The first time I set my eyes on him was in 2003 at Lords Nite Club, Maryland, Lagos. It was those days when comedy was still in its ascendancy and just a handful of comedians like Alibaba, Julius Agwu, Alan Blow and a couple of others held sway.
The event was a gathering that attracted dignitaries and fast rising I Go Dye was the only comedian on hand to entertain. Wearing a pair of black pointed shoes with exceedingly large heels, a black pair of jeans and a body hugging top, I Go Dye had every one cracking up with laughter as he warmed the event with jokes. The high point of the evening was his joke on Pastor Ayo Orijeshafor and his newly purchased shoes which sent guests reeling with laughter.
The next time I would meet him in person again was 10 years later in 2013. The venue was Julius Agwu’s annual Crack Ya Ribs show, held at the NICON Hilton, Abuja, and to my surprise, I Go Dye could remember our first encounter 10 years earlier.
Indeed over the years, I Go Dye has matured and I could not help but appreciate the fact he was looking more confident and in control of his game. His story is one of grass to grace. From humble beginnings in Warri, the comedian known as I Go Dye has risen to be one of Nigeria’s most prominent comedians. In fact, everything about him is comic. As I regarded him, I couldn’t help but crack up once again as I recollected his jokes for the evening.
And I Go Dye has come a long way this last 10 years. From Lagos to Abuja, from Nigeria to the UK and the US including most European capitals, the UN Peace Ambassador has plied his trade winning fans across the globe and thrilling audiences.
If there’s one issue I Go Dye shy’s away from, its questions about his wife and nuclear family. However, I decided to take a shot just the same. I Go Dye is happily married and with success come women. How’s his wife coping with the barrage of female fans trailing him? He pauses for a while as he regards you, a light film of sweat has gathered on his forehead courtesy of the heat from neon bulbs hanging overhead. When he speaks, it was with the calmness of one who knows his onions.
“As a celebrity, one respect you must give to the one you love is to take her off the stage because anything that’s tied to you is tied to her. The media’s always talking so I prefer to leave her out of the public glare. I would rather receive the insults and let her be the queen I cherish at home,” he says as a soft and knowing smile plays around his lips.
How many kids does he have now?
“I have just one, my lovely daughter; you know, children are gifts from God.”
So how many is he and his wife looking to make?
“We are still working on that but you know I’m not Tuface-o,” he quips, a broad grin splitting his features into the shape of an onion as we laugh.
I Go Dye has been actively involved in the business of making people crack up with laughter. Over the years his style has evolved. From dwelling on mundane issues, I Go Dye has since gone political displaying rare courage as he picks on current and sensitive political issues affecting Nigerians globally.
Where does he find the courage to carry on considering the tense political situation in the country?
“First of all we need to understand the society in which we live. You and I have the responsibility of using our talents to promote peace among our people because when there is conflict, no matter how successful you’re, you’re going to be affected.
“I believe that it’s my civic responsibility as a human being to use my talent to impact people and discuss serious issues going on in our society in a comical way; I mean issues affecting you and I in our society. Even if I’m joking with unimaginable truth, I try as much as possible not to create wrong notions.
“The truth is that musicians like Fela Anikulapo Kuti used their music to correct society and pass a message. For me, since I’m in control of the micro phone and people listen to me, the best I can do is tell people that we can actually solve our problems not by believing in government but by looking inwards.”
Once upon a time
However, the rib cracker revealed that as a child, his dream had been to be a engineer. However, comedy came to him by accident after he won a scholarship to study Structural Engineering and was interviewed on Delta State TV in the early 1990s. Recalling those early years, I Go Dye continues picking his words carefully.
“The truth is that every parent would want to give a son or daughter all the support they need in life. But when we started comedy some 20 years ago, it was not a lucrative business and my parents did not believe that one could actually make a living out of it.
“They just believed that ‘oh our son s is just having fun.’ They wanted the best for me and wanted me to be an engineer because I was the first one to build a helicopter in Delta State. I was also the first to build a hover craft. I also constructed a radio transmitter. My superiors were so impressed at Urhobo College I was given a scholarship to study Structural Engineering,” I Go Die recalls.
However, his life took a dramatic turn after he was invited to Delta State TV for an interview following his scholarship award.
From Engineering to comedy
“My life changed forever when I was interviewed on Delta State TV on my inventions. They asked me a couple of questions and I proudly started talking. Before I knew it everybody was laughing including those interviewing me. Each time I tried to demonstrate the creativity that resulted in the innovations, people just couldn’t stop laughing and the lady who was presenting the show said to me, ‘young man, drop this thing. You have a great future as a comedian.’
“That’s how I was introduced to Tunde Omonode and before I knew it I was on Delta TV doing the DTV Talk Show alongside my friend, I Go Save. I was so surprised because I never really knew I was funny; the impact we had was so great! The love was overwhelming and I was like wow!
“I always started my comedy those days with my short comings in life but that one’s another story for another day,” he says waving his hands emphatically, “I tried to tell my fans that no matter where they’re coming from, they’ll succeed as long as they stay focused.”
“Every second I pinch myself and I’m still alive I’m happy because there are people who have billions but are terribly sick and dying. So for every second I breathe I thank God and I’m happy.”
In a career that spans 20 years, the rib cracker has done it all and seen it all. What is his advice for youngsters who want to walk in his footsteps?
“The advice is that they should believe in themselves and know that truly, no one can believe in you more than you believe in yourself. Even if the world tells you that you cannot do it, tell the world that you can. There’re people who are writers, there’re those who are singers and those who are dancers so you have to believe you can do it.
“They should not think of being Tuface or I Go dye. Rather, they should be thinking of being what God has chosen for them and fulfilling their purposes in this world; they should carve an identity for themselves.
“Wole Soyinka is celebrated worldwide today because he writes. Michael Jackson is respected worldwide today because he could sing and dance. Hussein Bolt is a celebrity today because he runs very fast. Eddie Murphy is a super star today because he acts very well and so too is Genevieve Nnaji. All these people have achieved the best in what they know how to do best so now they can rule the world just like Obama,” he concludes on a philosophical note as another smile creases his features.
Tony Ogaga Erhariefe