Sometime in February, while romantic partners were being served breakfast in bed and black-market sellers were cashing out from the fuel scarcity issue, two young men found a way to bring happiness onto the faces of many Nigerians.
Nigeria is not a stranger to having several ordinary people transformed into social media celebrities overnight when discussing viral sensations.
From Olajumoke Orisaguna, a bread seller turned model, to Jeremiah Ekuma, a pure water seller turned law undergraduate, these people prove that a single video or image on social media could positively change lives.
This is the story of two friends, Matthew Precious Kelechi and Amakor Johnson, who became famous after their dance video went viral.
Popularly referred to as the ‘Happie Boys,’ Kelechi and Johnson were brave enough to show their fantastic dance moves at a Chicken Republic outlet in Aba, Abia State, where they worked as security guards.
While they danced, a stranger named Aku Caleb Chisom, who is now their manager, took a video of them and sent it to Gossipmill, a popular blog account on Instagram.
Unfortunately, the viral video cost them their jobs, as their employees fired them. Moreover, news of their termination was announced on social media, exposing their previous employers to hate messages from Nigerians.
However, their fan base grew with 139,000 followers on Instagram. Additionally, a special assistant to the Governor of Delta State offered them a job and a scholarship to study in Cyprus. In this exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Happie boys talk about the challenges they faced growing up, why they danced at work, and Chicken republic’s involvement with their termination.
PT: Nobody saw your rise to fame coming. What inspired you to dance on duty?
HAPPIE BOYS: Simple; we were happy. Since we started working at Chicken Republic, we made it a duty to dance every day while opening the door for customers. So, we did what we usually do; entertaining customers in the restaurant.
PT: Tell us about your background.
KELECHI: Well, I come from a family consisting of four siblings. Eating three square meals in a day was hard, and we faced landlord issues.
My mum sold vegetables, and my dad was a dry cleaner, making us have little resources to manage.
JOHNSON: I remember selling pure water on the streets to survive. With my dad being a carpenter and my mum a provision seller, I hustled to make money.
PT: Tell us about your journey so far? How did you two end up as security guards?
HAPPIE BOYS: Surprisingly, after completing our secondary school education, we did not have the means to further our education, so we went job hunting and applied at Chicken Republic, Aba. Two weeks later, they called, asking us to resume work as their new security guards.
PT: How many weeks, months, or years did you work at Chicken Republic?
HAPPIE BOYS: We spent over three months at Chicken Republic as we began working there in December 2021.
PT: Describe how it felt working there?
HAPPIE BOYS: It was stressful, and they did not give us staff food. So, feeding expenses came out of the little money they paid us. Also, the sleeping conditions were unpleasant as we slept outside and got bitten by mosquitoes.
PT: How much did you earn, and was it enough to meet your basic needs?
HAPPIE BOYS: We earned ₦20,000. The money was not enough as it went into catering for our siblings and paying their school fees.
PT: When you noticed that your dance video had gone viral and you were sacked from your job at Chicken Republic, what was your action?
HAPPIE BOYS: Initially, we were happy and excited when we saw the buzz being created about the videos. Then, we received a termination message from the head office, accusing us of tarnishing the institution’s image, which was quite shocking.
Nevertheless, everything almost seemed like a dream., especially with the various calls we received from strangers and friends.
PT: What do you miss about your previous job?
HAPPIE BOYS: They were having fun, our co-workers, and the generous customers who gave us money on their way out.
PT: You have been given a scholarship by Mr Chibuzor Chinyere of Omega Power Ministries (OPM)to continue your education. Where did you stop in the academic pursuit?
HAPPIE BOYS: Now, given the opportunity to travel to a country like Cyprus, we hope to attain a tertiary degree in addition to our secondary school degree. It sounded unbelievable. When Apostle Chibuzor Chinyere announced, many people called us, requesting we go to his house.
So, meeting him and being told we would study overseas at Final International school in Cyprus was a mind-blowing moment. We also got a job offer from the special assistant on special duties to the Governor of Delta State, Ossai Ovie Success.
PT: How did you deal with criticism from people who felt the termination was the right move by Chicken Republic?
HAPPIE BOYS: Indifferent. We did not feel lousy hearing people who had opposing opinions about what we did. It’s a free world, and anyone can say whatever they like.
PT: What were your reactions when Chicken Republic denied not having anything to do with the dismissal?
HAPPIE BOYS: The statement released was a lie. The dismissal letter came from the Chicken Republic itself, not the security agency.
PT: Are any of you in a relationship?
HAPPIE BOYS: No. But we are open to dating someone who isn’t interested in us because of our fame.
PT: How often do you receive messages from female admirers?
A lot. We have many girls who send us messages, trying to shoot their shots. An ex-girlfriend sent us a message after she heard about our fame.
PT: Lately, you have been producing comedy videos. Tell us how it has been trying to break into the comedy skit industry.
The reason for branching out into comedy is we are trying to remain relevant. We don’t want to be a one-hit-wonder. Doing comedy skits gives us a chance to grow the brand, stay visible in the minds of Nigerians, and gain more followers.
We came to Lagos to meet up with famous comedians like Nasty Blac, Sydney talker and others to collaborate before leaving Nigeria.
PT: What’s next for the Happie boys?
HAPPIE BOYS: Completing our university education, creating more content for social media and making Nigerians happy.
PT: Where do you see yourselves in the next ten years?
HAPPIE BOYS: Top celebrities living luxury lives, building houses and companies, and having a tremendous positive impact on people.
PT: How long do you see yourselves working together?
HAPPIE BOYS: It’s a long term relationship between the three of us. We appreciate the fact that we understand each other and can cooperate.
PT: Before we wrap up this interview, anything you would like to tell every dreamer out there
Kelechi: Keep on pushing. Don’t give up.
Johnson: Work hard and be happy.
Caleb: Never look down on yourself, and make your mama proud.
The man behind the camera
Behind every viral video is a man or woman who captured the trend-worthy moment on an electronic device.
The Happie Boys brand would never have existed if Aku Caleb Chisom didn’t shoot their viral dance video.
Somewhat fresh from secondary school, Caleb was awaiting admission into university when he crossed paths with the Happie boys.
PT: Walk us through why you decided to record them and share the video with the entire world.
CALEB: I noticed these guys dancing at Chicken Republic. So, I took a video of them and uploaded it on my WhatsApp status. My friends commented on how entertaining these guys were. I knew they had prospects. So, when I saw them dancing, I took a good video and sent it to Gossipmill on Instagram. And voilà, a viral video was born.
PT: After the video went viral, they got sacked. What did you do?
CALEB: I felt terrible and guilty but saw this as an opportunity for the boys to grow. So, I created an account on Instagram and TikTok and pushed them to create more content that Nigerians would love.
PT: Being the person that made them famous, you became their manager. Were there any challenges you faced initially?
CALEB: No challenges. Instead, the number of followers flooded their Instagram and TikTok accounts. But with my experience and Ideas, we were able to monetise fast.
PT: Will the Happie boys take their dancing skills to a professional level?
CALEB: Yes. We hope to create more dance-related content.
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