RAPE CASE: I DIDN’T WANT TO LEAVE LONDON JAIL - AFRICAN CHINA
As popular reggae star, Chinagorom Onuoha, popularly called African China prepares to release his third album, one can imagine how eager his fans are to get his reactions on the rape saga which generated a lot of rumour during his trip to London last year for a show organised by one of Nigerian stand up comedian, Basket Mouth. African China, who confirmed to Victor Akande in this interview that his experience in London forms the theme of his next album, London Fever, told his side of the story among other issues bothering on the Nigerian music industry.
ou are about to release your third album, should we say it will be based on your rape case in London?
(Laughs) Not far from it. It's a 10-track album and it's going to be my third. It is titled London Fever. So, you have guessed right. I also have tracks like, Forgive Me, which is enjoying airplay on radio right now as a single. There is also One day. There are other songs like Baba God,a gospel track. You know that in my past albums I praised God and I want to be consistent with that.
What is the feedback you get from the Christian community regarding those tracks?
I get more support from them, more love. They have come to recognise me with that tradition; I don't want my music to corrupt children, I want a situation whereby if parents are playing my music, they would be free to leave their kids to sit next to them and listen to the songs. When such songs are played at their birthday parties they feel happy to see their kids dance to them. I also sing the gospel songs in church. Right now, I'm trying to do something and that is after my fourth and fifth album; I'm going to compile all the gospel tracks and make them into a CD for the Christian market.
Political song is also one of your traditions. Do we have that coming again in your coming album?
Yes, my fans should be expecting another dosage of that because if you recall, what we experienced in the last elections was unthinkable. Everybody already knew who was going to win. I also like to talk about the Nigerian constitution, about the ordinary man on the street that does not know his constitutional rights. It is important that we also educate ourselves through music.
Are you going to reply to the criticism from some of your friends (also musicians) that the Nigerian situation is not as bad as you portrayed it in your last album, Mr President?
Well, we all know that those guys were merely seeking recognition and fame, and they don't come cheaply. At least not in the way they went about it. If I had replied them, I probably would have boosted their ego and sold the fame to them cheaply. But I need them to work hard to become real men. Let them hustle for it. I struggled to get to the position that I am today. I was also humble to people before me. I also had to create some privacy for myself so that I could think and make sure that I come out with something unique and solid. So you see why I won't reply them so that they don't just eat from my sweat and just jump into limelight. No way! I have a new album coming out; they should go ahead and use that one against me too. When I'm going to reply them is when they are popular, when they might have made it big in life. By that time, I will not only be replying them and exposing their stupidity, I will also be making money from my response. I am a businessman. Thanks to Sunny Ade for teaching me what I'm doing now. I have a new album coming out, go ahead and criticise me, ofe loro (there is freedom of speech).
What's your relationship with Sunny Ade?
Father and son thing, I always go to his place for advice and all that. And once in a while, I call him on the phone and ask him few things, greet him, and find out if he is in Lagos. If he is, he tells me to come over so we can talk.
It is almost a year after the London rape case, how come you're just coming with an album focusing on it?
Well, I had some of my songs ready before the election; in fact I was already working in the studio, but I had to wait for the elections to be concluded because I wanted to pick some briefs from the elections. At that point the songs that I intended for my third album had to wait because of these fresh occurrences. That is to tell you that as I speak to you, my fourth album is already in the cooler.
Did you actually rape that girl in question in your London case?
(Sighs) It's a long story and I can only summarise it by telling you that it was a set up. I had a show in London, it was a Basket Mouth's show and for some reasons, I had to put up with a girl (a black lady) I got acquainted with on the phone. She sure had a crush for me and invited a friend of hers, a white lady, to the show. The white girl picked interest and somehow, I was tricked to take her (the white girl) to my hotel room. I fell into the trap because I wanted to avoid the black girl, especially when I noticed that she was being possessive. She didn't want anybody to be close to me and I didn't like that. I'm a free guy; I want to mix with anybody. I want to mix with my fans. Some how, the black girl, out of bitterness called the police, alleging that I had raped the white girl. Probably because they are close friends, the white girl had to play along by pretending to the police that I actually raped her. The case lasted for as long as she got the courage to tell the truth. The DNA test conducted on the girl and me also proved otherwise. That was how I was discharge and acquainted and I was paid some compensation by the council.
Some people feel that even if you didn't commit the rape, you did sleep with the girl
Do you think it is easy to commit rape in a country like London and be set free? Whoever believe so should go and commit one. They should know that I returned to Nigeria as African China. I didn't have to disguise like a woman, if you know what I mean. (laughs)
For how long were you locked up?
Two weeks and four days. Then the remaining period was how long the case lasted. There was also the period that I had to wait for the money before returning to Nigeria.
What is the prison like over there?
Their prison na like hotel o (laughs). Me self no won come out again sef
. When I was entering the police cell, I thought I was going to be seeing criminals with broken nose and bruises here and there but I got it all wrong. I was alone in my cell, a clean place with television set such that you know what is going on in the outside world. I was also given bed and blanket. You also need to see the toilet - absolutely clean.
Who were your friends that stood by you and who were those that disowned you?
People like Chief Don, respect always; Chief Stanley and his wife, and Mrs. Elizabeth Ayaowu; my brother, Draw; the Black Night family; Femi, Benjy solicitor, Jay-Jay. Those I expected would stand by me, I didn't see. Especially some one like Basket Mouth. And to imagine that I went to London because of his show. All that he did was to come to Nigeria here to tell people that he raised five thousand pounds for me. Lie! He did not raise a dime for me. It was Chief Stanley that paid my five thousand pounds that was repaid back to him. Ojez also came, so also was former PMAN president, Bolaji Rosiji. They really showed their support. And to all the radio station and media houses, I can't thank them enough.
Are you still on the label of Globe Disc?
I'm still with Globe Disc, but right now I want to make another move. As a businessman I have to move on. I can't say because we started together... we have lots of people now who pay good money for music. But you don't pay me and you expect me to wait. In this year? No! I need to step up man, my songs sell more than that of many other artistes and I see no reason why the money is not coming. I need to step up.
What is your reaction to the way awards are being organised in this country?
Well, I think NMA was one award that was packed to an international standard. But the problem was in the nominees and also the inability of the organisers to get in touch with artistes and get them to attend the show. This is important because it is our show. NMA here is Nigerian Music Awards, you should be able to get all the musicians to come together because perhaps that is the only day we get to see our selves. Let's learn to love and stop to hate.
How often do you visit Ajegunle-Orile?
I always come around; because the street is where the experience is, so if you leave the street, trust me you will be left with nothing. You will be a changed person and the youth coming behind will come and over take you, they will do better than you. But if you come to the street, you will get more fans, more respect and get more inspiration. I come to AJ City and Orile frequently. More so, I've got brothers and sisters here, friends that I get to say hi to. Even if your friends are no longer here, come around and make new friends.