Like Shakespeare wrote about greatness in one of his classic plays, Macbeth, “Some were born great, while others had greatness thrust upon them.” Looking at this quotation, it becomes difficult for me to write this tribute to Maitama Sule because I found it hard to choose my words. On the other hand, I got a…
By Bolatito Adebayo
Tunde Obe is a musician and one half of the popular music couple T.W.O. In this interview, the renowned musician shared with us memories of his mother before she died.
What’s your mum’s name?
Her name is Bose Obe.
How old were you when she died?
I was about 25.
What was her favorite meal you enjoyed eating?
Efo riro and she taught my wife how to make it. She knows how to cook that thing very well, with all sorts of matter inside (laughs). When you eat that one with eba, your mind will come down, nobody can upset you at that point (laughs). But she was a good cook generally.
What job was she doing before your dad’s ambassadorial appointment?
She was well educated and as the wife of an ambassador she had to travel from country to country, so she could never hold down a job. Most of the time, we were in strange lands and even though we had diplomatic passports she didn’t have a work permit and all that, so she was basically a housewife until my father died. Thereafter she worked with what was then called International Bank for West Africa in the ‘70s.
After your dad died she became a single mum; what was it like for her?
She used to cry a lot, but she didn’t know I knew. But I am a very sensitive person; I have always been a very sensitive person, which is why I don’t have many friends. So, I used to be always upset that my mum was upset and it was a point where I couldn’t really do anything about it. The kind of things that upset her were basically little things. You can imagine somebody coming back to Nigeria when you lived in countries where you were moving about in limousine and Roll Royce. You know, Nigeria had money then in the 70s (laughs); there was oil money. So, you find out that the ambassador would either use a limo or stretched Benz; it was always something of that level. Then when we came back, after my father’s death one of my father’s friends gave her a beetle to move around. That thing nearly killed her; I knew that because she never touched that car for one day. That car was out there for like two months. Then one day, the driver who brought the car was sent to come and check, if there was any problem with the car. When the guy came, my mum told him, “I don’t know whether it would even start because we have not touched it since you dropped it, these are your keys. My advice is that you try and see whether you can push it or whatever and take it back to chief, tell him I would come and thank him later.” So, we heard later that the man told somebody that, “After all she didn’t have anything and her husband was dead and I gave her a car” and saying all these things. I remember my mum went all out and sold her jewelries and some other things. Then she bought a Honda at that time. So, she said it’s just to show them that it’s not over till it’s over. So, she bought her own car and said we would visit that man one day to let him know (laughs).
As a child were you always getting into trouble with her or you were a good kid?
I was a pretty good kid; the only problem I had with her was because I had ladies flocking around me from a very young age and I kind of liked the attention, so she didn’t finding that funny.
She would say “If you get anybody pregnant at this age, I’ll kick you out (laughs); you can’t live here with any baby” (laughs). But it wasn’t really like that; for me they were my friends. I still miss her, there are times when I think about her and I shed a tear or two. I think mainly, because I would have liked her to live long enough to see my success. My mum was a banker and she was highly placed and we had a pretty good life, there was never a time we didn’t have a car. I can’t say there was a time I went to bed hungry. But you know coming from where my father was to where my mother was, there was a big difference. I really wished I was able to give her all my father gave her before she died. I would have loved her to see my success now. Wunmi and I have never bragged about our house, so when people come, they’re always shocked and you know not everybody is happy. But I think the one person that would have been genuinely happy for my success would have been my mum. She could have been the one that would be dancing through all the rooms and I would have felt her joy. You cannot take the prayer of a mum away from the life of a person but I think not having parents has strengthened Wunmi and I. That’s why our bond is like so strong. When we got married we didn’t have parents; we married in 1998 and our parents were deceased. My mum died in 1994, her mum died in 1993, her dad died in 1984, my dad died in 1978. So, we were used to having each other, I’m her father and she’s my mum.
So, your mum met your wife before she died?
Yes, she did.
What was their relationship like?
Just before she died she told me two things and I didn’t know she was going to die but she was a little bit indisposed and she was saying that she had seen some things that she wanted me to know. She told me “This is your wife, I may not be around for your wedding but don’t look two ways about it, this is your wife. Two, this woman would have beautiful children for you, I may not be around to carry my grandchildren but she’s going to have kids for you. Then three, I see a beautiful house” adding “…that house is even more beautiful than the one your father lived in, I see beautiful things everywhere, I wish I could stay around to see this house.” So, as soon as I built this house, I knew this was the house she was talking about.
Was she very ill?
No. What happened was just funny. She just started complaining of headache, we didn’t know, I think they call it aneurysm. You know Nigeria was a little bit backward then, now we are really enlightened, we have the Internet, and everybody is googling stuff. Aneurysm is when a blood vessel or a major vessel in the brain breaks and it starts to leak blood into the head. It is very difficult to save the life of that person but it’s possible if you know what it is. But we didn’t know, they kept treating her for high blood pressure, migraine and malaria; they didn’t know precisely what was amiss. We were moving from hospital to hospital but it was after she died they realized, because she survived with this thing for almost a month. But the headache just wouldn’t stop, so they were just giving her painkillers and she kept complaining. Eventually, she went into a coma and she never came out of it.
How much do you miss her?
I think the missing comes from a more selfish angle. I wanted to do things for my mum and take her back to when my father was alive. When my father was alive, we always flew in first class cabin, traveled by boat, everything, any hotel, it was 5-star. I wanted to give her that life again, because she was never at the point where she was poor but she didn’t have those things, you know there is what you call middle class. We were middle class after my dad died; when my dad was alive we were upper class, so we came down to the middle class. I would have loved to just pamper her, send her off to places with my wife; I know they would have been best friends. So, my wife would have been taking her round the world and she would have been enjoying her grandchildren too. So, those are the things that I miss; that I wish she had lived to enjoy. Already I’m older than my father was when he died and very soon I’ll be the age of my mum when she died. She was 56, so I’m getting close to her age and I don’t think in another 5 to 6 years I’ll be ready to die (laughs). To me, she died young at 56 as she still had a lot to give. If she had stayed another 10 years she could have seen 2004 and by then we were already very successful. So I regret that.