For six years, the story was discussed in very hushed whispers among some Nigerian entertainment journalists and other privileged Nigerians.
But finally, the lid was blown up that truly the American R&B music superstar, R. Kelly was indeed arrested and detained in a dingy police station in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital when he came to perform in the Abuja leg of the very popular but rested 2010 Star Mega Jam.
He had a day earlier shut down Lagos Polo Club, Ikoyi, Lagos, as he performed to an unprecedented crowd of his fans and music lovers.
The story around what some termed as “humiliation” of the global music idol as he was placed behind the counter then was revealed Friday night by the man who was at the centre of the whole drama, Mr. Tony Agenmonmen, retired senior strategy manager, Nigerian Breweries plc.
Of course, Agenmonmen, fondly called Oga Tony, should know better as the then chief host of R. Kelly, thus his clarification on the arrest of the 49 years-old multiple Grammy awards winner, which came in a whole chapter off his memoir as a marketing czar, ‘Excellence Is Not By Luck’ and was presented to the public at an exclusive retirement soiree at the Sky Lounge, Eko Hotels & Suites on Friday night.
In the book, Oga Tony narrated how powerful ThisDay publisher, Nduka Obaigbena got the singer arrested for a breach of an earlier contract they had had in New York, United States.
According to the narrative, R. Kelly was arrested at around 5am on a December Sunday right inside the Piano Bar of Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, where he was relaxing after a successful concert in Abuja and celebrating his great time in Nigeria, the Nigerian people and their show of affection and love.
“I didn’t know for how long I had slept before I was roused by a phone call… It was Sheila Okonji. Sheila was the very hardworking young lady responsible for negotiating and bringing the big artistes on our behalf. With her on the line, I simply could not carry out my plan. “Oga T, Nduka has arrested R. Kelly.” That was all I heard and the phone went off…”
Narrating further, “…Some of my colleagues were already down at the lobby when I eventually got there. However, none could explain what the problem actually was. No one was aware also where R. Kelly had been taken. How could such a beautiful experience turn so horribly awry in just a matter of hours? Then I remembered Mr. Obaigbena’s earlier threat that he would arrest R. Kelly. It was not an empty threat then.
“No clear lead had as yet emerged with regard to where he was taken. We then did the most practical thing –hit the road, checking one police station after another. At the fifth station, we finally located him. Humbly sitting on a wooden bench in a tiny room at the police station was one of the world’s greatest musicians. Also in the tiny room was Mr. Obaigbena, looking victorious and boisterous. As we tried to see if we could get an early resolution, Mr. Obaigbena was indignant at what he saw as our lack of gratitude to him.
“He explained, matter-of-factly, that but for the respect he had for Nigerian Breweries Plc, he would actually have arrested R. Kelly on arrival in Lagos from the United States. That, he said, would have meant the end of our well-advertised concerts in Lagos and Abuja. I had no doubt that he had the capacity to do so if he so wished,” Oga Tony writes.
In the 207-page book forwarded by Mr. Wouter Fijnaut, former marketing director of Nigerian Breweries Plc, amiable Tony recalled how as they prepared for the R. Kelly concerts in Lagos and Abuja, Obaigbena had sent a message to the NB plc through his friend Mr. Bala Yesufu, another former top brass in the leading brewery company, to the effect that R. Kelly was in breach of a certain performance contract and that he would be arrested in Nigeria on arrival. But the powerful publisher however magnanimously waited till the close of the concerts before he could bare his fangs.
The author revealed how they were able to secure R. Kelly and his manager’s release after very long tortuous hours behind the counter.
Oga Tony revealed the role of the then Inspector General of Police and some powerful Nigerians in bringing solutions to the ugly scenario and he expressed his difficulty grasping how the scoop of the arrest managed to escape the eyes and ears of the ever vibrant Nigerian entertainment media.
The book was reviewed by Nollywood top personality and critic, Charles ‘November’ Novia.
During the soiree, families, friends and colleagues, paid glowing tributes to Oga Tony, who spent 32 years at the Nigerian Breweries Plc as a marketing wizard.
Leading the pack was Mr. Nico Vervelde, the managing director, NB Plc, who described the retiree as a “trusted and dependable colleague”. He also talked about the book which he said “shares in a very accessible way a life-long experience around brand building.”
According to Vervelde, “Tony gives a testimony of how great branding ideas get struck by “Murphy’s Law”. He also shows us how to overcome these setbacks; by perseverance, professionalism, improvisation, while safeguarding the original brand beliefs. The dilemma on strategy is classic, but remains insightful that, in the end it is all about execution! In short, life-long marketing experience and passion for brands turned into great storytelling”.
The party, in spite of the heavy downpour, was well attended by scores of public service, corporate, media and entertainment luminaries including Edo State House of Assembly Speaker, Dr. Justin Okonobo; Mr. Ken Calebs-Olumese, guv’nor Niteshift Coliseum; Kufre Ekanem, Corporate Affairs Adviser, NB Plc; Dr. Oladele Ajayi, director, Nigerian Breweries plc; Mr. Kunle Bakare, publisher, Encomium Magazine; Azuh Arinze, publisher, Yes International; Biodun Kupoluyi, publisher, E24-7; Tosin Ajirire, Group Entertainment Editor, The Sun Newspaper; Dele Esan, Kennis Music top brass; Alozie Uzoakwu, Silverbird Rhythm FM top brass; Larry Agose, PR icon; Ehi Braimah, CEO, Neo Media; Ayeni Adekunle, CEO, BHM Group; music stars Daddy Showkey, Tuface Idibia, MI, Sound Sultan, D’Banj; to mention a few.
While Gbenga Adeyinka 1st anchored the night, his colleagues Mandy, Okey Bakassi and De Don enlivened the night with jokes.