• Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Return of The MandatorsPlaying to Win: How Strategy Really


Our meeting that bright Saturday afternoon wasn’t a chanced one. We had agreed to meet at Bar Continental, at Isaac John Street, Ikeja GRA, Lagos. The Mandators was in town.

For today’s young hippy music lovers, the name The Mandators will not ring a bell, but for the very old-school ones and lovers of reggae music in the late 1970s and 1980s, it will.

The Mandators was a music group made up of Victor Essiet and his then wife, Peggy Essiet, who died a few years after the duo parted ways. If you call them the then Nigeria’s best kept secret, you will not be wrong. Their videos had been aired to thousands of viewers across Nigeria via the then largest TV network in Africa, NTA. Their performances, at the time, were legendary.

The Mandators emerged on the Nigerian music scene in 1979, with the release of their debut album, ‘Sunrise.’ Three years later, they released ‘Imagination,’ an album they did and later toured with another reggae star, Majek Fashek. Much later, their album ‘Crisis,’ caught the country like wild harmattan fire. Before long, they had become a household name. It was released on Polygram/Nigeria label with a huge commercial turn over running into half a million. It was a huge commercial success for a reggae album. After ‘Crisis,’ they recorded three more records: ‘Rat Race, Rebel and Storm.’

However, 12 years ago, Victor travelled to the United States in search of greener pastures. He returned to the country in 2006, to launch a new album that was not a success, largely because the taste of Nigerians for music has shifted from reggae to a popular form – ‘hip hop.’

“What I encountered then was very terrible,” recalls a frightened Essiet. “Some people turned on me and tried to frustrate everything I did. But this will not happen again. The country was worse in 2006 than I had left it when I travelled about 13 years ago.”

The Mandators is back now, however, with a resolve to make things work and never to be swindled again. Although, so much water has passed under the bridge since Essiet left Nigeria, yet he insists that he still has a place in the hearts of Nigerians who truly love his music regardless of how populated the music scene is with various hip hop artistes.

“I am not trying to stage a comeback,” he says. “I have not been forgotten. Everyday, although I have been away for a long time, people still know me. I am a musician and I will continue to be until I pass on. I don’t have any profession except music. I just left for the United States because I wanted to go and do something new. I am not using this platform to stage a comeback to the music industry in Nigeria.”

Not many will agree with Essiet on this. Only a handful of music lovers in this young generation will most likely remember who he is or the role he played in the 1980s on the Nigerian music scene. Perhaps the launch of his new album titled: ‘Freedom Train’ will make him become visible again.

“We want to bring the swagger back home,” he tells me. He is currently enjoying a fruitful and successful career in the United States, where he had been touring different states and some parts of South America.

“Now that I have a new album coming out, I want to have a business replica of what I have abroad. I just finished a single album. I want people to know I have not forgotten about Nigeria and the music industry has grown,” he says.

The Mandators could be categorised among musicians like Onyeka Onwenu, Sunny Ade, late Christy Essien Igbokwe, Daniel Wilson, Evi Edna Ogoli, Ras Kimono, among others, who were protest musicians. The thematic preoccupation of their music bothers on the daily struggles of Nigerians for survival and their post-colonial disillusionment. The poverty stricken images from Makoko and Maroko areas of Lagos are very common in musical videos of that era. They are symbolic of the general despair, hopelessness and lack of faith of Nigerians in the then military rule.