I was in a meeting upstairs when our TV producer, Joan Omionawele called me on the phone. Strange, because she knew I was engaged at the moment. I didn’t pick up. She called twice again and I was immediately suspicious. What’s going on in the newsroom?
I didn’t have to wonder for long: she came to the office where I was meeting and crashed it. ‘Sorry Jide, but there’s something really important you need to know.’ I excused myself from the meeting and walked with her. Then she told me Chime Amaechi‘s family members were here. Chime who? ‘Chime now. The other guy that died with Davido’s DJ in Banana Island.’ ‘Oh shoot!’ I said. That’s important.
Here’s why it was important: even I had wondered who Chime was. It seemed like his death, compared to Tagbo‘s – which Caroline Danjuma made a big fuss about – and DJ Olu’s – who got a lot of media coverage probably because of his billionaire father – did not interest anybody. Apart from the Punch report earlier in the day that claimed ‘hard drugs’ were recovered from the death scene, not much was being said about the ‘third Davido associate’.
As we went upstairs to the lounge where they were waiting, I could hear a man’s voice saying ‘No no, nothing like that. I’m surprised myself. My son was not a drug user.’ We got in and I saw a family huddled together in silence: father folded his arms across his chest, the sisters glancing at their phones and shaking their heads intermittently. The scene looked like gloomy French pantomime.
‘Good afternoon sir…’ I began tentatively. How does one comfort a parent whose child had just died? Plus I’m not their friend or a family member: I’m a newsman who wants to get the story from them; how does one do that without coming across as insincere? They responded quite well and I told them what we wanted from them: just to share their story. Is that fine with you? Father said yes and stood up. Let’s go he said, as we all made our way back to the studio.
Who was Chime?
Up until this moment, the most that had been said about the Chime was that ‘he died with DJ Olu’, as though he was inconsequential. And that’s how it sometimes happens, when a less popular individual dies in company of famous people. When Princess Diana died, the whole world stood still. Even her boyfriend Dodi Alfayed was less talked about than she- and the third casualty of the night, Henri Paul is rarely mentioned, as though he was a postscript to the tragedy.
In the same vein, Chime Amaechi got lost in the ‘Davido’s friend’ chatter. But who was he, how did he get involved in this macabre story?
‘He was a good son’, his father began. ‘He wasn’t a riffraff that was hanging around Davido looking for handouts…no, no. He and Olu Abiodun were childhood friends in Ibadan. They met in primary school. They attended Oritamefa Baptist School. If you know that school, you’ll agree with me that it was’t an ‘anyhow’ school. It’s a private school with modern facilities and that’s where he and Olu met. He used to play drums, very talented. He used to play drums in the choir and that’s where his love for music started. It was where the two of them first became friends…’
Mr Amaechi is a real estate surveyor and valuer in Ibadan, possibly the second thriving metropolis in south-west Nigeria, after Lagos. He may have earned a decent living enough to send his children to quality schools- but he was no Dapo Abiodun– billionaire oil magnate and politician- nor for that matter, Adedeji Adeleke.
Soon as it often happens with childhood friends, life does what it does: Olu was sent off to the UK to continue his studies while Chime remained in Ibadan. In time, he got admitted to the University of Lagos and attempted to get a university degree. It wasn’t to be.
He and Olu would later reunite on social media and rekindled their friendship. By this time Olu had met Davido and was getting involved in the music as official DJ. On one of his trips back home, he and Chime decided to do business: Olu was an oil firm heir and had access to small, but very profitable ventures. ‘Olu’s father owns Heyden Petroleum and he with Chime used to transport petroleum products, in thousands of litres, across the whole country,’ Chime’s sister Sopulu said. ‘They also had real estate that they were marketing and getting commissions from. Even last week, he still sent me pictures of a parcel of land to market in Ibadan’, her father added.
And really what was the point of slaving away in class? The elderly man may not get it but Chime was living every young man’s dream: he shared a flat with Olu in Banana Island, money was flowing in steadily and his celebrity connection was on point. To put it into perspective: he was only 23 years old on his last birthday in February. He’s been living the good life since he was 19. School for what?
Death at Banana Island
‘We were at home in Ibadan, when a family friend who does not normally call came to the house with his wife. They said Chime was in an accident and we should pack our bags and come with them to Lagos. It was very strange to me and I wondered what was going on’
Mr Amaechi said. It was early on Sunday morning and they were getting ready to go to church. About that time, some friends had seen reports of it online and had called his sister. ‘I noticed someone else who I don’t talk to often called and when I picked all he was saying was “Oh my God, oh my God”‘.
It didn’t take much longer to realize that Chime was dead. The family made their way to the morgue and Lagos State University Teaching Hospital in Ikeja.
His father went in there and looked at the body. ‘I went inside. He’s my son. I went to look at him. He was still bleeding fresh blood from his nose and foaming at the mouth. It looked as if it just happened.’
No parent should have to recall looking at their child’s corpse. As Chime’s father spoke, he masked his pain bravely; a trait that his daughter Sopulu must have also picked up. Neither of them shed into tears as they spoke to us, their voices only trailing off for a few seconds at intervals. The rest of the family sobbed quietly in the corner, trying to be strong in public but failing at it.
However the family is convinced that this was no ordinary death, or an overdose as reported in the media. Sopulu in particular is insistent that they were murdered.
‘First nobody is talking about the fact that they went to eat somewhere before heading home. Someone put the video on his Snapchat and was zooming in and out of his food. That was unlike Chime. He was usually not one to show the surroundings of where he was at any given time. But on this occasion someone was recording him. Few minutes later the video was deleted, it wasn’t left there for the normal 24 hours.’
Could he have overdosed on drugs, like initial reports had it? They disagreed vehemently. ‘My son was not a drug user,’ his father said. ‘He doesn’t even drink and if he did, it was just a little. He was the one always telling his friends not to drink or smoke. For anyone to claim that he overdosed on drugs is malicious.’
It had been reported in the media, based on a Punch coverage, that police found ‘hard drugs’ in the BMW where Olu and Chime had died. ‘Then they should tell us what hard drugs they found. The drugs would have a name. Besides can two persons overdose at the same time on the same thing and die exactly the same way? It doesn’t add up.’
Again one would not expect that grieving parents would agree that it was a possibility that their child used drugs. After all, he was young and considerably successful. As we’ve seen in successful people all across the world, drugs didn’t have to be big deal that they couldn’t get if they wanted. Like Lamar Odom said about his wife, Khloe Kardashian not knowing of his drug addiction when they were married , ‘I had money in my pocket; I could score when I wanted’. Perhaps an autopsy would give them closure- Chime’s death could have been as a result of an overdose.
His father and sister would have none of that. Sopulu is of the opinion that who ever killed her brother was responsible for the dirt being thrown on his name posthumously. ‘They should show us the footage from their house. Someone who saw it said when Olu and Chime parked, a hooded figure came to drop something in their car. That person is unknown.’Her father thinks so too. ‘Already I’m skeptical of the autopsy. These substances could have been introduced to them later, given this strange individual that was said to drop something in the car. If the autopsy comes back and they say there was drugs in his system, I would be shocked but I won’t be surprised. I’m very skeptical.’
But we were not satisfied. The report the family gave of Chime was of a nice, easygoing, gentle soul. Why would anyone then want to murder him? Could it be blowback from the unresolved Tagbo death few days earlier which Davido had been accused of being complicit in? Were Olu and Tagbo killed to prevent them from talking about Tagbo’s death?
The Davido Connection
Chime’s family disagrees. They don’t think the singer was involved at all. They think it’s one of the unfair media coverage they’ve received. His father told us that the friends had been distancing themselves from music to focus on ‘real business’.
‘If you look well, you’ll see that Olu was referred to as “former DJ to Davido”. Olu’s father was already positioning him for real, big time business. Chime had little to do with the music anyway. He was just part of the bigger group as Olu’s friend. It’s not correct to include Davido in this matter’.
‘Besides’, his daughter interjects, ‘Chime and Olu were not even around when Tagbo died. They were in Ibadan. That Monday they came to conclude a deal they were doing with the Oyo State government so that had nothing to do with them. I feel this was related to their business, not Davido. Somebody wanted to take out Olu and Chime was just unfortunate to be his guardian angel. He died because he was always close to his friend.’
‘We just want justice to be done,’ her father continued. ‘As a Christian, I had accepted my fate but when I saw the reports in the media; not even the blogs this time, but Punch- I had to speak out. My son was never, never a drug user.’
As the interview wrapped up, father and child stood up, blinking at the studio light. We thanked them for sharing their story with us. They thanked us for having them. Mr Amaechi shook hands with me and once again, I expressed my condolences. ‘It’s okay’, he said resignedly, ‘it’s okay…’
But it’s not.
They may never find the answers, or if they do, they may never accept the answers. The death of a child is never an easy thing to do and most parents never recover from the shock, the grief, the guilt. As they believe that Chime was Olu’s ‘guardian angel’, the questions will always tug at their minds: what if they had never met? What if their friendship had ended when Olu left for Middlesex University. What if Chime had stayed in school himself. A thousand and one ‘what-ifs’ and they may never find an answer.