Mohbad and the The Call for Justice –Dr. Banire, SAN

By Dr. Muiz Banire, SAN

The past few days have been dominated by a strident call for justice for a young music star, Ilerioluwa Aloba otherwise popularly known as “Mohbad” or “Imole”.

I must not pretend to have a good knowledge of the existence or the enthralling musical exploits of this great icon until a few days ago when everywhere I turned, I was confronted with the agitations on both social and conventional media of the need to bring to book the alleged perpetrators of the dastardly act that led to the death of Mohbad.

Dr. Muiz Banire, SAN

The wild spread of protests across cities in Nigeria and abroad drummed more into my consciousness how much this music star was loved by his fans. I made efforts to know more about him and I was much more surprised when a judge friend of mine was telling me about the philosophical contents of Mohbad’s music.
I thought judges don’t have time to listen to music but the entertaining and freestyle dance-hall nature of some of Mohbad’s songs enthralled me when my friend judge sang ta lo so pe ko po ke/OPP o po pa/OPG o po gan/awon omo ajilomoto/ajigba wire/awon omo mi chuku chuku.

I then realised that I had heard the song before while paying no attention to who could have been the artiste. This made me to listen more to his music. I went on Youtube and other websites. I enjoyed the philosophical explanation of life as Mohbad gave it as if he knew death was around the corner.

His crooning won le le le le le, won o ba/won wa wa wa wa wa, won o ri made me realise more the futility of life and its possessions that we all chase to the detriment of forgetting the hereafter.

I sank into my chair in a deep thought of what a talent wasted in its prime. As to the cause of death, different versions have been flying around while the police are investigating this most important issue. Accusing fingers have been pointed in the direction of another music star, Azeez Fashola aka Naira Marley and one Sam Larry.

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The two have, at different times, come on air to deny knowledge or responsibility for the death of Mohbad. The court of public opinion, in its usual characteristics, has condemned these two gentlemen while blurring the sharp edges of investigation and diverting attention.

The police should focus on their job here and avoid the distraction of the social media as some funny characters have been using the sad death of Mohbad to make fun and silly jests. It is important to know what killed this 27-year old crooner.

The whole world has stood up to know the cause of his death and the judiciary, courtesy of Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, I understand, has ordered an inquest into his death. Just about ten years ago, we lost a young music crooner, Dagrin to the cold hands of death in circumstances less of speculation as to the cause of death as we understood he died in a car accident.

It was a loss too big for the music industry and his death shook the entire music nation most especially among the youth. We the “old school”, who are not much aficionados of modern music, lagged behind in knowing who Dagrin actually was. Today, losing another music legend in Mohbad is a sad tale too difficult to tell at at time when he stood tall ready to conquer the world.

This brings me to the events and happenings that preceded Mohbad’s death and the relationship between him and his music promoter, Naira Marley. I understood that there was no love lost between the two prior to and at the time of Mohbad’s death.

A lot of video clips have dominated the air trying to pitch the cause of death to certain acts of harassment and intimidation allegedly carried out by some individuals like Sam Larry and a few others purportedly on the instruction of Naira Marley.

The story was that Naira Marley, being the sponsor of Mohbad’s music, insisted on certain conditions and acts of occultic practices which Mohbad refused to do. How true this is, is yet to be established. In a recent release, Naira has debunked this allegation while professing his love for his erstwhile protege. Much case has been made on social media for conviction of Marley without trial.

In all these, the particular occasion of Mohbad’s death has not been outwardly linked to an act by any particular individual. While the police are looking into this, I am tempted to examine the relationship between most artistes and their producers or promoters. Such relationships have often been a beautiful start but with a tragic end. History of music is replete with cases of scintillating romance turning sour when it is sweetest to the audience.

In the 70’s was the famous dispute between King Sunny Ade (KSA) and his music promoter, Chief Bolarinwa Abioro of African Songs Limited.

In a riveting tale recently recounted by my erstwhile student and friend more popularly known by his sobriquet, Onigegewura, a contract signed by an excited young music star without digesting the terms became a subject of legal dispute.

While the young artiste in KSA was eager to be a recorded artiste on the label of Chief Abioro, little did he pay attention to the details of the contract he was appending his signature to when the going was good.

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By the time he realised his loss in the interpretation of the contract, a law suit was already at his doorstep. That was when lawyers came in, in full swing, as KSA realised the need to engage a lawyer that he probably felt he would never need. He went for Chief Gani Fawehinmi of blessed memory.

It is apparent that Chief Abioro, from the contractual papers he signed with KSA, was not in short supply of lawyers. It is the same way many young artistes of today do not consider it worth their time and need to engage a lawyer to protect their interests before going into a contract with a promoter.

This failure is not only applicable to musicians. It is the same with many people who only run to lawyers when the doomsday arrives. They would have forgotten that a marriage that began with a scintillating romance and honeymoon may one day crash in an accident of incompatibility and discord. It is at this point that many expect a lawyer to perform a miracle and save them from a contract of slavery they voluntarily entered into without seeking legal advice from the beginning.

At times, the lawyer might be able to salvage the situation but in some circumstances, the situation might be beyond redemption. After all, a lawyer is not a miracle worker. It is on this note that I queried the relationship between Naira and Mohbad. Were they contracting parties without consort of lawyers? Did the two parties have any legal document regulating their business relationship?

Or was it a case of one party being legally represented while the other felt no need to have one? At no point have I heard that Mohbad consulted a lawyer in all the period that he was reported to be harassed, victimised, assaulted, injured and intimidated by certain individuals alleged to be acting on behalf of Naira.

While I learnt that he once wrote a petition against Sam Larry alleging destruction of his property worth millions of Naira, I understand that police account revealed that while Sam Larry came to debunk the allegation, Mohbad did not come to substantiate the allegation. I believe Mohbad could have employed better services of lawyers still.

Human rights organisations are everywhere in Lagos State and Mohbad could have made a case for intervention. We have notable human rights lawyers who would have intervened and smoothened the otherwise spoiling friendship between the two music stars.

This is a lesson to all to take their legal relationships seriously. Tell your lawyer before you go into that contract. His charges cannot be a hindrance to your success but would rather assist in ensuring same.

However, while it is the case that some promoters are wicked and would exploit their artistes like slaves, the pendulum does not swing only in one direction. We have cases of artistes too who are cheats and are only out to exploit their promoters and his huge investments that made the artistes known to the world.

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Some are like prostitutes notwithstanding the genre of music they do whether gospel, Fuji, R & B, Afro-Juju, Raggae, Highlife or whatever. Some would abandon their contract duly signed with the help of a lawyer, and run to another producer while under a contractual obligation with another promoter.

In many cases that we have handled in our law firm, we realise that contractual breach or exploitation in the entertainment world is not a preserve of one side to the bargain just like it is in other ordinary cases. All said, from all accounts that I have listened to or read, I have not seen the direct involvement of Naira in the circumstances leading to the death of Mohbad.

That is why we must leave the police to do their investigation and prosecute whoever is responsible for the death of this young music giant. We must put an end to violence among our youths as the allegation of cultism is live in this case.

The loss of human capital to the nation as a result of unnecessary violence is incalculable. We can only have a guaranteed future when our youths live responsibly and assimilate the virtues and values with which our society was known in the past.

The youth sector of our demography has become a haven of cultism and cultist violence. Cultism is now on the streets and no longer only in the higher institutions as it used to be in the past. The allegation of cultism in this case should also be investigated. The government needs to do more to save our future from needless violence. I empathise with the parents, friends, lovers and fans of Mohbad.

I sympathise with the music world that has lost another icon that would have taken the stage by a greater storm if death had not removed his hungry fingers from the plate of life. The loss to the nation can easily be appreciated from a cursory look at the foreign exchange earnings Nigeria is making from other young world music legends like Davido, Olamide, Asake, Burna Boy, Mayokun, Tiwa Savage, Tems, Ayra Starr et al.

They have placed Nigeria on a beautiful platter of world recognition contrary to the negative news with which Nigeria is always associated. It saddens me when I think of the achievements and exploits lying ahead of the young Ilerioluwa Aloba, Mohbad. It is sadder when one, at this point, has to wish him “rest in peace”.

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