Today, Yinka Ayefele is a household name in the nation’s music industry. When he launched his music career as a gospel act some years ago after he was involved in an auto crash that left him crippled, not many gave him a chance in the industry. But he has so far proved his critics wrong and succeeded in cultivating a large following across the country. So, the accident has become a blessing of sort to him. The Ekiti State-born musician recently spoke with BAYO ADEOYE on his career, his dreams and the tragic incident, among others.
Since you launched your music career in 1997, you have been consistently relevant in the nation’s entertainment industry. So, what will you attribute your success story to?
I don’t have any secret; it’s not by my power but the grace of almighty God.
Over the years, you have produced a number of albums with some dramatic titles. Besides, almost all your albums so far had some interesting story lines, so to say. Would I be right to describe you as a script writer?
It is unfortunate that many got to know me after I was involved in an auto crash. But the truth is that I had started playing music, though not actively, before that unfortunate incident. My first album was titled Bitter Experience. But after I underwent a successful operation in the UK, I came out with Sweet Experience, Divine Intervention, Fun Fair, Fulfillment and so on.
Yes, that is why I said the titles of your albums appear to be like you are telling some stories…
(Cuts in) This is what many people don’t know about me. I was an actor before I became musician. In fact, I had appeared in some home videos before the auto crash. I was in Bukola Omo Daddy, a film produced in honour of Francis Aiyegbeni, D’Rovans boss, and I also appeared in another movie, Owo Ile. I was the one acting like Lukululu after his death. I was a good script writer; I was writing funny scripts for my programme on the FRCN, Ibadan. Then, my early morning news called Iroyin Kayefi was kind of funny news. That was what inspired me and it aligned with the titles of my albums.
It is interesting to know that you are really a creative person, having been an actor, broadcaster and comedian.
Yes, I was a compere, comedian and broadcaster. I started with Radio Nigeria, Ibadan and, as a matter of fact, I used to be the station’s Father Christmas for many years before I became a presenter. I had about five programmes then. So, you can see I had been in entertainment long before the accident.
You have a radio station already, but you are still operating on the Internet. So, when are you commencing terrestrial operations?
The law of the land says you cannot operate without a license and we have made several efforts to obtain it. I have applied through the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation and they have certified me okay and forwarded my letter to the presidency, which is the final stage. So, we are hoping that we shall commence very soon. It is not only me because I learnt no license has been issued for some years now.
Is your reason for establishing a radio station borne out of your love for broadcasting or to provide employment for some members of your society?
I would say it is due to the two reasons you highlighted. I love broadcasting and have a very strong passion for it. Even now, I still present programme on the radio. Besides, I see it as giving back to the society by creating employment. I want to provide jobs to people, especially the youths. Apart from this, I really want to change the face of broadcasting that has hitherto been following only one trend. So, I intend to inject new things into broadcasting in Nigeria. I am not saying it has not been done the way it should be, but we can change and improve on it. I have been to big broadcasting stations around the world like the BBC and others, so I know the way things are done.
Again, you recently built a hotel in Ibadan, but is this also in line with your resolve to create employment or your love for hospitality business and tourism?
No, I can tell you that I am not even after money; it is due to my vision to empower people. I can tell you that the hotel is not yielding any profit yet. But I always say that if I can pay the salaries of the staff and maintain the hotel now, it will fetch me the desired gains in future. I am not in hospitality business, but I am in entertainment business and hotel is still part of it. I only want to do something different from music.
Who really was Yinka Ayefele before the accident?
I hail from Ipoti Ekiti. My dad’s name was Fele, so I only added Aye to it so as to make it more punching. My original name was Yinka Fele, but I added Aye when I started broadcasting. I had my primary and secondary education in Ipoti Ekiti before I went to the College of Arts and Science, where I studied Political Science. I came to Ibadan in 1987 and worked with some companies as a factory hand (general laughter).
Really? How much was your salary then?
I was receiving N7 weekly. I worked in the silo, a very hot place like that. I left the company and worked in several other places as a casual worker before I went to Radio Nigeria, Ibadan, where I got my break.
When you were on hospital bed after the auto crash, what exactly was going through your mind? Did you think you won’t survive it?
Yes, I thought I was going to die, but I made up my mind not to die. The reason was that virtually every other patient in my hospital ward was dying. Imagine waking up in the morning only to learn that the man you were chatting with the previous night had died. Then, I never knew what tomorrow had in stock for me; I had no hope. In fact, I never knew I was going to become a renowned musician that I am today. I was only hoping that if God should protect me, I would go back to my broadcasting. That was my greatest aspiration. But thank God for my friends that rallied round me while I was hospitalized, especially Kola Olootu who advised me to put some songs together so as to raise funds for my hospital bills and further treatment abroad. It was that moment that I discovered that music was something that could make things happen.
You said earlier that people were dying in your ward, but did you nurse any fear in your mind?
Yes, I was scared to the bones. I couldn’t help it at that moment. How could I be so confident when on a daily basis, corpses were being packed before your eyes? I just concluded that sooner or later, it was going to be my turn. It even got to a stage that I told my doctor that they should take me away from that ward and they did.
From that hospital experience, what did life teach you?
Life taught me that no matter the situation you find yourself in, God will surely take you to wherever He wants you to be. I have lots of people working for me today who never dreamt of working for me. And again, 10 years ago, if you asked some people to tell you who would die in the next 10 years, they would have probably mentioned Yinka Ayefele, but I thank God I am still alive today. God knows how He plans His own things. If I was not involved in that accident, I might not be where I am today. So, it is a blessing in disguise. If not for the accident, maybe I would still be in broadcasting and would only have been popular in my jurisdiction. God has a purpose for everything. He is the only one that knows how He designs His things. That is the lesson I learnt from that situation.
Did the experience draw you closer to God?
Yes, that is why I play gospel music. But it is just that some people think I don’t play gospel. My kind of music is my own way of appreciating God’s good works in my life. I mean the fact that He did not forsake me, I will forever praise Him. You can feel Juju music in my music because I was once a Juju artiste. I was a guitarist for Uncle Toye Ajagun; I played guitar for Wale Thompson and Micko Ade. I was a keyboardist in the church, so Juju music must reflect in my music. But I play gospel music, which is the only thing I can do to appreciate God.
After the accident and treatment abroad, you got married. But a lot of people still don’t believe that with your condition, you can impregnate a woman. So, how did you do it?
Doctors would tell you that my case is very special and rare; my case is one out of a thousand cases. There are some things I wouldn’t want to say here, but I challenge those who still don’t believe me to come with their sisters to prove the point( laughter). That was on a lighter mood though.
But what I am trying to say is that I am fortunate to have proved the medical practitioners wrong in some aspects. They said I wouldn’t be able to have erection, but the day they discovered I was able to have it was like a miracle; in fact, my consultant was shocked. I thank God for this.
You have a music house valued at N200million and a hotel valued at N250 million; so, how rich is Yinka Ayefele?
I always give thanks to almighty God because Yinka Ayefele is truly rich. But my own definition of richness is not based on the amount of money I have in my bank accounts or the number of houses or cars I am able to buy, but the number of people I am able to feed and put smiles on their faces. I have lots of people working with Yinka Ayefele Music House. Merry-Makers Band has its own staff, so also the radio and the hotel. I have well over 100 staff working for me and my pride is to satisfy them. That is what I mean by being rich, so I thank God for making me that rich.
There have been reports of band boys abandoning their bosses, but yours seems to be a different case. So, how have you been able to keep your band together in the past years? Or are you guys on some oath of allegiance?
No, I never swore to an oath with anybody. But I think I should commend my band boys because they are contented with whatever they are getting from me. I thank God for their lives too. Unlike in the olden days where band boys spent money lavishly on hotels, drinks and women, my own boys are wiser. They all have their own homes and cars and their families are fine. We are contented with what God is doing in our lives. We are working together without any misunderstanding whatsoever. We are doing our own things the way they should be done; or better still, the way they are not being done in any other band.
Yinka Ayefele is into music, hotel business and Internet radio; so, what next should we be expecting from you?
Hmm! Apart from radio station, which is my dream, I still want to have a special ministry for the children. I have a passion for the children. I am starting a competition for the children. I call it Yinka Ayefele Entertainment World Juvenile Cup. I will start next month from Ibadan, Oyo State and later extend it to other parts of the country. I want to invest in their lives and catch them young. I want to be a part of their stories. So, that is my next major project.
In one of your songs, you said you would surely praise God if you could stand on your feet some day. But I am wondering if you have not had a change of mind, after being in this position for a long time?
I heard some people saying that they prefer to sit down like me and make money. But they don’t know what I am actually going through. You can’t even appreciate the pains I go through, even as I am telling you now. I don’t pray for anybody to go through the pains.
Before that song, did you receive any prophesy from any man of God?
Yes, there have been lots of prophesies. Big men of God like the late Baba Obadare told me that God said He would do it at His own appointed time. I don’t argue with God. Anything I say or any song I sing comes from God; it is not from my mouth. So, I don’t know why He hasn’t done it, but I am very sure He will do it whenever He wants it done.