By BENJAMIN NJOKU
The dream of every father is to see his son take after him in many ways and perhaps, continue his legacy even after he has gone to the great beyond.
But this was not the same story with renowned Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, whose big dream and desire to see his son, Charles Chukwuemeka Oputa popularly known as Charly Boy toe his noble path was frustrated by the latter’s unrepentant quest to create his own identity outside of his father’s looming shadow.
The youthful Charly Boy then was a complete opposite of what his late father stood for, while he lived.Being eager to chart his own course, Charly Boy rebelled against parental interference in his career path with a determination to deliver himself as a gift to his generation, a decision he paid dearly for, but never regretted in any way.While his late father was a legal luminary, Charly Boy opted for the streets dashing the high hopes of his father for him.
To make matters worse, the Area Fada as he’s fondly called by his admirers rejected the plum job at Mobil Oil and Gas that was already secured for him by his influential father ahead of his return from the United States after his studies.Rejecting that job, however, triggered the anger, hatred and beef that lingered between father and son for almost a lifetime.
They, however, both reconciled their differences before his father’s exit.Meanwhile, recounting the genesis of his fight with his late father back in time, while featuring on Plus TV Africa, Charly Boy said the fight was based on the fact that he wanted to break out of his father’s shadow.
The maverick musician said that he believed in creating his own identity and sustaining it no matter the odds.His words: “My father wasn’t happy with me and for me, I was tired of living under his shadow. I wanted to break out and do my own thing. So, when he asked me what I wanted to do, I told him that I wanted to become an entertainer. Everybody was disappointed in me. And that was when I decided I was going to cut the biblical chord between myself and my parents.”
Charly Boy described his relationship with his late father back then as ‘messed up’, saying, “We weren’t talking to each other. In fact, I can boldly say that I disowned my parents. It got to a point where I couldn’t really take care of my family. I was living with my incumbent wife at a time in the village.”
For him, it’s like a burden to have a public figure as a father. “For instance, look at Femi Kuti, legendary Fela’s son. Fela was that big but could you imagine the struggle Femi at a time was going through to define his own identity. No matter what he will do at a time, he can’t be like his father. I didn’t want to live under anybody’s shadow.”On rejecting the Mobil Oil and Gas plump job, Charly Boy said he never wanted to work for anybody in his life.
According to him, “You can’t just wake up one early morning and hand over a letter of appointment to me, asking me to resume work immediately. I wouldn’t take that from anybody. I never had any discussion with my father that I was looking for paid employment. So, when he gave me the appointment letter, while living in Owerri, I told him I wasn’t going anywhere. And that was when our fight really started.”
“Luckily for me, he was just promoted as a Supreme Court Judge. He moved to Lagos, while I relocated to the village. It was in the village that I started building the brand called Charly Boy. Those were the darkest seven years of my life because that was when I came to appreciate poverty. Village is where elderly people and senior citizens go to relax and fade out. There’s no prospect in the village even though I had a recording studio there.
“Sometimes, parents are overbearing and they worry a lot about their children. I have learnt from my parents to worry less. I’m sure my father’s wildest dream when I was 15- 20 years was to take after him. He believed I wanted to throw away my life, but I know what I wanted. I wasn’t going to throw away my life, but I was going to do it in my own way,” Charly Boy stated.
While sojourning in his village, Oguta in Imo State, Charly Boy lost the support and care of his parents to the point where life became miserable to him. In order to survive, the maverick musician allowed his American wife, Lady D who became one of the strongest forces behind the success of the Charly Boy brand, to travel back to the United States to make money for their upkeep.
Recalling the experience, Charly Boy described living in the village as ‘horrible’, adding “those were the darkest seven years of my life.“You can imagine one leaving America to end up in the village with no water, no power supply. We were stuck in the village. The beginning seemed alright because I quickly set up an emergency studio where guys were coming to patronize me. But after the first year, everything dried up and people weren’t forthcoming again. That was when I learnt how to eat bread and groundnut for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That was what I could afford for my family at a time. So, for three years when I was battling with poverty, I asked my wife to travel back to the United States to hustle to support me. She was there for four years sending money back home for our upkeep”.
Charly Boy also recalled how his path and that of popular artiste, Tyna Onwudiwe who played a major role in creating the Charly Boy brand crossed.
Recalling, he said “During one of my rare trips to Lagos to scout for a recording company to accept my body of work, I met Tyna Onwudiwe of blessed memory. That woman did a lot of work on me. She was the one that restored my confidence. Seven years in the village robbed me of my confidence.
“I started having feelings of inferiority complex. I started avoiding my friends whom I thought were doing much better than I was doing. And I swore never in those seven years to go back to my father to ask him to help me.”
Tyna, according to the Area Fada,was instrumental in his leaving the village for Lagos, to pursue his career in showbiz. Initially, it was not very easy when he delved into music, but his breakthrough came through ZOOMTIME.
He continued, “After years of being in the wilderness, I came into the limelight, courtesy of Tyna Onwudiwe. You can’t talk of the brand called Charly Boy without mentioning that name. I was like Tyna’s pet, she noticed that my self-esteem was very low. She also noticed that I didn’t have confidence in myself.“But she admired me for all the creativity at the time. And she also saw in me what at that time I didn’t see in myself. She was convinced that there was something special about me that I was going to blow in no distant time. I didn’t see that because seven years in the village took a toll on me. At one point, I started feeling sorry for myself. Tyna Onwudiwe was the one who gave me my confidence back.”
On how he came about the name, Charly Boy, the maverick said while growing up, his mother used to call him Charly Boy and from there he picked the name. He described his mother as a tough woman but more understanding than his father.
“I took after my mother. You can’t shut my mother up. She was a big witch. If I want something, I can die for that thing,” he added.
For him, Charly Boy means different things to different people. To some, he’s a weird musician, and to many others, he’s the black sheep of the family.
He said, “My mum was very understanding but my dad, on the other hand, actually thought I was crazy. I say crazy because a lot of people out there actually thought that the flamboyant image I created as Charly Boy was crazy, weird, too loud, too flamboyant, not unacceptable, and perceived as not being responsible, especially for the family image. It’s a different kind of craze. But this craze was an organized craze, purely intentional.”
Charly Boy, however, believes that his stubbornness and resilience brought him to where he is today. Despite his parents’ abandonment, Charly Boy kept faith with his vision and the seemingly stone that the builders rejected has now become the Chief cornerstone in the Oputa family.
Charly Boy is not only one of the most respected members of his family, but also, one of the big names in the Nigerian entertainment industry.
At 71 in June, Charly Boy has consistently kept his brand in the spotlight. He’s indisputably one of the most celebrated entertainers in this part of the world, and obviously one of the richest celebrities in Africa.
Though CB admitted that he has calmed down now as age was beginning to tell on him. “Back in the days I used to wear two different shoes on each leg, with my hair tinted red, yellow, green, blue and all that. I was crazy that time,” he said.
According to him, the Charly Boy brand has criss-crossed generations.
Talking about the brand further, he said “Sometimes, I have to be Charly Boy, and at another time, I am me, Mr Charles Chukwuemeka Oputa. There’s something that attracts the young people that live in the Charly Boy brand. It’s the brand’s simplicity, openness, authenticity that also keep him youthful.”