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Fans of a rising Nigerian music star are protesting after his untimely death

The Nigerian music star Mohbad died on Sept. 12 in Lagos at age 27.
BANG Showbiz via Reuters
The Nigerian music star Mohbad died on Sept. 12 in Lagos at age 27.

LAGOS, Nigeria — Hundreds of fans have held protests and candlelight vigils in various Nigerian cities in the last few days in memory of Mohbad, a beloved 27-year-old Nigerian music star who died Sept. 12.

The exact cause of his sudden death in a Lagos hospital is unknown and allegations of harassment he reported suffering from politically connected figures at his former music label have sparked outrage and an outpouring of emotional tributes. The hashtag #justiceformohbad has been trending on X, formerly known as Twitter, since his death.

His death has also brought the treatment of musicians by powerful Nigerian labels into sharper focus, as well as the close connections between some in the music industry and the government.

Lagos-born Mohbad, whose real name was Ilerioluwa Aloba, was beloved for his street-smart, aspirational and relatable lyrics. He was best known for hits like "Peace" and "Feel Good."

He was buried by his family the day after he died, fueling widespread anger and suspicions about how he died.

Outrage across the country has been largely directed at Naira Marley, the boss of Mohbad's former label, himself one of Nigeria's biggest music stars. He is an ambassador for the country's anti-drug agency and a vocal supporter of the governor of Lagos, for whom he campaigned in elections in February.

After days of anger on social media from fans, radio hosts and celebrities, police this week announced an investigation into any events leading to Mohbad's death.

On Thursday, police in Lagos said the singer's body had been exhumed and would be taken for an autopsy. The Lagos state government said the country's intelligence service had been enlisted to aid the investigation.

On Tuesday, Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Oluurged anyone with information to come forward and promised protection for witnesses. "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," he said.

Mohbad left Marley's label, Marlian Records, last year, and in the aftermath, spoke of alleged harassment he suffered from Marley and his associates.

Last October, he posted a video on Twitter, now X, of blood oozing from a wound on his shoulder.

"Just because I want to change my manager ... see what they did to me at Marlian House," he posted, along with another video appearing to show several men attacking him in a street at night, who he claimed in a later post were Marley and his associates.

Marley has strongly denied the allegations.

In several subsequent posts, songs and interviews, Mohbad — whose nickname was "Imole," meaning "light" in Yoruba — spoke about trying to find peace in his life. He said he experienced a campaign of abuse after he left Marley's label.

In aninterview last month, he said his former label had put pressure on promoters to cancel shows for which he was booked.

Marley has strongly denied harassing the late star. OnInstagram this week, he said that he was "shattered" by the news of Mohbad's death and called for fans to help find information on his death.

In recent days, some radio stations in the country have stopped playing Marley's songs. More protests and vigils are planned across the country.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emmanuel Akinwotu
Emmanuel Akinwotu is an international correspondent for NPR. He joined NPR in 2022 from The Guardian, where he was West Africa correspondent.