Oliver De Coque: Forgotten Legend

I WROTE THIS PIECE IN 2010, AND I POSITED THAT OLIVER DE COQUE IS NOT RESTING IN PEACE. I WAS IN THE LATE SAGE’S HOME TODAY AND I AM CONVINVED THE OLD MAN IS SUFFERING IN HIS GRAVE. LOOK OUT GOR THIS YEAR’S MEMORIAM ON OLIVER SOON. Even as growing up kids, living with our parents in our early years, it was easy to decipher the happy moments of our father, it was usually when he is relaxed with any track of Sunday Oliver Akanite’s (Oliver De Coque) music, which he practically forced us to listen to, our mother inclusive, claiming that there exist salient and hidden truth in what the musician sang, which is capable of bringing wisdom upon people.   Our father’s love for every message passed by the late musician, including the Igbo proverbs with which he laced his music, and the praises he lavished on men of means contributed to make Oliver a demigod in our home, even without our knowing him. While our father took pains to explain every word contained in the music of the legend to us, he (Oliver) was made to look to us like a super human being who probably knows close to everything.   Carving out a unique identity that can not be anybody’s, Oliver is not the type to pass unnoticed. With a trade mark bushy beard, a dress sense that stood him out, he carved for himself a unique identity and in his life time and thrilled the world with his music, only to bow out when it was appointed unto him by his maker exactly two years ago, when he passed to the great beyond.   Since after his death, it is a surprise that Oliver De Coque is fast forgotten, by everyone who knew him; his fans, his home state government, his fellow musicians and his kinsmen alike. The Igbo nation, whose value, culture and message Oliver did well to propagate to the outside world through out his life and times have all turned their back to him, leaving him to fade into oblivion.   It is painful that we, Nigerians join nations in the western world to celebrate their stars, and extol them even in death, when we hardly can pay commendation to our own. This is very evident in the dust raised by the death of the acclaimed king of pop, Michael Jackson last year.   In just one year after his death, Michael Jackson could be said to be an issue that has remained in both foreign and local media alike, with every thing about him making news. Merely finding some old and used gloves owned by the pop star in his hay days could be breaking news, just as concert after concert have been staged around the world on his behalf. Why it should not be the same for Oliver De Coque, if not in Africa, then Nigeria, or even in the South-East, or his Anambra State surprises me.   We should be able to celebrate our own no matter how little. Three things worked for Michael Jackson; his trade mark dress sense, his tuneful voice and his electrifying dance steps. He is not known to be good with any musical instrument except holding the microphone, but with what he had, the western media made a god out of him. The same can not be said of our dear Oliver De Coque; despite a unique identity, good dance steps, good voice, a dexterity on the guitar that is marveling, inclusive of his ability to play other musical instruments, we still hardly reckoned with him, and in death he is just as good as history.   Today, the Igbos are crying that their culture is fast going into extinction, leading to a renewed fight for the speaking of Igbo language, yet those who championed the cause before now can not be appreciated. Oliver De Coque it was who through his music (usually in Igbo language) popularized the language, leaving others who do not understand the language with an eagerness for learning the language, and wishing earnestly that they were Igbos.   He did not only popularize the language, he popularized Igbo people with his music, calling names of men of means, including their achievements. Not a few wealthy Igbo men have benefited from the talent of this great musician as his music sold most others across their territory, brought unity among people and yet entertained music lovers to the point of moving fun seekers from their seat to the dancing floor.   Singing in Peoples Club and several other hits of those days, Oliver taught lessons, spurred young people to work hard to get to the top, celebrated success, entertained with his dexterity on the guitar, laced with good dance steps. Only few Nigerian musicians who still play music would create their own identity and stick to it all through their career like Oliver De Coque did.   For all that this legend did for his people, what did he get? In death, Oliver could be said to be the most cheated legend in history. Not a state burial at death, not a project against his name in his home state or anywhere known, Except for a lonely bush part of a street out grown by bushes in his local Ezinifitte villge in Nnewi North local government of Anambra state, where a small sized sign post reads; Oliver De Coque Drive, two years after his death, Oliver may well have been history.   If men who touched lives in their own way like Oliver can not be remembered and awarded posthumously, what encouragement the living gets to try and impact on lives while alive is doubtful. If Oliver were a politician, who probably looted his state or the country to enjoy so much means, how men would fall over themselves to honour him, but alas he was only a musician.   Not minding his profession, his likes in other part of the same country still smile in their graves when they hear positive mention of their names. Fela Kuti may have died in 1997, but in the western part of Nigeria, folks who believe in his God given talent still come together to celebrate their hero. More than 10 years after his death, he still would be happy in his grave when his fans gather yearly to celebrate him. Even Dagrin, the youthful rapper who died in a ghastly motor accident early in the year, would get a mention in a long while, why not our Oliver De Coque.   At this point it would be good to ask what his Igbo kinsmen in the show biz industry are doing, what are the Igbos whose culture Oliver did well to keep away from extinction doing, what are the few living men of means who enjoyed popularity as a result of their mention in his albums doing? Life as an Igbo must be nasty if legends can not be remembered just two years after their death. Oliver surely is not smiling in his grave.   Eleke (07039853422), an Anambra State based journalist wrote in via donbaron2004@yahoo.ca

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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