Custodian Interview with Bobo Ajudua- Lawyer to Davido

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Davido and Bobo Ajudua

Law is one of the grand old professions. Music is also one of the grand old artforms. Naturally, there’s a point where both meet. Bobo Ajudua as Davido’s Lawyer is someone who’s worth listening to in understanding how both worlds meld. Find below excerpts of a conversation we had with him recently;

First of all, what’s your relationship with Davido – Why and how did you become his lawyer?
The answer to this begins all the way back in secondary school. David and I attended the same secondary school. He was about two or three years my junior and naturally with such a gap there are very few in his year that I can say I truly related to or had a relationship with. He, Ashley Ebong, Tobenna Ofili and a few others happened to be one of those few I was naturally drawn to from that whole school set. So basically since then I’ve seen this few as my little brothers and felt almost a duty to protect or say look after them ever since.

As you would have it, the time came for me to graduate and leave the boys behind but despite this we always stayed in touch. At the time MSN messenger was popping and when David first moved out to the States, he kept in touch. He would constantly send messages saying what’s up and asking me to listen to one musical experiment or the other he had come up with. This was way before Dami Duro or Back When. In fact at this point he mainly focused on producing and helping his cousins get their own tracks together. Imagine signing on at 1:00am in time to put in serious late night work on the latest love interest of your life through what was almost the only medium for same (MSN) and the first thing you get are 3 MSN messages from a kid all the way out in the States “Hey Bobo, how’s it going? Just worked on something I want you to please listen to for me quickly bro. Won’t take a few minutes of your time.” Followed by a data transfer notification before you even said okay. Each time I’d be like “Oh God. David what again, let me hear word o.” But the boy was persistent! He would get me to listen, and best believe right up until about 2 years ago I had a laptop full of so many of his old unreleased and even unfinished songs including songs he has grown to hate and I’d grown to love. At this time, it was unusual for a ‘senior’ and a ‘junior’ to have relations unless it was a younger brother’s best friend or some link of the sort so David generally appreciated the audience and feedback I’d always give him especially considering the fact at the time, few including his own friends knew him for music and even those that knew he had the passion for same hadn’t accepted him as a vocalist. To all this I would award the bond and relationship we share till this very day. It’s amazing to have witnessed growth and also amazing to be able to look back and say I was there not at the start but before it. An extremely proud big brother I am.

As for how I became his lawyer, that story doesn’t date far back and happens to be much simpler. I’m currently 5 years at the Nigerian Bar however I haven’t been practicing since then as I only moved back completely to Nigeria last year. David as you can understand has what I would call “trust issues”. His success has brought him through plenty of people, some real, plenty fake, and this has left him with very few he can truly trust. As a result of this when it comes to things like legal services for example, David has used his family lawyers as that would be the safest bet considering his closeness to his father. Once I moved back and he learned I was practicing, it was very quick. In fact, one day we were having lunch one afternoon and he went “Bobo, I hope you know you’re my lawyer right?” and it’s safe to say it effectively started from there.

Q: What are the legal services required by a superstar like Davido and how do you cater to those services?

Oh dear, where do we start? The legal services required for someone like Davido who is arguably the biggest artiste of the continent, are almost endless. Any lawyer doing their job with an artiste of the stature of David competently knows that everything down to his breath needs to be documented and filed. Literally everything has to be watertight. Naturally someone like him is a target for many fraudulent persons. The potential dangers are endless. They come in the form of shady agreements, paperwork, offers, deals, and more importantly, people. Truth be told, the potential loopholes are endless and considering the Nigerian society we live in where there are plenty of legal loopholes in the music/entertainment industry which are taken for granted.

Primarily, the work revolves around contracts, contracts research and more contracts. I have literally a template for his each and every single move. As you know it’s a show today in Congo, a show tomorrow in Paris. Fees and terms of agreement vary for each and every single show. This has me doing research into legislation in place in countries I have never been to before and may never even visit just to ensure we aren’t caught off guard and there is no funny business involved. The types of shows/appearances and persons involved also vary, so this means dealing and communicating with a lot of people. Some will make the job extremely easy and some extremely difficult.

Then comes the contracts and services which live longer than hours and days. Endorsements, recording artiste contracts and company executives/staff contracts even company incorporations of say his record label, Davido Music Worldwide. This aspect is extremely interesting. David finds inspiration at the wildest of hours. When the average person is asleep say 3/4am, David is awake working, thinking, scheming, recording, planning. This inspiration I speak of ranges from not just his music but to even his business ventures. And as it comes to him, he relays almost immediately. Take the narrative of the signing of ‘Dremo’ for example. Best believe that David called me at 12:00 in the middle of the night to tell me he had just heard this rapper Dremo from Ibadan spit and he wants him signed in the next 24 hours as he wanted the official announcement the same evening as ‘Mayorkun’ whose contract terms we had been negotiating for the past 2 weeks. You can only imagine what the next 24 hours were like. I spent half of the day on conference calls having heated discussions/negotiations with lawyers and even parents of the artistes to ensure I secured fair and watertight recording contracts for the two talented young gentlemen. Thankfully, the stature of a client like Davido and label like DMW means in most of such negotiations we maintain a dominant position. However, this is never abused. I must admit, David gives the best recording contracts to up and coming artistes and I’ve come across quite a few.

Then we have his endorsements/sponsorships which are vast and require thorough and diligent perusal as well as back and forth. The layman’s concerns are simple, ‘How much am I getting? What do I need to do in return?’ those are in essence the clauses they are interested in. But legal practice and experience teaches you there are so many other aspects if left untied could leave room for serious disputes. It’s my job to ensure David appreciates every aspect of this as well as the need to be patient especially in his excitement to seal many of these deals ASAP.

The last and most important, counseling. I am a lawyer to David and not just Davido as well as a friend so it’s hard to call this a ‘service’ though in my profession, it is. We discuss any and everything including family and personal matters. Sometimes he has some impulsive ideas that could prove harmful or not so beneficial in the long run, it is my duty to talk him out of it. He listens generally when I take the time to explain things he may not have averted his mind to initially. However, and especially when he knows he won’t have my approval or support, he goes ahead without consulting me. See that as his way of saving fight.

Q: As his lawyer, what is the fee structure- are you on a retainer or is it on a contract by contract basis and are you tasked with finding opportunities for him or is your job merely on a transactional basis?

We work on a contract by contract basis. Regarding finding opportunities for him, no no. David has an extremely capable manager in the form of Asa and President of DMW in the form of Banko. Together they have built a fortress and that department is completely covered. So truth be told, I’m not tasked with that at all. However, using my connections and as a result of my relationship with him, many approach me with ideas, endorsements or show booking offers for him and I relay same directly to him. Also as a friend, I naturally would keep an eye out for anything I feel would he would be interested in and would help him. But like I said, I’m not tasked with sourcing or soliciting for these at all. His cup runneth over.

Q: Since you became his lawyer, how many contracts have you brokered for him and what has their general purview been?

Let’s see, since becoming his lawyer, David has launched his own record label, signed 4 Recording artistes, signed road managers for each artiste, a president for DMW. He has featured in over a million shows both public and private in Africa, Europe, America, Asia and at the moment is actually on tour in Europe having just completed shows in London and Berlin. On the endorsement side, David this year alone has seen out deals with Close Up, Pepsi as well as the end of his MTN contract. However other major telecommunication houses are on the prowl and we are still currently in talks with a bid to finalize another deal. In addition, David has rented out apartments here and there for his artistes in fulfillment of his contractual obligations. Each and every of these moves require contractual agreements. I’ll let you do the math.

Q: Davido signed a deal with Sony Music earlier this year- a move unprecedented for the Nigerian market- were you involved in that deal and what are your general thoughts on it in relation to its significance in the Nigerian music industry?

Oh yes. This was certainly one of the peaks of David’s career. You would not believe how long this agreement has been in the works for. People kept asking “Where is David? When do we get new music from him?” Only so much could be said as it was all to be kept under wraps until finalized. Unprecedented is the word. The very first of this nature and as a result, a brand new door has been opened in the Nigerian Music Industry.

This deal is not one I was crucial to. Negotiations and brokering of this agreement had commenced before I actually made my move back to Nigeria though I was kept in the loop from the very beginning. The man tasked with looking after David for this agreement was none other than Joel A. Katz and with no less than 43 years’ experience and a Billboard ranking as the No 1. Entertainment attorney. You may also know him as Michael Jackson’s lawyer. An inspiring senior practitioner fit for a ground breaking deal of this nature; you can be rest assured an extremely tidy job was done.

The significance of this? The doors have been opened. Features with artistes of the West have been a thing for a while. But an agreement of this value has opened the floodgates. In fact, I am already hearing that Sony are interested in offering Wizkid a contract of similar value. I’m not sure if that’s done already. It truly is big. Nigerian music has always been worldwide but now we are about to properly infiltrate the biggest music industry in the world. I am an extremely proud friend and lawyer and Nigerian and extremely happy to be part of the set up. God bless our days.

Photo Credits: Bobo Ajudua (Instagram), Davido (Ray Fiasco for NATIVE).