People know Bankole Wellington as a helpless romantic and singer. I know him differently.
And that’s the problem. Most of us probably met Banky W through his music.
Sometimes we reduce the man to just his music. But he's a lot more than sound and melody.
In 2007, after Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ successfully topped the charts, Banky W made the song his own back in Nigeria.
From ‘Umbrella’ came ‘Ebute-metta’ –rendered by Banky in the same Rihanna tempo and flourish.
The nation took notice and so did I.
‘Ebute-metta’ was quickly downloaded into my phone.
It was during the era when flip phones were totally a thing.
Banky W would go on to rule the airwaves after that, alongside several other pop and R ‘n’ B artistes of Nigerian descent.
His style was Craig David-like, complete with the sideburns-look of the UK artiste--for effect.
But I really didn’t ‘meet’ Banky W until much later.
This time, I met Mr. Wellington through his writing.
In 2009, then Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Guardian Newspaper, Reuben Abati, had written an article titled: “A Nation’s Identity Crisis’.
In the piece, Abati blamed Banky W and all the artistes of his generation for the nation’s loss of its identity.
Worse, Abati said Banky and his friends couldn’t sing.
He said all they knew how to do was rap. He scoffed at them for sagging. He derided the new generation artistes for being just businessmen without the rigour, intellectualism and finesse that goes into song composition.
He said they were prurient and empty.
“Music is about sense, sound, shape and skills. But there is an on-going deficit in all other aspects except sound. So much sound is being produced in Nigeria, but there is very little sense, shape and skills. They call it hip-hop. They try to imitate Western hip pop stars. They even dress like them. The boys don’t wear trousers on their waists: the new thing is called “sagging”, somewhere below the waist, it looks as if the trouser is about to fall off”, Abati wrote.
Abati would go on to commit a fatal error by wrongly spelling Banky W’s name in his piece; as he reeled out names of artistes who have made music in Nigeria worse off.
“Bankole Willington”, Abati wrongly spelt.
I have read a couple of rage-filled rejoinders in my lifetime, but none more severe than Banky’s.
Banky’s opener was pure gold: “In the immortal words attributed to P.T. Barnum, “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me, at least spell my name right.” My name IS Banky W, full name being Olubankole Wellington. Not Willington, as you stated in your article.”
In the paragraphs that followed, Banky W tore the seasoned newspaper columnist to shreds. He was detailed and deliberate with every point.
I remember applauding Banky's style in an office where I worked at the time; located somewhere in Ebute-Metta (ironically).
Abati was my idol up until that point.
Banky would take his place soon after.
I made it a duty to read anything and everything written by Banky W, after that.
And that includes the immortal lines: “I guess we were hiding in plain sight. I fell in love with an actress, now my life is a movie”.
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The lines were written for Adesua Etomi who Banky has since engaged.
I read Banky’s Instagram post to Etomi the way I have read all his pieces since that rejoinder to Abati.
Not a word was out of place. His style is succinct and cryptic—a reader’s dream.
Banky’s writings x-ray the world and issues. He covers every angle. He interrogates. He extrapolates. He probes and brings the reader to that point where he/she says, “Yeah, I get it now”.
I had that feeling when I read Banky’s piece on the Arik Air debacle some time ago.
When he proposed to Adesua this week, the world still saw an artiste whose depth of wisdom is visible in his lyrics.
I saw a writer with a good grasp of policy and issues.
I first fell in love with Banky as a writer…now my life is a newsroom.