Waka queen, Salawa Abeni, tells ‘Nonye Ben-Nwankwo about the challenges she faced during her ill health
Was it because of your health issues that you titled your latest album ‘Recovery’?
Oh yes. It was basically because of it. Thank God I am very okay now.
We learnt you had stroke.
How true is that?
I don’t know where people got the stroke story from. My father didn’t die of stroke. My mother is still alive even at 96 years. People are just peddling rumours.But what was the problem with you, what were you diagnosed with?
My blood pressure was very high. I think it started when I lost my son 13 years ago. He wasn’t my only son. But then, no matter what, if you have 10 fingers and you lose one, you will feel the pain.
Were you not aware that your blood pressure was rising?
No. I wasn’t aware. It was five years ago that I found out. But this particular sickness that got me down, I wouldn’t know where it came from because I performed that Friday. I went to meet colleagues at Fantasy Land (Lagos). We wanted to do a collaboration for (Barrack) Obama’s inauguration. I was dressing up for the show. I was about to tie my gele (headgear). The person that ties my headgear was doing it. I wanted to tell her that the scarf was too tight for me. I raised my hand and suddenly, I found out that I couldn’t make use of my right hand again.
Did it get better?
No. So I had go to my mother’s place. She called a local masseur to massage the hand for me. They used candle to rub on the hand. Thereafter, I still went back for the show.
Oh, you did? Even with the hand like that?
Oh yes. In order to exercise the hand, I told my driver to sit beside me so that I could drive. I drove from Ijebu Ode to Lagos. Eventually, I went to the hospital. My doctor checked my BP and said it was a little bit high. He told me I needed to rest. The late Dr. Ayinde Barrister, my dad (that was what I used to call him), came to my house. But that was after I had called him. I saw him and I started crying.
Why did you start crying when you saw him?
It was simply because I couldn’t stand to welcome him. He spent so many hours with me. He told me I shouldn’t worry that I would be fine. I knew I wasn’t feeling fine. From my neck down to my legs were dead. My brain was functioning very well. I didn’t sound sick on the phone.
Why didn’t you travel abroad?
I did. But before then, my aunt took me to a hospital in Lagos. They couldn’t find out what was wrong with me. I did so many tests. But I wasn’t getting better. That was when I had to go to London with my daughter.
Did you get any better in London?
Not really. I left London for Paris.
Were you able to pay for your hospital bills on your own or did you get help from the public?
I had a lot of money in my account. But I spent all my money. I got the phone numbers of some high personalities in the country. They were able to render their assistance. The Lagos State government helped me as well. Some people started dodging my calls. Some people said I was lying concerning my ill health. Some would give you excuses. Some would say they gave me money the other day so I shouldn’t expect another. I know when I get my career back, I would be okay.
Are you fully recovered now?
I am okay. But I really want my career to bounce back. That will make me happy.
But don’t you think you should leave your career and rest for a while?
I am okay. Even my doctor in Paris still told me that I needed to rest. The last time I saw him, he asked me, ‘Salawa, you are still singing?’ I told him that my country is not like his country. If you don’t work, you won’t feed. Who will I call again? Some people will give me once, then will give me the second time reluctantly and then, the third time, they would tell you in black and white that they are not giving you again.
Kollington Ayinla is the father of your kids. Did you reach out to him when you were ill?
He heard. Our son told him. He called me immediately and asked me why I was sick.
Did he eventually come to see you?
Four months later, during Ramadan, I was in my aunty’s house, he called. He said he just saw it in the papers. I asked him why he couldn’t even call his son to ask how I was. Two months after, he came. He also called a couple of times.
But did he render any form of financial assistance?
Hmmmm. No comment.
You always say you trained your kids all the while you were separated from him. Was it your choice to train them or he didn’t bother helping out?
That is the way God wanted it. It is difficult to train one child let alone four of them. Then, I could wear one particular attire to perform at 10 or more events. I never owed their school fees.