Though death has stopped the beat of highlife singer, Fatai Olagunju, popularly known as Rolling Dollar, his family wants his fans to keep the tempo going, writes GBENGA ADENIJI
The location was the Millennium Estate, Oko-Oba, Agege, Lagos residence of deceased highlife singer, Fatai Olagunju, otherwise called Rolling Dollar. His two wives, Zainab and Serifat, some of his children including Sikiru-who is the singer’s 50-year-old first son, wore a pensive mood as our correspondent walked into their home.
It was evident from their faces that they were yet to come to terms with the reality of the death of the 86-year-old songbird, Rolling Dollar, who breathed his last on June 12, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the acclaimed “fairest and freest” election in Nigeria. The musician shot to stardom a few years back via a successful album, Won Kere si Number Wa. But despite his fame, the family is worried about the education of his younger children.
One of the children, Jamiu, told our correspondent that he was still saddened by the death of his father, expressing uncertainty over his future. He explained that he and his other siblings would miss their father’s pieces of advice.
The young Olagunju regretted that his late father was unable to fulfil the promise he made to him concerning his education.
Jamiu stated, “Anytime he was around, he used to advise us on things we should do and the ones we should avoid. He promised me that he would make sure I studied up to university level. It is unfortunate that when my father was making the promise, he did not know that he would die this year.”
He added that when the news of his father’s death was broken to him, the first thing he remembered was the promise he made to him, regarding his university education.
“When I was told about his death, I remembered what he promised me. I also thought about my education. It is my desire to ba singer like my father but I want to go to school first. To honour my father, I will take to music someday. He became popular as a highlife singer but I want to be a hip-hop artiste,” he added.
Rolling Dollar might have arrived on the big stage late in life but his works were recognised by highlife lovers, music buffs and fellow musicians. After his death, President Goodluck Jonathan was one of many notable individuals who praised the good work of the late singer. Zainab, who had just finished saying her prayers, told SUNDAY PUNCH that she was yet to believe that her husband had left her forever. She recalled that she married the musician after her first marriage failed, adding that Rolling Dollar was yet to hit the stardom when he married her.
She said, “I was staying with an aunt at Olorunsogo, Mushin area of Lagos about 13 years ago when I met him. I used to see him pass by but I did not know that he had interest in me. I was a bit sick when he called me on a Sunday. He jokingly asked me if I would not mind preparing Ramadan food for him because it was the fasting period. He later noticed some patches at both corners of my mouth, indicating that I had been sick. I told him I had used some drugs but he insisted on buying some more for me.”
Zainab said the musician did not even stop at that. According to her, he also prepared rice and asked one of his children to take some to her house.
She added, “I later learnt that the year he met me was exactly three years after the death of his wife, who left three children behind. We got married in 2001 and I promised to take care of the children for him. His caring and honest nature drew me to him.”
She further stated that the family was apprehensive of how to cater for the children of the late artiste, who she said, did not leave anything behind. Zainab appealed to his fans to stand by them at their moment of grief.
Rolling Dollar’s younger wife, Serifat, who said she bore a boy and a girl for the deceased singer, also reiterated that their husband did not leave any money to train their children.
When the highlife maestro was alive, Serifat said he cared so much for the children and would do anything to make them happy. But his death seemed to have caught her and the rest of the family unawares.
“Our husband did not leave any money. We hope his fans and government will stand by us. The major challenge we are facing right now is how to ensure that our children continue their education. I am a businesswoman and I only survive on the little profit I make,” she stated.
Rolling Dollar’s eldest child, Sikiru, who said he left the Nigerian Educational and Development Council in 1996, told SUNDAY PUNCH that he left his father at seven.
He stated that he was unhappy because of the inability to see his father before he died, adding that he was also sick when he was informed about his ill-health.
Sikiru said, “My father is one man that I like so much. I live at Ikenne in Ogun State. I was so sad when I was told that he was ill because I was also indisposed at the time. I thought that his sickness was not something serious because he was a strong man until I was told of the urgent need to see him. Apart from my sickness, I was also broke but I pleaded that those around him, especially his wives, should take good care of him. Immediately I was strong enough to move around, I set out for Lagos to see him but it was unfortunate that he died before I could reach him. I was on the road when I received the call about his death.”
Sikiru however eulogised his father’s virtues, saying he was happy that God gave the family a wonderful father who never maltreated his children
“My father taught us never to misbehave, steal or look down on anybody. These are some of the virtues I imbibed from him and I am happy to say that the lessons are of great value to me. They have assisted my journey in life.”
Although 50-year-old Sikiru left his father a long time ago, he said that he once followed him to a music show in Port Novo, Benin Republic. He also said he visited him at regular intervals and that during some of the visits, he watched his rehearsals.
“He was a great performer. He was lively on the stage despite his age and his sense of humour during performances drew a large followership to him,” said Sikiru.
Folk singer, Segun Akinlolu, otherwise known as Beautiful Nubia, described the late entertainer as a colourful and youthful character who was always full of joy and life. Nubia said each time he met the deceased artiste, he would give him a big hug and pray for him.
“He was full of appreciation for our music and called himself my ‘Number One Fan.’ He loved playing music and each time he climbed the stage, he thrilled fans in a special way. Nobody wanted Rolling Dollar to leave the stage. The last time I spoke with him was a couple of months back. He appeared more subdued than usual but we discussed his participation in this year’s Eniobanke Music Festival. It’s sad the he will not be there but we shall celebrate him at the festival,” Nubia said.
The Oh! What A Feeling singer added that as Rolling Dollar was being remembered by friends and fans, it was crucial for his legacy to be protected and sustained. He stated that every artist is a blessing to the society and their passing should always be met with positive reflection and honest effort to continue their works and times in the collective memory of all.
On Thursday, the eight-day Fidau prayer was held for Rolling Dollar who was buried in his house located in Imaya, Ikorodu area of Lagos State. As sympathisers continue to call on the family to commiserate with them, how to secure the future of the children the artiste left behind is now the major concern.
The late singer was said to have been wrongly diagnosed of malaria at the first hospital where he was taken to. Another hospital in Surulere initially reportedly diagnosed him with pneumonia. But after looking into his medical history, especially the record from a US hospital where he was first treated before returning home from his last trip a few weeks ago, further diagnoses revealed he had cancer of the lungs.
Pa Dollar’s many wives and final wish
The musician married five wives and had nine children. Two women who were with him until his death gave birth to four of the children. The eldest of the four children is aged 12 and he is in primary five. His first son said the late singer pampered his children.
“My father would go to any length to ensure the comfort of his children,” he said, recalling how he showered him with gifts as the only child of his mother.
He added that the late entertainer used to buy gifts from Domino stores in Lagos whenever he was returning from a show a long time ago. He also created time to take his children to his hometown in Ede, Osun State, before his death. Sikiru said his father would fight any of his wives that beat his children.
One of the wives, Zainab, said she could not fulfil the final wish of the late singer. Narrating Rolling Dollar’s frantic effort to see his children before his death, Zainab said he begged her to bring the children to him when he was at a hospital in Surulere, Lagos. She said she was taking the children to him the next day when she was told that he had passed on.
SUNDAY PUNCH also learnt that the late singer never allowed women to cook his food till he died. One of his wives said he took that decision to avoid being served a meal that didn’t have the taste he wanted.
His two wives said he was not a rich man in terms of monetary value, but he was wealthy when one considers the name he left behind, his prestige and character. They said he had no money in the bank but he was always happy when he began to sing.
Two weeks before his death, our correspondent was at his Oko-Oba residence to interview him. It was exactly three days after his return from the music tour of the US and as he slept on a mat in his sitting room, he told our correspondent that he was too sick to grant the interview that was earlier scheduled for that day.