agbor in 1975 when he joined Odili Primary School in Primary three and thereafter gained admission to Ika Grammar School before moving to Lagos and eventually migrating to Germany in 1995.
In this telephone interview with Lawrence Uche and Mr. Steve Ashien he disclosed that Music is his main business and that he is a producer, songwriter and video director.
Mr. Taiwo Edwards are your parents still alive?
No, they are both late. My father died in September 1979, four years after we moved to Agbor and I lost my mother in 2015. These were very painful moments.
Did you come to Nigeria When your mother died?
No, I did not, because I couldn’t stand it. I am a very emotional person. Her death really tore my heart apart. What one does for his/her parent when they are alive is very much better than what he/she does when they are dead. They cannot see those deeds at death. I remember years before my mother’s death, specifically in 2010, I came to Nigeria to spend time with her, motivate and encourage her, take her outing, buy things for her, cook for her and make her very happy. So when the news of her death broke, although extremely disheartened, I was consoled and fulfilled with the fact that I did my best for her while she was alive.
Was it only your being emotional that made you not come to Nigeria when you lost your mum or were there other factors?
I am very emotional. I can remember when my father died, years later I still had nightmares, I just couldn’t stand the trauma. I would start crying all over again as soon as I see them crying. Let me inform you that I cry whenever I come to Nigeria and see people sleeping on the street. The last time I was in Nigeria, I came across an old friend who took me to his house, inside his living room was where he packed his bike (Okada), having his little toddler and a bed inside the same room. The bike was still steaming hot and dropping oil as he had just come back from work with it. I ran out of the room and wept profusely, wondering how a family could survive this situation.
Tell us about your siblings?
I am the last child in a family of eight, five boys and three girls. I lost two of my brothers which were other painful experiences for me My having three women ahead of me, made me lazy in cooking. That is why till today I cannot cook. Some of my siblings are here in Germany, others are there in Nigeria.
Are you married now?
Yes I am married with four kids (two boys and two girls) my wife is a German and she cooks very well. A friend of mine Felix Doo, a Reggae musician in Nigeria sometimes ago, came to my house and taught my wife how to cook some of our African foods.
Mr. Taiwo Edwards, what languages do you speak having been in Germany for a long time now?
I speak my native language (Agbor) language; very well I speak Yoruba, and German.
Can you remember any of your contemporaries in Primary School?
Yes, I can remember Monday Badru in L.A primary school Oke Ondo state. He was my very good friend, we often danced together. At Ika Grammar School, I was very popular for dancing. We introduced street dancing and hip-hop style then in Agbor as a result a lot of people called me Michael Jackson.
Aside music, what else are you into?
I am a business man; I studied at a polytechnic here in Germany and also studied a business course in a university here. Currently I run a company that provides industrial services which is managed by my wife. We also provide cleaning services, innovative car preparations and repairs
Tell us about Your Music?
My music is sort of unique and legendary, it is the first time Ika Music has been produced in a rap, that has never been done before, you cannot find a CD of anybody rapping in Ika language. I have gotten over 13 awards for my musical talent.
Your dress code looks very strange, some persons have mentioned that your dress code with so many chains and rings on, kind of music and style is very weird. What would you say to that?
Well, every entertainer has got two lives, one off stage and the other on stage. The truth is that what people see as weird is what we call entertainment. Artists have to be different to inform and entertain people. He/she has to be creative and identified by a trademark or else he/she would not be relevant in the music industry. For instance I always wear a short sparking red glove with my fingers popping out, I have a colour combination. It is red, black and white, this is my trademark, when one sees me in the midst of many people, one will easily identify me simply because of my dressing which is my trademark.
In Your Videos, we see you dancing along the streets of Germany, how do you control traffic on major highways when shooting your videos?
I create a lot of crowd; I create a lot of scene. In Germany to shoot videos outside, the police have to grant you permission to shoot videos on the street between certain hours. The information would be pasted before then on the streets to be used. Most times, motorists and passersby will want to be part of the video. They will come down from their cars, stand, watch, clap and video from their phones and will even dance. Some of them also take my phone numbers and tell me they will want to get the video when it is ready. The interesting part is that some of the videos sell more here in Germany to people who do not even understand what I am singing
How do you feel being a star in the limelight in a foreign land?
I feel very happy and grateful to the German community for giving me the opportunity to be myself and project my product in my language and culture. I feel so supported here. In contrast, our people discourage creativity. There was a period when Ika Community here in Germany bought over 4000 copies of my CDs video to share to Ika people on the street of Agbor for free. While they were sharing the CDs many people declined saying that the musician wants to use their blood and destiny including all sort of fetish ideas and that, that was why he was giving out his videos for free instead of selling without knowing the actual story behind the idea, at the end, they were able to give out 900 copies of the 4000 copies that was bought. These kinds of unwarranted prejudice kill creativity.
You mentioned that most Germans like your music even without knowing its meanings, tell us more about that.
Yes, they show so much appreciation and that encourages me to do more. Most of the online downloads I have was done here in Germany, India, Russia and Lanka. Music they say speaks universal language.
Does your immediate Family appreciate your music, since they do not understand the language?
My children are Nigerians/German Citizens, they often ask questions to understand what I am saying and a few times they sing along. I am obligated to make my wife and children understand my language through my songs.
How supportive are your wife and children?
They have always been very supportive. My children are even musically inclined without me influencing them. My wife goes through every of my songs and videos and I explain certain things to her from the song.
What Inspires your Songs?
Well music is in the air, it only needs some engineering to give it a sound. Music is everywhere. I listen to Michael Jackson so often and he really inspires me to keep singing.
Are any of your children likely to follow your footsteps?
Yes, most of my children are musically inclined, Even though I would not like them to do music, I also would not stop them from making their choice of career.
What religion do you profess?
I am a Christian; I worship with the Jehovah Witness Church.
People Say Jehovah witness is not Christianity, what is your take on that?
It’s not true; people do not know the basis of our religion. They do not also get to enquire and be convinced. Whatever they hear is what they believe, if people want to know more they should visit JW. Org
How have you given back to your school Ika Grammar School (Alma mater)?
Yes, when I came to Nigeria in year 2010, I could not stand to see the dilapidated state of the school which molded me, I being very emotional could not hold my tears back, I cried like it was a very serious situation. Ika Grammar School in those days was the pride of Ika land, well organized. Filled with disciplined and dedicated staff and properly maintained infrastructures. My principal then was Mr. Okwuonye. I did what I could for them. I am actually thinking of hosting a concert for Ika Grammar School.
Can you mention some of your colleagues in the school?
Benjamin Arthur, Patrick Efeizomor (the Prince of Owa), the Jegbefumes, Eddy Polo, some other princes from other kingdoms and many others I can’t remember. I was known as disco messiah in those days
When is the concert scheduled to hold?
For now, it’s in talks and papers, I have been out of the country for a while and need to reconnect with a whole lot of people to make it work. It is supposed to be a benefit concert but fellow artists and a few people I contacted do not believe it is necessary. Saying that doing a benefit concert and raising fund for the schools was a waste of time as the money raised would be used by those in authorities instead of being used for the school.
What would you do to appreciate your teachers for their strictness and discipline in molding you to who you are today?
On the contrary, if I were to see some of my school masters today, I will do the opposite because they did a whole lot of things wrongly. They should note that by nature, children would often be stubborn and playful, not wanting to learn and with this wisdom create a good relationship between themselves and the students so as to create a conducive environment for learning. Most teachers with their harshness or supposed discipline only create fears in the hearts of the children. The teacher should be friendly and second parents to the student not the opposite as seen with some Nigerian teachers. If I should see my old teachers, I would express my annoyance to them. They didn’t make me what I am today, they took away a lot from me and did not allow me learn something I should because I could not approach them.
Some Nigerians would argue that strictness helps to mold a child to a better person, but you seem to be of a different opinion?
Maybe I am different, I don’t see how being strict helps people. I really do not. There is a big distinction between being disciplined and being strict. It is easier for a child to learn when spoken to in love and affection than when beating. Most persons, who argued on that, would talk more on the discipline aspect of the topic and not on the harshness or strictness of the teachers.
Mr. Taiwo Edwards, what do you say to the adage “spare the rod and spoil the child”?
The rod is not actually a cane, it is symbolic, to mean, discipline your child moderately. A parent should not apply discipline when love is necessary nor apply love when a child should he disciplined.
Are you implying that our Educational System is faulty?
Of course it is, am sorry to say it is a total nonsense. In fact if I have the opportunity, I will sue those teachers for damages caused on me and every other person who had gone through the educational system of Nigeria. Here in Germany, if a student writes an examination and fails, he/she has the right to demand for his/her script to confirm what he/she has actually written in line with the marking guide. The parent of the student, the principal or head of the school, the teacher involved and the student in particular will all be present to confirm if the student actually failed or was purposely failed by the teacher. This hardly happens in Nigeria and that’s why we often have issues like sex for marks, mass failure and seizure of results which are all total nonsense to me.
You seem to have marked Nigeria bad. Do we hope to see you return to Nigeria with your family in later years?
Let me put it straight, I did not mark my country bad. It’s the system that is faulty and not the people nor the nation. If one is in a bus and the driver does not know the destination, the bus would keep moving around and the people inside would remain helpless and hopeless. I have been through a lot of hardship in my life and I would not want my children to face that as well so the question of returning to Nigeria is pending until real changes occur in Nigeria
Have your family ever been to Nigeria?
Only my wife and that was in year 2000 but we are planning to visit again very soon with the entire family. We don’t know when but very soon. My children are really very eager to come down to Nigeria.
What were the things your wife liked didn’t like or talked about when she came to Nigerian?
Oh the first thing she noticed was the constant power failure, she was so surprised to see power go off and that was right at the airport, another thing that got her talking was our road network which is in a bad shape. She had never seen an untarred road. Also seeing the body of a mad fellow lying on the road unattended to, made her query why everyone was walking pass the body without paying attention to it. But on the positive side, my wife enjoyed the family tie and unity, the culture and the smiles on peoples’ faces despite the economic situation. She imbibed the family ties, calls my family members very often and even order for stuffs from Nigeria.
What is your favorite food over there in Germany?
My favorite food remains Egusi mixed with Okro Soup. My children enjoy the food a lot but my wife after preparing it finds it difficult to eat because she says Okro is too slippery. My daughter makes Okro Soup for herself and does weird things with it, like eating Okro soup with rice. My children have learnt to eat fufu with their hands and are proud to be Africans.
What do your German friends/visitors say when they meet your children eating like that?
Oh they join them; they find it funny but join them most often
You mentioned that Ika Community over there in Germany bought 4000 of your CD to give out to Ika people for free and through that, they help to promote your music, how have you given back to Ika people, do you belong and contribute to the association and what is your relationship with Ika people?
When I do anything philanthropically, I do not like to share or talk about it. Please permit me on the second question. I often encourage my people, I have a network of over 1500 telephone numbers of Ika people, I have a face book page called Ika children online and also a whatsApp group called Ika children where I got to meet most of my Ika brothers in Europe and other countries who also introduced me to other Ika people. It was through the platform that I got to know about Ika Weekly newspaper. My people remain my people. I am proud to be from Ika, from Nigeria and from Africa. If I am to change anything I would never change my root.
One way I have contributed to Ika community is through my music. In Germany here, I could have concentrated on commercial music. I decided to start with Ika music to give my language a sort of promotion and give Ika people the rap music they don’t have. In that way, I have put that town (community) in the world map. A lot of people see me on the road and say “I like your music but I don’t know what you are talking about”
If by chance you return to Nigeria, would you venture into politics so as to address the ills you talked about in our society?
No, I don’t want to be a politician; I don’t need to be in the system to change the system. That’s why we have advisers, commissioners to share ideas with intellectuals and pass it on to the government.
Mr. Taiwo Edwards, as a Musician are you in touch other with Ika Musician?
Oh yes, Chief Ifeanyi Akwete, we often communicate. Joe Morgan is also a good friend of mine. He comes here and we meet often, Sammy Opo Junior, he calls me often, Agosie Uche is another friend including some of the younger ones.
An Ika person duped you recently and it was all over the social media, can you share that experience with us?
I like the fact that you brought that matter up. I contracted him through a politician friend to help place banner advert for me and publicize my album that would be coming out in December, we bargained for #60,000 and I did not even negotiate. I paid him half of the money instantly to print the banner and I will pay the balance when he is done with the printing and have posted it on a billboard. After he had printed the banner, he called to tell me that he cannot paste it on the bill board except he gets his balance; I asked if that is the only problem, and he said yes. I immediately sent him the balance. Since that day after getting the balance, he did not call anymore nor reply to my messages.
Two days later he called again and said he needed an additional #20.000 more saying he wants to put it on a more strategic place and that it will cost #50,000. Saying that he needs #20 000 to add to the #30,000 with him. I told him to put it at the initially agreed junction where there is a bill board. He flared up and told me that if I cannot pay the remaining #20,000, I should come and collect my banner saying he was no longer interested. He later said that for my sake he would reduce it to #10,000. I told him I have done my part of our agreement even though he did not do his part and that he should endeavor to put up that banner where we agreed as I will not pay him any money again. Ever since, he refused talking to me. I thought of ways to expose him and so I had to put it up on face book and informed my lawyer, my lawyer has already contacted him and he is currently trying to undo his wrong.
Will you not be spending more than you were duped with your involving lawyer with the cost of going to court?
Interestingly my lawyer is someone who heard my rap music in Ika language and was so intrigued. He contacted me through face book and we got talking. He offered me a three years legal service for free of which I have a year left. He is such a wonderful Ika man.
Has this man’s behavior (the man who duped you) affected your relationship with other Ika persons? Would you be willing to listen to request from other Ika person’s vis-à-vis Nigerians?
At this point, I want to remove the word Ika and talk about humans in general especially Africans. Sincerity is not so close to them especially when you are at a distant from whomever you are doing business with. There was a period a bank was sponsoring a summer festival here in Germany. The tickets for the event were sold for two to three Euros and it was just a white printed paper that can be easily manipulated on the computer and reprinted but that never happened. People were on long queues to buy the tickets. I then imagined if it were in my country Nigeria, cartons of the tickets would have been reprinted. For an event which lasted for two weeks.
We are so religious here in Africa, yet we do many negative things, but over there in Europe they do not have churches scattered all over the place nor attend churches on a daily basis like most of us Christians do here yet they seem to be morally and well coordinated, who among these two categories in your opinion do you think is closer to God?
None of them, the white man does not believe in God so they are not close to God and the kind of religion practiced in Africa is hypocrisy, stomach religion, so they are not even close to God either
Do you have mentors or people you look up to?
Sincerely speaking, take religion away, my mentor is God. I mentored myself. I helped myself and the only person who made it possible is God my creator.
You left Ika Grammar school in 1985 and you went to Germany in 1995. What did you engage in within those years in Nigeria between 1985 and 1995?
I suffered a lot. In and around College of Education Agbor, there used to be a cashew plantation. I would go there pick cashews and go sell them at the market. I was a bus conductor along the line. I also sold corn and kerosene, I went to Lagos became a conductor just to keep myself busy and engaged in meaningful activities to make money. I remembered when I wrote my WAEC exams, some of us had our results seized and we were asked to re-enroll with #60 and then late entry for #90. Where would a boy of my age about 16 to 17 years old get such money to pay for late entry that’s why I said earlier that if I have my way I would sue those teachers to court? It was very difficult to re-enroll and my mother would always resound in my ears “do not steal.” Somewhere in Baleke Street, by the express in those days, we would go there and load up the Coca-Cola trucks and get paid. We trekked often from school to that area having no time to read our books.
So what led you to Germany?
Thank you, when I was in Nigeria, I was already into Music, especially when in Lagos, but then I was doing reggae music, playing some revolutionary songs talking about the government led by Abacha. At a point the police men and soldier came to our studio in Surulere, tried to arrest us, they seized my tape some of us were lucky to run away, most of us ran out of the country. I was lucky I made it to Germany.
Someone must have helped you to Germany?
Yes, a businessman in Lagos of whom I would be forever grateful to helped my migration to Germany and I have long ago shown appreciation for this good deeds
You said you to have gotten over 13 awards, was any from Ika community?
Yes, majority of them are from the Ika community, for example the “Special Achiever Award” for my music and videos, I was also awarded for my radio presentation here in Germany. I was running my radio programme in Ika language played Ika music on radio, interviewed Ika people on the radio simply doing things to promote Ika language.
How do you relax?
I try to find time to relax, I am always very busy, I move around a lot doing business but most times I relax in my car, I have a very large car and also in my office.
Advice for the youths
They should believe in what they can achieve with their hands and not something they do not understand. Crime does not pay, yahoo does not pay. I want them to note that success does not locate one who is idle, they should get something doing. Those of them going through the Mediterranean Sea into Europe, I can understand their plight they are people who want to take their future into their hands by all means. My advice to them is to remind them that there are two ways to doing things, the wrong and the right way and that whatever they want to do; they should consider the right way.
Advice for the parents
The best they can give to their children is education, not business or money. All parents should endeavor to give their children a quality education.
Advice for the politicians
The politicians are self-centered. Why do they not put in place in our country, those things they see here in Europe since they always come here? My advice to politicians is to copy the right things from Europe and establish them over there in Nigeria.