I REGRET COMING BACK TO NIGERIA -UCHE IBETO
Uche Ibeto is not a name many people are used to, but Jigida Queen certainly rings a bell. The name was very popular back in the 80s', and remain so till date. For those who don't know, Uche Ibeto and Jigida Queen are one and the same person.
Indeed, Uche was a sensation many years ago. She was a popular female musician for her stage dexterity and dance techniques. She knew how to wriggle her waist and she exhibited that prowess in her Jigida video, the album that brought her to the zenith. Uche was really hot then.
Then she faded into oblivion. Most of her contemporaries were merely relegated to the background, but in Uche's case, nothing was heard any more about her. It was as if she didn't have anything more to offer, hence she had to go under.
But during the recently held Nigeria Music Awards, Uche made a re-appearance and she did it in grand style. She lived up to her name, looking regal in her queenly outfit and of course, her jigida.
Spectacles cornered the queen much later and she readily opened up on a lot of issues and why she went out of circulation.
Really, Uche confirmed to Spectacles that she faded from the scene for some time.
“I took off after Jigida came out, I had to leave the country. But I came back. I released one gospel music to show appreciation to God for what He has done for me. The album was not really for commercial purposes but just to say thank you to my God. But I tell you, my absence was deliberate. I had to take off.”
She went ahead to tell Spectacles why she had to leave the country.
“When I released Jigida, it was very hot. The video was some other thing. I didn't even know the video would come out the way it did because I was very sick during the shooting.”
When the video came out, Uche was the bomb. If she was sick during the shooting, one wonders how far she would have gone if she was in sound health. Uche wondered so as well.
“I wonder what would have happened if I was okay. If the video could cause the commotion it did, I think the country would have exploded if I was in good health during the shooting.”
Uche said the album changed her circumstance and she had to flee for her dear life.
She told Spectacles the story.
“Do you know that many women started accusing me that I was trying to steal their boyfriends and husbands from them? Do you know that I started receiving threat calls from women? Some would call me and say that each time the video was aired; their husband treated them as rubbish and concentrated only on the music being played on the television. Some would say that I go as far as disturbing them even when they were with their husband in the bedroom. It was that bad.”
Uche said she was not enjoying the fame any longer because of the scandals that came with it. She became an anathema to many women who
felt she was all set to take their husbands from them, just because of her dance steps in the video.
When it became too hot for her to handle, Uche had to make an exit. She literarily ran away.
“I had to run away. I couldn't take it any longer. I eventually came back when I thought people must have forgotten about me.”
Many people may say Uche had the intention to seduce the men when she came up with such video. But the Jigida Queen denied ever having such idea at the back of her mind.
“Honestly, I never had in mind to seduce anybody. In fact, let me tell you how this Jigida thing came about.”
She reclined in her seat as she got ready to tell the story.
“I just came back from London then. I went to the village and I saw the beads from my cousin. I was really impressed. There and then, I decided I was going to do something to revive this lost glory. I needed to make people realise that Jigida (beads) is part of our culture and should be worn.”
With that motive, Uche went to work. She had to do something. She started writing songs upon songs, until she came up with the lyrics that best suited what she had in mind.
As for the costume for the video, Uche had to come up with something creative to drive home the message of the beauty of Jigida.
She recalled to Spectacles, “According to the story I was told, I learnt that in the olden days, maidens wear only Jigida to cover their nakedness without wearing any other thing. But I couldn't do that. I had to tie a short wrapper along with the Jigida. I even learnt they used to go topless, but I didn't, I covered my breast. I was not indecent in anyway. It still puzzles me why women had to see me as a threat when the video came out.”
No matter the commotion the video caused, Uche has no regret at all for singing the song or doing the video.
“Why do I have to regret it? The Federal Government of Nigeria appreciated me to the extent that I was sponsored by the government to go and represent the country at international musical concerts twice and I did the country proud.”
But being human, Uche felt bad about the scandal that followed her success on the music scene.
“I am a human being and I am very sensitive. So the scandals made me feel so bad. But after some time, I had to caution myself. I had to tell myself to stop being childish. Abeg, the women should hold their husbands joo. If they couldn't, that meant they weren't good in the first place, so their husbands had to look for another woman. It was not my business at all.”
In fairness to those women who were complaining, Uche really had more than enough male admirers. The number increased almost a hundred fold as soon as the video came out.
“You needed to see the number of letters I was getting on a daily basis. They were just too much. I would seat down and call my people to help me to open the letters and read. We all would have a good laugh. The admirers were many.”
In all of these admirers, Uche couldn't settle down with any of them, why? Spectacles asked.
“If men come to you like that, there would be so much fear: You would not know who was coming to you for genuine reasons, you wouldn't know if they actually loved you or they simply wanted to be identified with you because of your fame. I was really scared.”
When her private life was brought up for discussion, Uche preferred to keep mum and wouldn't comment.
“Why don't we leave my private life out of this? I don't want to talk about it,” she said.
However, Spectacles insited on finding out if she was okay with her life as it is.
She enthused, “I am very happy. I am highly contented. I don't take orders from anybody; I don't have to take permission from anybody. I am really happy.”
But it is believed that no woman is complete without a husband, Spectacles observed
“Do you think it is too late? Some people marry for the first time in their life at the age of 45; others get married at the age of 50 or 60. I do think it is late; it depends on what you want to do with your life and what you have decided.”
And what has Uche Ibeto decided? Spectacles asked.
“I have decided to look unto God. I know that with Him, everything is possible. He chooses the time for anything to happen and He knows best.”
Many may think she failed to settle down because stardom got to her head.
Uche denied that.
“Stardom did not affect me at all. It was not as if men were not coming to me for marriage. But like I told you, I was scared. I didn't know who was coming to me for genuine reasons.”
Uche said she did not have any regret, but there is still one thing she did which she wished she shouldn't have ever done.
“I regret coming back to Nigeria. I regret leaving England and coming back to this country when I did. I was a supermodel in the UK then. I attended one of the most expensive modelling schools in London and I was attached to one of the best modelling agencies. I was doing real well over there. I was getting jobs. All of a sudden, my people wanted me home and I left my job to come back here. I wish I hadn't. By now, nobody would have seen my back; I would have been a big time star and not ordinary Uche Ibeto, the Jigida Queen.”
In all this, Uche has a vision which she hopes to accomplish in no time to come.
“There is something in the pipeline. I don't want to let the cat out of the bag. I have a baby, which I am still nurturing. When the time comes, I will let you know.”