I remember watching Tobenna cry like a month old toddler. He would wake up in the middle of the night and write these suicidal lyrics and drop tears all over the paper. He always wished his mother had not died while giving birth to him. Tobe sulked, spoke less, socialized even lesser and was a total recluse. Fate was in our favour when I and Tobe got the same hostel rooms in Uni. After coming through our senior high together as room mates, we were definitely going to have a smooth ride in the University I thought to myself.
I vividly remember Tobenna producing music at the age of 14. He would make these world class beats and record his smooth, bluesy voice over them and call flattered young girls into our room and dedicate these songs to them. The stars were aligned for Tobe. The only talent hunt Tobe lost was due to the fact that he had a sore throat and he still came in second. What really impressed me about Tobe wasn’t just his raw talent. His work ethic, dedication and drive towards his music at such a young age startled me. He knew exactly where he wanted to be with his vocals, sound, stage presence and everything that concerned being an artiste. He was wise beyond his years.
In our final year of Secondary school, when we returned from our mid-term break, Tobenna had marks and cuts all over his body. All our friends asked him what happened and he kept on saying “I fell off the stairs”. He sounded like a record on loop to me. I wasn’t taking that pre-recorded answer. When we got to the dorm, I looked Tobe in the eye and asked him ”Tobenna, Ogini me? What happened”? We randomly spoke Igbo to each other when we got serious. He replied subtly saying- “It’s my Dad, he’d rather I die than for me to sing”. Apparently, Tobe was rehearsing for his performance at our social night and his dad overhead and pounced on him. We both cried that night until we slept off. I looked into the future and saw his dreams fizzling into thin air. That’s why I cried. The wounds were just a starter. A long battle was ahead I thought to myself.
When I met Tobe on my first day in University and I asked him “Did you get into Creative Arts?” He looked at me and walked away. I was dazed. Why did a simple question make him react like that? Later on, Tobe informed me that his dad made sure he got into Accounting Department in the University of Lagos. At first I laughed, because I thought this was a joke. I mean, Tobe was the worst commercial student in our set but he was a creative and musical genius. His interests were planted somewhere else. According to him, whenever he told his father of his intentions to become a musical artiste, his father would say “Do you want me to be the father of a tout? God forbid it!” Tobe’s father was a giant of a man. I remember telling Tobe that I’ll be a mediator and speak to his father. The moment I walked into their living room and took a glance of his dad, my words ran back into my throat. I was terrified.
Fast forward three years, here we are in 2016. Tobe has spent five years in school, for a course that’s meant to be four years and he has been advised to withdraw. My beloved friend has never known happiness. He has lost on all fronts. He hardly is able to produce the kind of music that he is known for, his creativity is dwindling and his life is a mess. He has gotten a ton of advice, the most frequent one being- “You need to rebel against your father and leave his house, live on your own and do your music”. Tobe had tried to run away actually, which was the year he deferred his admission, but with his father being an influential man in the country, it was long until he was found and hounded. His father has made his life unbearable.
As I am writing this from Tobe’s BQ apartment here in Lagos, and as we prepare to have a crucial meeting with his dad tomorrow, I have found that so many Nigerian children are doing courses or are in professions their parents enforced them to do. I am going to be speaking on behalf of Tobe and I’m full with words and this also for parents who have constantly succeeded in crushing their Children’s dreams and talents. Parents remember that your primary assignment over your Children’s life is guidance and not law enforcement. It’s your job to look deeply into your child, find if their talent and passion is genuine and help them harness it rather than suppressing it and in the process killing them emotionally.
Emotional damage is even worse than physical damage. Honestly, it is so ridiculous and naïve for some of you parents to assume that some career choices are for ‘’touts or non-serious individuals’’. Finally, don’t get me wrong, there are some children that are lost and don’t know what’s right for them, in such cases you can help lead them to a career path.
Come tomorrow, we would be telling Tobe’s Dad that he has been advised to withdraw and he will be changing his course to Music/Creative Arts and will also fully pursue his music career alongside. Hopefully, just hopefully a boy would be allowed to get within touching distance of his dreams and aspirations. Come 2017, Parents please, allow a boy/girl to dream.