THENETNG spent some time with him in his Lekki-home on Thursday, March 17, 2016 having been invited by his new manager, Olatunde Michaels of Play Centre.
When we arrive, he’s sitting in the living room, with a young assistant keeping him company. He’s dressed casually, in a patterned T-shirt and a pair of dark blue jeans.
‘I’m okay man. Long long time.’
We hugged briefly as I sat next to him.
We spent Thursday afternoon chatting with Peter Okoye about the on-going beef with his twin brother Paul, and their elder brother Jude. It’s his first interview since the Psquare brouhaha became public.
The last time I spent time with Peter Okoye, or indeed P-Square was 8 years ago, before my ‘Spoilt Superstars’ article which truncated the friendly relationship we had.
When I last visited the Okoyes, they had just moved into their Omole home in Lagos. We had breakfast and talked about everything – from PSquare to PMAN and properties. Peter took me round the massive building, showing off a well-equipped studio, gym facilities and the impressive interior decor. They would later leave this house for an even bigger mansion, nicknamed Square Ville, also in Omole, Lagos.
The Okoye brothers rose rapidly, from squatting with Howie T, a music promoter, in his Ilupeju family home, to living in a modest bungalow also in Ilupeju, before joining the big league and the millionaires club.
When we met on Thursday, it was in a Lekki court, where Peter and Paul, now married with children, live in separate buildings with their families. Peter tells me they’re moving very soon, possibly to Parkview estate in Ikoyi, where they’ve been building their most exorbitant homes yet.
From getting rejected by record labels, to having Howie T set up Timbuktu records because no one would sign them, to the days of Get Squared and Busy Body and Do Me, Psquare has demonstrated how it’s possible to grow from nothing to something. Leaving Jos as Michael Jackson wannabe dancers to Lagos, where they found favour in a Benson & Hedges competition, life has been very good to them. 15 years later, their light doesn’t look like it’s about to dim. Fans are still in love with the music; corporate Nigeria still wants the brand.
But something is wrong.
Peter and Paul, who live just a building apart, rarely set eyes on one another. They’re no longer the inseparable duo everyone loves to love. They haven’t performed together since December 28, 2015. In fact, they’ve only seen each other a couple of times since then, in rather hostile circumstances, Peter tells Nigerian Entertainment Today. After years of dealing with family issues and trying to solve their differences, they’re now dishing out dirty details on social media, using their very own hands to drag a brand they’ve built over nearly two decades through the mud.
This is not the first time bands will disintegrate. There’s been Sir Shina Adewale. There’s been, in recent times, The Remedies, Plantashun Boiz, STYL Plus, and, if one is to consider them a band, Mo’Hits. The world remains in shock, about what has become of the union of D’Banj and Don Jazzy, the Mo’Hits leaders who, before our very eyes, tore down everything that held them together.
If D’banj and Don Jazzy’s break up was understandable, since they were merely close friends and business partners, the fall of Psquare, following the apparently irreconcilable spat between Peter on one side, and Jude and Paul on the other, is harder to believe or understand.
But it’s real. Fighting back tears, Peter, who’s the first to go public with what’s been a private issue for years, tells us Psquare fans must understand that this is the end of the band as they know it.
‘The truth is’, he says, as his daughter Aliona comes in, needing help to fix her toy, ‘the fans should be happy that we were able to drop the ‘Double Trouble’ album in 2014. What’s happening now should have happened then.
‘The issue was the fact that I was in Psquare and it felt like I was in fear. If I don’t do this, Psquare will break-up, if I don’t do that, Psquare will scatter.’
‘Four years ago, I told Jude he needs to step down as our manager, because I didn’t want to disrespect him as a brother, but this is business, [and] we have to structure it. And Jude said to me that there’s a way I [should] talk to him, and [threatened to] slap me. So I kept quiet.’
‘So, a few hours after, Paul came to me and said if I want Jude to step down it wasn’t a problem, but it meant that he (Paul) would go solo. The first time word got out about Psquare breaking up, a lot of people called us; senators, governors, and people like that. In fact, three of us were once in a private jet to go and see someone who wanted to resolve our issues, and we didn’t speak to each other throughout the flight. At the end of the day, I swallowed my pride for peace to reign and allowed Jude to remain as our manager.’
Aliona is back again with her toy. Peter checks and sees it’s in need of a battery, so he sends her to a domestic staff. He’s careful to not lose his train of thought. He’s struggling to fight back tears.
‘I and Paul stay together in this estate and the last time I saw him was about a week ago.’
But you live in the same premises. Why is this so?
‘Truth is, I’ve not been in talking terms with Paul since December 2015 and that was why I travelled in January because I had a lot on my mind.
‘Something happened at Mavin Studios last year that broke my heart.
‘Now listen to this, Psquare featured on songs with J-Martins, Bracket, LKT, 9ice and these 4 songs were done by Paul alone, but guess what, did I appear in the videos, YES’.
‘Now hear this, we have other collabos with Kaha, Darey, Ruggedman. I did these songs alone. How come they don’t have videos? Paul refused to appear in the videos.’
‘So I told Paul that when next he does a collabo alone, he should be in the video alone, because it got to a point where artistes began to feel if they did a collabo with Paul it [would] get a video, but if it was me, it [wouldn’t] get a video.
‘The last collabo we did was with Flavour and I refused to do another one. Even Flavour had to speak all the Igbo he knows to convince me before I agreed to do it. Only for my brother to come and tell me that ‘shey I thought you said you won’t appear in any video that I did the collabo alone? Why did you appear on this one?’ I was sad but I knew another one will come’.
‘So Tiwa Savage called me; apparently Paul had done a song with her – not the campaign song they are promoting now, another Psquare collabo entirely. So she [said] she’s been trying to reach Paul to get the CD of the song from him [because] he’s already done his part, so I went to Paul’s house to help ask for it and tell him I want to go to the studio to do my verse and he said he doesn’t know where the CD is.’
‘I went to the Mavin studio to meet Tiwa. When I got there, she asked for the CD and I told her Paul didn’t give me any CD, so I called him again and gave the phone to Tiwa and [he] told her on phone that the CD is at Omole, so I got into the studio, recorded my verse and when I finished, everybody was clapping. I was surprised to realize that Paul had [told] them that I don’t sing or write songs.’
‘I felt really bad and betrayed, but I covered up for him. I jokingly asked Teebillz if they gave him Red Label and he said yes, so I was like you guys caused it, and we laughed over it. So when my assistant went to pick up the CD, Paul and Jude started shouting at him to ‘ask Peter what is he doing at the Mavin studio? He knows how we work.’ The next day, I went to Paul and told him how I felt when I heard what he said. Only for Jude to say that he made Paul the lead singer of Psquare 8 years ago! A leader leads, he doesn’t destroy.’
Those close to the Okoyes say their elder brother Jude is central to their problems. Howie T, their first manager admitted as much in an exclusive interview with THENETNG’s Dayo Showemimo early this week. But industry watchers insist Jude was the reason the group became profitable in the first place. Psquare are known to bill more than anyone else. When other A-listers were comfortable with N3-5m, they were charging N6.5m. When artistes were happy to go overseas for peanuts and the promise of promos, they insisted on up to $120K. They turned down major shows if the price was wrong. It soon became an industry standard – if you wanted Psquare, you had to put big bucks on the table. When Globacom, a Nigerian telecommunication company, signed an endorsement deal with them six years ago, their total fees went up to N240m. No Nigerian artiste has in recent times, matched Psquare in billing. And very few, if any at all, can hold a candle to them when it comes to live performances.
Psquare were the only brand ambassadors presented with brand new 2015 Range Rover and a 2015 Mercedes Benz G-Wagon courtesy of GLO.
But Peter says in spite of all this, Psquare had zero structure.
‘When it came to decision-making, it was always a Triangle formation, and the highest vote wins. I never used to complain because we were all okay, but what has changed now is the fact that we’ve grown. You can make a certain decision based on how we used to do it and it may affect everyone as an individual, but it gets to a point when the decisions taken are never my own and I began to wonder if anything was wrong.’
‘Most of Psquare ideas came from me, like [the] materials we needed to put out for people to see, video, stage performances and all. But when I came up with them, nobody wanted to accept it. I didn’t complain because people still love what we do, but then again, there wasn’t much competition in the industry back then.’
‘As time goes, we should get better; it shouldn’t be same triangle deciding, because if we continue that same way, we’ll lose it. All I want is a proper structure in the sense that, we need to have proper management, business managers and all.’
‘As I speak to you right now, we don’t have an office, [we have] no structure. When this issue started about five years ago, our lawyer told us the way we run our business is wrong.’
‘I’ll give you an instance’.
‘We had to go perform somewhere once, and because I had a slight argument with Paul, he said he wasn’t going. It was the wedding of the President’s daughter. When I got to the airport my brother wasn’t there, and I [didn’t know] how I was going to explain to the President that we [couldn’t] perform. I made up my mind to go with the band, perform like that and lie that my brother was sick. So we left for Abuja, and when we got to the hotel, my assistant manager called [to say] he was on the way to the airport with Paul, so we had to wait for them to land in Abuja and that was why we couldn’t make it on time to the reception.’
‘The president was mad. In fact, Mama Peace (Patience Jonathan) was really mad. But we eventually made up for it with a performance at the Gala night. Only for Jude to [tell me that] Paul said he wasn’t going for a show and I still went [without him]. Imagine if Jude had a proper structure and we had contracts? That wouldn’t happen. And it was more because the show came through me. If the show came through Jude, it wouldn’t have happened. I don’t have a problem with doing things as a family, but structure and proper organization is important too. The name Psquare is very big outside but inside we have no structure. I see people like Audu of Chocolate City, Mavin Records, even Ubi Franklin, and I wanted us to have a structure like that. Psquare is just up there because of the grace of God.’
You’ve said a lot about Jude being the problem, and how you’re the minority. But, really, as Peter, what do you bring to the table?
‘It’s really sad that people have labeled me ‘Dancer’ and they don’t really know what I do for Psquare. Kudos to Paul, I’m not a good songwriter; in fact, I’ll rate myself 30%, so when it comes to song writing, I give it to Paul 100%.
‘However, not writing songs does not disqualify you from being a musician. I can tell you for free that a Nigerian wrote two of the songs on Rihanna’s new album. I’ve travelled a lot and most times people ask, ‘which one are you, the singer or the dancer’? And it’s really sad.’
‘In Psquare, I am the creative person, I can sit-down and tell you what people want to hear, what they want to see and what they want to learn from Psquare. But it’s not something to brag about.’
‘Jude directs all our videos.’
‘This whole thing began when Paul went online and started posting lyrics of most of our songs on Instagram [and saying] that he wrote them all, just because Peter brought in something to the table. I had been trying to bring more business for Psquare. I didn’t know it was going to cause problems. I sent my manager to a meeting in Senegal to meet with Universal Music about getting us deals, and when he came back, the way they responded to him wasn’t encouraging.’
‘So I had to send Diouf (the footballer) to help get the documents and convince my brothers before we could pull through with the deal. After some months, we started making money. Meanwhile, while filling the forms, Jude filled everything as Psquare. So the first payment came and we shared it. The second payment was bigger, and we shared it too. That was when Paul said we had to re-fill the form and give proper credit to the songwriter (himself) and said if the form wasn’t brought back, he would expose me and tell the world that he writes all the songs. The next day he went online to post those lyrics. So my question is, when he was doing that what did Jude do about it? Absolutely nothing!’
Paul is weak
‘I remember I once told Paul something when Jude became our manager; he was using the term ‘Our Money,’ that was when we made our first 1 million [naira]. I called Paul and told him that our former manager used to make about 15%, and now that Jude is our manager, let’s think of a percentage that we’ll be giving him and put it on paper. Paul said it’s not necessary. He probably went to tell Jude about it. I’m sorry to say this, but I think Paul is weak.’
‘You know they say change is constant, you can’t stay in one spot. As the industry moves, you move. So I won’t say the problem we have is money. I think everybody is just dragging power unnecessarily. Imagine Jude telling me that he’s in charge of Psquare and there’s nothing Peter and Paul can do about it, and I look at Paul and he’s quiet about it. I’ve never seen where a manager talks to his artistes anyhow. If there’s an issue you should call us aside quietly to talk about it.’
Why I called out Jude on social media
‘On December 14, 2015, we sat down to have a meeting hoping to set a proper structure in place, but Paul noticed that it wasn’t working the way he wanted, so he said he’s starting a new group. I thought he meant he wanted to start a record label, and he was like no, he’s starting a new group that he belongs to. And Jude simply said, ‘anybody stop you?’ He picked up his phones and walked out of the meeting. I felt it had already been discussed behind me. I later found out that Paul was already recruiting for the group and Jude is their manager. At the moment I hear they are called ‘The MVPs’ I don’t know what it means yet.’
‘So how do you expect me to be managed by the same person we’ve been having issues with, who is now the manager of the other group? There’ll surely be conflict of interest.’
‘[Recently] Jude called me, after I had said he was fired. He called me on a Thursday to say ‘Hope you know we are going to the embassy tomorrow for that show in Holland.’ I know about the show, [because] it was already booked before the issues started, so I told him, ‘Bro you are not my manager, talk to my manager.’ He said, ‘Noted.’ The next day, they went to the embassy with the new group members, which means they had already set up their interviews at the embassy because it’s not possible to get an appointment in less than 24 hours. I traced the organisers and told them Jude represents only Paul. I told them this is what it takes to get Peter and Paul, Peter alone or Paul alone.’
‘So I went on social media to protect our careers, because if I didn’t do that, Psquare will not release any material anytime soon, they’ll be busy promoting their artistes.’
‘And I remember going to talk to Paul about it before I went on social media. I went to his house, and he was in his room with his friend, [whom I asked to excuse us, but] Paul said, no, his friend should stay, [and that] anything I want to say should be said in front of him. So I said, no, you know we are brothers and he was like, ‘oh, na now you know say we be brothers.’ I told him I came to talk to him about what’s been happening, but it was turning into an argument so I left and I travelled out. I was away for over a month, knowing that we didn’t have any shows at that time. I went to Turkey and London to rest my mind, my friend Samuel Eto’o invited me to come.’
How I fired Jude
‘The day I fired Jude was at a concert. The day I came back, we had a show, so I went straight to the venue in Lagos and told Jude I want to talk to him, and he said I should say anything I want to say in front of everyone, [which] was the same attitude Paul gave me before I travelled. So Jude said if I like, I should get out, and I said ‘guy don’t embarrass me.’ He said who are you, because you think you are Psquare? So I told him openly that if he cannot resolve me and Paul’s issue, he doesn’t deserve to be our manager, and he said I should get out. There and then I told him ‘You are fired’! He looked at me and said, ‘You fit fire me?’ That was when I entered my car and started tweeting. How else can you take him out?’
‘[In fact,] long before I made up my mind, Paul had already said there’s no more Psquare, [and that] if Jude leaves, he goes with him.’
‘Before I announced my management, I wanted my mind to be clear, so I went back to Paul, this time we were alone and we [discussed things]; I told him I had no issues with him, but he needs to stop letting Jude use him as a shield. Both of us started shedding tears, and when we finished he still said he hopes I’m not here to tell him that I still want Psquare, and I told him I want to move on, because he already has a manager (Jude) and I don’t, so I had to structure myself too. And I didn’t want to allow the Psquare name to fade before moving on. Look at Don Jazzy and Dbanj, when they broke up, they waited for like 6 months and had to start again. Now, that Psquare just broke up, let me use the name to move on quickly, because there’s no time.’
If our mum was still alive
‘To be honest with you, I feel if our mum was still alive, we would have pushed her to her grave with this whole thing. It’s really sad that even with everything going on, I still stand with Paul.’
‘It still boils down to the fact that Psquare was not structured. Music is like football, Messi has his manager, Neymar has his manager, Suarez has his manager, but when they get to the pitch, they play as a team’.
‘Before I did the Olympic deal, I’d brought some deals for Psquare. The people endorsing Psquare only see Peter and Paul, but behind [the scenes] it’s Peter, Paul and Jude so the price goes so high that it never works.’
‘But when a deal comes to my table, it’s not like they called Jude and I went behind to talk to them, the deal came directly to me from Jude’s friend. He called me and told me about it, and before then I had already established my own beverage factory and the deal coming was from PZ, which means I could do more business with them, so should I lose that deal because they didn’t call Jude?’
‘I asked them why me and not Psquare, and they said they couldn’t afford Psquare, and the brand was tailored to fit one person. So I went back to tell Paul and Jude and they didn’t say anything. They didn’t ask me not to do it. Don’t get it wrong, we’ve been doing different private businesses, the only difference was that the Olympic deal came out in public. I’ve been doing mass housing projects on my own, Paul has been doing real estate, Jude has been doing his own thing, he even [set up the] Northside record label, so it’s not like it’s the first thing I’m doing alone. It’s just the first one that went public.’
‘So even when I decide to open my beverage factory, people will still ask why I am doing it alone without my brother.’
It’s not a publicity stunt
‘I hear lot of people think it’s all a stunt, and that’s what I really want to put an end to. It’s not a stunt at all. It has been going on for a while’.
‘When Jude didn’t come to my wedding, people started saying we broke up and then others said it’s a stunt. When Paul posted those lyrics on Instagram people thought it was a stunt too, but the truth is that this is not and has never been a publicity stunt. I am telling you the truth. I am moving on because people are already getting tired of this Psquare brouhaha. Now I have my manager, Olatunde Michaels, and I expect everybody to respect that. I am a family man, a musician, singer and dancer. If I don’t move on, Psquare will collapse and there’ll be nothing left’.
‘Already Paul has done two songs without me but no one is saying anything, he did a song with his artiste ‘Muno’ with his name as Rudeboy. Did they feature me? He did a song with Tiwa Savage, did they feature me?’
‘Last week Yemi Alade sent me her album track list to help her share on Instagram, guess what I saw, she had a song with Psquare that I didn’t even know about. Only Paul did it.’
The next level
‘Because I announced new management, people feel I’m the one going solo, but Paul has already gone solo. He’s moved on and didn’t need to announce any new management because he still works with Jude, so I had to announce mine and believe it or not, people are booking me for gigs already.’
‘And guess what, I’ll still perform Psquare songs, nobody can stop me, nobody can stop Paul too, we didn’t have a contract with Jude, so I have the right to perform Psquare songs especially the ones I took part in’.
‘I’ll also consider releasing solo songs and even albums. Truth is – in the last album Paul did some songs alone, I did some songs alone. ‘Bring It On’ was Paul alone, ‘Eje Ajo’, ‘Shekini’ was done by me alone’.
‘Remember the 4 songs ‘Free for Fans’ that we released, those songs were removed from the last album and I leaked them’.
‘I have some songwriters already, V-Tek writes for me, and I’m still bringing up more’.
Social media posts today March 19, by Peter and Paul might suggest they’re trying to resolve their issues. In fact, Psquare is being advertised for an upcoming performance. But, as Peter told NET on Thursday, it’s now beyond music and management. They’re not likely to live together on the Parkview property, which is nearing completion; and they’ve since shared their other properties (We saw a copy of the contract, showing Festus Keyamo as their lawyer).
‘Because of what was happening, it was like two against one, so I said let’s share our properties. When I said that, Paul said if we want to share our properties, Jude must get the same share with us otherwise Psquare will split and I was like ‘SPLIT-AGAIN?’
‘Our lawyer came and told Paul that it’s wrong to share it equally with Jude, but he insisted, so we divided every property we owned in Lagos, Jos, America, Abuja. In-fact the right and left wing of the Square Ville mansion belongs to Paul and Jude now. So that was how we shared all our properties equally among the three of us about two or three years ago.’
‘After sharing everything, I called Paul again and spoke to him about a proper structure. We’ve been with people like Akon and co and we see how it’s done. Right now, Psquare has millions of dollars in royalties hanging in the air.’
‘All our endorsement and shows are shared equally between the three of us as well.’
‘After what it took to share our properties, I was embarking on a project, so I needed more money and I wanted to sell my house in America and buy something smaller, because I spend close to $30,000 to maintain that condo every year.’
‘So I called my caretaker to begin the process and she told Jude and Paul to send their data page and passport photographs, but they refused because they know I wanted to the sell the house. And see the value of dollars now. The house was valued at 100M then, but if I sell it now, I could make extra 250M.’
‘And we already signed paper works and document of the house that it belongs to me but Jude ignored it, so I called our lawyer, Festus Keyamo to inform him about the development. He called them and they both refused to pick his call, so he sent them a text and requested that we should have a meeting, but Jude replied him and said no need for a meeting that the America house will be sold.’
‘Paul said we agreed and signed on how to share but we haven’t really shared it yet, after all Jude is still holding on to the documents.’
‘Three of us have properties close to each other in Parkview and that’s why I want to sell my own and move to Banana Island.’
‘I can’t really understand why they don’t want a structure, to me I think it’s ignorance, and if I decide to do it, it’ll seem like I’m looking for trouble.’
Jude, who dissociated himself from Psquare in a social media post on Thursday, hours after our interview with Peter, declined commenting for this story. He told our correspondent ‘I’m sorry I can’t talk about it.’
My wife and my mum
‘People think we changed when we started having wives. Before my mum died, she was at St Nicholas hospital on the island, and my sisters were living in this house (in Lekki), and every morning before my wife goes to work, she’ll leave home at 5am in the morning to go and stay with my mum even before we get there ourselves. And when she closes from work, she’s back with her again.’
‘So I just laugh when I hear people say my mum didn’t like my wife. It’s my wife and sister that prepare my mum’s meals in the kitchen.’
‘Now let me shock you: our wives, the three of them are the closest set of people you can imagine. Even with all that’s going on. It’s really surprising. Somehow, they respect themselves and stayed out of the whole drama and I respect them a lot. And that’s somehow what has kept us together for this long, otherwise Psquare would have ended like two or three years back.’
Why Cynthia Morgan won’t get a Psquare collabo
‘When I set up P-Classic Records because people were saying Psquare haven’t helped anyone, I saw the success of Tiwa Savage and I was close to signing Cynthia Morgan and Simi. Ask them they’ll tell you.’
‘I remember Paul came to the studio and said he heard I’m signing Simi and Cynthia, I said ‘Yes’, and he was like ‘What will people see Jude as’, and I gave him example of Drake and Young Money, Cash money.’
‘Oscar (Producer of ‘Collabo’ ft. Don Jazzy) called to tell me that they can’t sign the deal, because he heard it’s causing problem in Psquare. Meanwhile Cynthia and Simi were both going through the contracts I gave them only for them to return it two days later that they can’t do it.’
‘Two weeks after, I was shocked to hear that Jude had signed Cynthia Morgan, and she knows deep down that she’s never going to get a Psquare collabo.’
‘The truth is I feel happy it has come, because I’ve been staying in Psquare out of fear for the last four years. The situation now is, if you want Psquare to perform, you’ll have to get in touch with two managers. I don’t care if you pay Paul’s management more than you pay me – once we are able to agree, Psquare is still there. I just don’t want to have a manager that feels he’s in control because he’s my elder brother. And because of the legacy that I want Psquare to be remembered for, that was why I went to talk to Paul the last time. I don’t want us to start doing beef songs, or we see at the clubs and we don’t greet each other, or ignore our kids and stuff like that. And even if Psquare breaks up, I still want us to have our relationship as brothers. If I’ve regretted anything in my life so far, I swear to God this is not one of them, I’m happy because I’ve been in pain for a long time.’
‘It’s good if we go and do stuff separately so that even IF we come back we’ll have respect for each other. I wish Paul the best and I wish Jude the best as well.’