One of Nigeria’s foremost musicians, Sir Bongos Ikwue, has admonished the younger generations of artists to apply wisdom and save for the rainy days.
He spoke against the backdrop of the vulnerability of artists either in their old age or when there is health challenge requiring huge sum of money for treatment locally or internationally.
While recalling several Nigerian stars that had entertained the nation but whose private lives were characterised by poverty and penury afterwards, Ikwue called on artists with other skills to deploy such to other areas even as they continue in the creative industry.
Speaking at his investiture as Special Copyright Inspector by the Director General, Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Dr. John Asein, the Benue State-born singer urged them to adopt the policy of ‘No pay, no service’ in order to secure their future.
He decried the fact that most times, those who did not contribute to the creative content of artworks benefit more than the copyright owner.
“So, to you young people, all you artists, I say, don’t be fooled; don’t let anybody tell you that you don’t need money for the works you have done. You need money for the work you have done. In fact, you need to do a lot; work hard and make sure that unless you are paid, you don’t deliver,” he said.
He added: “Anybody who tells you that you don’t need money in this world is not a fair person to you. Like I said before, you need to balance the act. Worship God as you are going to die tomorrow and look for money as if you will never die.
“So, money is a very necessary, positive and not evil. It will help any business venture in this world. So don’t let anybody fool you by employing you without paying you properly.”
The 77-year Ikwue also talked about the role of the artists in nation building. But beyond that, he noted that they (the artists) have greater role than government, to play in ensuring a better and brighter future.
Since artists operate as private sector stakeholders without pension or gratuity, he stressed that it would be senseless for any artist to wait for government’s assistance before achieving greatness.
“I am talking to young artists, you don’t stay young forever. We all pray to God for long life. You see, long life also goes with old age and old age comes with a lot of things.
All of these could only be supported with some level of welfare. It depends on whether you have some savings; unfortunate for artists, we don’t have any pension scheme or gratuity.
“So, as soon as you stop work, all your incomes stop automatically. Therefore, you must be a little bit wise for your sake”, he stated.
For the music icon, his own definition of ‘government’ is entirely different and that understanding has helped in shaping his life.
“I have my own definition of government and not the type we were taught in school – government of the people by the people and for the people. My own definition of government is any democratic government who provides security and infrastructure. That is my definition.
“So, government has its role to play and we the artists have our role to play. Now you are young but you don’t stay young forever. When you are writing all those songs and jumping on the stage, do you remember to put away something?
When I was singing in Lagos, I had a record shop in Fadeyi and I was selling musical instruments also.
“While I was still playing, I set up a furniture factory in Makurdi, while still playing, I became a contractor.
“So, if you have talent to do other things, keep doing them. Otherwise, when you are dead, you are gone. And don’t let anybody fool you, you can still play music and be a lecturer in a university.
“You can still play music and be a successful businessman doing anything you want to do. Don’t let anybody fool you. Invest your time and money wisely because you are not going to stay young forever.”
Even at his age, the musician is still fully in charge of his trade. Surrounded by wife and children, he took his audience back memory lane with Mariama, Still Searching and Songs I Like to Sing.
In fact, he decline insinuations that he will soon retire music to old age. According to him, only death can stop him from playing music.