Sokoto-born rising Hollywood actor/singer, Usman Umar ‘Sojaboy,’ on his return home, put smiles on faces of the less privileges and indigent students across the ancient city, through his USB Foundation. ‘Sojaboy’ in this interview with ADENIYI OLUGBEMI, reminiscence on his journey to stardom and passion to assist the less privileged.
Q. Can you take us back to your beginning?
A. My name is Usman Umar ‘Sojaboy,’ I was born and brought up in Gidan Igwai area of Sokoto, precisely at Gidan Maigoro, where I attended my primary and secondary school before I proceeded to Nuhu Bamaili Polytechnic, Zaria, for both my National and Higher National Diploma in Accounting, before I went to Benin Republic to obtain a Bachelor Degree.
I actually grew up in a very less privileged family where growing up was very hard. It was as hard as you can think of, I remember I use to collect motorcycle from someone to hustle, where I would make like one hundred naira, I will give my mum thirty naira and spend the remaining on my education.
I was actually the person that took myself for registration in primary school and I remember my first ever school uniform was sewned for me by someone who actually notice my interest in school and how hard things was for me then, and he also got me some books.
When I started making money little by little, I didn’t forget my roots as I still returned to build my house where I grew up. I did that in memory of how it was for me growing up and this motivates me more to also help people with the little I have whenever I come around.
When I attain stardom, fellow Nigerians in international showbiz like Wizkid, Burnaboy, Tiwa Savage, Davido, do invite me for their shows and, I look at it as a big opportunity for someone especially an Hausa man who came from the North, nicknamed Aboki, in the entertainment industry. God so kind, I make it so big and became a star in America.
Q. How did you came into music industry?
A. I developed interest in music right from my childhood when we use to watch Indian films. Each and everytime we watch Indian movie then, there is always a song, once we finished watching it, without even asking, I will sing that song from beginning till end, even though I don’t know what it means. That is how I start picking interest.
I am one person who is focused and thinks differently. If you check my page on the social media, you will understand that even as a real Aboki man from Sokoto State, I think differently. I believe that as much as I am alive, I need to hustle to get whatever I want.
But because, the whole of my community and Sokoto as a whole were not appreciating my music, I decided to leave Sokoto to places like Kano, Kaduna, Lagos among others and today, Alhamdulilahi, I am a global star.
Q. How did you come about the stage name ‘Sojaboy’?
A. Some people mistake ‘Sojaboy’ my stage name, probably for being the son of a soldier. This is far from it, but presently, I have three brothers in the military. While, they are soldiers in the military, I see myself as a soldier in the music industry. That is where I coined the name, ‘Sojaboy.’
Q. You mentioned your mum during your struggling days, what about your Dad?
A. My mum is my biggest supporter, and that is why even before I built my own house, I make sure I built her own first, took her to Saudi Arabia for Hajj, before I built house for myself. My father died in 2011.
Q. Are you a musician or an actor?
A. Actually, I am a musician and also an actor. I am into both and it’s almost the same. Go and check all the stars you see, either in the movie or film, they are actually trying to do both, which I’m doing presently.
I use film to promote my show as well as my music and Hausa culture. I started with Hausa music but, because music is universal, I began to be admired more by English speaking fans. This necessitated my switch to began singing in English, but now that I have arrived, I’m trying to leverage on Hausa so that I can promote the language. My next song that I am planning to shoot in Bauchi, God willing, will be in Hausa language all through.
Q. Can you take us through your inroad to Hollywood?
A. My journey to Hollywood was an icing on my hustling. It started in 2007, on a quiet day at the Malami Aminu Kano International Airport, when I was working as a junior staff of FAAN. I saw an article while surfing my phone that one can apply for audition in showbiz.
I checked it and out of curiosity, I gingered myself to give it a trial. There were 273,000 entries because it is a global stuff with applications from different countries across the world. Out of the 273,000 applicants, I was among the twelve people that was selected. And funny enough, out of the twelve I was the number one.
I was the only one Chris Brown reacted to his nomination. He doesn’t miss my show, Steve Havley, Michael Blackson (who later became my friend and came to Nigeria because of me), Michael Rapaport, Angelayee and Miley Cyrus, John Legend among many others I can’t even mentioned here are all my friends. That was how it came to be.
If you tuned to Channel 135 on DStv every Thursday by 8pm, you will still watch my programme. I am a Reality TV personality, starring on TLC hit show, 90 day fiancé-season 4&5.
Q. What was it like having to share stage with all these notable international stars?
A. I am a confident boy, right from onset, with no butterfly in my stomach. The showbiz stars I mentioned, find me on the show, see me as a star as well. I maintain my dignity always because that is how one can re respected as well.
Q. What does stardom means to you?
A. Stardom has brought me prosperity. At a point in time, it was unimaginable that I will hit fortune, but today, God has bless me beyond my imagination. If I can tell you that I built a house for my mother, I built for myself, I help people, I feel like helping more people, you should be able to understand by the grace of God, I am doing good.
Q. What motivates you to set up USB Foundation?
A. I was motivated to do what I am doing, seeing the way people comes to me, seeking for one form of assistance or the other, whenever I am around. With the benefits of hindsight that, I journeyed through the same route before, even if it’s my last kobo, I will make sure I shared it out to the needy because I believe God make me comfortable to be a blessing to mankind.
I set up USB Foundation to enable me get donors with my platform from America, Europe and other parts of the world. Could you imagine that even the United Nations Secretary General is my fan? There are a lot of international stars that if I tell you they are my fans you will be shocked.
I am trying to maximize the opportunity of my stardom to help people because nothing is permanent in life. So far, USB Foundation had been able to impacted positively on the educational and well-being of orphaned children from Borno state, the epicentre of Boko Haram insurgency but, now residing and schooling in Sokoto state.
The Foundation has also donated educational materials to indigent students to support them and not drop out of school. I am trying to leave a legacy, my dream is that, this Foundation will outlive me and be able to take care of people.
Q. There is this impression that anyone from Disapora who set up Foundation like yours, usually has his/her eyes on politics. Do you have political ambition?
A. I don’t have any interest in politics and I have my reasons. I am an independent minded person and I don’t want to be command by anyone. The way I see politics today, it’s not what I can venture into.
First and foremost, I am from the North, an Hausa man, with a blossoming career on the international entertainment stage, where others are lagging behind.
Do you think it’s a good idea now to leave this opportunity and go to another thing?This is the reason why I don’t think I can go for politics right now, maybe in future, I may consider that. But for now, it’s not in my thinking.
Q. Criticism from certain quarters usually trail northerners involvement in showbiz. What is your take on this?
A. I am someone who, before I do anything in life, I actually look at the religious implications. I always focus on the positive and leave the negative aspect behind. I always watch my steps and, have no time for negativity.
One of the reasons behind insurgency and insecurity in Northern Nigeria is because of decadence and vices among the youthfolks. When the EndSARS protests started in Lagos last time, you see Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage, Patoranki among others with them.
These people were posting updates on the social media and their friends, especially those America artists who are idols of the world are posting for them. The world leaders supported them, they enjoyed what they do and that is the reason the whole world rise in unison to end Police brutality.
If we have such in the North, we would have overcome most of the problem we are having. I don’t get distracted, I focus on what I’m doing and when I get money from what I am doing, I will come and help you.
Q. Where do you intend to be in the next five years?
A. In five years time, I won’t tell you I will be number one in the world, but I can assure you that Hausa language will be recognized in music industry in the world.