When he first came to Lagos in 1991, Benue State-born musician, Zaaki Azzay, experienced a culture shock that almost sent him packing. But against all odds and the pressure mounted on him by his Tiv kinsmen to return home, he stayed back in the city and altered the course of his life for good.
Today, the torchlight-clutching Zaaki is not only a shinning star in Nigeria; he’s also a role model and a guiding light to the youths back in the northern part of the country.
Zaaki, who fielded questions from the Entertainer when he visited the corporate office of The Sun in Lagos last week, traced his glorious journey into the music industry. He also exclusively opened up on what actually led to the crash of his first marriage.
What was the motive behind your venturing into the music?
I wanted to make my kinsmen, the Tiv people from Benue proud. I also wanted to make Nigeria, my country proud. You know, as at the time I started music, Nigeria was dominated with 98 per-cent western music and two per cent Nigerian. So, I wanted a brand of music that would promote our culture and make everyone realize that I was not trying to be western; I just wanted to be myself.
What was the reaction like when you started?
To some, it was funny. Some people even thought there was some magic in it, but eventually everybody liked and was comfortable with it. And from there, everything went on well.
What’s the significance of the touch light you always clutch?
The touch light is a covenant I made with God that I will not depart from his sight forever. That I will never be a rascal no matter how rich and famous I become, and that I will always do things according to His will. That is what the touch light symbolises.
Which album brought you into the limelight?
What project are you working on at the moment?
Right now, I’ve just released a new hit entitled, ‘Reloaded’. It’s trending everywhere on the social media, TV, radio stations and all. Apart from that, I’m planning an awards (ceremony). It’s going to be a yearly thing for my television show that has been running for a while now. I used to have a column in The Sun newspaper on Fridays. I want to resume writing the column and partner with the newspaper on my awards that will come up in October in Abuja. This platform is just to appreciate a few people that have positively affected the country; those who are role models and are worth emulating. For now, that’s the project I’m working on.
As a musician, what’s your take on the present government?
Nigeria is facing a lot in this recession period. People are suffering because Nigeria is injured and in a very serious danger, and before the injury can be healed, it would have to go through some processes. In this country, I think we need someone that is tougher than Buhari. Buhari is working, yes it’s very evident but people are still not feeling the work, because a lot had been damaged. I knew when the (Abuja) airport was shut down and it came up better than before, so all that is going on is a process of correction, and by the grace of God, it will get better someday.
I am not a politician but at least we can see all the money and government property being recovered. Our entertainment industry will suffer because Buhari is not someone that likes entertainment and that worried me when he became the president. But truth be told,
Nigeria needs to be changed.
What was your experience when you first came to Lagos?
Lagos is where I first saw a dead body (on the street). In the North, we hardly saw that. When I came to Lagos in 1991 and was staying with my uncle, I didn’t know I would be able to stay. I didn’t want to be a local champion in Benue, so I was determined against my people’s wish to stay. Eko oni baje o. I’m proud of Lagos because Lagos is working. Everyday I see transformation everywhere. I must say I’m enjoying Lagos o, I don’t have any regret coming to Lagos. Initially when Abuja was being transformed, I thought it would turn to a mega city that would surpass Lagos but today I can tell you that Lagos is working more than Abuja.
What’s your take on the frequent marriage break ups in the entertainment industry?
The truth is when you are famous or you’re into entertainment, every little thing you do, and it’s not as if it doesn’t happen to others, it goes out of proportion. But you know marriage has to do with the individual. That a marriage will work, apart from the grace God, the person has to make up his or her mind before going into any union. The only time I can advise you to leave your marriage is when it involves beating and battering; that’s dangerous and can lead to either of the parties’ death.
Was your wife beating you that made you to dissolve the marriage?
No! I will not discuss my wife’s issue here. I have left it for God to judge.
But she claimed you’re the one who used to beat her
Whatever she says, let anyone who wants to believe her do so; but for all I know, I have left it for God.
So, when would you give marriage a second chance?
I’m married. I have remarried with two kids.
How would you describe the first marriage and the new one?
I would say that the new one really compensated me. Whatever it is that anyone is doing or saying, God has a way of making up for it. God really gave me the best for the bad!
Is she an entertainer?
No, she’s not. Even my former wife was not an entertainer. She’s a businesswoman who got married and still doing her business. In my next world, I would love to marry her again. She’s such a huge compensation from God. When I had that problem, my prayer to God was to give me a woman that will love me and love God more than she loves me.
You are very lucky to have a second chance
There’s nothing like being lucky, my sister, it’s just the grace of God. I don’t want to sound like a pastor but I believe it’s the grace of God, even in my career and everything I do.
During those tough times, what would you say kept you going?
I won’t lie to you, when it first happened I was on my bed for three months and couldn’t come out. What really pained me was the love I had for her. I kept asking myself ‘what is it that I have done to deserve all these back stabbing, messing up of my name, media hype and the court she took me to? My heart was totally broken; I least expected it from her. You know, it hurts more when someone you love so much turns around and stabs you at the back. For me, that would have killed me, but it only made me tougher. I am sure what happened to me, a lot of entertainers might not be able to stand the scandal. But I came out even better than I was before and sure it can’t be my effort but God’s. I don’t want to tell anybody what I experienced but I have never seen God reacting that way.
What was the lesson you learnt from it all?
I learnt that whatever you do, take your time before you talk. It’s only the person who wears the shoe that knows where it pinches. Up till today, I have never said anything about it in the media; all what people knew was that she left me. But I wasn’t the one who sent her packing.
How is your relationship with her now?
We talk, when we see in court, we greet and talk. That’s all.
So, you are still in court?
Yes, we are still in court.
How many kids did your union with her produce?
Three kids. We both are taking care of the children. I have been trying to have the children in my custody but I realised later that ‘what is the fight actually about? If I have the kids in my custody, that will give her access to come around and check the kids’. So, I have discussed with my lawyer to let her know that, and it now depends on her because it’s as if she’s enjoying the media hype.