Has Dbanj done what an innocent man would do?
Updated: Jul 1, 2020
To many, Dbanj is King. A juggernaut that lifted a flailing industry, a force to be reckoned with that has entered the unassailable fortress of forever. He is legend. When we listen to the new stars of Afrobeats, Burnaboy, Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage, Niniola, Yemi Alade, we unknowingly give credit to Dbanj. They are his sons and daughters. They stand on his shoulders. All because in 2005, one man and his producer, Don Jazzy, created a song, Tongolo, so catchy, so brilliant, so different - bombastic, that 2 years later, when Nigeria’s ruling party PDP, chose to use it as their campaign anthem, nobody remembered that the song was 2 years old. In that presidential election, PDP’s candidate, Umar Yar’Adua won 69.8% of the popular vote. Nigeria’s current president Muhammadu Buhari, then representing the All Nigeria’s People Party, was a distant second with 19% of the vote. Dbanj the pop star, had become Nigeria’s most powerful influencer. I came into adulthood 3 years later, the song was still a hit, received with fervor in every nightclub, on the playlist of every self respecting DJ. Dbanj, was no longer just Dbanj, born on the 9th of June in Zaria, he was Skibanj, the Koko master, the African Michael Jackson.
Between 2005 and 2008, Dbanj released 4 albums, each with an undefeatable line up of hits, Tongolo, Tongolo Remix, Run down (Funk u up), Why me, Be close to you, Booty Call, Wind am Well, Kimon, Suddenly, Gbono Feli Feli, Entertainer, Fall in Love, Igwe. In 2009, Scapegoat. In 2010 Mr Endowed Remix (featuring Snoop Dog). In 2012, Oliver Twist (this hit number 9 on the UK charts). In 2013, Don’t tell me nonsense and top of the world. His name is the foundation of Nigerian pop music as it exists today. He means more to me than the legends of old Fela, Lagbaja, King Sunny Ade, Daddy Showki, Baba Fryo, Tony Tetuila, Majek Fashek, a function of my youth, but it’s the truth. Those men, though great, have never made me dance as much as Dbanj has made me dance.
Since then, Dbanj’s star has waned, and other stars have risen, but even though they shine brighter than his does, perhaps even brighter and higher than his star ever did, we will never forget how sweet it was to bask in his glow. He had a seat reserved for him in the place super novas go when they die, right next to Fela, Majek Fashek, and Oliver De Coque. Now, his right to that seat is in contention.
This story begins on the 2nd of June 2020. Dbanj posted a picture on his instagram account with the following caption. “#NoMeansNo. We need to raise our sons right and teach them to love and respect women. Say no to rape, racism, tribalism. Let us stop living in fear and hate and start living in love.” Seyitan Babatayo, saw this post and decided to share a story about Dbanj on twitter, which if true, would brand him as a hypocrite. She shared her account of rape in a since deleted twitter thread on the 3rd of June 2020.
This is a summary of her story. She went to an all white party on the 30th of December 2018 at Eko Atlantic - The Splash Off party. Dbanj saw her at the party and asked (by proxy) if he could spend the night with her. He offered to pay a sum of money for the privilege but she said no. She spent the night at the Glee Hotel in Victoria Island, but awoke at some point to find Dbanj in her room. He raped her. On his way out of her room, she saw that that he had somehow obtained a key card to her room.
I have seen a picture of Dbanj at the Glee Hotel. I don’t know when the picture was taken. The Splash off Party on the 30th of December in 2018 took place at Hard Rock Café in Victoria Island Lagos. It was advertised on instagram. I have not seen anything that ties the Splash off party to Eko Atlantic. It is possible that there was an after party at Eko Atlantic on that day. It is also that there was some other all white party at Eko atlantic on that day. It is important to note that trauma is known to cloud the remembrance of details. And finally, what Seyitan calls Eko Atlantic could perhaps have been the beachfront of the Hard Rock Café. I have called Eko Atlantic (no response), I have called Hard Rock Cafe (No response) and I have called the number on the Splash off Lagos instagram page (a voice on the phone said wrong number). Glee Hotel has refuted the allegation that someone from their front office gave Dbanj the key to Seyitan’s room. They say her name is not on record as a guest, and have advised her to check with the person that paid for the room, as that person would have had access to the 2 keys typically assigned to guests. They say they have also engaged their lawyers and are willing to help with the investigation.
On the 5th of June 2020, Seyitan says she shared a document from her lawyer about the situation. The following day she visited a police station to make a formal complaint, but they didn’t attend to her. Everything died a little bit for 2 weeks. The court of public opinion fell silent and it seemed as though the matter would be forgotten, but Dbanj released a statement denying the allegations and he demanded N 100 million in damages. This happened on the 15th of June. The next day, 4 police men arrested her without a warrant, seizing her phone and some other personal effects in the process. She spent a night in the station and was released on the 17th of June after a gag order to member of Dbanj’s squad. They held her at an undisclosed location and attempted to get her to recant. Dbanj joined these efforts personally. In the end she dismissed the affair as a publicity stunt. Social Media activists and Stand to End Rape tracked her down using satellite mapping, and freed her from the clutches of Dbanj. Since then, she says Dbanj’s team has continued to harass her with incessant calls and that Dbanj has been boasting about his ability to “buy off” anyone in Nigeria’s justice system.
On the 22nd of June, Dbanj posted a video of him performing his song, Olorun Maje on instagram. His mood, jovial, his demeanor, unbothered, almost callous. On that same day, Seyitan formally made a criminal complaint of Rape by Dbanj at the Gender Desk of the Nigeria Police Force Lagos Police Command Headquarters in Ikeja, Lagos. On the 23rd of June, she released a statement, which I have used as a source.
Nigeria, Rape and Justice
Rape is a controversial contested thing in Nigerian culture. I believe that victims are to be believed but this belief is not shared by many Nigerians. We do not believe victims here, we blame them. And if the victim is a woman, then God help her. The chauvinism inherent in Nigerian culture makes it so that her trauma is reduced to nothing. The majority seem to believe that rape allegations are only made to frustrate a man, Jezebel torturing Ahab. It is his trauma that we consider. We console his daughters, we pity his wife, but we never seem to have a sliver of kindness for his victim.
In the beginning this was a story about rape - a she said, he said affair. Dbanj would probably have escaped from it unscathed. It is no longer about rape. It is about the number of ways the wealthy invoke their privilege to torture and batter the less privileged. The Nigerian Police Force is not the executor of justice, it is a team of mercenaries more attuned to the smell of cash than the most capitalist entrepreneur.
Nigerians, forgive my generalization, don’t really think of rape as a particularly heinous crime. I am of the belief that Nigerian men believe rape to be one of the many forms of consensual sex. The thing we do understand is the Nigerian Police Force. To set them on someone is the height of wickedness. They follow no laws, logic, or legality. They will slap you because they did not like the look on your face and shoot you for less.
We are sensitive to the fine art performance. When a matter is serious, you dare not laugh. The video Dbanj posted of him singing his hit song Olorun Maje, acting like all was right in the world felt insulting. The matter is serious. It must be taken seriously. When Michael Jackson was accused of Paedophilia, in 1993, he settled out of court. Trials in the court of public opinion are difficult, long, and always and everywhere damaging to the more successful person involved in the case. They must be handled swiftly, judiciously, firmly, regardless of guilt. Great care must be taken. Earlier this month (June 2020) Justin Bieber, was accused of sexual assault, he defended himself by publishing all facts regarding his activities during the time that the incident was said to have happened. In 2005, Michael Jackson again went to trial to defend himself from allegations of rape. The jury returned with a not guilty verdict. Internationally and locally it is recognized that witness tampering, obstructions to the course of justice and harassment of the victim are tools the guilty use to muddy the waters.
I listen to music, for joy, for motivation, to witness the excellence that resides in each and every human being. It gives me life. It delivers me from my sorrows. I used to love Dbanj’s music, but after everything, my love has waned. Several of the songs I once enjoyed have now been painted with a rather rapey brush. His musical persona seems to rely on the premise that he is irresistible to all women. It’s a nice fantasy to have, but it’s fantastically untrue. No man can be all things to all people. It is impossible. At the end of everything is one question that lingers: Has Dbanj done what an innocent man would do?