In the Nigerian entertainment industry, he remains one of the eggheads and a very zealous, creative and prolific writer. He worked as a journalist at various media houses including Reality International Magazine. Today, BABATUNDE BILETIRI is the publisher of Black Celebrities Magazine, a wave making, all-coloured, all glossy Celebrity journal. In this exclusive interview with ISAAC IFEANYI AGWAZIM, Publisher / Editor-in-Chief of TOP SOCIETY MAGAZINE, the Ondo-born media guru and a publicist of reckon spoke extensively on how one of Nigeria’s most popular comedians I GO DYE gave him up to the police on allegations he knew nothing about. He also touched on his alleged comparison to the embattled internet fraudster Hushpuppi who is currently serving a 20-year jail term in the United States of America. The interview didn’t come to an end until he shared his view on the issues affecting the media industry and nation generally. Enjoy your reading….
Can you tell us your relationship with the popular stand-up comedian, I Go Dye and your recent ordeal with him?
Basically, I and I Go Dye do many things together even to intimate level. But it was so unfortunate that when we went to Bayelsa State, initially things were working smoothly but in life what I want people to know is that everybody has his or her own grace.
The issue all started when he approached the state government to sponsor his project which they refused, but when I approached them for mine, I was asked to come and handle some contracts and all of a sudden, I Go Dye became envious of me and I have some messages he sent to me on this. At a particular time, they called him that they have job for us, and they actually mean me and but he later went back and tell the police that I have some huge amount of money with me. He was desperately looking for a way to bring me down because I had a show then which he was involved in and I even paid him an advance payment. I have also paid for the venues, publicity and every other thing. All of a sudden, I was shocked that my friend used the police against me telling them that I sent assassins to kill him. He petitioned me as a notorious cultist and that I used his name to collect N36 million, but what really shocked me was that none of these people actually called I Go Dye to ask him do you know this man before they gave him money. I never used his name to collect a penny, it was so shocking that the petition carried the same date with the other petition because he said I sent assassins to him while the other petitioner said I was a cultist.
While I was in detention, he was always coming to the police station, not to seek for my release but to add more flame to the case. He even tried to lure my partners in the entertainment industry like E-Entertainment and Update.
However, some of them were wise and though I lost some jobs through the process. So far, I have asked him to provide the assassins he claimed I sent to kill him and for almost two months, he has not been able to provide any of them. So, I believe these are just false allegations. I have granted some interviews and he said that he does not have to reply me. But the actuality is that he knows I have series of evidence I can use to nail him if he dares to reply me. He even goes as far as telling my family that I am a ritualist that I am fetish and that is why I am just making money here and there. He also went as far as saying that I was mentally sick.
Spiritually, I knew he took some dangerous steps just to destroy me but I thank God I survived them all. He also has other friends like I Go Save and some in the media world. Some people kept spreading the news that I was in jail whereas I was just remanded. You know when someone is remanded, it’s like the normal police cell. The two of them kept making calls that I have duped people of N32 million, N36 million etc. While I was in detention, they went to one of the hotels and brought Fireboy to do shows to the extent that the owner complained. They later fell out with the man because if it is not Tunde, it can never be Tunde. Even this man in question never paid me money, so they went there to instigate the man to just do what they did. I look at them and say well, there are so many big people I respect in this industry. When I calculated the money I lost in the process, it was around N3.5 to 4 billion and I said what can I do? Since then I Go Dye has not reached out to me, he has been telling people that I should call him. He knows that he set me up and he has pride. You know, it’s just like an engineer that builds a house, if he wants to uproot it, he knows the foundation and that’s why he is quiet because he knows that if he replies, it will be suicidal. I have covered a lot of shits for him. For instance, he has somebody in London that he supposed to go and perform for after collecting money, he didn’t go. That’s Lo Jenkins and that is why I Go Die cannot travel to London because he knew if he does, he will be arrested. He does not even do shows, all these shows they are flashing, they are just helping each other. AY will call him for N200,000, Akpororo will call him for N150,000 highest N200,000. Let I Go Dye tell Nigerians how much they pay him per show.
He knows that I use to run a bar, I have a transport company before, I do publicity, I have a magazine so I can prove any money I make. Let him come and prove his own income. When Hushpuppi was arrested, one of his guys, Efe Martins financed his Covid-19 palliatives just to take the shine but now that the guy has been arrested, has the friend come out to do a solidarity message to him? It’s sad, this is a man who alleged a former governor to have spent about N1.8 billion to rent a generator for eight years whereas the governor can buy the generator for N3 million. But the question I have for I Go Dye is, when did they build a Town in Asaba that the governor would have to rent a generator for N1.8 billion? So, if he could allege a whole governor like that, who are mine that he cannot allege? He thought he could do it for anybody and go scot free, but this my own is on his neck. The information reaching me now is that he can’t even eat, he is scared. Another issue is that I Go Dye does not have a structure, the baby mama that gave birth to his daughter is in cold war with him. Somebody that his house girl goes to the bank for, somebody that does not have a manager, his cab man Maxi and one other of his guy ran things for, I Go Dye does not have money to spend so let’s forget those hypes because I was the one doing those hypes and ever since I have been packaging him, nobody has ever embarrassed him but since I stopped doing the packaging, he has been seeing a lot of pissed off because the way I packaged his story is different from the way it’s done now. Recently he came out to say that he donated a house to the federal government for Covid-19, the question is, was there any NCDC official there to receive the house? Was there any documented MOU written to show for it?
So, let’s forget all those media hypes. Most of these celebrities, many of us are better than them. Most of them are still in rented apartments and they will be claiming that they just bought a N500 million house. Let me tell you, his Tundra and Hilux cars are all Tokunbo cars. That was part of the post I made on Instagram that made him get me arrested by the police. We have travelled far and wide by road or by air, so even if I posted such a message or they give me a show I did not invite him, it should not have gotten to that extent. He should have called me as his friend that how far now, I heard you got this show why didn’t you invite me? I even told the Police that if the deal clicks, I will give him N100 million. I told them and they were shocked, it was then that a policeman revealed the whole thing to me that I Go Dye was the brain behind the fact that I should not be released. So a lot of things he did.
There was a publicity that flew round town sometimes ago which alleged that you Tunde Biletiri claimed to be richer than Hushpuppi, how true is this?
The truth is that I never did any press release on that effect. A colleague of mine just did that story and spread it round of which I never did the press release like I told you. If I want to do my stories, I know who would handle them for me. A lot of things happened, my phone was hacked. So, he started pushing many things on air but actually I had a message for Hushpuppi which people don’t understand then that the guy needed to be very careful which is happening to him now. It was June 10 when I went to court and people saw what happened. It was the same day that Hushpuppi was arrested. Apart from that, even when I told people that Senator Diri Douye will be Bayelsa Governor, they thought I was a mad man. I even told some of my key staff that though Senator Douye will lose the election, but he will still be declared the winner. The issue is that when you hear from God, people hardly believe you. Then what happened to me was something God has already told me. God said it will happen and it happened. Exactly the six months God said I would spend was what I spent. The exact day that makes it six months, that is the day I was released.
In all of these that happened, what is that life lesson have you have learnt so far?
Ah! The lesson I have learnt is one, trust nobody, two in the media industry, almost everybody there are traitors. A lot of people are traitors, I remember I reached out to a colleague on this issue and instead of him to write exactly what happened, he twisted it and said I squandered money, that I paid for a permanent suit at Oriental Hotels. Most of our media men should know the kind of stories they write because if I should take up this case, they will have to pay through their nose. If you are a friend or colleague and your friend is in problem, you must cover that issue for that person and at the end if the person is wrong, then you tell him he is wrong.
This is a case I did not get involved in. normally we are doing shows and we need to get publicity stunts to get attention, but there are some things you cannot do. You cannot poach things from my Instagram and use it. The truth it those I prophesize for realized they are genuine. I remember I said that these guys, forget all these people you are seeing. Nigerian youths now worship yahoo boys because people don’t believe in decency anymore. Take for example, do a story on Big Brother, everybody would comment, but do a good story that would affect the youths, nobody would comment. That’s why the leaders will keep maltreating us.
What will be your message to I Go Dye?
Emm, my message to him is that it is not everybody that you maltreat that you can go scot free because it is not everyman that you can take away something from. If you want that same thing, they will show you the person and you discuss but going to the extent of lying and you cannot prove it, you will be in problem at the end of the day. How can you say that three months to an event, somebody has defrauded people, no it doesn’t work that way, the law said let the person commit the crime first. Now, I Go Dye said I did this, I did that, conspiracy has it that he has fraud people before because he took 1.5million from the money. I Go Dye is no more popular with comedy, he is more popular with open letters. He writes open letters to Buhari and some other people and this is because he is idle. Look at AY, look at Akpororo. These guys are closing shows in Eko Hotels and top hotels in Abuja but my guy cannot even do one show in his own community. Let him focus on his craft. No doubt that he is very creative and talented, but he should focus on his craft because with all these evil minds, he won’t grow when he envies people. Look at what AY is making, look at what Basket Mouth, Bovi, Macaroni. These are young guys in the comedy industry. I Go Dye is supposed to be the leader in this industry after Ali Baba, the next person is I Go Dye but because he lacks packaging.
As a media practitioner, what has the industry done for you so far?
Media has opened a lot of doors for me. I have met with politicians, captains of industry and a lot of other celebrities I watch on TV. Through the media, I can enter anywhere and I thank God I am not that kind of journalist that collect brown envelope. Even when I was a reporter, I rarely attend press conferences. I recently met with a popular billionaire that everybody goes to and collect something from but when I met him, I collected no dime from him, that stands me out and that’s my life.
What is that thing you hate about being a media personality?
Emmm, I see some journalists as hungry people and that’s why I always package myself very well, from my looks down to my perfumes etc. So, I think people take some journalists as hungry people. Another thing is that the new media has changed the face of things and this is because the prints media is no more attractive due to the social media but people like us still believe in prints media and it is because when you post a story online, in few months you may not see it again but when you print, ten years’ time you will still have access to the news materials.
What do you think make a good journalist?
Five Ws and H (What, Where, Who, Why and When…How) as we were taught at school you must be creative. You should also look for other sources of income because that has killed a lot of journalists’ dreams. You must not be archaic by just carrying midget up and down. You must also take risks and you must be ready for the consequences. My godfather told me something that if you want to be rich in this country, you must have one leg in prison and the other leg outside.
What do you think make up a good story?
First of all, there must be the human angle interest like for example, when dog bites a man is not news but when a man bites a dog it becomes a news. But these days, everybody is just copying each other, you see the same story on every other blog. Nobody wants to rewrite story, they just want to copy the same thing. Bloggers call themselves journalists, but there is a different between the two. How many of the bloggers can conveniently conduct an interview? They don’t ask questions, they would just say according to saharareporters, according to Vanguard which means they still depend on the print media for their stories.
If you were not a journalist, what would you have been found doing?
Footballer or a musician because I used to sing before Kazeem Popoola discovered me and said I am a good writer and that was how I joined journalism. I met Frank Chike through music including many other entertainment stars.
Do you have any regret being a journalist so far?
I have no regret at all. Am a man who doesn’t harbor regrets. My father wanted me to be a lawyer but I know what journalism has done for me. So am grateful for the industry and I thank God that I made the right decision.
Your word of advice to young journalists out there?
Just be yourself, don’t copy anybody, be focus with your job and be creative as well.