- There were two little black birds sitting on a wall
One named Peter, the other named Paul
Fly away Peter, fly away Paul…
Dear Peter and Paul,
This is Sally. You may not remember me anymore. I used to be a close friend but these days I am sure I do not cross your mind. However, I’m not holding it against you and I don’t think any of your old friends are, either. We all understand that fame can separate people by thousands of miles. Millions, even.
It is how these things go. No hard feelings. We are actually proud of you guys, and hold dear the memories of the past when you were just next door and we could barge in at any time and spend the day together.
All of that seem just like yesterday. Time has run so fast and we have gone our separate ways, facing our realities and dreams. We were privileged to watch you guys grow from the scratch to become the mega superstars you are now. Everyone knew you guys were going to make it big. You were born to reach the top.
But sadly, you are falling so fast. If anyone ever told us money will come between guys, we would have shut them down, told them they had no idea who Peter and Paul were and what they meant to each other.
We don’t have all the details of what’s happening in Squareville and I’m sure it’s beyond money but when it comes to the point where brothers engage in a war over superiority and who controls what, then Houston, we have a problem.
I hope you guys do realize that you are not just P-Square or just Peter and Paul Okoye. You are now symbols to many out there, ambassadors to Nigeria and Africa. I still use you as a template for hard work and determination. There is no success story as sweet as yours. And just in case you have forgotten, I will remind you a bit, telling it how I saw it from my own angle.
I can’t remember when I first met you guys but I had heard about you from friends in Jos. Somehow the name Smooth Criminals always popped out from someone’s lips. There was talk about these twins who could dance like Michael Jackson and whose family owned the popular Twins Bakery in town. They said you guys schooled in St. Murumba, an all-boys school just a stone throw from my house. But I never met you guys I went to Gwags (University of Abuja) and joined the entertainment club, Lucianos, founded by Tony Oneya.
Lucianos was the place for talent and cool kids, and when I watched you guys during rehearsals for the first time, oh my God! I was struck! I fell in love with any and everything P-Square from that moment. I wasn’t much of a dancer then but I always attended rehearsals just to watch you guys dance. Your attention to perfection always blew my mind. Peter, you were a more intense dancer than Paul who could dance as well but was more into the vocal aspect of music.
You guys always brought down the house at Lucianos shows in school. You made established musicians feel like nothing and added flavor to our raves as a club. You were always motivating and inspiring. I remember when Lucianos had an internal crisis and people were thinking of quitting and you, Paul, stood up and gave a passionate speech about working together as a family and pursuing what we believed in. You were upset that we were falling apart when working together could be so easy.
Is there a way you could bring back that guy and let him speak to you both right now?
Outside school, you guys were even more focused. Being that I was jobless during the holidays and had this huge crush on Peter, I was always at your house. But more than anything, I was drawn there to watch the Smooth Criminals rehearse for performances. My Lord, Peter and Paul, you people drilled your team to precision. Not a hand or foot or head was out of place. You worked until you passed out and then you’d provide food for your friends. Your house, like your darling mom’s heart (may she rest in peace) was open to everyone. Sometimes I found it strange if I visited and there was no one around. You guys were generous with your warmth towards others.
Paul, I didn’t know you so much because you were a little reserved but there was no telling where you stopped and where Peter started. You two were one and your bond was unbreakable. I remember the studio you guys built for yourselves in your house and all the songs you recorded in it. Peter, you would tell me of your dreams and where you wanted to be in the next ten years. Isn’t God amazing? You made it, my friend, and surpassed all those dreams. Why are you letting the dream stealer take it all away from you now?
In those days, funds were not easy to come by and costumes were expensive to put together. But you guys always found a way. You would go to Katako market (a popular second-hand market in Jos) and buy bits and pieces of your costumes; come back home and design them until you got what you wanted.
Peter, remember those days in school when you went to lecture halls in the evenings with your guitar and disturbed people who were reading by serenading them with songs? To anyone who wanted to listen to your songs, you were generous with your CDs much to Paul’s annoyance sometimes, who felt there should be a level of restriction to how you distributed it. Gwags loved you, P-Square. There was hardly a soul that didn’t know your songs word for word. Before you shared Dem Don Kolo, Last Night and Igbedu to the world, we rocked those songs until we were tired. Every semester, you brought us something new. Your music was your life then. Is it still your life?
And then little by little, you began to get noticed outside Jos and Abuja. I recall that one trip to University of Maiduguri where you had to perform on the same stage with Plantashun Boiz who were a huge deal then. You guys went up first and dazed everyone. Girls were literally weeping as you stood on that stage. I had looked up and stared at 2Face who was sitting at the far end of the spectators’ stand and I was sure I saw a look of puzzlement. When they came up for their own performance, the crowd was half-receptive. After they left, chants of “P-Square! P-Square!” rented the air and you had to come back and do it all over again.
Those were days of little beginnings. I am reminding you because there’s a passage in the scriptures that tells us not to forget them.
In 2002, Owen who was a mutual friend then organized a beauty show sponsored by Coca-Cola and at some point, things were falling apart financially that made him want to quit everything. But you guys walked up to him and told him not to give up, that money should never be a reason to dump his plans, that you were willing to give him the funds he needed even though you had very little. He took your advice and everything fell into place eventually, leading to an awesome show. As usual, you guys brought the house down.
He has never forgotten that day. He spoke to you guys as well, telling you he saw you becoming very famous and wealthy. He urged you never to let anything or anyone tear you apart.
Do you remember his words?
School and life separated me from you guys for a while but we still kept in contact each time we bumped into each other and also back at home. There was gist that Jude was now supporting you. I was happy to hear that at last you were going places. I felt as your eldest brother, he had your best interest at heart.
And then came Benson and Hedges that shot you right into mainstream media and to the rest of Nigeria. It was sad to watch you leave our little sphere but happier we were that you guys were never going to disappoint.
We would hear about you on TV, radio and the internet. Both good and bad but we would hold on to the good because evidence of it was your tangible work that was painting Nigeria in a beautiful light. Just the other day I was fighting some women at the salon who held that you guys had gotten to where you were by using dirty means. Blood money, they said. I was pained, and had to scold women who were old enough to give birth to me. They didn’t know the struggle, the agony, the sleepless nights. They knew nothing. But you guys do. Nobody has walked in your shoes to know where it pinches.
You have made us proud, P-Square. I cannot overemphasize this. You have more than done well for yourselves. You achieved that dream, the fame, the name, the money, the acclaim. You guys are a textbook of diligence, focus, drive, strive, talent and love.
Peter, you are the open one. You are sometimes too nice to a fault. Very expressive and emotional, you never see any wrong in your neighbor. Paul, you are focused, driven, no-nonsense. You always curtail Peter’s excesses and he in turn, makes you more humane. Despite the differences, you blended well and brought out ass-kicking music. You woke a lot of young people up, pushed them to pursue their dreams. You brought dance into Nigerian music sphere.
So where did you guys miss it? What went wrong? Can you go back to the scratch, revisit your goals and start all over again? Can you re-invent yourselves? Because maybe that is what you need. Maybe you need a new direction.
Jude, I can’t say much for you except you have done so well as a big brother. You stood by them and supported them. You were there the whole nine yards but don’t you think it’s time to give them wings to fly? Are you afraid that they will pull down what you have worked so hard for? If that’s your fear, then I’m sorry, you don’t know your brothers. They will amaze you yet. Just let them breathe out on their own and then be a guide to them. That is what elders do. Your mother was a strong symbol of this. Although a minister in a Catholic charismatic prayer movement, she gave her sons the support they needed in their secular pursuit, cheering them on from the sidelines.
Don’t let her prayers go to waste.
I know a lot has changed, guys. You are all grown men; and wives and kids are involved now but you don’t want to get grey one day and look back on regret on all this foolishness.
Remember those looking up to you. Remember your fans. Remember your kids. Remember Nigerian music needs you. Remember the days of humble beginnings.
We love you and we don’t want you guys to split.
Come back Peter, Come back Paul.