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KAFUI GALE-ZOYIKU KNOCKS ON HEAVEN’S DOOR

Azuka Jebose

Kafui Gale-Zoyiku was one of the most brilliant Journalists from Ghana that anchored their heartland in Nigeria in the early 1980s. I met Kafui at the Punch newspapers along with other brilliant and aggressive journalists as part of the Reporters’ pool. Those journalists included Clemence Fiagome, Charles and late Livingstone Brightwell.

I was an exciting free spirit, a young fresh journalist from Times School Of journalism in 1984 when the school sent me and six other students to intern for six months at the Onipetesi compound of Nigeria’s major mainstream lively and liberal newspaper, THE PUNCH.

Soon after I arrived at the Punch, I became a contributor to the SATURDAY HIGHLIFE ENTERTAINMENT DESK, under Ladi Ayodeji. Ladi was the Entertainment Editor. He had about two other staffers and a freelancer on his desk. Kafui Gale Zoyiku was a freelancer. Kafui and I immediately felt at ease with each other. Our friendship blossomed fast and furious. We shared the same bohemian lifestyle. Kafui, came from the streets, invested his creativity and confidence to best his education. I had the same principles and ideal. So you could understand why we immediately became tag-team entertainment reporters. Ladi Ayodeji noticed our resilience creativity and determination. We were young and fresh. Every week, we brought out the best in us to make our Entertainment pages refreshing with content and with production. Ladi Ayodeji allowed us the freedom to express our writings and report on Nigeria’s entertainment scene.

We were notoriously and unapologetically passionate about our Entertainment Beat: Kafui Gale-Zoyiku and I were fearless young journeymen, together as bandits of Nigeria’s mid-1980s Entertainment Journalism, inside SATURDAY HIGHLIFE Center Spread Of THE PUNCH Newspaper.

Kafui and I became sort after Entertainment journalists in everything entertainment journalism. We were also wild, crazy adventurers and free. We became the great expectations every Saturday. We took risks, embraced chances, went places with those that were happening in the entertainment business: celebrities and famous socialites, we saw them in their best of times and worse of seasons, we dared to be different. We saw creative talents and turned them into megastars with our reporting, writings and reviews. We refused to be purchased, ignored payolas or brown envelopes. We reported faces, even dared authoritarianism. We took chances. We lived and reported ruggedly.
We crawled the days and nights of the emerging metro city of Lagos, hung out with the best celebrities and entertainers in our worse socio-economic meltdowns. We just wanted to report. Every week, we would crawl day and night to most happening joints in the city. Joints such as; Jazz 38 located along Obafemi Awolowo Way at Ikoyi, Lagos, especially nights when Fela Anikulapo Kuti guested. We had places to go. And faces to see. We knew how and where to ambush celebrities for exclusive stories and the mundane trivialities of their lives: Klass Nite Club, Beach Combas and Lord’s club both located in Maryland district, Ikeja, Ace Nite Club along Allen Avenue. Sylverbirds at Iyaba, Faze 2 Niteclub, Jibowu, Floating Buka, ducked at the Marina waterfront, Caban Bamboo inside The Hotel Bobby Benson, a once-upon-a-time structural landmark that dotted the skylines of Ikorodu road, Mama Koko in Suru-Lere, Mayflower at Mushin, Phoenicia hotel, Paradiso, Pussy Cat, Dollaz Nite Club, Climax Nite club, Chez De Gracia along Obafemi Awolowo Way at Ikeja, the Afrika Shrine on Pebble Street, Stadium hotel was a place to capture the essence of highlife music as performed by Sir Victor Olaiya and featured guests or guest bands.
We followed musicians to record studios and watched them record their albums; we witnessed rehearsal sessions of musicians and theatre practitioners as they prepared for their productions. We were privileged to access everything show business. We were everywhere nosing for news, capturing entertainers and celebrities behaving superbly, or just being human and naughty. Major newspapers dedicated most of their Saturday editions to entertainment. These editions sold because of the juicy gossips of celebrities: Our boss, Ladi Ayodeji created a single gossip column on his center spread: TALKAHOLIC jabbed at the lives and loves of our then stars and celebrities. Mr. Ayodeji was subtle in his gossips but very blunt with his critic of artists and celebrities. TALKAHOLIC was an expected weekend intoxicant in show business until he resigned to pursue his music tabloid, BEATS. Kafui and I remained his proud protegees.

After weekend runnings with my dear colleague, friend and Nigeria’s most celebrated young brilliant poet, Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, Mallam Okwechime Abdul and my big brother, late Jerry Agbeyegbe,(Groovy Jay) which were always interrupted by an encore rendezvous that usually ended at Afrika Shrine and Klass nite club on Obafemi Awolowo Way, Ikeja, to be in the company of late Comedian and owner, Late John Chukwu, Eddy Jay, Kola Baiye and deejay Stagger Lee, I would stagger on Monday mornings from our Mafoluku Oshodi Flat to the Punch Compound at Onipetesi. There, I connected with my great teacher, colleague and “tag-team’ mate, Kafui Gale- Zoyiku at the Entertainment Desk inside The Newsroom.. Our times of meet were always 10 a.m, depending on traffic (GoSlow).Kafui and I would then take off into town, roamed the fields of entertainment places for news, felicitations with music makers, music superstars, and aspiring singers, actors and actresses, music business owners, socialites and celebrities. Most middays we hung out at hidden bukas near those record companies or at NTA headquarters in Lagos, with our hosts, just to get wasted on food booze and weeds. Yet, we kept our eyes on the prize. We stayed focused, despite our thrillers.

Other days, we began our walk on the wild side of entertainment journalism, with a visit to Otto records Studio to disturb its young custodian, Don Pedro Okojie. Okojie fronted as its poster child and gate pass to soundtracks of our generation. Otto records Studio was where future music superstars came seeking fame to music stardom because it was the best music studio along the Ogba-Ikeja axis with seasoned session men, instrumentalists, musicians and amazing producers. Every soul at Otto was a professional. Otto Records was the madhouse for creative muses. It was also a comfort zone of abundant free love, unlimited access to musical equipment and weeds. Otto Records was a Sound Station for tomorrow’s people of music. Pedro stepped on the feet prints of his big brother, late Ben King Iyere Okogie as Artist Manager and everything else to the entertainment business. He was young, handsome, stubborn and athletically built, yet lively.

Late Ben King and also Late Akpabio were widely respected and revered managers to some of the superstars then. Ben made small music creatures happen greatly. He was passionate about his artists and marketing them. Ben was a fierce brand manager, a rambunctious but affable disturbance. Late Akpabio was a strategist, music maker and manager. Akpabio was cool, focused and easy, astute and pragmatic. He was also a charming courteous gentleman.

Kafui and I would spend most mornings at Otto Records, disturbing Pedro, late Sam and late Willy, two legendary musicians at the record company. We also learned music notes and musical instruments. Kafui, after endless ganja sessions with Maurice and Willie, flirted with bass guitar lessons. I sat on the corner, admiring and or vamping on the keyboard…

Those were the happenstances of our lives as young Entertainment reporters and journeymen on the Beat. Through Willie, Kafui and I learned the basics of music and music journalism. Willie was gracious. He taught Kafui bass guitar those mornings while I would learn the keys to the piano, especially after being stoned from second-hand weed smokes that mixed with the traveling breeze. Otto records Studio was our Rhythm nation. The caliber of musicians that passed through that yard was profound and Willie was always willing and able to anchor us unselfishly through music lessons. The education and exposure Kafui and I were privileged helped us to excel in music and entertainment journalism.

We would leave Otto records Studio for Tabansi records, located along Alausa and Oregun Road Axis. There, we hung out with stars of our music scene and with Goddy and Phillips, sons of Tabansi Records CEO. The era’s stars included: Stella Monye, Nkono Teles, Jide Obi, Renny Nwosa (Pearl), Remmy Cuttinghart, Felix Lebarty, Otu Lemmy Jackson..Goddy and Phillip managed their father’s mega label and record company.Tabansi and EMI had celebrity musicians signed onto their labels and record companies: Felix Lebarty, Jide Obi, Oby Onyioha, Sonny Okosuns, Emma Dorgu, Majek Fashek, Dizzy K Falola II, Onyeka Onwenu, Tony Okoroji. Polygram records were privileged Evi Edna, Emma Ogosi, Ras Kimono, Otis Wiliki, Alex O. Alexo, Femi Kuti, late Peterside Ottong. PolyGram A&R repertoire was cared for then by Pa Ajilo while Wole Iyaniwura fronted Public Relations and Marketing. CBS records, which later changed its name to Sony Music, had Mike Okri as its biggest selling act in Nigeria, besides its foreign repertoires.

Chris Okotie was a major cross-over singer in Nigeria’s music and record label. He was signed onto late Haruna Ishola’s phonodisc Records after debuting with EMI. There were also Recordisc studios, that story and nights of album studio recordings with music stars such as late Oliver De Coque, Late Fela Anikulapo Kuti is loading. Stick and stay. Those were our everyday territories before Kafui and I returned to the entertainment desk at Onipetesi compound where our Godfather, Ladi Ayodeji awaited reports for our Saturday HighLife Spread in The Punch.

A few years after, Mr. Ayodeji resigned from The Punch to publish an entertainment weekly tabloid, BEATS ENTERTAINMENT. Kafui and I followed our mentor to that new adventure. But it became a casualty of newsprint crises, investment, and the economic mismanagement of our dear nation by the Military regime. Kafui and I went back to the streets of freelance journalism. I returned to the Punch, Kafui was privileged a freelance opportunity at the Guardian Newspapers.

My last contact with Kafui before we reconnected in 2013, was in 1986. We had no social media. No cell phones. Communication and contacts then were primitive. Years later, I moved to the United States. My understanding is that Kafui went back to Ghana in 1995 and continued with journalism until we reunited in 2013. Time and life have happened to us since our younger years as passionate terrors in Nigeria’s entertainment journalism. We reconnected through social media and cellular phone until this November 9th when Kafui decided it was time to knock on heaven’s door. Go well, my brother. Thank you for the street lessons in entertainment journalism and in life. Thank you Kafui! Stay with me

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