By Benjamin Njoku
Bamidele Fagbemi a.k.a. Mr. Flink is physically challenged but remains undaunted about his desire to excel in his chosen profession in spite of his physical appearance.
An American trained Nigerian music manager, video and editing expert, Fagbemi was confined to a wheel chair after a motor accident that affected his spinal cord.
A member of the flyers club who indulges in jumping out from the aircraft, Fagbemi says he is home to share and motivate the physically challenged Nigerians.
Considering the hardship faced by many back home, why would a man like you, leave a more thriving American economy to return to Nigeria?
While living in America, I trained as music producer, singer and actor. Because the Americans especially our American black brothers were racists, I decided to return home with my talent.
It didn’t matter that a black man Barrack Obama is the President of America, the black-Americans still believe that Africans and Nigerians in particular are inferior to them.
And how did you get into music?
I was a ‘break-dancer’ and a singer while I was in high school. I belonged to a musical group back in Nigeria, before I traveled to the United States. Everything started here.
My father used to publish a musical magazine between 1987and 988. And we had a dance school where we taught people the art of break dance which was the dance in vogue. Music is me and its not something I just started because it’s the trend. But mid way through school, I travelled abroad to further my studies.
When I got to America, I studied music management, video and editing as well as acting before I had the accident that confined me to the wheelchair.
I was depressed for a while, after the accident, but soon got over it. I joined the flyers’ club and learnt to jump down from the aircraft and how to dive just to give inspiration to people living in the wheelchair. I try to let them realise that life does not end in the wheelchair.
How did the accident happen?
It happened while I lived in America. On my way, I got involved in an accident that affected my spinal cord and left me permanently on this wheelchair till dates. The accident happened in the mid 90s.
And what genre of music do you play?
I play hip-hop blended with R&B, and my kind of music is for the matured minds. I get inspiration to write songs from my experience in life and happenings in our society.
Right now, I’m promoting the single titled “Bami Jo be.” The video is out and the album will be in the market by December.
Now that you are home, do you have any plan of collaborating with other musicians in the country?
I’d like to work with 2Face, D’banj and Psquare. The truth is that we have abundant talents in this country.
How long did you live in America?
It’s been an off and on stories. I attended the Immaculate High School, Maryland, Lagos, where I also grew up. I traveled to America in 1989 to further my education and returned in 1998.
I travelled back again but in 2005, I came back because of the prevailing racial discrimination practiced by the black Americans against their black brothers.
I returned because I wanted to be among my people, be appreciated and shown love.
But I will return to America soon because I have some out standing projects that I need to tidy up. Apart from that, the mastering of my musical works will be done in America.
What was the experience like, living and working in America as an entertainer?
Racial discrimination is one of the challenges I faced while living in America. I was more challenged given my condition. I wanted to become an artiste, but I ended up producing music. I had to do what I had to do to inspire the people in the wheelchair.
Here in Nigeria, they are disrespected and neglected.
I hope that when things settle, I’d set up a foundation (with the support of corporate bodies and individuals) which will create job opportunities for the disabled people in this country.
It will also provide opportunity for them to travel to the United States to receive first class aid.
They need to be cared for. They need to have houses built according to their specification and needs.
I want to give them a sense of belonging in our society. That’s the essence of my homecoming.
And if I’m able to achieve that, I will be giving hope to thousands of disabled people out there. That’s the message I have brought back to Nigeria, the message of hope.
I’m still the same Bamidele. I have not changed in any way in spite of my present predicament. I can still do what any other person can. Although I’m in a wheelchair, I can do whatever any able bodied person can do.
How’s life in the wheelchair?
It’s tough, but I can’t have people cry for me. I got to live my life without any inhibition. Sometimes I could need the help of people to do certain things. And sometimes I fall off the chair while trying to do things myself. There was a day I fell off the wheelchair in America and there was nobody to help me out. I had to invite a police officer to assist me.
As a matter of fact the Americans denied me any form of medical benefit. And nobody cared whether I was surviving or not. I struggled to survive on my own. That’s one inspiration, I want to share with Nigerians who are living in the wheelchair.
My parents have tried enough for me and therefore I cannot continue to rely on them.
You cannot be crying all the time. You need to summon the courage and move on with your life. You must learn to make yourself relevant in the society. That’s what I’m saying to people living their lives in the wheelchair.
You said that you were denied medical benefits in America?
When I had my accident, I had less than $2000, and according to the laws of the United States of America as it concerns people of my status, if you don’t have up to that amount in your bank account when your accident happened, you are not likely to receive any medical benefit from the government.
It was difficult to cope because, I had no driver nor a male servant. I was doing everything by myself.
Do you have a girl friend?
I have many female friends, but I’m seeing a lady here in Nigeria, who inspires me in so many ways.