How did you receive the news of your father’s death?
I was in the studio recording when my mother called me to say that he was not feeling too well and that she was taking him to the hospital. By the time I got to the hospital he was dead.
My father’s death came as a shock to me. Sometimes, you have to flash back on all the things he should have done, things he did not do, things he said and what he should not have said. You recall intimate moments with him which you cannot experience again. But knowing the kind of father he was, I know he would not be happy if I continue crying for too long rather than handling the situation like a man.
What kind of man was he?
My father was a perfectionist. He was a professional, very strict, loving, creative and caring. My father loved his family so much. He was also very hard working and hardly took time to rest. He was always involved in one film production work or the other. My father often preached that we must do what we have to do at the right time that it should be done.
How challenging was his funeral considering his status?
His funeral was very expensive. My father’s burial was not only for his family. It was different from just gathering the remains of someone in a coffin and burying him. We had to ensure that the majority of Nigerians were represented at his burial. A lot of people who have had dealings with him when he was alive were involved in one way or the other in his burial. The kind of person my father was demanded that he be buried in an elaborate manner.
He played serious roles in movies as opposed to comical ones. Was he as serious at home as he appeared in movies?
Whenever it was required, he appeared serious at home. He knew when to play with his children and when he should be serious.
Talking about relating with his children, how did he correct any child who misbehaved?
He was a disciplinarian. But he did not use a whip or the cane on any of his children. I know that any father who does not have a way of correcting his child is planning to spoil him or her. Such a child will never know the values of what is right. My father spanked us once in a while but he counselled us more than enforcing discipline. You know, as they say, spare the rod and spoil the child.
Can you recall any time he disciplined you for misbehaving?
My father had his own way of enforcing discipline but I need to say at this juncture that I am a lot like my dad. That gives me more advantage to be close to him. I will not discuss in public whether I once did anything wrong to earn a spank from him.
Did he have any habit or hobby?
My father had a strong love for tea. I mean any kind of tea for that matter. He was also a big fan of Arsenal. Most of our family members are supporters of Manchester United. It is only my elder brother who is a fan of Arsenal like my father.
How did he relax?
My dad loved relaxing either by playing golf or watching people playing golf. He also watched local and foreign movies whenever he was not on location. But he watched more of foreign films because as a perfectionist, he often criticised some of the local ones when they were not acted to the standard he expected.
Did he have any special food?
He liked starch and Banga soup. But as he grew older, he had to change his diet to eat more vegetables. But for most part of his years, he ate starch and Banga soup.
You trained as dentist but you are known more in the entertainment world. Did your father influence your foray into showbiz?
I think so. I have always liked the idea of people seeing him and appreciating him each time he came to pick me in school. I was always happy whenever he came to my school then because people would come around to greet him. Thus, knowing I was his son earned me some kind of popularity too then. There is something about genes or genetics. There are some urges you have that you just cannot compare with any other thing.
Did he encourage you to be a singer?
Initially he did not because he had a master plan for his children. My father already had an idea of the courses he wished his children to study. He wanted his children to study petrochemical engineering, law and medicine. He wanted the disciplines we chose to cut across all sectors. I have a brother who is a financial consultant, my younger brother is a geologist and my sister studied business and law. If one is to look at it from the perspectives of the courses we studied, I can say that my father got what he wanted in terms of career planning for his children.
Having studied as a dentist, he felt it was a good profession. But I dropped the profession to pursue a career in music. My father studied civil engineering. But he later abandoned it for acting. But when he saw the passion that I have for music and he heard many people saying good things about my music to him, he called me and asked how we could take my music career to the next level. It was at that point that I got his approval for the path I chose. That was when he really took time to see what I was doing. I remember that I gave him a copy of my song. He listened to it, loved what he heard and he became my greatest fan.
Why did you decide to leave the Lagos University Teaching Hospital when you could have used the place to launch your career as a dentist?
I was at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital for my housemanship and the national youth service. After my service year, I left the place to manage a night club. I was also one of the artistes performing in the club. I was making good money on a weekly basis. Within that period, I got a job at a firm which offered me N40, 000 monthly. I would work from Monday to Saturday and from 8am to 6pm, I was thinking if I should practice as a dentist or follow my passion in music. Dentistry is no doubt a respectable profession but it offers less in terms of money. I thought of how long I would have to work before saving money to buy a car, build a house and take care of my family. I decided that since I have my degree and licence to practice as a dentist, I would give music a shot and if it did not work, I would fall back to it. It is only to pick up my licence, dust my books and start practicing. When I opted for music, I reflected on that experience and the decision I took. That was what made me to title my first album, Turning Point. I believe it is a turning point from being a dentist to a musician, from a member of a music group to an individual artiste.
What do you miss most about your father?
I miss his wonderful conversations with me. I miss the reality that I cannot pick up my phone and say, ‘daddy.’ I know that everybody will die someday but I miss my dad. I would have wished him to be present at my wedding. He did not have the opportunity to meet my wife-to-be.
Did he urge you to get marry early?
We did not discuss that. He did not say that to me personally. It was my mother who was always telling me that I should settle down. She always said that I should know that I was not getting younger.
In what ways have you benefitted from your father’s name?
My father’s name has helped me a lot. His name has really helped me in many ways. At times, when I walked into a place, someone would say,’ that is Justus Esiri’s son.’ They usually transfer the love and respect they have for him to me. I will always be grateful to my father because he left a good name behind.
What are the values you imbibed from him?
I imbibed the values of professionalism and hard work. My father never believed in cutting corners. He taught us never to look for cheapest ways to achieve things. I imbibed from him that one will attain a certain feat because one works hard to achieve it. That is why in my music, I try to push beyond the limit for the international audience to appreciate us. He used to tell me that he did not have all the money in the world but he had a name. He also told me that he worked hard to build that name and we should endeavour to keep it. That name is important to me and my siblings. It is our duty to carry on that name.
What was his favorite mode of dressing?
He did not have any specific mode of dressing. It was either he wore a native attire, shirt or trouser.
How close were you to him?
My dad and I were so telepathic to the extent that he did not have to say anything to me before I knew what he wanted me to do. We only had to look at each other. We often did not need to talk before communication took place. That says so much about our bond and I find it very special.
What kind of daily schedule did he keep?
He would wake up in the morning and have his tea. He could have it in the house of a neighbour known as Engineer Oluwole. They alternate both lunch and dinner in each other’s house. After that, he would leave for his office and return home or play golf before coming home. Once home, he would do one or two things and retire to bed.