ON Saturday, July 25, 2015, ENCOMIUM Weekly visited the President of the Association of Juju Musicians of Nigeria (AJUM), Queen Ayotunde Kofoworola Balogun, simply addressed as Ayo Balogun in her Lekki, Lagos home where she spoke to us on a number of issues, including her alleged rift with Waka Queen, Alhaja Salawa Abeni and much more.
What’s going on at the moment concerning your career?
What’s going on now about my career is just my regular job, going from Lagos to other states for performance at social functions. But in addition to that, I now have more jobs abroad. People want me to perform at their children’s weddings, birthday and much more. They will send me flight ticket and money to ensure I honour their invitations. I bless God for that.
What of your album, One Life?
Yes, I launched the album in December 2014, and it’s really doing well. I have received a lot of commendations on that. Glory be to God. Its’ an album that explains why you should live very well because we have just only one life. I thank God for the success of the album.
Have you shot the video for the album?
I have not shot the video but I am planning to do that. Everything is just because of our busy schedules. We’re always busy at weekends. But it’s very important to do the video because people have been asking for it. The demand for it is much more than neglecting it. People really want it because it’s been long I shot a video last, and that’s Goodness.
Sometime towards the end of 2014, we learnt that the Association of Juju Musicians of Nigeria (AJUMN) wanted to have an election to usher in its new set of leaders, but nothing was heard about that again. Why?
Yes, AJUMN is going to have an election and it’s going to be very soon. To be precise, it has to come up in October/November this year.
But there was a proposal to organize an election last year, what actually worked against that?
No, last year was for the state elections. It was after that, that the national one will hold. So, what we held last year was the election of the state executives. And it’s after that has been put in place that we can now have national election which will serve as an umbrella for the state executives.
When the national comes, will you still go for the third term or you’re going to hand over to another person?
Seriously speaking, I see it as service to humanity. I am willing to give somebody else a chance to do it. Honestly, I want to see another person take over the mantle of leadership of AJUM.
But what if your people say you should continue, what would you do?
Whatever it may be, we must have an election. If they want me there again, it has to be by election. I am the very first president of the association and I am still there till date but I was never elected. All this while, it has been by nomination only. I want an election even if at all it’s going to be me again. It’s going to be a good experience for me.
Your reign as AJUM president has spanned about eight years, how would you describe it?
Yes, I think you’re right. It’s between seven to eight years. It has been wonderful with the support of my senior colleagues, including Chief Ebenezer Obey, King Sunny Ade (KSA). Even Chief Ebenezer Obey has been so supportive financially. So, it has been a very wonderful experience.
AJUM seems to be a very peaceful body, what are the secrets?
There is no secret whatsoever about it. And it’s not as if we also don’t have our trying period, but we thank God for our very wonderful elders. Anytime we call them to settle an issue for us, they always rise to our challenge and sort things out immediately.
As a female musician ranked next to King Sunny Ade as far as juju is concerned, what keeps you waxing stronger?
Everything is just the grace of God. I thank God for the life of my boss, KSA. Others are doing wonderfully too but people see us more than we see ourselves. Left to me, I don’t know the criteria people used in their rating but let me just say I thank God for being recognized.
How much do you charge now per show?
Let me just say my charges are reasonable. Of course, if people are just able to pay my price, what else do I want?
How has the skyrocketing exchange rate of the dollar to the naira affected your job as a musician?
Yes, it’s really affecting my career just like it’s affecting every sector of our economy. No exception. For instance, the goods that people were buying for $1,000, they’re now buying them for maybe $1,300 or more. Definitely, it will affect the way they spend money, especially at this time that Nigeria is going through a lot of challenges. And in this new dispensation that everybody is trying to be conscious of their spending manner and pockets. So, that has really affected people like us, and it’s still affecting us. Not until the government finds a lasting solution that can strengthen the naira against the foreign currencies, especially dollar and British pound, there can’t be any way forward.
The last administration headed by former President Goodluck Jonathan showed a kind of support for the entertainment industry. What do you expect the present administration to do in that regard?
Let me just say we’re just hearing it, nobody has seen anything like support from the previous administration. When Admiral Dele Abiodun was the President of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), myself and Dele Abiodun went to see the former president, and he made the pledge which I know he didn’t fulfil till he left. But for him to even give us the chance to reach him, I think that’s commendable. It was thereafter we heard of money being earmarked for the entertainment industry which never got to our end. So, I wouldn’t know what to say about that if they say a huge amount has been donated by former President Jonathan to boost the industry. I believe it’s a kind of money that should get to everybody and whatever you use it for must be visible. But personally, I didn’t see anything of such.
What do you now want Buhari’s administration to do to support your industry?
What we’re looking up to this present administration for is this piracy of a thing. It’s a very ugly thing that’s really affecting our business. I am not speaking for myself alone or my fellow musicians, I am speaking for all aspects of entertainment, including movie, comedy and all that because I really went crazy when I heard of October 1 being pirated, and I saw it myself. And Kunle Afolayan who happens to be the producer of the movie didn’t do it on any VCD or DVD. I personally went to see it at the cinema. So, how did they get it on VCD and DVD? When I heard he wasn’t the one who did it on VCD and DVD, I felt painted and bad about it. I am using this medium to appeal to the present administration to help do something serious about piracy so that we can live to reap the fruits of our hard labour, and not another people who are not meant to reap them.
Weeks back, there was a report on social media and a magazine (not ENCOMIUM Weekly) that you’re not in good terms with Queen Salawa Abeni. Have you now resolved your differences with her?
(Laughs) I don’t know where they got that. What differences? I have never had any quarrel whatsoever with Queen Salawa Abeni. It has never happened and it can never happen let alone resolving any differences. I was baffled to hear that when someone called me to tell me he read something like that in one magazine. I just laughed it off. It was cooked up by only God knows who. Many people don’t even know that Queen Salawa Abeni and I act like sisters. She has always been very supportive of me and I have always been very supportive of whatever she is into. And she actually extended that hand of friendship which I so much appreciate and love her for. Salawa Abeni happens to be someone who is very friendly and jovial. If she sees me anywhere, she will even ask of everything about me, including my family. So, we’re best of friends and sisters. Nothing like face off between us. It has never happened and it will never be. I don’t know where they got that.
– TADE ASIFAT