My mom wants me to be a pastor, but it?s too late ? Paul of P Square
Twin brothers, Peter Okoye and Paul Okoye, make up PSquare, one of Nigeria?s hottest musical sensation at the moment. They came into the music scene a few years ago but have become a household name. But then, many believe they have allowed fame to go to their heads. In this interview with 'NONYE IWUAGWU and ADEOLA BALOGUN, however, Paul explains why a lot of people have this notion and why they are bringing an international artiste, Buster Rhymes, to the country. Why do you want to bring Buster Ryhmes to Nigeria?
It is a fact that when Buster Rymes performed in Lagos the other time, his performance was outstanding. I can confirm to you that there was no dull moment. He is somebody with so many hits. Everybody was asking for more. Actually we had it in mind to work with Akon, but we realised that Akon will suit a place like Bayelsa, but that is not now. There is a difference between Buster Rymes and Akon. Buster Rymes will be able to communicate better at this show. We went on a tour in East Africa and people were asking us to tell them about the situation in the Niger Delta. They always ask us what we are doing about the problems in the Niger Delta. It is really disturbing. It is not like what you people see on TV. Out there, they believe that once any white person arrives at the airport, kidnappers will pick him up.
Are there no chances that this foreign artiste could walk away without performing, like Anita Baker did in Nigeria recently?
I don?t think so. I am not ready to tell you what we have in the contract, but I tell you, Buster Rhymes is coming to Asaba, Delta State by the end of this month. There is a TV footage where he publicly said he was coming to Nigeria. If he doesn?t come, his own credibility will be at stake. Each time we perform outside the country, we always make sure we do a TV footage where we announce publicly that we would be coming to that country.
Apart from Buster Ryhmes, which other artistes will be performing?
We have Timaya, AY, Alaye from the UK, Black Solo and 2shotz.
You guys are popular. But don?t you think the N5,000 fee will be too much for people who would want to come for the show?
If it is taking place in Lagos, we will be talking of N20,000. The last time we had a P Square concert in Asaba, we made it N3,000 and the crowd was too much. I am talking about the concert that we had before the release of our current album. Now, we believe that if we make it the same thing, the crowd will be uncontrollable. With Buster Ryme, we are trying to control the crowd by charging N5000. We know the show is for everybody, but the fees will help us to check the turnout.
Are you guys not thinking of doing a 'collabo? with other foreign artistes?
Why not? That is the dream of every artiste. There are so many questions surrounding the idea of a collabo between P Square and other artistes. We don?t do our own things the way people go about theirs. We don?t begin to make noise without first doing our homework.
Do you think your current album is as successful as the last one?
Why not? I remember that we toured eight countries in Africa with the Get Squared album. But with the Game Over album, we have been to these countries back-to-back, and an extra nine. The only place left for us to conquer are the four northern African countries: Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. By the time we play in these countries, we are done with Africa.
How was the acceptance at the places you have been to?
Apart from acceptance, and I am not blabbing, I can confidently tell you that we are the biggest in Africa. You see, everybody says Nigeria is big, but nobody knows what is happening outside.
So, the show is an opportunity to give back to the society?
Exactly. It is not that we are doing a charity show or something like that, but to at least make people come together and let them know that what is happening is affecting the image of the country outside.
How many copies of your current album have been sold?
In Nigeria, people don?t believe in paying royalty. What we do is a kind of projection: 'Okay, since the last one sold seven million plus, this one is projected to sell 10 million...? What we do is that we strike a deal in Nigeria, go to Ghana and strike another deal, then to Gabon, Liberia, Tanzania, Uganda. Here in Nigeria, we have Tjoe, in Ghana, we have another person. In every country, there are different people we work with. What we did for the album in Nigeria was that we calculated how much 10 million copies was worth and the marketer paid us straight away. That is how we do our business. That is why you can never hear any story anywhere that P-Square is 'dragging? anything with any marketer. The album sold a million copies in four days; that is the audio. But the surprising part of it is that the day we released the video, the guy printed just 1.5 million copies and sold all the same day. That is Nigeria.
How come people read suggestive meanings to the lyrics of Do Me?
We are asked the same question not only here in Nigeria but in other places. But we know that when we say, 'do me and I do you? in Nigeria, it means tit for tat. The explanation we give is that in Nigeria, there is what we call do me and I do you, God no go vex. It is not suggestive at all.
In the Do Me video, you have a crowd of girls. Yet I learnt the video was not shot in Nigeria. How did you come about such a crowd outside Nigeria?
You see, when we wanted to do the video in South Africa, we met different agencies who came with different albums of the girls they had. We then decided to take ten girls from each agency. But what happened was that, immediately the girls heard that P-Square was in town for the video project, they all wanted to feature in it. We said we would pay those that we selected and told the agencies that the rest was their business. That was why the video looks very crowded. But it was nice.
I never thought you could speak so well, considering the fact that you didn?t finish your education before you became famous?
Yeah, I was in school then, at the University of Abuja. But at the same time, we were battling with parents who wanted us to finish school before doing music. God made things possible for us, because if at the end we hadn?t made it, we would have had ourselves to blame. We give God all the glory, because as soon as we finished school, within two weeks, we started achieving our dreams.
Does your fame seem overwhelming at times?
It happens often; not here in Nigeria, but outside. We have just returned from a concert in East Africa, and it is amazing that even Jay-Z and other artistes that had been to the place did not get a quarter of the crowd that we got. I would play the video for you guys before you leave. The reason we decided to take Soundcity along with us was, so that when we talk, there would be proof. For the first time, you are going to see a DVD of P Square?s tour covering 19 countries in Africa, excluding Nigeria. And it is going to be like five minutes of each country. You will see how we live outside Nigeria and how we are accepted. You see, some people are big in Nigeria but they are not known outside. I can tell you that apart from Tuface, no other person is as popular in these countries as P Square, I am not trying to be immodest.
Are you satisfied with the height you have attained or are you still aiming higher?
No, we are not satisfied. It is not all about making money at shows. We are supposed to be making more money from sales. We don?t do proper packaging here. In Tanzania and Kenya, a CD is sold for $7, whereas in Nigeria, it is less than a dollar. But you see, in Nigeria, we sell more because of population. That is the difference. If we can sell over there what we sell in Nigeria, forget it. We are trying to do things according to international standards for Nigerians to know that there is no difference between us and Jay-Z or any other person outside. People tend to do whatever P Square is doing, like the good video. What we keep kicking against is bringing in foreign artistes and paying them a lot of money. What stops you from bringing in about five artistes and pairing each of them with five local artistes? Put it in the contracts of those guys; they will accept it. That is what we want to prove; you can bring in an artiste and still be in charge of the artiste.
Apart from natural talent, what else do you owe your success to?
It is our brother, Jude, who is our manager. He has studied the industry. He knows everything that goes on in the industry. Jude is a very strict disciplinarian. You cannot say you want to go to the club. You can?t try it. You don?t go anywhere here without two or three people asking you what you are going there to do and why another person cannot go for you. That is how we live. There is serious discipline in this house. You don?t see people trooping in here anyhow; it is not possible.
Why is he doing that?
He is more mature and he knows more about the industry. He knows that people are watching. You hear that somebody went to the club and fought and all that, Jude doesn?t allow that. He says whatever you want to do, do it at home. You want to drink? Drink here. You want to go crazy, do it here. You want to play music and make noise, do it here; not anywhere else.
Do you have other siblings?
We do, but we are the last boys in the family. We have an elder sister and the last girl.
How would you describe the family?
It is strong and loving. There is nothing they do in the family without contacting Peter and Paul. Like the house we are planning to build, they made like three sketches and everybody agreed that whatever Peter and Paul said would be the final.
Do you disagree or argue with your twin brother?
It is a normal thing. But, you see, we only do that when we are at home. We don?t go outside and misbehave. Sometimes in the house, we argue and disagree, especially when we are working on a project. That is why inside the house, we are Peter and Paul, but outside the gates, we are P Square.
But outside, you don?t normally dress the same way or wear the same hairstyle?
There was a time Peter was dating a twin and her twin sister expected me to date her, but I didn?t like that. Later, I began to create a different appearance. He cut his hair and I grew dreadlocks. He goes to the gym, but I don?t. I just want that difference between Peter and Paul. That was why Peter was more in the papers; that he was seen with this girl or with that girl. At least, people will not have difficulty in identifying who they see. Whenever something goes wrong, I want people to be able to identify who was involved: is it the one that has (well built) body or the one with the dreadlocks? I just want people to know the difference between Peter and Paul when it comes to looks.
Your mum appears more visible than your dad. What happened?
Our mum is more visible because of the nature of the job she does. She is more of a public person too because she is a preacher; she has a ministry. But my dad is not. My dad does not like anything that has to do with publicity. But my mum controls people. She speaks in public and people listen to her.
If you have a mother who is a gospel person, why have you not considered doing gospel music?
Yeah, there is something you do and God has His own way. There is something my mum always says, 'Look, God is giving you guys this opportunity because He is preparing you for something.? I might not know. Maybe she knows. What I know is that I am doing music to make people happy. I don?t preach sex. I want people to leave their bad ways and think about something positive. We are supporting her in her work and she is there praying for us.
Despite the beautiful picture you painted, there are still some scandals trailing P Square?
That is why we have Peter and we have Paul. No scandal can follow me. I am not saying I am perfect. There are people who cannot control stardom; especially my twin brother, he has that stardom 'thing? in him. At times, he loses it, but our manager tries as much as possible to let him realise the implications.
What of this story that you were robbed recently in Cameroun?
Nothing like that happened. We are going to Cameroun for the first time, next week. We just came back from Sierra Leone. If you say we were mobbed, I would agree. We were treated as big stars in the country where a big crowd came out to welcome us, old and young. There was a serious traffic to the extent that the police had to release some shots into the air. We were not robbed but mobbed.
How do you handle girls who would want to get attached to you by all means?
One way or the other, we make them realise that we have our own girlfriends. But I don?t think that is working any more. When you tell them you have a girlfriend, that is when they come even harder, believing they can compete and win. The one that is happening now, which is worse, is that when we are performing, about six or seven girls will be showing us their underwears. It is no longer funny. There are different ways girls try to attract us, but I wish they understand that we too are human. We have our own differences and our life. But we appreciate them, because we cannot do without them.
Are you currently dating someone?
Yeah, I am dating. I have been dating the same person since I was in school.
You are still seeing the same person?
Why not? It gives me the opportunity to remain focused and in control. If you have a girlfriend, no matter the pressure from others, you are somehow stabilised.
Can you tell us her name?
I am not afraid to say it; her name is Anita.
Is she a known person?
No, she is not in the public.
You don?t appear arrogant like people think P Square is?
That is what we are saying. In life, it is not everybody that likes you, no matter what you do. There are some people who would want to pull you down or spoil your name. I keep telling people that it is when you come close to us that you know the type of people we are. We even advise fellow artistes. You know there are some who you can predict where they are at a particular time, especially clubs or joints; we don?t do that. We don?t shout outside because of where we grew up, in Jos, which is a very quiet place where everyone minds their business.
You are here talking to us as a perfect gentleman and yet you go wild on stage. Do you take stuff to do that?
This is Paul sitting. It is P Square that is on stage. That is what happens. I don?t take stuff. What happens is that we love performing and dancing. The reason why people misbehave outside is that they don?t separate their private lives from their public lives. We get on stage and go crazy, but after that, we are normal. We get on stage and see no one in particular.
The other time I spoke with your mum, she expressed confidence that you would still come back to work for God?
Mum always believes that I am going to become a pastor, but that is too late now. She knows, however, that what we are doing is a positive thing for humanity.
What more should we expect from P Square?
We are working on our packaging. There is something in Nigeria, which we don?t see whenever we go outside. We only say we are giants but we are not organised. Outside Nigeria, no radio or television station will play my song without paying me royalty. You could crosscheck that on the computer. Do you think NTA will pay me for playing my song? Imagine some companies using my songs to launch their products without striking a deal with me.
Where do you see yourself and Anita in a few years?
I don?t know. Only God can decide that.