The late Ilerioluwa Aloba, better known as MohBad, was one of the Afrobeats genre’s rising stars. Nigerian fans have taken to the streets, seeking answers for his death at a Lagos hospital under vague circumstances.
News of the 27-year-old’s death in a clinic after treatment for an ear infection, filtered in last Tuesday. Within hours of his death, the six-foot artist was buried by members of his family with videos on social media showing his neck bent unnaturally to fit into the coffin. His wife and infant son were not present at the funeral.
That, and footage of attacks reportedly sponsored by fellow musician Naira Marley whose record label Marlian Records the late artist was signed to until last year, triggered nationwide outrage.Thousands of Nigerians seek answers for the passing of the late Ilerioluwa Aloba, who performed under the moniker MohBad.
Nigerian authorities said they exhumed his body on Thursday amid calls for a probe into the death.
A candlelight vigil took place in Lagos late Thursday, after similar remembrance events in other parts of the country.
In addition, fans on social media have called for justice for MohBad.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu tweeted Thursday that he was “not oblivious to the sad passing” of Aloba.
He said: “I would like to assure everyone that I am not oblivious to the sad passing of Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Imole Aloba (Mohbad).
“We have been closely working behind the scenes with relevant authorities, and keenly following the ongoing investigations.
*However, in order to boost the investigations, I have invited the Department of State Services (DSS) to join the investigation and widen the dragnet with inter-agency collaboration and use of best in class technology to unearth the truth.
“I have instructed that all those who may have played any role whatsoever in any event leading to the death of MohBad be made to face the law after a thorough investigation.
“I hereby plead with all those who may have vital information that may assist the investigation process to avail the investigating team with such. I have also appealed to the investigating team to guarantee the confidentiality and protection of all witnesses who may come forward with vital information or indicative evidence that may assist the process.
“The Police and the DSS have promised to brief the public on their efforts periodically.
“I also appeal to all friends and fans of the deceased to stay calm and refrain from making inflammary utterances and reaching prejudicial conclusions on this matter. Staying calm and following the process will be our most solemn tribute to the memory of the departed talent.
“I hereby commiserate with the family, friends, colleagues, and fans all over the world on Imole’s sad demise. I wish everyone love and light, and may his soul rest in peace. Amen.”
Aloba’s mother says popular Nigerian singer tied to son’s death
Aloba, known for songs such as “Feel Good” and “Peace,” was a rising star in the Afrobeats genre. He first came to prominence in 2019, and was signed on to the influential record label of Nigerian singer Naira Marley.
Aloba departed Marley’s record label in 2022 after a falling out with the singer. According to Nigerian newspaper Daily Trust, Aloba’s mother Promise Aloba believes Naira Marley is “connected to her son’s death.”
“I know my son, he told me that Naira Marley usually threatened him,” Promise Aloba said, according to the paper. “Please Nigerians help me to look for him; please have mercy on me; that is all you can do for me.”
Marley’s label has rebuked the allegations, with Naira Marley referring to Aloba as a brother.
“No family is perfect, families have disagreement, but no harm whatsoever was wished on MohBad. So many things left unsaid but the love was always there,” the Malian Records label posted on social media.
Grief spills to the cities of Nigeria
Consequently, there have been a number of protests, as well as a procession of youths since Thursday singing his name and calling for an investigation while marching to a tribute concert with many musicians in attendance.
Some of the attendees hoisted his portrait above their heads. Others wore his face on their shirts.
“I don’t know him personally but I feel really sad and heartbroken,” said 25-year-old Temitope Keji who braved the Lagos traffic to join the concert. “If the case had come out more clearly, maybe Nigerians would have fought for him the way they are supporting him now, Maybe he wouldn’t be dead now.”
The police have been slow to act but exhumed his body for an autopsy on Thursday. Meanwhile, Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwoolu has joined the fray, calling for a thorough investigation and revealing that he had invited Nigeria’s secret police to help.
Nigeria debt burden soars as Tinubu Borrows Over N1.5trn From World Bank in 4 months
More troubles for travellers as Nigerian passport face ‘devaluation’
‘A sense of closure’
Some of the videos showed Aloba fleeing from assailants, beaten or bleeding from open wounds. Fans have accused Naira Marley, a British Nigerian arrested for cyber-fraud in Nigeria in 2019 and multiple times for gang violence in the United Kingdom, of being behind the ordeal.
Aloba had left the label in 2022, citing a number of grievances, including unpaid royalties in his three-year stint at the label.
Aloba’s baritone and moving lyrics had defined him as a unique artist.
Since his death, his music has dominated the airwaves. His songs also currently occupy the top three places on the Apple Music Top 100 in Nigeria and on Billboard’s trending songs global chart.
Some of his fans are yet to come to terms with his death.
Keji, who became a fan after falling in love with his addictive, KPK, song in 2020, sat on the floor and cried after a friend sent her a video of his lifeless body in the back of a car.
She was saddened that Aloba who was also known as Imole, which means “light” in Yoruba, was not alive to witness the tributes to him and his music’s chart-topping popularity. “He has been singing about peace and light,” she said. “I pray in my heart that his spirit be at peace wherever he is out there.”
Like her, Ameen Animashaun, a 23-year-old writer who told Al Jazeera he is obsessed with his music said he is still struggling to speak about him in the past tense.
“Mohbad was a true artist. He was brilliant in every sense of the word and I hope the autopsy sheds more light on the actual cause of his death,” he said. “I think the autopsy report will give me a sense of closure.”
The evidence of his mistreatment has stoked a conversation about how local labels treat young artists who, desperate for their big break, become entrapped in parasitic contracts and bullied when they try to exit the arrangement.
For years, the Nigerian music industry has been largely funded through proceeds of illicit enterprises, according to Foza Fawehinmi, a creative economy lawyer at entertainment consultancy, Zaeda Oracle. And financiers have frequently become combative, resorting to criminal tactics to recoup music investments.
“Institutional funding is still trickling in; it’s not serving up to 20 percent of the industry as it is,” she told Al Jazeera. “Some of the industry is still heavily reliant on this unscrupulous source of funding. So our responsibility is to ensure that structures are put in place so that institutional funds can come in and flush out those systems of bullying.”
Fawehinmi also urged young artists to scrutinise contracts before signing.
The artist’s death has exposed a deep rot in the sector said Lanre Lawal, an industry veteran and founder of The Bail Music Company, a Lagos-based music consultancy.
“Some people have spoken up about it in the past but nobody listens,” he said. “This is opening the people’s eyes to what is going on in the industry and our society … people make noise and then go back to default, I hope we are able to find a way to sanitise the space as should be.
Afrobeats gains popularity around the world
The Afrobeats genre first emerged in the 2000s in Nigeria, with an Afrobeats scene also present in Ghana and the UK. Popular Afrobeats artists include Wizkid, Burna Boy and Davido, all from Nigeria.
Afrobeats takes the inspiration for its name from Afrobeat, a genre which came to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s. Afrobeat, which mixes West African musical styles along with funk and jazz, was made popular by Nigerian artist Fela Kuti.