Let me make this confession from the very beginning: I am a gentleman.
Please this should be read to mean that I am not in the same slapping class as that Slapping Senator of the Sex Toy Shop!
I am different.
However, ‘I no be gentleman’ happens to be the maxim of my gurus, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and Tam Fiofori.
Even in death, Fela does not need any introduction.
While alive Fela was the buddy of Tam Fiofori, the celebrated filmmaker, photographer, journalist, writer and former manager of the avant-garde American jazz bandleader, Sun Ra.
It is a worldwide fact that the best art comes via collaboration. This way, the greatest musicians such as Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Bob Marley, Fela and so on bonded well with poets, novelists, playwrights, journalists and the like.
Fela and Tam had an interesting bond in the making of the Afrobeat maestro’s classic – ‘I No Be Gentleman.’
The making of the lyrics of ‘I No Be Gentleman’ evolved through lived life of cherished camaraderie of the duo and their boon companions.
Back then, while Fela chummed with his buddies at Surulere Nite Club, banters and ideas flew fast and free across the board.
Tam Fiofori had a very hip mother who was quite fond of inviting her son and his lively friends over for lunch.
On a certain day, before going for lunch, one of Tam’s friends went and bought some grub across the road for the friends to munch.
This act elicited some discussions:
‘Why eat before going for a lunch date?’
‘You want to chop small say you be gentleman.’
‘I no be gentleman like that…’
It’s not in my constitution to repeat Fela’s lyrics as limned by Tam here.
It suffices to fast-forward matters to when Tam, whom Fela thanked for ‘I No Be Gentleman’, got into a ‘Gentleman Wahala’ with me.
On a certain noonday in the 1980s, Tam summoned me from my THISDAY office in Surulere, Lagos.
I abandoned the story I was writing by telling my editor: ‘I no write again; it’s not by force!’
Tam was in the company of the sister of a former second-in-command of the Nigerian Government who had just bought a brand new car.
Tam and the lady asked me to suggest a suitable restaurant where we should go to drink and eat to the health of the new ride.
Looking at the urbane beautiful lady, I suggested the posh Shindig Restaurant in Surulere. The lady said she wanted some other place quite earthy.
We settled for driving to Wazobia in Apapa.
The place was heavy with babes and hunks and sundry wannabes.
Tam brought a lady to join our table. I didn’t want to be outdone, so I brought another lady to join the selfsame table.
An older brother of a former Nigerian Minister who was around said he enjoyed our company so much he would gladly pay for our drinks and foods!
When the evening was fading into night we drove to Ikeja, to Fela’s Shrine at Pepple Street.
It was a beautiful time.
We chummed around waiting for Fela to make his appearance.
Of course Fela revved up matters when he made his dramatic entry. Tam was in the hive of matters in the lair of his buddy Fela.
It was obvious that the lady whose car we had come to celebrate was no longer finding it all funny. She was visibly tired and worn.
In the wee hours she told me that Tam was not willing to go yet while all she wanted was to go home and get some sleep.
The two girls were ready to go too.
I went to Tam to say the ladies wanted us to go home.
Tam promptly told me that I could go with them if I wanted to.
There was no persuasion on God’s earth that would make Tam go with us.
I played the gentleman by giving the two girls accommodation in my house while the lady with the car left for home.
The night out was indeed an apt illustration of what it took for Fela and Tam to collaborate in the ‘I No Be Gentleman’ hit.
When I met Tam the very next day, he bought me drinks and said: ‘Nothing spoil. I no be gentleman.’