By AYODELE LAWAL
Pa Fatai Olayiwola Olagunju popularly known as Fatai Rolling Dollar needs no introduction. At 86, he is still waxing stronger in show business. TS Weekend had a rare encounter with the legendary highlife artiste and he opened up like never before. Enjoy it.
How many times have you been rumoured dead?
About six times, I am not bothered by such rumour because I’m used to it and that shows that I will live long.
At 82, you are very energetic, what is the secret?
Its God’s making because He is compensating me for all the years I suffered. I have really suffered. I lost some children, including my younger wife who bore me three kids.
Is there any spiritual angle to it?
No, I’m a Muslim and God is my strength, the only medicine I know is malaria medicine or herbs for jedi jedi (pile).
So, you don’t believe in supernatural powers?
There are, but all that has happened to me is natural, God has a way of doing things.
Was there any time you felt like telling God that enough was enough, that you have suffered enough?
One incident that baffled me was the death of my younger wife because she was neither sick nor showed any sign of ill health, before she died at about 1a.m that day. I did not believe that Risikat Olagunju nee Ogunbona was dead until the day she was to be buried. That was a trying moment for me.
How many wives do you have now?
I have kids from five women.
How many children do you have now?
After losing two, I’m left with 13.
Any plan to have more?
You said so before and you had a set of twins later?
It’s the work of God, so He can’t be questioned, but right now I’m okay with what I have.
At your age, you are still active sexually, how do you do it?
Go and ask my victims, they will tell you how active I am in bed.
Do you use any enhancement drugs?
I use only herbs. I use lots of herbs.
Do you have any ailment at your age?
No. My only problem is backache. That’s all.
Looking back at your music career, what have you gained and what have you lost?
I have gained more despite the fact that I came to limelight at an old age. The first time I entered an aeroplane was when I was 76 that was when I travelled to Morocco, later Spain and back before embarking on a tour of Europe. I have since been to London, Paris, Holland, Germany, Belgium and New York.
You are happy that you travelled at such an old age?
It’s God’s work because if I had achieved something like this at a young age may be I would have been dead by now. I’m now free from witches and wizards so they cannot harm me anymore.
You trained someone like Commander Ebenezer Obey, and you are like a father to King Sunny Ade, what is the relationship between you and them now?
They are my boys because I’m the root and without the root there will be no leaf or leaves. We have a cordial relationship.
It seems that juju music is on the decline. What is your impression about that?
The thing is, the younger ones are lazy, if not, how will hip-hop take over? Most of the younger ones can’t play any musical instrument. I’m even better than some of them.
How many musical instruments can you play?
I can play the guitar, accordion, conga, and bongo.
Who taught you how to play all these instruments?
It was what I gained from being a street boy, because I always left home and followed musicians on street parade and when I returned home my mum would beat the hell out of me. My father never caned me till he died but my mum was a disciplinarian, because she insisted I must go to school.
Which trade did you learn?
I learned sign writing and I worked with Nigerian Railway Corporation for 25 years as a Mechanical Engineer under Mr. J.A Allen. I’m also a tailor. But I no longer have those skills, except music.
Are you from a music family?
No, I’m from a royal family of Olagunju in Ede, Osun State.
Will you encourage any of your children to go into music?
I won’t force any of them to play music because nobody taught me how to play music. I learned from the streets. I have one who is playing like Tunde Nightingale, but he is still in school. If any of my children is interested in singing, good for him or her.
Did you make money before hitting the limelight?
No. I did not make money in the past and when my instruments got burnt during the Unknown Soldier saga, I decided to go and work as a security guard at Teslim Balogun Stadium, which was known as UAC Stadium at that time. I worked there for some time before returning to music.
Your musical instruments got burnt when ‘unknown soldiers’ razed down Fela’s house, why didn’t you ask for compensation?
I learned unknown soldiers touched the house, since there was nothing I could do about it I decided to look for a way out. I later secured a job at the then UAC now Teslim Balogun Stadium as a security man.
What was the experience like?
It was not easy because I was working in the midst of mysterious beings, I mean witches.
Did they harm you?
No, but whenever I did not go to work, my colleagues did complain that they always vomited blood.
Did that happen to you?
No, God was and is still with me.
Do you normally commune with the witches?
No, because I have their antidotes.
What is it?
Cigarettes, I was a chain smoker.
At this age, you still chain smoke, are you not scared of the health implication of smoking?
I never had any problem.
Yes, I started smoking at a very tender age, with cigarettes called Lucky Style, Pall Mall and Camel.
What of marijuana?
That was my food when I was young. That was what I used as my own make-up. Now I am old, I can’t do those things any more.
But you are still into women; old age has not taken away that from you?
That is God’s gift because as you lay your bed so you shall lie on it. My sexual power is natural, like I said earlier, it is God’s gift supported by herbs.
When are you releasing another album?
Very soon but I want to sell it outright. I am not interested in collecting royalty from any marketer.
So, you don’t trust marketers?
Yes, I don’t trust them. I have been dealt with several times. Unlike the olden days when we would force the marketer to buy vehicles and equipment for us, marketers of today are too greedy to do that. All the same I thank God that today I can eat three times a day, take care of my wife, kids and dependants.
If you have to come back to this world, do you want to come back as a musician?
Yes, but I don’t want to come back to Nigeria again because Nigerians are not appreciative. As the oldest musician in Nigeria, don’t I deserve a national honour?
So, you have not benefited from any government in Nigeria either state or federal?
The only person that has helped me is the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. If not for his kind gesture, I would have been living under the bridge because the house I was living in Mushin then has been sold, and there was nowhere to go. Thank God and Tinubu.
Is that the only house you have now?
No, I am erecting another one in Maya area of Ikorodu. When it is completed, it will include school of music, and studio in a four-bedroom bungalow.
What is the cost of the project?
It is about N25 million and it is under construction and I pray to complete it in my lifetime.