Tuesday 31 May 2016

Majek Fashek: Used and Refused - Close Friend Writes as Rehab Programme Fails

A close friend of Nigerian legendary reggae singer, Majek Fashek named Jebose Azuka has written about the relapse of the international musician after his publicized rehab programme.

Majek Fashek
Late April, Majek Fashek was billed to perform, alongside few Nigerian musicians, inside the Eko
Meridian hotel, in Lagos. According to witnesses, he staggered onto the stage, oozing alcohol, dirty and haggard: "he looked homeless”. He barely made it through his songs. Concert goers that night wondered what happened to this great musician whose story of rehabilitation dominated entertainment media the past several months.

Early May, one of Nigeria’s popular musicians called to complain about Majek’s erratic behavior and alleged sexual harassment of his girlfriend:"Jebose, you see wetin your friend dey do? I left for US few days ago, and Majek called my woman, dey tell her say I don come America to meet my girlfriend, she should forget about me, come and sleep with her. Your friend is still mad”. He said angrily during the telephone conversation.

Recently, the mega sponsor of  Majek’s publicized drugs and alcohol rehabilitation treatment in Abuja, Warri-based petrol merchant, “Billionaire” Ayiri Emami withdrew his gesture after months of doling out dough to treat the reggae superstar:"Majek Fashek is no longer under my care. When he left the rehabilitation home in Abuja, the doctors said that he needed to relax. They said he should stay off the music scene for some time. I wanted him to stay in Warri and relax. I provided everything that he needed to be comfortable. But he insisted on going back to music almost immediately. He kept insisting and, after a while, I had to let him go. That was it.”

Majek explained incoherently, why he severed the relationship with his sponsor: “I am an American musician. We do things in certain ways…” He is back on the road to destruction. I saw this coming. Ten months ago, Majek’s new handlers, passionately led by one of his former chorus singers, launched a media campaign to rescue Majek from his recluse: Charles Novia and I knew it won’t work. Charles didn’t want to be seen as anti-Majek’s wellness. I chose to speak. I was vocal. I told the handlers their approach was wrong and would not work for an addict. They seemed to be forcing Majek into treatment. They want an addict to follow their steps to recovery.

They enabled him by publicizing his rehab. The handlers threw money at him, promised him a new lifestyle of the rich and famous. Majek wanted the new promised fame and fortune: an addict would do anything to achieve his desired goals. He signed onto the rehabilitation blitz. I warned that this would not last. I prayed I was wrong. I was insulted, called several names. The new management team tagged me anti-Majek’s wellness. I didn't want the best for Majek. I was one of those that benefited from his sad situation, thence, I didn't want him to get better by accepting a made-for-media rehab for him, sponsored by a Warri nightingale.

These fools even went so far to block me from their social media. I was threatened: they would use their influences to kill my column in the PUNCH because I dared to be different and vocal. I stood my grounds. I nor be small pikin. Threats encourage me. I prayed I was wrong. But deep inside my heart, I knew I was right. I dealt with Majek for eight years. I felt his pains. I watched him in his schizophrenic moments; I was a recipient of his tantrums and troubles: when he reacted to alcoholism. I had been thrown out of flights( at Memphis airport, December 22, 2006) with Majek because I allowed him 20 minutes to use the bathroom, I had waited for Majek for almost 15 hours at the JFK Airport to board a chartered plane, slept in the same hotel room and watched him all night fighting his demons, just the two of us in the hotel room, when I had to call my ex-wife from the hotel, told her that I didn’t know what else to do to restrain him from all day alcohol binging. He would not eat; he had no appetite for meals. I had used my frequent flyer miles to send him to Los Angeles, only to call me from the next city, twenty minutes from my city:” Jebose, I be inwi. You cant get rid of me…”

Summer 2007, Majek opened a Blues concert for the late Blues music star, B.B King in New York. The next day, I got a call from Majek:” Jebose, elenwor… my spirit says I must see you. I am in Charlotte, inside GreyHound  bus coming to see you.” I was under intense stress. I had opened a Night club and was busy with its runnings. I also had a severe fever. I really didn’t want to see Majek. But his “spirit” told him to visit me. “Majek, I beg I dey sick, and I no get time to host you”. “Jebose, I am already on the bus. I go reach there by 8 p.m”.

He arrived at the GreyHound Bus station, holding a brown bag containing a bottle of vodka.  I booked two nights stay in the hotel where my club was located. There are certain people that are so close to you that you can't say no to. I was excited to see him, despite his wahala and my illness. I checked him into the room. That night he walked from his room at the hotel to my club and stayed with me. I refuse to write about his antics with club guests that night. The next morning, I asked about his payment from B.B King Concert: I wanted him to send money to Rita and his kids in New York. He was paid five thousand dollars, We did the calculations on his expenses for that week; found that he was left with less than two thousand dollars. That afternoon, I drove him to the Western Union and “forced’ him to send $600.00 to his wife, Rita. He resisted, but I wasn’t going to submit: ’ Jebose, don’t sweat me, mother fucker, don’t sweat me. na because I come visit you?. Don’t sweat me, men…am a gangsta”. He sent the money, called Rita, ranted on the phone as I drove him back to his hotel room. My friend that I met at the A&R room of Tabansi Records before he became a superstar in 1985 had multiple personalities. On Sunday, I drove him to the airport, offered him a ticket to Los Angeles and abandoned him at the airport baggage check-In counter. I was tired, frustrated and exhausted.

In 2007, 2Face Idibia was a sparkling brightness in Nigeria’s music scene. He went global with his monster hit, AFRICAN QUEEN. He was on a tour of the United States and scheduled to perform in Baltimore, Maryland. Majek Fashek was also scheduled to open for Tu baba. Majek invited me to Baltimore from North Carolina. I had not seen him in few years, even though we talked every day. Ras Kimono warned me of Majek’s strange look. He prepared me for a rude awakening. Kimono was right.  I was shocked by the appearance of Majek. He was stressed and aged, half of his front teeth were gone, his dreadlocks were malnourished. I was in tears. But I hugged him. I offered an immediate makeup, at least rejuvenate his dreadlocks. I asked to take him to any hair salon for a quick dreadlocks make-up before the concert: "Gimme the money. Don’t worry about the dreadlock”!. Hmmm.

Inside the dressing room,  Majek smoked profusely, staring at an empty wall as the light beamed his silhouette across the room walls. He was lonely, alone and struggled with himself: “I want to see my children” He blurted as he exhaled.” I want to see my children….I want to see my children”. His words faded with each cigarette smoke he blew toward the room ceiling. I stared at him from behind. He was in his zone: a different world where no one would understand, having conversations with himself. It was passionate, painful and pathetic. This was Majek that night.  He reached to the table, picked a glass filled with brandy and emptied the glass in his mouth.

I could not take any more of this pain and behaviors that night. I sneaked out from Majek soon after the concert and drove back, four hours, to North Carolina. I was supposed to spend the night with him. I came home turned the television on at about 2 a.m. I flipped the channel to A&E. It was showing its Emmy Award-winning reality program, INTERVENTION. Intervention documents the struggles of alcoholics and other addicts, in the end, it offers free treatment to the addict in one of the best treatment facilities. I immediately sent an email to the producers of INTERVENTION. I described Majek’s sad struggles with alcoholism and pleaded that it should help me rescue a once national superstar from Nigeria. Honestly, I didn’t expect an immediate response from the producers of the program. Three weeks later, I received a Camera in my mail asking me to record my statement.  The producers said that Majek must call them, agree to participate in the program. I called Majek and pleaded with him to call the producers of INTERVENTION. Majek,  for weeks, gamed me. He promised to call. But he never did. He ignored my follow-up phone calls. I was frustrated. I must get help for my friend and didn’t want to waste this best opportunity. I called Pamela Mojekwu in Chicago and asked her to help me call Majek. I urged her to pretend she was calling from A&E studios, pleading with Majek to just call the number she would give him. Pamela called Majek, and she was able to get Majek to call the producers. But when he called, and they spoke to him, Majek demanded money from them. They told him they did not offer money. They offered 90-day treatment in a first class Rehabilitation treatment facility in U.S, all expenses paid. Majek hung up on the producers. The next day, they called me and asked that I returned the video. I was disappointed.

Ten months have proven me right. This is not about right or wrong. This is about cure and care for an alcoholic and an addict. There are those of us that had sacrificed our professions, family to care for Majek: Charles Novia, Jimmy King, Jude Away Away, Ras Kimono, Victor Essiet. Majek is not a one week cure. You do not publicize rehabilitation. Majek has spent the better part of the last 25 years as a junkie and an alcoholic. Its not a few week’s fix at an openly celebrated rehab. While he was in rehab, his enablers were busy seeking concert deals for him:” when Majek comes out, he would be performing again”.

They took an addict to a familiar place that enabled relapse.  He was everywhere while in rehab. These behaviors enhanced and redirected him because none of those seemed to understand his struggles, his pains, his problems. Majek is the only person that understands this: They forced him to a rehab when he was not ready. You guys wanted to use him, front him to make quick money. There were no programs or steps designed for his recovery. Everything was designed to reposition his music career. Majek stopped being musician years ago. He traded music for addiction. I wait for his obituary, some day. Those around him today had abused and used him.

***Please continue this conversation at www.jeboseboulevard.com.

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