On the 4th of May, Charly boy lost his dad Justice Oputa. In theinterview below, he opens up about his dad’s illness, the battle to save him and his last words to him before he passed on. Read below.
Q. Do you wish God kept your father a little bit longer?
Ans: Before Nko, but his time was up and he had to answer the call. He lived a good life. He was outstanding, totally different and I am so very proud that he was my father. Even though in the beginning I rebelled against all he stood for, it all eventually caught up with me. As I matured over the years, I found out that he had done me so much good. For sure I’m going to miss him like mad, but I have wonderful memories to tie me over.
Q: What does your tradition expect of you from now till your dad is buried? Are you to stay indoors 40days? Cut your hair? What is now expected that you, or any other member of the male/female Oputas to do?
Ans: I am not too knowledgeable about the traditional aspect, my relatives in the village have not told me about any specific things I should do. For now, all I’m doing is planning and receiving guest who come to sympathize with the family. My father will first be buried as a Christian and a knight in the church. He holds the title of (Odua) the oldest man in the village. Tradition says, he will require a second burial a year after the first, that’s the much I know. I shaved my hair way before he passed on, he loved my new look.
Q. At the point when you wrote the prayer request letter for your dad, did you harbor any fears that your father may be spending his last days on earth?
Ans: He was in the village when he was hit by stroke on the 14th of February, 2014. At about 3:30pm, I got a call from one of his aids informing me of what had happened. It was a Friday; one of my daughters had just come back from the US a few days before. So I sent her and my brother immediately to Owerri to assess the situation till I get myself together and arrive on Monday. My brother, I didn’t sleep from Friday to Monday morning. I was in a trance, the worse seized my mind. I cried when I was alone, in my household it was as if he had already passed, my father had never been sick, ever! It was the most painful time in my life; the thought of losing my father, my best friend was too much to deal with. But typical me, by Monday as I headed to the airport to catch the flight to Owerri, I was mentally ready for the worst. By the time I saw my father in the hospital, I was devastated, it took all the courage to hold back the tears. Then I knew it was downhill from there. I knew it was a matter of time, but I was ever determined to do all I could for my best friend. Since childhood I have always had that sharp instinct, intuition or premonition about things and people. I should have been dead long time ago, living the kind of life I had lived, but I have survived because of this gift from God.
Q: Seeing him helpless those harrowing weeks, what went on in your mind?
Ans: A lot of pain. Ever since I can remember, I have never seen my father down. I have never seen him sick. I prayed that God shouldn’t let him suffer one bit. I couldn’t stand the fact that we could no longer have the kind of robust discussions we use to have. Most of the time he was quiet, and I will always wonder what’s going through his mind. God has been kind to our family, he made his passage peaceful and I am thankful.
Q: Were you beside your father when he spent his last moments on earth?
Ans: He died in my house, too bad it wasn’t in my arms. After the hospital stabilized him, we were advised by the doctors to take him home and give him the care he needed to nurse him back to life. But I knew that age was not on his side. My father was over 96years. On Sunday the 4th of May, I went down to his quarters to see him. He had not been eaten properly. As I went on my usual round to see him and crack a few jokes before I go do my thing, I noticed he was unusually weak. As soon as I entered his room, he beckoned on me to come. I bent over to kiss his forehead and he said to me “I’m sorry Charles”. I asked what for? I couldn’t imagine that with his state of health all my father was thinking about was all the money I was spending to give him the best care and the love I showered on him. He was worrying about me? Hummmm. At that point I just laughed and said to him, “daddy get well soon so that I won’t send you a bill you cannot pay”. I asked the nurse to give him his bath, while I go and do same and come back to feed him myself. I was just getting dressed after my bath when the nurse called me to say I should come down quickly. At that point I knew what I have been getting myself ready for, has finally happened. I thank God that I not only spent quality time with him, we became almost inseparable.
Q: What were his last words before he passed on?
Ans: I’m sorry Charles.
Q : While he was still bedridden, was he still concerned about the many troubles and challenges the common man on the streets and our country Nigeria is facing?
Ans: Trust him, always thinking about other people more than himself. I guess that’s where I got that from too. I remember our most recent discussion after the bombing that killed a lot of innocent people in Nyanya. As we were watching the news together, I asked him, “Why are we the way we are”. I can’t forget his profound answer. “Most Nigerians are incapable of deep thoughts”. He always complained about how bad things were getting and why we couldn’t seem to get it together. His comfort was in all the advocacy work I did, trying to add value to my environment and all I have been trying to do for and with the frustrated Nigerian youth. Most of the time, he had come to many of my functions and workshops. That’s one reason he had a lot of respect for what I represented. I guess in a roundabout way, he wished he was me, craving for the opportunity to change his environment. He was all the time troubled about the state of the nation.
Q:Tell us about the concert you plan to stage for your late father?
Ans: My father without a doubt was a great man, actually the last of the Titans. When people come to see me and say sorry to me, I correct them by demanding they say congrats to me. Here is a man who has led a good life, who stood for justice especially for the common man, who stuck to one wife for over 70yrs. I’m having Nollywood come down to Oguta, the cream of Nigerian musicians, The Hard Riders Biker Club from Port Harcourt, Nigerians will be there. I expect Davido, Daddy Showkey, Felix Duke, TerryG, Dr Alban, Duncan Mighty and the likes. Indeed it will be a grand celebration of a damn goooooood life. People go bow, dem go hear am.
Q: What really is the essence behind the concert. Is it basically to celebrate the life and times of your father?
Ans: Haba! Don’t you think I should celebrate this great man? You know we Nigerians too dey forget people wey dey try for our country. I will never let Nigerians forget my father’s contribution to this country especially in the judiciary. Nigerians go hear am. In short, it will be a carnival.
Q: Aside the concert, do you have any other plans to immortalize him?
Ans: Yes, I pray that the Federal Government gets it right this time. He deserves to be immortalized. For me CharlyBoy, in my own crazy way and unusual approach, you can be sure that I will make my father live forever. You watch!
Q: In your own opinion, do you think the Oputa panel headed by your father and set up by Obasanjo to look into human rights cases during the military era really served its purpose?
Ans: Your guess is as good as mine. How could it have served any purpose when it was tossed under the bed. I don’t just get it. It’s like sending someone on a wild goose chase. But, I have a different mindset about it all. It was the Truth and Reconciliation panel and in a roundabout way, it opened our eyes to all the atrocities of the past. It got people talking, which was a good thing.
Q: What do you miss most about him?
Ans: So much my guy, I don’t know if you can get it if you have never been there. I loved my father to bits, he was like my hero. He dared to be different like me; he was like no other, like me. I will miss our regular evening provoking conversations, when he would come over to my part of the house, as I serve him his small stout while I drink my coke and we would talk endlessly about many things under the sun. I will miss his company especially all the times he accompanied me to different shows. Full of wisecracks, he made life’s journey so simple and uncomplicated, he exemplified the significance of life. Head or tail, I know he indisputably deserves the heavenly gift of paradise.
Q: Did you in any way use his name to open doors that sometimes proved difficult?
Ans: As CharlyBoy, there was never a time any door or doors proved difficult for me. Half of my contacts and the people I know, my father could never have known. From the day he was made a judge, my father lived a secluded life, he didn’t socialize much and never asked anybody for favours. The respect he had for me before he died was as a result that I didn’t need him for anything what so ever. After he retired as a judge 90percent of the outings he did was with me. All the comedy shows that happened in the past 8yrs in Abuja, he attended them with me. He loved going out with me and getting involved with my work. Even at his age, I had several times taken him on bike rides. I know there are a lot of people out there who wouldn’t want to still give me credit, but that’s not for me to worry about. Charlyboy has opened doors my late father couldn’t open period.
Q: How do you feel being fatherless?
Ans: I have joined the club of the fatherless people. I hope that one day they will make me their President. If you know how close we became, you will feel very sorry for me. But I’m up to the challenge. Now I have my mother to concentrate on. She was my first love anyways before my father got into my good books, so all the love and care will be transferred to her full time. Thank God I’m not an orphan yet, that would have been a serious problem.
Q What are those fine qualities you inherited from your father?
We stood for justice especially for the common man. We are both deep thinkers. We are both men who are content and at peace with self. We are both committed to changing our environment. We love our wives dearly, my father till his death spent over 70yrs with the same woman, I have spent 37yrs still counting. We have strong love for our family and always very protective. My father wasn’t phased with or by material things, same here. We love to read and learn. When we were younger we both use to be such flirts. We both believe in one man one woman. We both are very spiritual beings.
Q: What kind of life did your father live?
Ans: My Daddy worked hard all his life. He was devoted to his family and friends. A man so sure and steady that you thought he’d be around forever. My hero never fought in a war, he was not worldly, he never felt the need to search the world for bounty, never drove fancy cars, but he lived his life by the golden rule. Never had much money, but he had the respect of all his friends, associates, even people who only knew him on the pages of the newspaper. As a father, he was a disciplinarian. He brought us up with an overdose of morals, values, principles and integrity. With all his hardness at that time, he had nothing but love for all of us. He loved my mum so very much. I used to think he was a weak man, because my mum could make him do just about anything. He was a player at some time, but his love for mum made him give it up. Lately since the past ten years, I have continually drawn strength from him, spiritually, intellectually and morally. He lived a great life I must say.
Q: How were you able to convince your father about your personality especially in the beginning when he felt you were too rascally?
Ans: I didn’t set out to convince him about nothing. I was just doing my own thing regardless of what anyone thought about me from jump street. I no send anybody any message, even my beloved father. Initially, in the beginning, he thought that the image I was building was too futuristic. He felt that Nigerians where far too conservative and hypocritical to even understand what I was trying to convey. He swore that it will never work. Most importantly he didn’t believe that my choice of career would offer me any financial security in the future. All I did was to stay loyal to my dream; I was tremendously focused on my goal. I have been consistent, always keeping my eyes on the ball. I just won his respect with my independence and hard work. I teased him sometimes when I would ask “Shey you said I was never going to make it following this path” and he would answer, “Parents are human beings you know, sometimes they too can be wrong”. Short and simple, I won my old man’s respect because I worked myself to success and I didn’t need his help in any way.
Q: What about the times when you did not obey his orders and got tired of his rules, regulations and restrictions. What was his reaction?
Ans: When I was a teenager, I saw my father as a terror. I was always getting into his trouble and he used to whip me so much that I became immune to the pain of his cane. My father used to beat the living daylight out of me. You know he was a teacher before. He used to make me cram William Shakespeare when I was in elementary school. Because of his hardcore style of teaching, I hated school and threatened I was going to drop out of school. The first day I had told my father that I was no longer interested in going to school, he beat me up so badly I had to feign my own death before he really kills me, I was 16yrs old, that was the last day my father touched me, walahi!! .
Q: Would it be okay to sum up that in the last 25 years you were able to get the kind of respect from the man who thought the direction you took was wrong?
Ans: Yes, he used to be an unbeliever, but my hard work, dexterity, tenacity, focus, doggedness, ruggedness/never say die attitude turned him into not only a believer but also a CharlyBoy fanatic. He will always tell his friends with pride, “CharlyBoy has beaten me hands down, look at what he’s been able to do with his life” initially I use to be embarrassed when he starts like that, because he will just go on and on, oh man. But later I just got use to it because I would always see the pride in his eyes when he talks about my achievements. Yes I mesmerized him with my success. My father whom I thought was hard to please, became my campaign manager.
Q: What was it like in the first 15 years out of the 32 years of being Charlyboy when you hardly talked to each other?
Ans: It pained me initially that he didn’t think much of the path I wanted to take. I disowned them (mum and dad) because I never went to them for anything. That made them worried, but my father just couldn’t reconcile the outlandish image with such a huge family name that had become an albatross around my neck. I went into entertainment because I had to run away from living under anyone’s shadow; wanted to carve my own niche. For years we never communicated. It was actually my late friend Tyna Onwudiwe that helped my parents understand that my career choice wasn’t a bad one.
TQ: What about your decision to read mass communications instead of law which your father wanted you to study?
Ans: my father knew from the beginning I wasn’t like his other children, I did what Charly wanted to do even when I would always get the beating of my life. My father never asked me to go study Law, he wished I did but he knew better. Mass Com was my choice and that is what I did.
Q: What favorite quote will you most remember your father by?
Ans: Man, know thyself.
Q: What is your message to Nigerian’s at a time when kidnapping, ritual killing and bomb blasts have become common place?
Ans: I sent out a bulk text massage to 6million Nigerians, maybe I should share it with you.
“Overwhelmed by events,
Losing my Fada and all.
Worried of the insecurity
Nigeria is for us all
Not for the Kill
This is not just a Goodluck’s thing
This is a matter for all Nigerians
Our enemy is now twofold
Terrorism and Poverty
Let us for once be bold
Let us refuse to be terrorized
Is it not enough we’ve been Traumatized?
Our Love for Nigeria and safety should unite us
We MUST be our brothers’ keeper
Report anything suspicious around you
You may be saving lives!!!
Q:What great lesson did you learn from him while alive?
Ans: He thought I wasn’t paying attention to his life lessons. Life lessons he taught me. Hey! I got every word because they were all written unconsciously on my heart. Without my Dad, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. He built a strong foundation no one can take away. I’ve grown up with his value and I will be forever grateful. I learnt how to be strong, because you can see me struggling but you can never see me fall. I learnt that a good name is better than gold, I learnt how to live with my wife of 37yrs, staying faithful to any course I set my heart on. I learnt how to be a man’s man. An apple can never fall too far from its tree. I learnt a whole lot, but the biggest lesson of all times I learnt from him was the art of contentment. I am at peace with myself now, thanks to the great teacher.
Q: How prepared are you and others for the funeral?
Ans: We are ready to once again make our Father proud, I know he is watching. I know that even in death, he will remain proud. We plan to give him the burial of a life time which people living would wish that, when they die, they want to be buried in the same manner. He is a Great Nigerian, in fact one of the greatest. He deserves a fantastic burial, and surely that’s what he will get, so help me God.
Q What should Nigerian leaders learn or emulate from your late father?
Ans: Humility, Simplicity, Integrity, Honesty, Class, Sincerity and love for the people you lead.