OPINION: EEDRIS VS 50 CENT: When will Eedris stop this 20 year old lie?

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BY JUSTIN AKPOVI-ESADE 

In the last 20 years, Afro-pop artiste Eedris Abdulkareem has persistently propagated a false narrative surrounding an unfortunate incident involving himself and the security personnel of American hip-hop and rap star Curtis James Jackson, popularly known as 50 Cent, inside a commercial airplane at the local wing of the Murtala Mohamed Airport in Lagos.

This regrettable incident marked the turning point in Eadris’s once-blossoming career, and in a desperate attempt to revive it, he has consistently lied and distorted facts about the event. For someone who has elevated lying into an art form, this might well be Eadris’s Grammy!

Contrary to Eedris’s claims of fighting for the Nigerian music and entertainment sector, particularly for the likes of Burna Boy, Whiz Kid, Davido, and others who are currently enjoying the “food wey I cook” (as he often phrases it), the reality of Eedris’s clash with 50 Cent’s security was a selfish, egotistic brawl that not only left him physically bruised but also damaged his professional standing.

When I was with The Guardian newspaper, I was deeply involved in the country’s entertainment circle, having personal connections with the stars of that era, and I witnessed the incident firsthand. Eedris, in his prime, believed he deserved star treatment during a show that brought 50 Cent to Nigeria. It was an annual mega music show by a multinational company, which I will try as much as possible not to mention because the incident has caused them enough embarrassment in the last 20 years already. However, Eedris’s unreasonable demands and disruptive behaviour jeopardized the meticulously planned event.

Eedris was hot then, and he believed he was the biggest musical act in Africa. In fact, he said that repeatedly during the fracas with 50 Cent’s security. With this in mind, Eedris felt he was not given the star’s treatment at the first leg of the show held at Tafawa Balewa Square, TBS, Lagos. At a point, he became uncontrollable, making unreasonable demands against the contract he signed for the show, which got everyone miffed. He demanded to close the show in the early morning hours, causing potential chaos as 50 Cent, the headline artist, was already scheduled to close the event. This demand, coupled with his refusal to vacate the backstage when asked, pitched him against everybody, including the organisers.

Now, for those who may not know anything about concert organisation, that looked like a simple demand, right? Fine, let me explain it to you for your understanding. In planning a show, every artiste on the bill has been allocated time he or she would spend on the stage. A big concert is planned to the very last minute, and as such, a slight deviation from the set course could undo everything. Every artiste knows the exact time he is billed to climb the stage and get out of it. Some artistes get carried away on stage, and that is when the DJ, who most times doubles as ‘time keeper’ keeps reminding him or her with rapid bursts of sounds. Sometimes, you would hear the artiste say, “DJ, wait, I dey come, give me a little time.” Other artistes ignore the cue, and that is when the composer usually steps in and ends his performance. I will like to tell a short story here to drive home this point. In 1999 or so, Alariwo of Africa was hot with his ‘Yawa Go Gas’ song. He played every major show in Lagos. So, Alariwo was to perform at that year’s ‘Wicked N Wild’ show by a tobacco company on the same TBS. He knew the scheduled time he was to get on stage, but Alariwo and his band were at another show (I was told he was playing at the Goethe Institute on Victoria Island, close by). Alariwo arrived about 30 minutes late. He thought, as one of the biggest stars then, he would be given a pat on the back and ushered on stage. Whoosai! The ‘Oyinbos’ refused him performing, and in frustration, Alariwo turned to us (journalists) at the backstage and called us names (same way Eadris did), for not assisting him to beg the organisers. I later heard he was asked to refund the performance fee he had paid. I do not know how he sorted things out with the organisers but the punishment for his irresponsible act resonated across the entertainment industry.

But Eedris, being the “biggest star in Africa,” will not have any of that. He saw it as preferential treatment for 50 Cent because he was an ‘Oyinbo (even though he is an African American) and a denigration of him because he was a Nigerian. That was when the “I fought for the rights of Nigerian musicians” delusion began, so, when everybody was asked to clear the backstage to make room for 50 Cent and his large band to have space, that was the last straw for Eadris, and his top cylinder gasket blew. As a matter of fact, no other artiste had any business being at the backstage at that time unless to guzzle the free beer and food that were in excess, because a serious artiste after his performance should be home or at a club. But if some wanted to watch 50 Cent perform to learn some new stagecraft or network (which I doubt there would be time for), there is another designated VIP area for that. So, how did it become an issue that people were asked politely (only Eedris did not see the politeness in the tone) to vacate the backstage that he had to create a scene about, screaming Nigerian artistes were being denigrated?

So, I doubt if Eedris slept. Many of us did not sleep after the TBS show because the chartered flight to Port Harcourt for the second leg of the show was announced to leave by 8am that morning. When I got to the airport, Eadris was already there, and for the first time since knowing him and also since he became a star, there were three hefty-looking, bulging-biceps guys with him. Recall, that was the era of Voltron (where is that guy now sef?), the owner of the professional bodyguard outfit was reigning. Voltron’s bodyguards all had a peculiar way they dressing: black T-shirts, black boots, black pants, black leather hand gloves, etc. That was how those three guys with Eedris were dressed. I saw it as an improvement, yes, because aside from adding to Eedris’ ‘rep’, his musical status then had reached the stage he should be going about with personal bodyguards. Eedris and two of his band boys—I recall the tall, dark, lanky one (he featured prominently in the ‘Nigeria Jaga Jaga’ music video)—were all drinking from a bottle of whisky. It was a little bit too early to be drinking whisky, I reasoned, but then, stars have a way they do things. Shortly, a fellow journalist and friend, Olumide Iyanda, joined me. Eedris was loud, talking at the top of his voice, and he was enjoying all the attention he was getting from other passengers who perhaps were having the opportunity of seeing him at very close quarters for the first time. It was Olumide who explained to me in Pidgin English that Eedris was spoiling for a ‘final showdown’, and that was what he was saying in mostly Yoruba. Then I knew he was still smart from what happened at the TBS earlier that morning.

At intervals, officials of the multinational company and organizers of the show—two of them I know very well—would go to Eedris to appeal to him. He did not want to hear any of what they were saying. News came in that 50 Cent, who was coming from the Eko Hotel, was already close by, and it was wise that everybody boarded the plane to save time. This should be around some minutes past 9am. We all boarded, and surprisingly, before we boarded, I did not see Eedris and his crew, only for me to see them in the ‘First Class’ section of the plane. And because it was a free seating arrangement, I and Olumide found the three seats just immediately behind the ‘First Class’ seats vacant and tucked ourselves in. The same two officials from the company were appealing to Eedris to stand up. Then, I did not know that that section was already designated for 50 Cent and his crew, so I was wondering why they were telling Eedris and his men to go and find other seats. Other Nigerian artistes were murmuring in disagreement with Eedris’s action, just right behind I and Olumide, but Eedris already had his mind made up, and that was when, for the second time, he said he was the “biggest artiste in Africa, just as 50 Cent was the biggest in America.”. He was calling his fellow artistes ‘weaklings’ who could not stand up for their ‘rights’.

Then, I saw three very big fellas in front of Eedris, telling him to stand up. The Nigerian star refused. There were exchanges of words. I looked beyond the guys and saw 50 Cent just by the door of the plane with a “what is going on here?” expression written all over his face. Without further ado, one of the 50’s security dragged Eedris up, and Eedris’ security responded, and it became free for all. I did not even stand up from my seat, as I was too stunned and taken by surprise by what was happening to react. Blows were falling with heavy thuds, and what I saw next was one of the 50’s guys having Eedris in a deadly chokehold while the blood of one of his bodyguards was flowing freely from a deep gash on his right cheek. When Eedris was finding it difficult to breathe, with his last strength, he managed to scream: “Nigeria journalists, una dey here and dem dey beat me like dis, Nigerian artistes, shame on you all.”. I recall someone saying behind me, “sebi wen dem dey beg you since, you no gree, nah now you know, say Nigerian journalists and artistes dey here abi? Idiot”. Eedris was losing breath, his hands were slowly dropping. That was when the sound of a bottle that was smashed violently caused panic in the plane and saved Eedris. I am not sure you have witnessed pandemonium inside a plane or a small area before. It is best if you don’t. Everybody was trying to run to the front of the plane where the only exit door was—over 100 people, all at once! That was when airport security and FAAN officials came and evacuated us all back to the departure lounge.

THE LIE OF YOUNG BUCK

At this point, I will like to address the lie told by one of 50 Cent’s sidekicks, who I never knew was in his band when the incident happened. Young Buck. Real name is David Darnell Brown. I have been seeing a video where Young Buck, who is also an American artiste described what could have happened only in a Hollywood movie as what happened that day. The video made me laugh and very angry at the same time. He said Eedris, in the course of the fracas, made a call, and as the plane was taxiing, a very “big dude” appeared on the runway and was walking towards the plane, and the pilots stopped the plane, opened the door, and jumped out! Wait o, did that guy narrate the incident of that day, or was there another one involving Eedris and 50 Cent that I know nothing about? Why do people take delight in lying? And if one must lie, why don’t you tell a lie about an event you were sole witness to?

The plane did not even start it’s engines that morning. In fact, the door of the plane did not close. So, where did Young Buck see a “big dude” walking towards the taxiing plane after Eedris’s call, which made the pilots flee and left us all in the middle of the runway? Haba! No nah! In all my adult life, Young Buck’s lie should win an international award because it was my first time coming into close contact with a bare-face lie and perhaps a liar! Even if I can’t recall every other person inside the plane, like group members of defunct KC Presh and Kcee’s brother, who is a billionaire now, and Emeka ‘E-Money’, who then was like the manager of the group, I have consistently mentioned Olumide Iyanda, who, by the grace of God, is still very much alive. So I am asking, when did a “big dude” appear from the woods and was walking towards the already taxiing plane, which made the pilot flee and abandon us all on the runway?

Wen dat one happen abeg?

Now, back to where airport security evacuated all of us back to the departure lounge. At the lounge, Eedris was still blowing hot. He was all over the place, making a whole lot of noise. The other artistes on the plane who were all now back with us at the departure lounge were obviously not happy with him, but no one, because of his violent disposition, could confront him. In fact, they were scared of him because, at that point, Eedris was ready to fight even his father. On the other side, officials of the company were trying to placate 50 Cent, while some non artistes who could muster the courage to meet Eedris were talking to him. The mission was clear: let there be peace, and the journey to Port Harcourt should resume.

HOW I GOT INTO THE NEWS

I was sitting some metres away from a boiling Eadris at the departure lounge. Somehow, our eyes locked, and he probably did not see the disgust about his action written all over my face, but he decided to find out why I was disgusted. As I made to walk past him (we were all restless, walking about the lounge that day anyway), Eedris beckoned on me to stop. I stood in front of him, and in his phoney American accent, which he was parading when he was a star, he asked me how I perceived his action. Well, what many others, including his colleagues, were too afraid to tell him, I now had the opportunity to. I told him what he did was “stupid.” I recall using the word stupid. Before he could react, I gave him an analogy: if he had just two chairs in his living room, one was finer than the other, and a stranger came visiting, which of the chairs would he offer the visitor? That was when it dawned on him that I was not on his side. He flared up, and we started exchanging harsh words. He called me a’sellout’ taking sides with a foreigner against my own. The next thing, his goons jumped me from behind, and in less than a minute, my long sleeve shirt was in tatters, and my two mobile phones, one Nokia and one Motorola, were smashed into smithereens. I however managed to take a few pot shots at Eedris but three men to one when I am not a ‘Jack Bauer’ was like 27.90 to 1.06 odds to win.

It was one of the officials of the company who brought another new shirt for me; I don’t even know how he did it. So, folks, that was how I got into the news.

HOW CHARLIE BOY GOT INVOLVED 

Enter Charly Boy into the mix. Unknown to some of us, Eedris had pulled a call through to him even in the midst of the hellstorm. A much younger Charly Boy then, with some rough looking characters (who will you see with Charlie Boy if not rough-looking characters, especially when he is the self-acclaimed Area Fada?) arrived, all looking like some goons in a low budget Nigerian movie. As of then, there was cheering news that 50 Cent had agreed to continue the trip to Port Harcourt. We were all shuttling between the tarmac just outside the departure lounge and inside the lounge because 50 Cent and his bandmates refused to join the rest of us there. They were obviously now scared, and understandably so. When Charlie Boy arrived and was within earshot of 50 Cent, he announced loudly in his American accent, “This is our country; we run things; things don’t run us.”. That to 50 Cent was a veiled threat, and I overheard him ask the officials of the company that organised the show: “Who the f*ck is this guy?”. He was told Charlie Boy was the president of PMAN. In case you don’t know the full meaning of PMAN, let me help you. PMAN means the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria. And that was when 50 Cent changed his mind again about going to Port Harcourt. He obviously figured out what kind of artist’s union president this is who did not bother to hear from the other party before issuing a veiled threat. Did I forget to tell you that as we were being evacuated from the plane, Eedris loudly told 50 Cent’s men that if they dared step foot on Port Harcourt soil, he would call Ijaw militants (many of you erroneously referred to those militants then as ‘Niger Delta’ militants, but they were actually of Ijaw/Rivers stock only) on them. Need I remind you that back in the day, it was Ijaw militants that the whole country dreaded, the same way we now dread Boko Haram and bandits from the north? Boko Haram and bandits were on the sidelines then watching the M.O. of Ijaw militants, and one must commend them, they have taken terrorism a notch higher.

READ ALSO: Eedris Abdulkareem lied, 50 Cent did not assault P Square—Paul Okoye  

After the veiled threat by Charlie Boy, 50 Cent once again refused to embark on the trip to Port Harcourt. The organisers were now desperate. Eedris, on seeing Charlie Boy, calmed down, perhaps with the hope that CB would handle the situation well. So, the ‘begging’ shifted from Eedris to Charlie Boy and 50 Cent. Charlie Boy was being persuaded to recant his threat and embrace 50 Cent to make him relax. To be fair to Eedris, who has constantly accused Charlie Boy of throwing him under the bus for pecuniary reasons, I cannot independently verify if Charlie Boy was offered any financial reward to calm 50 Cent down because I was some metres away as officials of the company crowded over Charlie Boy. But having known CB for years, very close, I will not, however, swear at the shrine of Amadioha that Charlie Boy did not extract some promises from the organisers to play the role he later played that day, which disappointed Eadris. And in a flash, CB changed from being confrontational to being a mediator. The time was around 3pm. The drama that started around 9am in the morning had lasted that long. Tension was high, the Port Harcourt show was that evening, and news was filtering in that people who had already bought tickets were spoiling for a fight should the show not happen. Of course, Port Harcourt already knew what was playing out in Lagos. So, CB became the mediator. And in about 30 minutes with 50 Cent, the Americans agreed for the second time to go ahead with the trip. There was relief in the air. We were all set to board the plane again. As we were getting set to leave the departure lounge, something told me something was not right. When I looked at the face of one of the officials of the company, his happy face from about five minutes ago, was now gloomy. That was when he broke the news that 50 Cent would no longer embark on the trip. I was later told he reached the decision after he received a call. The call I was made to understand was from the American Embassy in Lagos, and the embassy official made it clear that 50 Cent’s safety was no longer guaranteed once he left Lagos for Port Harcourt, and that he should immediately proceed to the international wing and take a flight back to America. Again, I cannot independently verify the telephone call angle.

That was how 50 Cent did not play that mega show in Port Harcourt.

Hours later, Eedris began to spin the lie that he was fighting for the rights of Nigerian musicians. He instantly became Gani Fawehinmi. He was going from one TV station to another, and because the multinational company was still hurting from the bruise on its corporate entity from the botched show, they did not want to join issues with Eedris. Eedris took over the narrative, and as the days went by, he actually believed his fight that day was for the music industry and artistes. And as the years went by, when the Burna Boys, Davidos and Whiz Kids became stars, Eedris wanted to plug into their success, and so he again changed the narrative to “I paved the way for you guys.”. “Na me cook the food wey una dey eat today?” HOW? Again, I ask, How?

I have a question for Eadris Abdukareem. If what you did at the Lagos airport was noble and meant to “pave the way” or “cook food wey dem dey eat today” for the stars of today, why did you apologise to 50 Cent at the PHABA Awards ceremony held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, some couple of years later? Again, I was involved in the awards organisation as a member of the Media Committee. I and other journalists were at the lobby of the hotel where we were lodged the morning of the awards when news came that Eadris was seeking journalists’ ‘approval’ and cooperation in advance because he would be apologising to 50 Cent later in the night. All my friends and colleagues turned and looked at me. I was like, What was that look for? They wanted to find out my position about the move of Eadris. I told them I was cool with it. I was actually happy that Eadris had regained his senses and was tired of playing Gani Fawehinmi. We were appealed to to give that segment of the show some degree of media attention to achieve, among other things, a good image for the country because, according to the organisers, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence were among the objectives of the awards ceremony. We say we hear. And night came, 50 Cent was closing the show as he was coincidentally the headline artiste when Eadris crashed the stage. A bemused 50 was taken aback. He only recalled who Eadris was when our Nigerian star explained himself and profusely apologised for that unfortunate and avoidable incident in Lagos. It was a brief, embarrassing moment when 50 did not know who Eadris was. What that tells you is that Eadris did not fight 50 but his security/bouncers. Anyway sha, that night ended well, and journalists published the news. It, however, did not gain much traction, like the fight with ’50 Cent’ in Lagos, because Eadris firmly took over the narrative and controlled it (social media) that has turned everybody into a journalist now was not alive then) which turned him into a HERO and ‘Artiste’s rights activist.’

Another twist to the issue came years after the Abuja incident, when Eadris ran into me at a celebrity restaurant, O’jez, inside the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos. I was waiting for some friends in the open-air section when Eadris, in the company of another guy, arrived. As they were making their way upstairs to the VIP section, our eyes met, and he stopped and was talking to the guy with him. I was prepared for another fight because, then, he was no longer the ‘biggest star in Africa’, so I figured he would take his anger and frustration out on me the second time. He walked straight to me and said, “Bro, I was told that I fought with you at the airport during the 50 Cent issue. I can’t remember that happening, but anyway, if its true, I am sorry.” I was stunned. He was told he fought with me. I could only mutter what I heard. And they left. I must confess, I felt very sorry for Eadris. I thought something was wrong with him, and he needed some help and counselling. It did not take long for him to continue his self delusion about his fight for ‘Nigeria artistes’ and the industry anyway.

Eedris is like a once-rich, local man. He had two cars and was very popular in the area. Then, due to some unfortunate events, he lost his popularity and the little money he had. Suddenly, some very young boys sprang up in the neighbourhood; very loud, fleet of exotic cars, mansions, diamond chains and bracelets, and endless clubbing. Eedris waited for them to come to him and say, “Bros, we are loyal. We understand how you were popular back then. “hold this one”. You too much bros”. He waited, none of these stars ‘send’ Eedris. So, Eedris decided to spin his 50 Cent incident to make it look like he fought for the betterment of the Nigerian music industry. It was bait. If these youngsters had swallowed it, they would have run to him to recognize his royalty. But these boys are smart. They checked for how Eedris “paved the way” for them, they did not see. And so, some ignored his yearly rant until Burna Boy boldly called his bluff, and that is why you are also reading this piece because I have tried to stomach Eedris’s 20 year old lie till now. Like Burna Boy, I have decided to tell Eedris Abdulkareem that it is time he stopped the lie and faced reality. It would have been better if he had humbled himself and used one of these new kids on the block to revive his career, which he killed with his own hands instead of trying to claim what is not. His bloated sense of entitlement is not only annoying, it is also irritating.

Akpovi-Esade is a journalist and Media Lobbyist

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