Olubankole Wellington, popularly known by his stage name Banky W, has been a consistent and very successful musician for more than a decade now.
Aside from having a huge fan base as an artiste, he has bred other highly successful talents such Wizkid, Skales, DJ Xclusive, and Niyola among others, through his record label, Empire Mates Entertainment.
The singer did not stop there as he is also out here getting all the applause as an actor for his roles in ‘The Wedding Party and ‘Up North’. Banky W talks to Azuka Ogijuiba about these and more.
You shocked many with your aspiration for a political office. Many were wondering if it was just a movie scene or you were serious. Tell us about it. How long did you nurture the desire to run?
Honestly, for me, I probably resisted the urge to run for office rather than nurture it. I resisted it for a long time probably because it was just tough to accept the fact this is something I need to do while considering the things I’d need to give up in the process. For me, just being a vocal critic of government, leadership and the issues that have been going on in Nigeria all this time was not enough. I have been a vocal critic for a very long time. The challenge is, that is not enough, because we can talk all we want all day long, but if there aren’t the right people with the right intentions, the right character and the right level of intelligence entering the government at different levels, then this change that we dream about will never actually happen. So for me, this year, when I started telling people ‘let’s register to vote’, I had to sit down and tell myself that ‘you know what, you have been an arm-chair critic and until you yourself is willing to stand up, pay the price, sacrifice and attempt to be a part of the people that change and fix the problems, then all of that talk… is just talk.’ So, that’s how I shocked myself, my wife, my business partners and I guess I shocked everybody else. I just think it’s something that had to be done.
How were you able to convince those around you about this?
When I first had the conversation with my wife, she said she was worried about me getting into politics in Nigeria because it’s dirty and dangerous… and she didn’t want anything to soil me or harm me. I told her that yes she was right. Politics in Nigeria is very dirty and dangerous, but that’s because the good people always avoid it. So, it will remain dirty and dangerous forever unless people with the right intentions and who want good for Nigeria, start to be a part of the people that are trying to change Nigeria. We complain about it but we never want to get involved. So for me, part of the goal is to inspire other credible individuals in our country to stand up and be the change we so desperately need.
As a singer, how do you intend to handle your home front, music and being a politician?
What you’d hopefully see from the way I operate in my career is that I give priority to different things at different points in time. At a certain point, my priority was being an artiste , putting out my own music and all, then at some point my priority was being a record label executive and helping other artistes grow.. and at other points, it was corporate engagements, or charity or making movies… and now it’s politics and public service. I’m concerned with making an impact, and the best way that I can do that is through politics and public service. However, in all of that, my home front is my number one priority, over everything and I will always pay attention to that.
Some ladies recently called you out on social media after sighting you in an old range rover. This got your attention and you replied them saying you were going to auction the car and give the money to charity. Tell us more about it?
There are some people who felt that I shouldn’t have replied or should not dignify any insult with a response and that’s true sometimes, but I also wanted to use it as a teachable moment and hopefully leave a lesson behind. First, what’s our priority as a generation? Is it just to stunt and to slay? Is it to look rich or to be wealthy? If I was someone who was driving a luxury car or a billion Naira car and I’m still paying rent in the compound where I’m packing that car… it just doesn’t make sense to me. Where exactly are our priorities at? Even before the incident with the stalker ladies, I had already been having discussions about a month or two prior, on how to auction the car and donate the money to charity. So we used their attempt to slander me as publicity for the car, did the auction and raised N2.8 million for charity. Actually, the car was sold for 2.3 million but the company (Cars45) that organised the auction for me were kind enough to chip an additional N500,000 making it N2.8 million. So N1.4 million went to the School for the Blind while the other half went to the Pink Oak Cancer Trust fund, a body I have been working with to donate money and create awareness about cancer and treatment. All of that was me trying to show that we have to get our priorities right. I could have given that car out to just one person or sold it and added the money to buy my next car, but I believe that together we can use what we have, to fix ourselves as a society and help each other, one community at a time.
From taking a lead role in the Wedding Party, and now Up North, what is your vision as far as acting is concerned?
The vision here is to be part of those few people who are currently working hard to open doors for other people to invest in filmmaking. You can invest and get your money back with the right crew, script, directing and cast. That’s why I’m a co-executive producer in Up North. It is such an interesting film that addresses a lot of issues. When you think about the Northern part of Nigeria these days, you tend to think about terrorism; nobody is talking about the beauty of the region and the amazing people there just because of the few bad eggs. So ‘Up North’ shows that amazing side of the North you don’t get to see or hear much about. It also stresses the need for us to educate and empower our children, especially our girl-children, who we haven’t been very kind to as a nation. In fact, it touches on so many important issues, but it cleverly disguises them in this comedy about a rich, spoilt brat’s NYSC experience. It’s so much more than what people are expecting and I can’t wait for everyone to see it.
A lot of your fans out here would like you to address the Wizkid’s issue after missing your traditional and white weddings.
I think people unfairly judged Wiz and a lot of them were a little bit too harsh on him for missing the wedding. Many people forget that around the time of my traditional wedding was also when One Africa Music Fest was going on in Dubai. So, there were many other artistes at the event, who were struggling trying to make it back to catch up with the wedding. In fact, Tiwa Savage had to take the last available economy seat in the plane, even though she had an upper-class ticket for a few days later, just to get her back in time for my wedding. So, it wasn’t just Wizkid that missed it, a lot of people who were at the concert did. Either way, people should know that the relationship between Wizkid and I is deeper than any fame or fortune. Wizkid is my younger brother, he has been for a very long time and that is never going to change. We love each other and that’s my brother for life. And honestly, the same goes for Skales, Xclusive, Niyola, Shaydee, MasterKraft , Suka Sounds, Timothy King etc. Everyone we worked with at EME during the early years. Osagie, Uche, Anuel and others… there’s a bond between us all, it’s a family affair. No matter what happens, family remains family. Family first, family forever.
When you are not working, how do you relax?
My favourite relaxation activity is being at home with my wife. I think we both work hard and are always busy, so any spare time that we have, we prefer to put the phones on silent and just stay indoors. Also, whenever we get the chance, we both love to travel and explore other places.
What’s your wife, Adesua’s favourite colour and favourite local meal?
It varies… she likes things like Amala and seafood okra, yam pottage, but I’m turning her into a big lover of meat and protein generally. Her favourite colour also changes, at the moment I would say green. She also likes pink related colours such as peach and blush. But she hates pink as a colour .
What would you say is the highlight of being married given the high cases of divorce and broken homes in the industry?
The highlight of my marriage so far… honestly, it has been the entire journey and the entire experience. It’s very important for this generation to understand that it’s okay to wait. Before now, one of the most frequently asked questions during my interviews was when would I get married and I’m glad I didn’t give in to that pressure. I’m so glad that I waited because now I’ve found not just a wife but someone that is my purpose partner, someone that we can build our destinies together.
Then as far as divorces, broken homes, and drama in marriages, I’m of the school of thought that you try and keep whatever issues affecting your personal lives between you, and off the internet/social media. Don’t forget that sometimes there are children involved, and they’ll be affected as well if you put everything out there.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
It has always been food. I’m such a foodie. I have also recently started playing FiFa 2019 on PS4, and it is fun.
Who is your favourite actor and who has influenced your career?
My favourite actor is my wife. Also, internationally, I like people like Will Smith and Denzel Washington, Julia Roberts and Halley Berry. At home, my favourite male actor is RMD, he is someone I love dearly. I call him Pops. I love Aunty Ireti Doyle, Aunty Shola Shobowale and others.