|Tessy Yembra with Famous Actress, Nike Peller|
Tessy Yembra is a name synonymous with entertainment business in Nigeria. Her creative dance steps in the albums of late Fuji Music Lord, Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister’s Fuji Gabbage and Afro Juju music creator, Sir Shina Peters’s iconic album, Ace aka Ijo Shina launched her to national limelight in the early 90s.
Since that exponential display of her dancing talent, Delta State born Princess Tessy Alero Yembra has earned a house-hold reputation across Nigeria with media reviews announcing her as the new “Queen of Fast Dance” or “Queen of Afro Juju” or better still, “Princess of Fuji Gabbage”.
Then, she was young and dashing. Today, this great dancer has become a grandmother and that was what your soar away Africa’s Number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog, Asabeafrika sought to know recently, when we paid her a courtesy visit at her moderate apartment somewhere in Fadeyi Area of Lagos (South West Nigeria).
Tessy Yembra who is planning to celebrate her 30 Years on stage any time from now told us the story of her early life and why her two marriages didn’t work. Like a moving thriller movie, the veteran entertainment consultant for the first time in history narrated the story of her two marriages with Asabeafrika. Tessy who added a year on Monday, October 24th told us about her relationship with her ex-boss, Sir Shina Peters and first civilian Governor of Osun State, Senator Isiaka Adeleke aka Serubawon. Enjoy the excerpts.
|Tessy, daughter, Dolly and grand child|
What has life taught you?
Maybe we shouldn’t be even talking about what life taught one, because life is a timeless university; no summer holiday, no semester break and no mid-term holiday. The only holiday you get out of life is the one the grave permits and no one really want to touch that end of life without spending a reasonable time on the surface. I think I should be much grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to become a grandmother early enough. The Devil played a fast one on me sometimes back, I was down with a sudden cardiovascular illness but Jesus the greatest healer, the one that reigneth in kindness and mercy showed me his mercy in good time. I thank God I was revived and today I am a living soul. I can’t hide the joy of being a grandmother and that really calls for celebration. So, the biggest lesson life has taught me is that Jesus is Lord over all our earthly affairs.
|Tessy Yembra with veteran actor Jimoh Aliu (Baba Aworo)|
How would you describe your experience as a celebrity dancer of over three decades?
|Tessy Alero Yembra, the Dance Queen|
I think I have come a long way in the Nigerian entertainment industry and I will proudly call myself a veteran. I created Nigeria’s two most popular dancing steps; Number is the Fuji Gabbage for the late Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister and the other one is for Sir Shina Peter’s Ace album. I am proud the two albums were monster hits. I was part of the success story, I remember when (Chief) Dele Momodu published the second edition of Ovation International Magazine in 1996, he wrote a story on “Hundred Influential Women in Nigeria” and I was shocked to find my name as number 45th. That was the day we were burying Papa IK Dairo, Paul Play Dairo’s father. I was in Ilesa when someone brought the magazine to me from London. I never imagine I could be remembered for creating those two dance steps—Fuji Gabbage and Ijo Shina. I felt fulfilled, the late Barrister himself crowned me as “Fuji Gabbage Queen”. I introduced Afro-Juju music dancing steps and the media crowned me as Afro-Juju Music Queen. Today we have several dancers who are doing exploits in the industry, Yeni Kuti is one of them; I respect her so much. Look at Kaffy, she has brought in a lot of innovation to her dance steps. So, I am very proud that I initiated something that became a source of livelihood for many others. Till date, people still consult me for dancers and I am principally into events management. I organize ushers for events, I handle artiste promotional stuff for old and up and coming artistes. It is my pride to see the industry grow. It is my pride to be a custodian of the industry. I thank God for His mercy upon my life till this moment.
|Tessy Yembra with Yemi Sax and Aralola|
Many years ago, you spoke on a dancing academy, how far have you gone with the project?
I have some students taking tutelage under me but I don’t have a studio. We are looking into having one and I believe God to establish one for us. But in terms of utility arena, I have a place I use for my rehearsals, that is if you are a musician and you need dancers for your video shoot, we can organize a place for you to have the rehearsal and you can pay us our bill. But if you want me to do it for you as the chaperon, then be ready to pay a premium price. My models are beautiful and creative.
|Tessy Alero Yembra to Asabeafrika 'Life has taught me so many things'|
How would you rate the dance entertainment industry in Nigeria today, would you say the industry has come of age or you think we need to do more?
If there is anything to say, I will say the dancing entertainment industry has gone far in terms of prestige and honor. Dancers today are well respected than what obtains in our own time. During our time, our parents try to discourage us and they labeled us as ‘never do wells’ but today the story have changed. And how did we know, today, Corporate Nigeria is beginning to invest in Dancing as a creative venture. Dancing is not just all about entertainment but it is a form of relaxation for those who care to dance. Dancing is now a big business and that is why you see a big companies like Nigerian Breweries pumping millions of naira through Corporate Social Responsibility Schemes with the promotion of Dancing Competitions. We have the Multina Dance Hall event that gives fame and fortune to hundreds of homes in Nigeria every year. The winner takes home a car and other emoluments and that is how to measure success. We can point to several successful dancers today who have done their industry proud.
Look at Yeni Kuti, she is a dancer with a difference. We have several
other people in that industry and we just thank God for the level of
development and awareness. But let me just say we need to give kudos to the
organizers of the Multina Dance Hall event, that is Nigerian Breweries who
brought fame and fortunes into that sub-industry of our mega entertainment
industry. We are proud of the new vision from corporate Nigeria.
|Tessy Yembra, lighted up by the good and bad of times past|
You are so close to former Osun State Governor, Senator Isiaka Adeleke aka Serubawon, tongues were wagging at a time that you are having a fling with him, how true is this?
That is a very unfortunate impression that people had of me and the much respected senator. Senator Adeleke is like a father to me; in fact he is both my father and my mother. When I was sick sometimes ago, he was one of the very few Good Samaritans who bailed me out; he paid for my medical bills. He is a very kind person, and one of his weaknesses is that he hates to see people live in distress. He will surely do something to ameliorate your distress. When I fell ill, we also had kind hearted Nigerians like Princess Toyin Kolade, Are Remi Bakare, Chief (Mrs.) Emily Sakpere and so many other people who came to my aide. But Senator Adeleke played the role of a father; he has done so many things for me including the education of my daughter when she was still in the University. Throughout her study at the University of Benin, Senator Isiaka Adeleke was there for us. He is somebody who relates to me more or less like a sister or even a daughter. I think he is a very peculiar person and that is why till date, he still has massive followership in Osun State and in the South West. Such a humble and gentle man, do you know at times if he is in America, I will ask my son, Henry Okupe who lives in America to help send things through him to me, yet he (Serubawon) wont’t see it as bad. Some people will feel proud and say “Se omo odo e ni mi ni?” (Am I your servant?) But that is not his character; he is not just educated but very enlightened, philosophical. He loves my two children, both Dolapo and Henry. So, Senator Adeleke is my godfather, and if they say I am dating him, that’s quite unfortunate for their thinking.
|Tessy Yembra with late Iyalode Adunni Bankole, Mr. James Oluwafemi Adejuwon (Scooba), Aralola and a Guest|
You mean you never dated the senator?
Honestly, it is a very disturbing impression but that is how people chose to see things especially if there is a mutual relationship between two high profile people. You will be shocked to know the number of orphans and less privileged children that Senator Adeleke fund their education but he does not like talking about it. I was part of his gubernatorial and senatorial campaigns and I can tell you that Senator Adeleke is a humanist. My relationship started with his campaign project and because he is a humanist, till date he still do stuffs for some of us who work with him. He is just a good man. That is all.
|Tessy Yembra with ex-Ifako Ijaiye LGA boss, Deji Doherty|
There are allegations that you are not in good term with Sir Shina Peters your former boss?
I don’t have any problem with Shina Peter, when he heard that I had a grandchild, he was so happy. I met him at Oba Adekeye’s party sometimes ago and when he saw me he was the first to announce my new status as a grandmother. He started praise singing me and even named my grandson, Ayomiposi. He was so delighted and for a whole hour he was singing my praise. We do talk; he is my brother and boss for life. Of course, God is my supreme boss, but Shina Peters remains my boss for life.
|Tessy Yembra to the GDA 'I feel like being in a marriage now'|
You had your first issue, Henry for ex-Presidential Spokesman, Dr. Doyin Okupe’s brother, what is the relationship like at the moment?
I have good relationship with the larger Okupe family; there is no event they organize that I don’t attend.
What is your ex’s name?
|The GDA with Tessy's daughter, Dolapo Araba with mum & son|
I learnt he is a junior brother to Dr. Doyin Okupe?
You are right.
Is he still alive?
Very much alive, he stays in Washington DC. He stays there with his family.
So, what is the relationship like, does he relates to you?
We are adults and it is normal for us to relate. I speak with my son and once in a while I hear his voice.
So, what led to the break up in the first place?
It is a long story and I don’t feel comfortable saying much of it on blogs or news papers. Maybe everyone should wait for my memoir.
|The GDA with Tessy Yembra's in-law, Mr. Femi Araba, daughter & grand son|
Why my marriages didn’t work…
I think a lot of young couple can learn from your experience if you share it?
I don’t really want to discuss it; I think the whole essence of it is to educate people. We suffered youth exuberance in those days; our marriage couldn’t work as a result of our immaturity. We were young and immature, with various interests and ambitions troubling our young souls. He wanted to travel to America and I wanted to hit the television as a news caster. I became pregnant and I couldn’t proceed further because you cannot work as either a news caster or air hostess when you are pregnant. Already I and Caroline Akinloye were signed then for the television, but when I became pregnant, I couldn’t go further. And on his side, he was equally angry that if his mother should know that I was pregnant, she wouldn’t allow him to travel again and all that. And I said to him, ‘you can go and study, if you are successful, it is my son’s grace. I won’t try to stop you’. And that was how he left for America. He was the one who jilted me.
He got there and married another woman after his studies. What do you expect me to do? Life has to move on, I can’t kill myself. But it never came easy then yet I had to face reality and move on.
|Tessy Yembra takes mind memory lane in encounter with Asabeafrika|
Can you ever forgive him for jilting you?
Absolutely. Why? I am not God, I have a son for him, I relate with his family. My son is doing well in the United State of America. He (Tayo) has a senior sister, Titi Okupe, I have forgotten her husband’s name. She is in the US, she was the one who reconciled us and started doing the necessary things for their son until they took him to America. So, once they are good enough to recognize their responsibilities, why am I angry? I thank God for my life, the boy is doing fine in the United States and he relates well with me and his father. So, would I say I want to marry him again? By gone is by gone. I thank God for the evolution of time.
|The GDA with Tessy Yembra with daughter Dolapo, Hubby, Mr. Femi Araba and grand son|
You equally had a second marriage which didn’t work as well; can you tell us the experience with your daughter’s dad?
I hope you are not here to rubbish the core of my memoir? Any way, he was a gentle motor dealer, very easy going guy from Ondo state in the Ilaje area. I am very close to his family and he has a twin brother called Federick-Jaburata Egbayilo, he has a mechanic workshop at Fola Agoro, he is doing well. Recently when they lost their mother I was there, I played my role as a wife and in-law. I even did the master of ceremony. And when he celebrated his birthday recently, I was there. We are in very good term and his daughter has made both of us proud in the sense that she has made me and him grandparent. I don’t have problem with him, yes, I am a single parent and maybe that is what destiny chose for me. The two men had their shortcomings, they had their flaws but life must continue. A philosopher once said ‘life is a tragedy for those who feel and a comedy for those who think’. For me, life remains a comedy.
Would you say, he too jilted you or what really happened?
Maybe I didn’t like polygamy. That is my simple response to that question. He was a ladies’ man and that made me find my own path, I never wanted life to be a tragedy for me. So, I married my children and Dr. Jesus was my husband and he is still my husband.
|The GDA Speaks to Tessy Alero Yembra at the Back of her modest apartment with her grand son|
With two marriages gone badly, would you say marriage is not a good experience?
No, I can’t say so. Marriage is for better or worse. Some people celebrate thirty, forty years of marriage. I was not lucky with my own marriages; I had bitter experience with my two marriages. It is not that I am happy to be a single mother but at times, in life, you have to create your own happiness within you. If life throws it darts at you, don’t lose hope, don’t lose life, you must live and find a new thing that will burn off your energy. You need to be happy. Life should really be a comedy. For me, marriage didn’t work and I cannot say I am happy about it. That is my honest submission. And I won’ say marriage is bad, either.
|Tessy Yembra, Drummer Girl Ara Lola & Late Iyalode Adunni Bankole|
If you are given a second chance to have it all over again, among the two men who would you honestly love to have as a husband?
This is a bad question and I don’t want to create confusion in their heart.
Maybe for the sake of knowledge…
Ok, Tayo is a very lovely man. He is very loving and easy going man, I spent my youth age with him and he was the first love of my life, the lover of my youth age. If not that he travelled out, all these won’t happen. He was a great lover.
Do you have a message for young women in marriage, having being a victim of marital break?
If you are married and happy in your marriage, I congratulate you. If you are married and your marriage broke up, I also congratulate you. Life like I said earlier is a tragedy to those who feel and a comedy to those who think. There are lots of bad marriages in town, I call them marriage of bondage and you can also find many single parents who are taking it in their own stride. If you see many of them today, between the first and sixth month of marriage, they are out of wedlock, they are not as patient as ours. Forget my own experience; mine is just one among many. But the men of today are even lazy. They want to marry readymade women who will feed them and clothe them at the same time. In those days, men and women complemented each other in their union. I remember when I was married to my last husband Prince Segun Beckley (Dolapo’s dad) there was a way we do things to complement each other but the story is different today. The marriage of today is one way marriage, the man does the home work while the wife wins the bread. There is a huge industry of lazy men in town; these men want to date readymade women. They want to date women older than them for material wealth. No love again, there is no love in marriages again, what they now target is money. You now have an industry of men who ask for your bank account before they marry you. So, if you even ask those who stayed in their marriages for years, like my good sister Sammie Peters, they will tell you their experience which in most cases is not often rosy. So if you are lucky with your marriage, I congratulate you. If you have it other way round, I congratulate you as well.
But in the real sense, would you have loved to be in a marriage?
Of course I would have loved to marry if my men were not funny. I would have loved to live with my husband till deaths do us apart. But see what fate has done to me in the long run. Would I kill myself? I have taken it in my stride; I am married to my children and their well being. I don’t pray it happens to any of my children, though. I want them to be happy in their marriage life and live in happiness. But for me, that was my destiny. I think my destiny was bound to happen and like someone who thinks, life to me is a comedy.
But why didn’t you take a third chance after you lost the first two?
If the right man comes around, what stops me? I am sorry to mention her name, look at Madam Abbah Folawiyo, she had her bad moments but she was able to re-marry. And she stood with the man till he died. If my case was like that I wouldn’t have said no to God. If I find the right man, I will go with him.
What are the features you expect in Mr. Right?
God fearing, kind, knowledgeable; and he must be able to take good care of me because I don’t want to suffer with any man again. I have done that in the past. I am not also going to be a liability to him. I am creatively engaged and I can fend for myself. So, he won’t need to really break his neck to fend for me, all I need is care and understanding, simple.
All you are saying is that you are very available for marriage?
That is it. I am fully available. Love and marriage has no barrier. We have seen women in their sixties re-marry. Pastor Kumuyi’s case with his new wife is a classical example. Apart from that, I am still very young with lots of experience. I am looking up to what God has in stock for me. Joke apart, marriage is good and I so much desire it like any other woman. That I failed in my early marriages does not mean I will fail in a subsequent one; all I want is the man with the right attitude.
You are from which part of Nigeria?
I am partly Irobo and partly Itsekiri and I have some Rivers blood in me. I am from Delta state.
Tell us about your parent?
My father’s name is late Chief Dickson Yembra, he was a chief accountant with UTC before he passed away. My mother is a trader, her name is Victoria Yembra. She was a very hardworking business woman before she passed away. A workaholic, she believes in labor. My mother used to tell us that you cannot go bankrupt with hard-work. A lot of people knew my mother in this Fadeyi area she used to sell clothes, bags of Cassava flour, bush meat and later operated a restaurant. She was famous in her life time; if you go around and say you want to know about Mama Fadeyi, they will tell you about her. She was also called “Mama Baby”. It was just two of us I and my elder brother, Richard, who is now late.