Why was there the need to change the name SYNERGY?
First of all, there was really bad publicity for Synergy, and then it was shut down. Jaiye shared the company with some people, and when he died, they came, took the document, chequebook, and the equipments. The idea was for them to come back to me and say “okay, you should run the place since you were running it with him”. After the first meeting we had, I didn’t hear a word from them; I didn’t know what was going on. All I know was all the things we were using was locked up, and they put a security guard there. We couldn’t go in and all our investment, even before those people came and became part of the business, even my personal money, entered it, everything was locked up. At a point I said to myself, there were other owners and I don’t have the right to say I’m continuing. So in order to avoid trouble, I just respected myself went and registered another company. We still do basically the same thing. I still have the same staff, so I started buying my own equipment little by little. We are doing well; we are doing shows here and there.
Why the name G-Factor?
When I got the name, it meant God’s factor. When we went to CAC, we couldn’t register it, and I now decided to make it Gig Factor. That’s just the shortened form of the name of the band.
How did your in-laws help you to cope with your loss, in terms of rendering help?
In being honest, and diplomatic, I will say in the presence of God that everything I’ve done today, in terms of my mental state, my physical state, my financial state, everything I’ve done has been between God and myself. I think a lot of misconceptions had gone on, a lot of deceptions, lies, and I’ve just not been talking. I’m not about to start telling you who has done whatever, but I believe that when I say things, people will understand what I mean. Everything that I’ve been able to achieve, of course, my family did their best, but the reality of it is that, where I am now is between God and myself. Even my children, it’s been between God and myself, and that is the honest to God truth.
How did you meet Jaiye and married him. There are those who are of the belief that you became who you are now after marrying Jaiye Aboderin.
I met him at a place called Jazzville. I was living along the road the club was with a friend of mine. I’d gone to Jazzville with my colleague, then I used to work at Klinks Studio, and he was on stage with his sibling and her partner, and they were playing a particular song that I liked. Then I jumped on stage, grabbed his microphone and started singing. After the show, he called me and said that he liked my voice. We just got talking and we exchanged numbers. We never got to call each other, until almost a year later. We now met at a place in Surulere called NAG (Nigerian Actors Guild), where we used to have meetings. He told me that he was thinking of setting up his own band, but he wasn’t sure if I would be interested, and I said I wasn’t sure if I’m ready to do this band thing. Coincidentally, after a few weeks, somebody invited me to Jazzville for an audition of a band, and it turned out that he was the male singer of the band. So we started singing together, and then we started our own thing, and became very close friends. Then it started with me going to spend the weekends with him and he would take me out. We just found that we had a very good relationship, and I just noticed that if I don’t see him in a day, I’m just very not all right. (Laughs)We were very close and so we started dating. In terms of fame, I don’t come from a poor family; neither do I come from a very wealthy one. My parents were very comfortable, they were both bankers. My father was a manager with African Continental Bank and my mother was also a manager in another bank. When he left there, and went to Asaba, after he retired, he became a manager in community bank, he opened the bank, and my mother continued with her banking job. There was never an issue of; oh I didn’t have enough when I was growing up. And then, at the time Jaiye and I started dating, I had already done my first major movie, Breaking Point. It wasn’t big money, but then, the fame was there. Because in the course of our conversation, he was telling me that his girlfriend then had told him that I was a movie star, and then he wanted to see one of my movies. So he said, “ can you please bring some for me when we play at Jazzville” and I said no problem. So I brought the film to him, and he said he liked it. So the next audition that I was going to, he actually came with me, and saw how we were doing it, and he kept encouraging me. And at that time, if we are honest with each other, he was never the kind of person that will come and tell you that Oh; I’m this or that. I’ve never been a newspaper person, so sorry, but I didn’t know who the Aboderins were, I didn’t know what they were about, and I was new in Lagos. I was staying in my elder sister’s house, before we now fought because I said I wanted to go into entertainment, while she wanted me to do Law. So I didn’t know anything about them, I just saw them playing at a club like every other regular person. They were paying me N1000 after singing and they were paying him the same thing. And he had one blue Passat that we had to push and that was smoking a lot. Then he was going to French Village in Badagry. And he would say “Omo, how much did they pay us?” and we would count it and divide it for what we want to use the money for. And when he comes back he’d ask me” did you cook?”, and I’d say “Yes, I cook small.” That’s how we were coping. And then when I went to his family house for the first time, I looked at him and I’m like, “what’s wrong with you? How can you come from a house like this and be following me to collect N1000?, what are you doing this for?”. He said to me, because I need to pay my rent, I’m a man, I want to be on my own, I don’t want anybody to say that its because of my fathers money that I’m made. That’s why I’m working so hard”. He works so hard and I don’t even see him. I often tell him, “don’t kill yourself, you know that you’re entitled to some things, calm down”. He’d say to me “No, that’s not what I want to be known for, so that tomorrow, nobody would say to me that it’s my fathers money that made me. I want to make myself.” That was one thing I really loved about him.
So for me and him, it wasn’t an issue of… You see, a lot of people used to come to me and tell me that hey, there are some big guys, some handsome guys dying for you o, he knew all these, and I would just tell them, “I beg, monkey no fine, but na so im mama like am.” That’s the way I like him, I chose him. And they would go and meet him and tell him that “who is this girl, because she’s a nobody”, and he’d tell them, “that’s the one I want!”. So for us, it was never an issue of who was bigger than who, or who married who because of what, we just liked each other, and we found that we had the same interests, we do everything together. And because people don’t live with you, they don’t really know what’s going on, they just hear things and they just build on it. If you know the amount of work that we were both doing, you would not even believe that he had anything to do with any estate, because we were both working round the clock. He was a workaholic. He was running 3 companies at the same time. He would say that by the time he turns 40, he doesn’t want me to work, that he wants the children to be happy. So he really didn’t bother what people said even then. He used to tell me, “Omo, na you get time to dey listen to things, like that person said this or that.”
So, when all those stories were reported about you, he wasn’t bothered or threatened to leave you?
The most interesting one was when it was written that I was seen with Richard Mofe Damijo in a car in front of the Lagos Bar Beach, on the 5th of December. I can never forget that date. It was so amusing because I was shooting a movie for Charles Novia, and I was there with Bena. Coincidentally, that same day, Jaiye was on his way to Abuja, he missed his flight, called me and asked me where I was. I told him that I was in front of the beach shooting a movie, so he said he’d come over to look at us before he goes home. So he came to the beach with his personal assistant, Michael. That day we really had fun because when he came, he said “ah, no more big boy today, lets eat agege bread”, and we all did, chatting and all. When I finished shooting that film with Richard, he, (Richard) had to run to Ghana, because Ovation was having a party there, so he left us. Jaiye now asked the director to bring me home on his way. That’s how Richard and my husband left, and the film director now dropped Bena and I at home. So when this magazine now came out with the story, I was driving when Richard called me and said “Stella, look o, they’re writing about me and one particular actress, please read it and tell me who it was, because I don’t know what’s going on”. I don’t normally do it, but as I was driving, I now called a vendor to buy this magazine, and they were telling me that it sold out. I finally got one at the end of Ozumba Mbadiwe road, bought it, opened it to read as I was driving, which was very bad, and I normally don’t do it. But something kept pushing me. I read how they just kept describing this lady and it turned out to be me. I’m like it’s just not possible. I couldn’t even call Richard back, I just called my husband. I said “Jaiye, where are you?” I old him that I was coming back home now, but pray for me that I don’t have an accident. He asked that “Stella, what is it?” I told him what I had just read. That day I was crying and shaking as I was driving like a mad woman. I got home, carried the magazine to him upstairs and asked him to read it. He read it and his first reaction as a human being was, he got up, went into the bathroom and locked the door behind him. I just knelt down on the floor and started crying. I said “ah!, these people have killed me o! My marriage is gone!” he came out after about 10 minutes and saw me, then he said, “what are you doing?” I cried out that these people have killed me! He said” look at the date properly, I looked at it, it was 11th December. He said “which date was published, wasn’t it the day I missed my flight and came to meet you at the beach? Was I not there with you? When did you do what they said you have done? Doesn’t that show that you shouldn’t be listening to this kind of thing? I was with you and they are still writing this kind of thing. It only goes to show that all the other things they are writing about you are false, so why are you worried? Is your conscience not clear? So why are you crying? The thing that they are looking for is for us to have a fight, but when we show them that we really don’t care what anybody says, we know ourselves, that’s when it would hurt them the most.”
So from that day, he just said to me that “let people talk about you, that’s how you’ll know how important you are.” But the only thing that’s paining me now is that he’s no longer here to hold my hand and tell me it is okay, because right now, for me, its not okay, its not. You know, because of all the things we’d talked about, and all that I’ve learnt from him, I just decided that for me, the most important thing right now is to work hard, and take care of my children, that’s the driving force for me. I just look at it and say to God, “see me through this week, after this week, it will be stories about somebody else”
Why was there a need for you to go back to work, a decision that sparked the talk that you didn’t observe your mourning period fully?
Anybody who said I didn’t complete my 40 days of mourning before I started working, that person lied. My mum and my aunties took it upon themselves to ask everybody, from elderly people and from his family that knew about the culture. They asked them how many days, what I was supposed to do, the dress code, even something that was against my tradition like frying puff-puff and sharing it to beggars, we really don’t do that where I come from, but it was expected of me and I did it, and waited until after the 40 days before I went to do a job that had been paid for the previous year, long before Jaiye died. And after the death of my husband, nothing was coming, it was only from people, good hearted people that felt that I deserved a life and I deserved to feed my children that help came from and I didn’t expect that to come everyday. Because even after some days, people would have to move on with their life, not have me as an added responsibility, because they all have theirs as well. They could only try but after a while, they expected that at least, there’s somewhere else that help is coming from. But between God, and myself there was nowhere else that help was coming from. My children had to go to school, I had to feed. My husband and I were owing my landlord rent before he died and that was a million naira. There were so many things that we had done, repair maintenance we had not paid for before he died, and nothing was coming, everybody just took off. Nobody called me to say, take, this is half bag of rice. People that you would expect that even if Stella is not in their agenda, at least, my children, Jaiye’s children……I didn’t care what anybody was going to say, but you see these girls, they would never lack for one day, and they would continue to go to school. I didn’t care if I’m living under the bridge, I was ready to leave it all. Infact I’d even said if anybody had come and said give me this or that owned by Jaiye, I was ready to give it up. The most important thing was that, that thing which the enemy was looking for they would not get, my kids would never be hungry because they’ve said that “ah the reason I married him was his big money, now that Jaiye is no longer around, lets see how she’ll survive”, but they will see, I will survive. I started working, I had to, because my mother looked at me and said to me “if you like, stop your life, sit in your room and lock yourself up and cry all day, whether he’ll come back, but what I will never let you do is to let those children go hungry, or to let somebody laugh at you and come and be feeding you at your young age. What if this happened to you at 40 something, and you didn’t have the strength to build your life, how can you make your husband proud?” She kept reminding me every time that if there was anything Jaiye used to say, it was that if there’s anything that he was living for, it was for his family, “to take care of my wife and my children. If I like I will wear rag, so long as my wife and children are looking fine”. That’s what he lived for. And the only thing I can do is to make sure that these children are fine. All those who were saying “Stella you know, I think you should sit down, you cannot be running around looking for work”, I say those people that are misconstruing all these things, have they ever offered me one naira. I should sit at home, fold my hands and let hunger catch me and my children. You that is talking, what have you offered me?
What pained me most was that everyone was concentrating on what people would say about me. I said people would always say one thing or the other about you. “My husband don die, them dey talk, your husband no die, them go still talk”, but at the end of the day, what is important to me are my girls. So I’m ready to go through what anybody wants to do to me, but those children, I will never joke with them. Many people even said” Oh! Its too early to start work”, no problem, who doesn’t like to stretch leg, but bring the money now! To make matters worse, I was banned for acting, so what was I supposed to do? It wasn’t easy o, I won’t lie. I don’t know why they were saying it but people kept saying during the burial, elderly people who came to my house said to me “ better stop crying, cry all you can and clear your eyes because things are going to start happening!” next thing I knew, people were making demands, asking for this and that, and I’m like “e never even reach how long, what’s going on?” and then I understood. At a point if people came to give me things, I was now afraid to accept them, as I didn’t know who was against me or who was for me. That’s how I read that I was dating somebody even during the burial period; I wondered what was going on. Even when Gbenga Obasanjo tried to help me, the next thing I read, was that I was dating him. It was like anyone who extended a hand of help to me was attacked and scared away. I wonder how with people always around me, I could be indulging in such a thing. I said to myself, “do these people think im mad? I just lost my husband, and they were already accusing me of dating somebody, what sort of person do they think I am?”
After Jaiye died, I found it hard to sleep and I couldn’t switch off the light, even up till now, though I now sleep, but the television has to be on. I still don’t switch off everything, because I’m still not myself. I’m coming out now and working and stabilising, but then, I’m still not Stella, how I used to be.
There were equally talks about you stepping out, that you were always seen in the company of Sammie Okposo, which became hot gist. So Stella, what is the truth about your relationship with Sammie?
First of all, Sammie was the first person I met when I came to Lagos. He was the first person to give me a job. I’ve known Sammie for 10 years and we’ve been very good friends. All through the time he’s had his relationship, I’ve always been there as his friend, and all through the time I was married, he’s always been there as a friend. When all those press stories were coming out, especially when Jaiye died, that’s when you’d know who your friends are. A lot of people took off, lots of people that made promises. I will never forget Kate Henshaw in my life, because she’s one of those people that, no matter what people say…even the first show that I did that a lot of people started writing that I didn’t observe my 40 days, I told her that “everything was going to get controversial” but I had to keep working. Kate held my hand, walked with me into the venue, waited for me, and when I finished doing my 4 songs, she took me to my house before she left for her own house. Everything I was always doing, she was always with me, while all my other friends ran away. At that time, Sammie wasn’t around, but when he came back, he heard a lot of things that was going on.
And I told him everything, I poured out my heart. And he said to me, “ you see, I’m the most controversial person.” He used to tell me that “when it comes to press, I don give 10 women belle at the same time, so when it comes to controversy, I know it but if you need anything, let me know, I will not run away from you.”
There are 4 people apart from my family that stood by me, Kate, Sammie, Bena and Rosco, they never left me. At that time, which guy did I have to beg to come along with me when I have to go for a job? There was no one. Even all the shows where they saw Sammie and I, we didn’t go together. I would always call him and tell him “oh I’m going to this show to perform and he too would also be attending, and I was always with Bena. So they probably saw us together and boom!! I’ve never had any relationship with him apart from our friendship. And people forget that I’m not a child.
If I decide today that I want to have a boyfriend, they will talk as usual, but nobody will kill me because it is my life. If I had a, so to speak, sexual relationship with a man, even if I don’t come out to spread it, its not something I would be running away from. By the way, Sammie is an adult, and he’s not a bad-looking guy. I see women who run and chase after him everyday. He even tells me of those chasing him, there’s nothing wrong with dating a person like that. So sometimes when I hear this thing about us, I just say its okay. In fact I hear they said we’re going to get married, they even gave us a date. There was a day he came to my house and my elder sister said to him “Sammie, I hear that you are going to get married and you didn’t tell me?” we were all laughing, that the reception must be at TBS (more laughter) I don’t have any funny relationship with Sammie. He’s just one guy I feel very comfortable with, and he knows all the things I’ve been through.
So how do you feel about being banned and not acting right now?
Well, I love acting, but I’ve also used that one-year ban period to find myself again. Now I know the other things that I can do very well. There are two magazines that have approached me now that I should be writing a column for them and I’m like “what do I write?” The ban also gave me time to spend with my kids as well. Now I’m so used to them. We have this bond, and I’m able to check their homework every day unlike when I did it just twice a week. I’ve been able to take them on a trip, which we could not do for a long time. It came at the right time, because when it all happened when my husband died, I said to myself, “maybe God is trying to tell me something, that I should just think relax, and ask myself who I want to be and where I want to go and how I am going to get there” and to concentrate on the children because they need me the most. So it’s been a blessing in disguise. Its not that I wont go back if the opportunity comes, but this time, its not going to be as regular as before. I’d probably be doing like 2 or 3 movies in a year and that’s it, so that I can have time for my family.
What was the reason for your being banned, were you one of those demanding high fees?
The funny thing is that when this ban happened, it was the day I travelled out and when I came back and had a meeting with the president of the Actor’s Guild at the time, I asked a specific question, that speaking for me now and not for everybody, “what did I do?” Because I know that they were complaining that some people were charging N1 million, that some will collect money from different people and will not finish the job. And what they told me was that I was just unfortunate, that they just decided to wipe out all the people that were called the G5. Who gave us the name G5, I don’t know. They simply decided to phase out all the G5 men and women because they were becoming too heady etc. And I am like if there was a particular person that I had offended, I’d really like to know, because I’ve never collected N1 million and the highest amount that I have ever received, before I could get it, it was trouble. And so when I heard the story saying that if you want to be unbanned, come to Awka, I said I wasn’t going, because they really need to tell me what I’ve done. It’s really not been something that has bothered me, because God has blessed me in various other ways and I’m able to do different things.
For someone who’s had her life entwined with her husband, how d’you relax now that he’s no longer with you?
The honest truth? The only time I’ve relaxed is like 3 weeks ago when I left Lagos with my children. I went on a short break. You will not believe how happy and lifted I was. When my friend, Bena saw me, she cried and I wondered why. She told me that the last time she saw me this happy was the week before Jaiye died, when we were planning a big party.
That for the whole one year that she was with me, I wasn’t myself. During this rip to Ghana, I would walk around the house in my nightdress, behaving like a child that has just been released from a cage. I took my kids out there, something I hardly do here because I don’t want undue attention on them. This is the first time I’m leaving the country since Jaiye dies, and I couldn’t believe that I could be that happy and actually laugh loud and gist with people.
Do you see yourself remarrying?
(Laugh) I don’t know. The risk about that is that I know myself. I don’t want to put any man under that thing of having to compare him with my late husband, because when you say a man, a complete man, that was Jaiye. I don’t know if I’m going to meet somebody later and say okay, I can live the rest of my life with him, it’s going to be difficult. That’s why I’m not even thinking about it. Sometimes I’m sitting down and thinking that one day, somebody will now come and say “I want to marry you” and I will now start all this from the beginning again. Can I start all over? I don’t know, because there’s no way that I would not compare. Even now when I go out and people come and toast, because they are toasting me! (laughs) I’m sorry to say. I look at them, they talk one or two lines and I begin to find faults that aren’t there. I really don’t think that remarrying will happen in some years to come. I know that I’m young; I just want to stabilise and take care of my kids for now, be my own person and stand on my feet. I really don’t want to get involved with somebody else for the wrong reasons.
How do you want to move forward from this point, its been a year since Jaiye died?
There are so many things that I’ve always wanted to do, like the African shop he’s always wanted me to set up. I’ve already started that. I’ve already started GIG FACTOR again, and there are two or more businesses that I’m looking at right now, we’re just putting finishing touches to them. And I’m also going to be having my own T.V talk show.
Would you tell us about it?
That would be letting the cat out of the bag! Right now, the band is doing well and that’s where the bulk of my income is coming from right now. And then the equipment has been going out on rentals. Also about 3 and 4 people called me to manage their event last year, so I’ve turned into an event manager (laughs). My sister and I just registered Angels and Bells, a wedding planning outfit. I’m just investing and making sure that I’m busy and small money is coming in.
Does Jaiye’s family get to see his kids?
Hmm, they don’t really get to see them much or as often as one would want, but I guess that is so because I’ve been trying to accept a lot of things in my head. The fact about this whole thing is that I feel that deep down inside, that if both parties sit down, without all the people, noise, media interference, and lay the cards on the table, we’d both probably realise that we’ve just been feeling like this towards each other for nothing. That there’s probably been a misconception about something somewhere that we are both missing and for so many years, we’ve just stayed away. Because I really respect them for whom they are, especially Wunmi. I really respect her a lot because to me, she’s very a very hardworking person and she’s very talented. I’m not saying this because I’m talking to you, I always say to people that are around me, I always watch her perform and see how she does a thousand and one businesses, as well as take care of her family and I’m like “that is a woman!” I believe that if there are sorrys that should be said, if we sit together to talk about it, we will say them. Because I know that this thing will affect our children. Once, when we went for an event and Jaiye’s brother’s kids were there, hen the kids saw them, come and see the hugging and the loving they showed towards each other, and I was ashamed! I’m like, “we are the ones that are adults and we are the ones that should be setting good examples. Look at our kids, they really didn’t care who was there”. The children don’t have any problem and probably don’t know what’s going on.
Did the fact that you have a strained relationship with Jaiye’s family bother him while he was alive?
Oh, it did. No man will be happy because he loved his family very much, he could do anything for them, he loved them and the same love he gave to me and the children. I’ve never seen that kind of love before because my husband loved! He had more than enough to go round. He kept telling me that “Omo, e be like say this thing na woman issue, because me I no have problem, my elder brother no have problem, what’s wrong with you women? You people should sort yourselves out because this thing is not funny anymore”. Because I know that when there are family gatherings, he’s always asking, “shey you will go o?”. So I would say, “if you are going, I will go now.” Deep down, I just wish something will come up and we will just settle things once and for all, if nothing else, but for the fact that both family share something now, the children. You need to see Jaiye with my family, you will not believe that my father didn’t give birth to him. He and my mum were hot about each other. There is this Owerri soup my mother cooks for him that he loved, so he always wanted to know when my mum would be coming to Lagos to cook the soup for him. The same with my sisters, they loved him.
What do you miss about not having him around?
His laughter. He loved people around him, he would cook and we would all sit down to eat. He’d buy champagne and we would all drink. Every weekend, we were always doing one thing or the other in the house. He used to know when I’m vexed and would say, “Shorty, somebody vexed you, come, come and hug, lets hug each other”. Without him, I just feel that I’m working on automatic. I’ve been strong by the grace of God, since I have to go on and survive because of my children.
– courtesy City People