Oliver De Coque: Another year after, without honour

Like other years(I do a yearly piece in remembrance of Oliver De Coque), I did two things before settling down to write this piece. I played most of Oliver’s hit music on my laptop, which I had taken time to pay a disk Jockey to load into a flash disk for me. Anywhere I settled down to work with my system, I first plug in my flash disk to listen to that deep baritone, yet velvety voice of the man known as Sunday Oliver Akanite, alias Oliver De Coque. The second thing I did was that as usual, I took time to drive from my base, Awka, all the way to Ezinifitte, Nnewi South local council area. Anyone who knows Anambra well will accept that no one leaves Awka for some parts of Nnewi South without having good reasons to do so. The reason is the distance, and the bad terrain as it is situated on a hill with rocky and bumpy roads. I had good reasons, and my reason was to see how much of government presence has been registered in and around Oliver De Coque’s compound since the last time I was there. Beyond these two things, I did one thing that is different this year, I also traced and found one of the sons of the late music Maestro who is also a musician, and who has stepped into his late father’s shoes, playing highlife music, and just dropped a new album that almost everyone mistakes for Oliver De Coque’s album. His name is Edu Oliver De Coque. Lately he has been getting invitation to perform for many people who love his dad’s genre of music. If you love Oliver’s music and miss his electrifying performance, then invite his son; he is a chip off the old block, in looks, and performance, and you can be sure Oliver De Coque has reincarnated…sorry for the digression, we were talking Oliver not Edu. Beyond this, I also met and spoke with the younger brother of Oliver De Coque, Gaius Akanite, a friendly and frank guy, lanky in build and blunt to speech. Gaius confided in me that after their mother’s death(She was a priestess), the god choose him to replace her and he has been dutifully serving the god, as such resides in the village. Gaius personally conducted me round Oliver’s uncompleted mansion which was a masterpiece, and ended up in front of the building by a side, where he announced, ‘now see where a super star was buried’, and almost immediately he started to weep like a baby. Now, to start the story straight. I was at Oliver’s two years ago, I could not visit last year because of workload, but during my visit two years ago, I submitted that life must be nasty and short for Igbo people if one of Oliver’s status could be so easily forgotten, I ended the piece by concluding that Oliver is not resting in peace because everyone had at death abandoned him. During my visit this year, I found the story to be the same, if not worse. The small farm path that was named Oliver De Coque Drive, with a small signboard announcing so has been overgrown with grasses, the signboard itself which helped me during one of my previous visit to locate the maestro’s home has been removed. And with this, the name of Oliver De Coque further sunk into oblivion. Gaius was among the last children of the late priestess who was also mother of Oliver, she had six boys and a girl and Oliver was the first, Eugene de coque the third, Ogonna the only girl the fourth and Gaius the sixth. According to Gaius, Oliver started early to show signs of loving music, and during his teenage age when he was sent to Aba to learn to make shoes, Oliver will rather jump from one club house to the other to help other established musicians with one instrument or the other too. He became known in the social circle in that town, and soon he had dumped the shoe making thing and gone full blast into music following musicians, he was joined by his look alike younger brother, Eugene, and they became an item in the Aba music scene and the rest is history. I was wrapped in attention as Gaius spoke, but my attention was still divided; that was between what he was saying and himself. I met Oliver close up during his lifetime, and can tell his similarities with Gaius. Though Gaius was frail and clean shaven, but looking at him closely, one cannot wish away the similarities in both brothers. He had that Oliver look, and his clean shave was such that if his ambition was to nurture his beard, he will certainly have that look of the highlife king. But what held me spell bound is his ability to lace his discussions with Igbo proverbs, and he threw a lot in a very short while. I personally learnt half the Igbo proverbs I know from Oliver’s music, and the rest from Achebe’s novels and just a little more from other sources, and Gaius was the bomb where proverbs were. During my discussion with him, he posited that Oliver never knew he will die, contrary to what was peddled about then, that he was a high ranking member of a secret society and may have known that his time was up. He also revealed that Oliver’s immediate family was in tatters, resulting from his being a polygamous man(Oliver had four wives and several children). According to him, “What manner of man will know he is dying and will not make the necessary arrangements for the survival of his family when he has gone? He did not even make a will and his children have been at loggerheads with each other.” The height of his grief was when he showed this reporter the grave where Oliver was buried. He reported that several times, he has had to entertain visitors from far and wide who come to know where Oliver hailed from, and his most difficult moments after touring his palatial; even though uncompleted house was when they demanded to know where Oliver was buried. Oliver was buried in front of his mansion, as supposed of a man of his status, but the snag is that this reporter almost could not find the grave when he was showed because the already flat earth of the grave was heaped with some iron rods and some used clothes which now serve as rags and were dumped on the grave. According to Gaius the Indians who came visiting refused to believe that Oliver was buried in the place they were shown. Not even a cementing, not even tilling which would cost close to nothing, the whole place is just not befitting. The state of his grave however does not compare to the ignominy in the family, occasioned by the fight for supremacy among his children. It was gathered that as a result of the infighting, the family had missed about N10million deal offered it by Olumo records, Oliver’s official record label to produce most of his fit music in videos. The company had demanded for Eugene, one of Oliver’s brothers, who was also into music and was a thorough look alike of his to perform in the video, but the children felt it would amount to bypassing them if Oliver’s brother was used, and in that way they lost the deal. The situation is not diffent in the case of the equipments oliver left behind. For years after oliver’s death, his musical instruments, which were known to be some of the best used in Nigeria which were brought back from Lagos and left unpacked in a bus in his compound were found to have all bee damaged. According to Gaius, only the generation set, which was a gigantic lister which Oliver took with himself everywhere he played to ensure that his equipments worked optimally could be said to be still manageable. In his lifetime, Oliver used the best bands, trumpets, guitar and other munical instrument. He was a man of class and his class manifested in everything he owned. Before I knew Oliver, some one while describing him and trying to emphasis on the costliness of his guitar and his ability to play it had exaggerated that Oliver could drop his guitar on the stage in the course of his performance and let it play by itself by just speaking to it. That was just one of the myths that surrounded him. Not done, the Highlife maestro is said to have left several written tracks of his music during the time of his death, and several companies have approached them to get it, but because of the fight for superiority between Oliver’s numerous children, the deal never manifested. With all these, one can be sure to conclude as I did years back that Oliver is not resting in his sleep. Once, I had suggested that as a way of immortalizing Oliver for all his contributions which include the propagation of Igbo culture and language, the exaltation of the culture of hard work that a music institute he established by his home state government. In Lagos, Fela Kuti may have died over 15 years ago, but folks who believe in him have done a lot to see he does not go into oblivion, but if we cannot do a yearly remembrance for Oliver, we should be able to institute a school that will even yield revenue to the state. An Igbo proverb says that a man rejected by others does not reject himself, so if the world, if Nigeria, if the south east has rejected Oliver, his home state government; Anmbra should not. His Nnewi axis, North and South Should not, and the south LGA of Nnewi particularly should not. I have drummed this for years, but the past government of Mr Peter Obi in Anambra State did not pay any heed, but with a new helms man in the person of Chief Willie Obiano, who has shown signs of being a lover of entertainment, one can be sure to make another gamble, with the hope that the man; Oliver De Coque will be recognized. Gaius told this reporter that, “I want to reveal that it was Imo State government that buried Oliver for us. Our home state government did virrtually nothing except attending on the very day of the burial, but Imo State government remained in contact with us throughout the period of the preparation of his burial and they also consoled our family very well.” In the course of interraction, Gaius went down memory lane to speak about the person of Oliver De Coque during their growing up days, to his death, and his interactions with his brothers, parents, and brothers’ children. Most intriguing is, “He is such a jovial personality. If you walk into this compound and Oliver in here, you will be able to say so, even without seeing him. You will see happiness on the face of everyone around and that is what he does most. When our mother wants to stop him from playing with children too much, he will tell you that that is one of the thing that gives him inspiration. “Another thing that gives him inspiration he said is living a big life. I remember when he was, Oliver will come home with the latest model of any car he drives. He will wear wrist watches that are worth million and our mother will scold him for being so wasteful, but he will simply tell our mother that if only she knew the kind of people he interacted with, she will encourage him to look rich, so as to meet the taste of those he did business with. “On one particular occasion he came home with an SUV, very expensive, and usually he will tell mama that he bought this car for so and so amount, and mama would shout. Mama on that occasion scolded him for buying that car on the premise that there was a lot to be done with money and that he would be attracting attention to himself, but Oliver got annoyed and left. When he travelled back to Lagos, he could not cope. He returned back after some weeks to beg mama to forgive him that since he travelled back, he had not been able to compose any music.” I had in previous articles submitted that Oliver in his lifetime lived a life that was distinct, as a musician he did not follow the bandwagon, but carved a strong identity for himself. His trademark beard, his dress sense, his velvety voice and his ability to handle almost all music instruments and especially his dexterity on the guitar which saw him as the user of the costliest guitar in Nigeria. Unlike this day when anyone who holds the microphone well and has the youthfulness to jump about the stage and echo lewd words is regarded as a musician, Anambra State governor should seize the opportunity of immortalizing Oliver to set up a music institute in his name to also draw musical tourists to the state to come and learn to make good music and also earn revenue for the state. It will surprise one that most of the youngsters in music are making good money from the sector, even though they are not well prepared from what they do, so sitting a music institute in Anambra and equipping it with some of the best musical instrument and the best brains in music as teachers will surely draw students from across the country to Anambra. Chief Willie Obiano(Akpokuodike) try this and see the result and you will say I told you. David-Chyddy Eleke(07039853422), a journalists, blogger and social commentator wrote in through donbaron2004@gmail.com.

By Ifeizu Joe

Ifeizu is a seasoned journalist and Managing Editor of TheRazor. He has wide knowledge of Anambra State and has reported the state objectively for over a decade.

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