Unanswered Questions Surrounding Mohbad's Death

Unanswered Questions Surrounding Mohbad’s Death

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Unanswered Questions Surrounding Mohbad’s Death: Justice Must Prevail

The death of the Nigerian singer Mohbad last week hit many music fans and casual observers harder than anyone could have thought. Dying at such a young age would have saddened anybody, but the circumstances surrounding this one have made it a national outpouring of grief and anger. In his short life and shorter career, it appeared that the man (real name Ilerioluwa Aloba) suffered privately and publicly, yet he did not receive the help he sought. He spoke openly about his conflict with the record label he was previously signed to, accused them of physically attacking him with photos and videos, and even wrote a petition to the police alleging a threat to his life. None of these got the attention of the authorities until he died. People want justice. It’s the least that he deserves in death.

For many Nigerians, this tragic incident has unearthed elements of the music industry and society at large, exposing the underbelly, which is typically unnoticed unless one is directly impacted. There is no positive from Mohbad’s death, but it has shone a light into significant pockets of darkness. As of this moment, the Lagos State government has set up an investigative panel to look into the final days of the young singer, which will include possible exhumation of his body for proper post-mortem examination, questioning of implicated persons and so on. Whilst that is going on, the calls for justice have not ceased, nor has the rapid expression of anger towards Naira Marley and his associates for what many believe is their complicity in Mohbad’s demise. The rapper/exec has seen his social media following plummet by over five hundred thousand in only a few days, and several media outlets have publicly announced that music from Naira Marley and his label are indefinitely suspended from their stations while promoters have pulled out of a US tour previously scheduled for another signee, Zinolesky.

As thousands of people have pointed out through social media, there are more questions than answers: what precisely was the issue Naira Marley’s label had with him? Is there any validity to the claims of drug spiking Mohabd made while he was alive? Why was he physically attacked on numerous occasions? Who were the last people seen with him? Who were the promoters of what ultimately became his last show? Why was there a rush to bury him without an autopsy? The questions abound.

Without prejudice to the ongoing investigation and with no attempt to pre-empt its findings, this underscores a dire need for Nigerians to examine their society and begin to fix the many wrong things.

It is not the first time there have been conflicts between artistes and record labels. Most of the time, artistes disagree with the sharing formula that often sees them take less than what they believe they’ve earned. On their part, record labels point to their investment in the artistes, which sometimes takes years. They insist on recouping their initial outlay before revising the contract or letting the artiste out of it. Sometimes, such disagreements are similar to a cold war – neither party openly talks about it but deals with it quietly. In other cases, it’s full-on war: Vector was arrested on behalf of YSG Records for an array of offences; when Skales had a similar issue in 2016, he was arrested as well, and the record label, Baseline, revealed that he had a buyout clause of 2.5 billion naira.

Nevertheless, there are ways to resolve knotty issues like this. It appeared that Marlian Music took the crudest, most violent and most inhumane route when the late Mohbad decided he wanted to leave the label. There are videos of identified individuals crashing his video set with various weapons. His associates, such as Bella Shmurda, had revealed in interviews that Mohbad was driven to suicide due to several attacks and the truncating of his career. In proper music businesses, this shouldn’t be the case. As we may know, most Nigerian music businesses are hardly promising.

This leads to the more serious issue of extreme decay of the Nigerian state, where elements of thuggery, crime, drug use, etc., have been more or less normalized. This is not to say that it is accepted or that Nigeria is the only country where people make music about any of those – American rapper Young Thug and his crew are currently on trial for those exact things, and the hit television series Top Boy is based on gangs, crime and such activities. Where the difference lies is that gang culture is increasingly permeating Nigerian music and is rapidly spreading among young people, many of whom have no jobs or access to vocations that can lead them out of poverty. In highbrow and low-income areas all across the country, gang culture is becoming mainstream and for the music-loving youth, even the biggest stars are not immune from associating and touting these gangs.

The parties named by fans in the Mohbad matter cannot be seen as fraternizing with public officials. Of course, nobody is a criminal until convicted by courts and as far as we know, these people have not been indicted yet. But still, the optics cannot be such that they have government backing. In many regards, the appearance of evil is just as serious as the commission of it.

It is one’s hope that Mohbad’s death is not in vain and that justice will be done, whatever that looks like. He deserves it. His family deserves it. His 24-year-old widow and five-month-old baby certainly deserve it. Ultimately, we as a people will save ourselves if this is the last time an incident like this ever happens.

May the soul of Ilerioluwa Aloba “Mohbad” find the peace that eluded him so painfully when he was alive.

The Jide Taiwo is a writer and media executive. His book E File Fun Burna: The Incredible Stagecraft of Burna Boy is available here.

Lastly, stay updated with all you need about African music at S.O.A. right here.

Unanswered Questions Surrounding Mohbad’s Death: Justice Must Prevail