Music and Politics: Happy Married Life?

Posted on October 05 2010 , at 09:07 pm
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Why are these acts supporting Goodluck Jonathan?

 By Our Correspondents

 Mary and Peter* met during their penultimate year in college. An exquisitely attractive lady, Mary gets the whole sociology department swooning over her. Delicately elongated, with bright, piercing eyes, a hour-glass figure and a sophistication many are in awe of, it’s no surprise that the stunning undergraduate makes so many heads turn that the campus clinic is constantly over belaboured with cases of neck strain.

Even her HOD is undergoing treatment.

Not totally unaware of her weapon, Mary- once a victim of attempted rape- likes to move in a circle of friends, hanging together at the hostel cafeteria; often tucking up themselves in a floor of the vast campus library, or, simply lazing around the crowded faculty quadrangle, exchanging banters and, through the corner of their eyes, stealing glances at admirers and would-be companies. Only problem was: all the glances were constantly focused in Mary’s direction.

 It appeared the goddess could have any man she wanted.

 Any.

But she desired none of what was on offer: not the over-pampered billionaire’s son in her class who offered her a vacation in the Bahamas if she as much as spat the word ‘yes’. Not even the campus hunk Joseph who gets the ladies weak in the knees and has a wallet the size of Voltron. And her pot-bellied, grey-haired talkative HOD? Nah. Don’t even go there. Miss-beauty-queen-in-the-waiting-setting-her-eyes-on-things-above-and-maybe-a-miss-world-crown-and-some-unbelievable-dough would have none of these.

None!

Then she met Peter, an unlikely candidate for the post of boyfriend or assistant boyfriend or even – P.A. to assistant boyfriend. Peter? With teeth like a vampire’s and head like an amoeba sample, dude was the least qualified man for the job. In fact when he made the pitch, everyone who could show their dentition laughed at him – plus Mary and her friends and her friends’ friends. But Peter, a transfer student from another state was used to being underestimated. In fact he had scored many feats, romantically, economically, academically and psychologically, by dealing his victims blows when and where they least expect it. With eyes on his goals, a painstakingly smooth modus, and constant internet scam to feed fat on, Mr everybody’s-laughing-at-me-but-i-don’t-give-the-quarter-of-a-spoon knows it’s only a matter of time before he lays his hands on the goods.

He lured her with gifts no woman could resist. He was kind enough to spoil her friends silly too. He always managed to appear at the right places, and at the right times too. He did her assignments for her and helped her through the most difficult of tasks. He gave carefully crafted speeches when he managed to be alone with her, deliberately making promises without insisting on any attachments. He was Mr good: giving away so much. Asking for nothing in return. Forget his looks and his past. He had such a great soul, a bright future and an obese wallet. He was the best guy in the world. How came all men were not like him?

Mary was hooked.

SURPRISE SURPRISE!

And Mary was music – the pattern of sounds produced by people singing or playing instruments to generate groove, rhythm, poetry and melody. And Peter, well, sadly, was politricks – the art of lying with both sides of the mouth; knowing that no one believes you, yet managing to amass enough votes (by crook or crook) to get into power – where all you do is fill enough Ghana-must-goes to pay back your creditors, silence all opposition, snatch your best friend’s wife, play golf, embark on expensive holidays, award your friends and family contracts they’ll never do, save up and strategise for the next elections (which, by the way, is still four years away), finish your 20th mansion, open 12 foreign accounts… and in the midst of all the activity, manage to find no time to govern.

STUCK LIKE SIAMESE

Long before Robert Nesta Marley, the reggae pathfinder who took consciousness to a feverish level; long before rock stars stumbled on the art of activism and advocacy; long before rap (in its purest form) came into our lives like a thief in the night, there had always been politricks in music and music in politricks. From Beethoven to  Jimi Hendrix to Bob Dylan, Sex Pistols and – even Russian rebel Dmitri Shostakovich, down to Marley and Miriam Makeba, Fela Kuti, NWA, to Eedris Abdulkareem, Sound Sultan and Femi Kuti, it’s been a lifetime of hard tackle for power holders who- to say it as it is- rarely like to hear the truth from hi-fi speakers. So, aside bans, censors and wanton incarceration, they find time to listen to praise singers – the crop of music-makers who, instead of mirroring society have chosen to be physiotherapists – massaging the egos of folks in government, openly romancing their persons and policies, and getting paid in full.

So, head or tail, it’s obvious music and politricks have come a long way, and still got an even longer way to go. Like Mary and Peter, the coupling of two unlikely items would lead to, amongst several other things, epoch-making manipulations, betrayal of epic proportions, deceit, ephemeral enjoyment a la rub-my-back-I-grease-your-palm, then more deceit, anger and, inevitably, heartbreak. But will divorce ever be among the options?

WITH THIS WEAPON, I THEE WED

As the pastor stood up, brought out the rings, wore his over-sized glasses which rested precariously on his flat nose, everyone in the church auditorium plunged into momentary silence. Almost every wedding in the hood has taken place in this same chapel. And, as a century-long tradition, everyone who’s old enough to reason knows the next item on the agenda. No, gluttons! It’s not item seven. It’s time to read the vows and ask anyone opposed to the wedding to raise their hands up, speak up or be silent for life.

Legend has it that almost all the hands in the church were raised; causing the pastor to adjust his glasses, look the couple straight in the eyes and tell them why he couldn’t go on with the wedding.

Then something strange happened.

Peter unbuttoned his tuxedo, reached for a holster fitted to the side of his belt. And drew out an automatic pistol, the type Mary had only ever seen in those Hollywood thrillers which often lacked a sensible storyline. For someone who grew up in an African home where it was taught that every story must have a moral, she had shied away from Hollywood, totally forgetting all about gunshots, bloodstains, casual sex, and the daring, metallic look of a man holding the trigger.

 Until now.

Peter put the gun to the pastor’s head, staying silent all along, and watching, in bemusement, as the chapel which was full to capacity a few minutes back, swam into emptiness. Habitants of the hood still had a phobia for stray bullets, he thought to himself as he released an evil smile from the left side of his lips.

So the pastor, shaking vividly and sweating profusely, joined the couple, ‘in the name of the father, of the son, and of the Holy Spirit’.

Because Mary didn’t like the prospects of her head being blown off, she kept her quiet, and when it was time, she kissed the groom passionately and discovered she enjoyed it. Her body, it would seem, after years of self-denial and preservation, wanted this man so badly. But her soul, her spirit was far from it.

From then on, she was torn into two: one for peter. The other – against him.

FOR BETTER FOR WORSE?

While Mary and her thug breadwinner were busy trying to get used to living together,

Nigeria, a large, populous and multi-ethnic West African country was midwifing her second civilian-civilian transition. Raped for several years by a notoriously corrupt and power-drunk military, the former British colony was so keen about democracy; its key proponents would do anything to make it work – including rigging, assassinating, mudslinging, blackmailing, and a little music to dance to.

So it was, that in year 2010, six years after Diddy’s Vote or Die campaign in the US, Nigerian musicians and actors suddenly discovered a new way of expressing their talent; a new way of making their voices heard; and – invariably- a new way of swelling their bank accounts.

With the elections only a few months away, Mary is filled with palpable tension. No, not of the elections, for she and Peter lived hundreds of kilometres away from Nigeria’s porous border. Mary is anxious about her EDD which is fast approaching. But this morning, she woke up with a little smile on the corner of her lips. Not that Peter had stopped being permanently drunk, abusive and absolutely irresponsible, but today was going to be an unusually happy one. Mary would be 26, and as such, ripe enough to receive her life-changing inheritance from her father’s attorneys.

When her father had died prematurely in a plane crash in a remote canal in Nigeria, while returning from a meeting of African diplomats, her mother had informed her of the clause in her father’s will: that she be provided with adequate support to finish her education, after which she’ll be given her share of his property – a twin duplex, a large chunk of shares in five blue-chip companies, several oil companies and about £200,000. She would get the cheque today and hand it over to Peter. They’ll rent out the duplex and keep the funds in a joint account. Only the shares will be in her name.

That morning, Peter did not wake up with a tiny smile. He woke up ecstatic, laughing like a hyena, and shouting Allau akbar.  ‘Insha allau’, he said in his adopted Islamic language, ‘as from today, my- sorry- our lives will not remain the same’. Leaving the room in the nude, he looked at Mary who was still busy praying and speaking in some incoherent tongues, occasionally rolling on the floor and quoting Bible passages from memory; and he thought to himself: this is the time to be good to this broken woman. If she wanted to have a heart-to-heart talk as she had demanded the night before, no need arguing with her. If she wanted a baby now, no probs. But separation? A divorce? He looked down at his early morning erection and muttered: ‘No way’.  Peter had seen money before, plenty of it. But unlike his younger brother who had a way with huge sums, £200,000 was an awful lot of money, capable of making him abandon his other interests. Just like Nigeria, he thought to himself, which had since dumped agriculture for the lure of black oil, he too was going to stop his numerous frauds and concentrate on his multi millionaire heiress wife.

Mary’s EDD was dangerously near. So was her appointment with the family attorney.

VOTE OR DIE?

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, posters, fliers and billboards are combining to serve as graffiti on the streets, from talata-mafara to ikot-abasi, mushin olosa and kaura namoda. A country which only a decade ago was in the firm grip of a sit-tight military junta, was now feverishly preparing for her fourth civilian head-of-state.  The soldiers are learning to live in their barracks, and the politicians are beginning to learn the ropes of democracy.

In year 2007, 47 years after the country gained independence from British colonial rulers, the nationally scorned president Olusegun Obasanjo left power, having served for two straight terms. The battle to replace him was frenetic: the peoples’ democratic party- the ruling party- mounted desperate machineries to remain in power, fielding the duo of Umaru Musa Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan as candidates; ex- military president Mohammadu Buhari of the All Nigeria’s People party was running for the third time, having previously lost to Obasanjo. And Atiku Abubakar, a political wizard from the north, had the mandate of the Action congress to run as president. Across the 36 states of the country, the governors had their own agenda too. Especially those who were not returning. Almost every Governor had an anointed successor. The prelude to the April 14, 2007 elections in Nigeria would beat any modern day soap opera hands down, with many saying at the time, that the US, which was preparing for presidential polls (in 2008, when Barack Obama was eventually elected as America’s first Black President) may have a few things to learn from Nigeria about ‘how (not) to conduct elections’.

The presidency, of course, went to Umar Musa Yar’adua with Goodluck Jonathan as his Vice. In what was widely described as a terribly flawed process, Nigeria went through her first-ever Civilian-civilian transition. And the country moved from frying pan to fire. Annoyingly slow and dull, comedians soon nick-named Mr Yar’adua ‘Snail’. And while the president battled a debilitating terminal disease, the country went into full anarchy and chaos – kidnapping reached its all-time high, the police force continued to slumber while armed robbery, militancy and other crimes overwhelmed citizens. Every form of governance and development was brought to a total full stop. To cut the sad, long story short, Yar’adua died on May 6, 2010, several months after those aware of his situation had already pronounced him ‘dead’. Goodluck Jonathan, a colourless, charmless inexperienced politician, who showed no signs of over-ambition or desperation, all through the months Mr Yar’adua was AWOL, was finally sworn-in  as president.

Mr Jonathan, who appeared like a reluctant president in May, has now learned the ropes. Settled in power, and determined to enjoy a full four year plan, the former Governor of Bayelsa State announced last week, through his popular fan page on Facebook, that he will be contesting the General elections scheduled for January 2011.

With evil genius Ibrahim Babangida still eyeing a return to power, Celebruty publisher and entrepreneur Dele Momodu throwing his hat in the ring, anti-corruption Czar Nuhu Ribadu planning to remake Nigeria, and incumbent Jonathan hoping to remain in Aso Rock, and many young Nigerians not extremely interested in how they are governed and by whom, it’s not surprising that Nigeria is borrowing a few leaves from America’s vote or die attitude, as exemplified by rap mogul P.Diddy’s 2004 citizen change campaign. Citizen Change is a political service group, founded by music mogul P.Diddy, and backed by Mary J. Blige, Mariah carey and 50 Cent. The group aimed to “hip young people to the hustle of the politics by educating them about the power of their vote.” Created in 2004, the stated aim was to get young people to vote, but critics alleged that the ultimate aim was to get out the vote of a demographic viewed as likely to vote against President George W. Bush. Different mischievous meanings could be given the Diddy campaign but the rapper and his team, like never before, threw fresh light on the political power of music, and the influence of hip hop and urbane culture, on modern power. It didn’t matter that some of the chief proponents of the ‘vote or die’ campaign- including spoilt heiress Paris Hilton, Ludacirs and 50 Cent- did not get to vote. What mattered, importantly, was that the nation of music had demonstrated her ability to mobilise followers for or against a cause: from U2 frontman Bono, flying round the world to campaign for debt relief for poor African countries to Bob Gerdoff’s Live 8 concerts and Al Gore’s Live Earth initiative it has been seen that, like Mary and Peter, living together may not always be rosy, but Music and Politics appear to have a 3-carbon bond holding them together.

DIE THEN VOTE LATER

Sadly, a great majority of today’s youth, from Lagos to London and Las Vegas,  would still rather vote for a drop In the price of an i-Pod or support the advent of more networking websites like facebook, Foursquare, Myspace and Twitter, than spending time on the queue to vote for a change in government. They. Just. Don’t. Care. Not just because there’s an increasing disconnect between their practical everyday lives and the priorities of a detached government, but mainly because the tenets of hip hop, to which most youths of the past two decades subscribe, preach an anti establishment code. On Wikipedia, the controversial online encyclopaedia, rapper Nas has been quoted as saying ‘Hip-Hop is not “Vote or Die.” That’s not Hip-Hop. No disrespect to Diddy and Rusell and them – those are my heroes – but Hip-Hop is not “Vote or Die”… Hip-Hop is anti-establishment. Ice Cube and them were always that way. In order for Hip-Hop to change our point of view, it means for us to have a candidate that understands Hip-Hop. If you say “Vote or Die” then you [Diddy] are saying it’s all good that Anheuser Buch supports “Vote or Die”, a Republican beer association. [They have] Black laborers that are making nothing [and are] poisoning the whole fuckin’ hood. Lets be real – vote or die, but let’s vote for who?…

I don’t believe in vote or die, because we are talking about the same people that tried to dismantle Rap just 10 years ago. Who were trying to influence on stockholders to pull out of Warner, who made Ice-T not have a job…they cut him and shut him down. They shut Hip-Hop down. C. Delores Tucker, Al Gore…all these people were trying to shut Hip-Hop down. Now you want us to sponsor you to get these Black votes? Fuck you’

Ouch.

In Nigeria, Olusegun Babatunde, about the most revered rapper in a fledging hip hop community, does not vote too. ‘I aint never vote because it’s a waste of time’, Mode 9 tells HipHop World, a Nigerian HipHop journal shortly after Nigeria’s April 2007 elections. ‘They’re gonna rig it anyway. So why waste your time on the queue?’ that’s exactly what the rapper talks about on ‘politics and lies’ off his first full length album E pluribus unum. ‘These people are all the same/ I’ve got one question/ is it worth the pain?’

To many youths old enough to vote, and old enough to appreciate the depth of Mode 9 lyrics,  voting is not the way to changing the dwindling fortunes of Nigeria and the enormous poverty which has overwhelmed the citizenry. Their most popular past time on days earmarked for sanitation, elections or strike: playing five-a-side football on deserted coal-tarred express roads. Those not doing that are busy scheming inventive ways of ridding desperate politicians of their ill-gotten wealth. The general consensus: ‘since they stole the money anyway, we’ll collect their money and promise to vote for them’. Though most times, they’re nowhere to be found when it’s time to fulfil their obligations.

DO RE MI FASHOLA TI DO

2face Idibia did not go to music school. But he not only knows the key to a good melody; he has mastered the notes and tones of music. And, in April 2007, just before the gubernatorial elections in Lagos- Africa’s most populous, most chaotic city- the pop icon was busy spreading the first notes of music – do re mi. Sadly, he did not stop there. For someone who had become a political voice of sorts, following the central theme of his second solo album ‘grass2grace’, it caused many a temper to rise , when he mounted the stage in march 2007 chanting: ‘do re mi Fashola ti de’. (Babatunde Raji) Fashola, now governor of Lagos, was at the time, gubernatorial aspirant for the Action Congress in Lagos). A few days before, at a Lagos concert, he had reportedly announced he was voting for Fashola. Many immediately concluded that some sort of understanding must surely exist between the star singer and the politician. But, could it have been otherwise? Could Idibia’s endorsement have come from a firm belief in The Action Congress or Fashola’s manifestoe? Idibia, an avid Fela fan and Bob Marley follower, dedicates his time, travelling across the world, condemning ‘shady politicians’, insisting that ‘their looting no dey give us assurance/ repentance no dey their plans/ create annoyance for my heart…’. Lashing out passionately at African leaders on behalf of the masses, he continues on ‘for instance’ ‘they make suffer to full in abundance/…dey make me to wan run away to the place wey e be say I go dey feel like to break dance/ wey dem go respect our skills for instance/wey dem no go just dey dey play pranks/ on top the people wey work the way, wey give dem the key/to the door/ to the substance…’

Before his endorsement of Fashola though, many had sensed a political confusion on his second album, and a prominent irony between ‘for instance, e be like say’ and ‘I dey feel like’ – where amidst praises for tested statesmen and legends: Mandela, Jay Z and Bob Marley, he eulogises some politicians with questionable records. He sings on ‘I dey feel like’: ‘I dey feel like Obasanjo/ because you love me; I dey feel like Tinubu/ because you care for me; I dey feel like Jolly Nyame because you dey burn my heart…/ I dey feel like Akume (George) because you dey feel me…/ I dey feel like Atiku, because you want me…I dey feel like Donald Duke, because you dey buy things for me…’ The EFCC, Nigeria’s anti-graft agency has been investigating Atiku Abubakar (Nigeria’s Vice President under the Obasanjo regime), George Akume and Jolly Nyame (past Governors of Benue- 2face’s state of Origin). Obasanjo’s credentials as a passionate statesman is under constant hammer by the masses and the media: he increased fuel prices at least five times during an eight-year tenure; he sold the port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries allegedly without following due process; he was implicated (by Atiku) in the PTDF scandal and had to pull out of Transcorp group (one of the companies that benefited most from his regime’s privatisation), when it was discovered he had major interest in the company; many wicked political manoeuvres have been traced to his doorstep, including the emergence of his former aide Andy Uba as PDP governor in Anambra state (the court later overturned Uba’s election after Peter Obi won a suit asking for the completion of his term) and the overnight imposition of  Yar’ adua as presidential candidate of the PDP. Obasanjo’s sins, from the point of view of the average Nigerian (who probably didn’t vote for him) are legion. But on the eve of his departure from state house, he gave his fellow Nigerians two unsolicited gifts: a 5% increase in VAT and an almost 50% increase on the pump price of PMS. In a country where most homes and businesses run on petrol and diesel; the announcement didn’t make Obasanjo a pop star. And it definitely didn’t make anyone feel like listening to Idibia’s ‘I dey feel like’.

But 2Face Idibia was not the only one who mixed music with politricks in 2007. Another Fela apostle and major pop star D’banj not only approved the use of his debut hit ‘tongolo’ as soundtrack for a PDP TV commercial, he joined the Andy Uba train, paying him solidarity visits in Abuja and Anambra, and shooting a TVC which portrayed him and Don Jazzy as relocating to Anambra- the eastern Nigerian state which they claimed Uba was turning to heaven on earth. D’banj may have adopted Fela Kuti’s fashion, style and musical direction, but he definitely has not found it necessary to develop the late afrobeat maestro’s antagonist attitude to Nigerian leaders- most of whom are absolutely unqualified and shamelessly corrupt.

And for Fuji, a close relative of rap, it was a vigorous battle to identify with, date, and even bed candidates during the April 2007 polls. Fuji, a predominantly yoruban artform which emanated from early morning Islamic chants (called Were) usually sung to alert Muslims during fasting, thrives on rhythm and poetry, with  street credibility; a sense of religion, history and folklore. But since Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, the veteran believed to have been responsible for the creation and redefinition of modern Fuji, practitioners have been known to flirt with politics. So it was no surprise that in 2007: K 1 Ultimate Nigeria’s most renowned Fuji performer became the official musician for the AC in Lagos; lavishing praise songs (often laced with dubious lyrics) on the party’s candidate (Fashola), dedicating an album to his campaign (he had previously done same for Fashola’s mentor-predecessor Bola Tinubu) and allegedly getting a contract to handle publicity, roadshows and equipment/musicians’ procurement. While K 1 was in bed with Fashola, his arch-enemy Abass Obesere was dancing in the nude with Musiliu Obanikoro the candidate of the PDP  in Lagos. Of course, the relationships were not based on ideals, manifestoes or conviction. In fact, the Fuji musicians clearly hide behind a Nigerian phenomenon called praise-singing: a social act that sees the musician, using lyrics or the talking drum, lauding the virutes of a particular patron, reciting the individual’s oriki (cognomen of sorts). The singer draws content from diverse and complex knowledge about family names and reputations, historic poetry and epic tales, and geography and regional folklore to create relevant stories or admiration that honour the addressee- and, interestingly, this is most times, done unrehearsed; what rappers call freestyling.

In appreciation, the individual, who is usually elated and thrilled by the shower of adulation, places crisp Naira notes on the singer’s forehead. This could take as much as thirty minutes or more, as the stage gets crowded with guests who try to out do each other in the spraying game. ‘For us Fuji artistes, singing for politicians is not endorsement per se. It’s just like praising you on the dance floor. I may not really dig your style. But if I am performing and you come to spray me, I will sing about you. It doesn’t mean I will pick up my phone and call you the next day’, confessed a top fuji act who begged for anonymity. ‘We all know these politicians don’t like us. We know how they are. But I’m a businessman. Take it or leave it. If they give me an offer to do a song for them and I don’t, somebody else will. So our fans should just see that we’re doing what we’re paid for. I might do a song for this candidate this year. But in another four years, if his opponent comes with a better offer, I may not think twice before jumping at it. It’s like on stage, no matter how much you’ve sprayed me. Once you money runs out, I move on to the next person who’s waving bundles at me’

RUN, JONATHAN RUN…

Have you seen the new video by Onyeka Onwenu? Have you heard the lyrics of the song? Ms Onwenu, musician, politician and entrepreneur, has a full length video currently airing on all major channels. ‘Run Jonathan run’, she sings on the chorus. ‘Destiny calls/Your life in the hands of God’. Onwenu, who is eyeing a political position, is not the only entertainer campaigning for Mr Jonathan. In August, the news broke out that Actor Francis Duru had been recruited to mobilise Nollywood for the President’s campaign. Kunle Afolayan, Basorge Tariah Jr, Ngozi Ezeonu, Annie Macauley, Desmond Elliot, Andy Nwakalor, Uche Jombo are among the acts allegedly recruited for the campaign.

Meanwhile, few weeks back, Tosin Martins, Zaaki, Sammie Okposo, Daddy Showkey, African China and several others gathered to record a theme song for the president’s campaign. The song was reportedly produced by Cobhams Asuquo.

Insiders tell NET the acts have been paid up to N1m each, for their support, with possibilities of further compensation as the campaign goes on. The acts have all denied receiving a dime; even as coordinator Francis Duru insists there’s no money involved.

Somewhere else, another set of acts are having another kind of campaign: encouraging their fans to RSVP. RSVP, according to proponents Banky W, Sasha, MI, ElDee, Sound Sultan and others, means young Nigerians must ‘register to vote, support candidates they believe in, vote at the polls, and protect their votes’.

ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS?

If your soul is for sale; to be placed in a show glass at a shopping mall, how much would you ask for?

In the hands of manipulative politricians, certain actors and Nigerian musicians may just have been tools, akin to pawns in the hands of a skilled chess player. No official figures have been obtained as payment for endorsements during the April 2007 elections in Nigeria. But sources have speculated figures ranging from N5million to 25 million. The fee for recording an album by one of the fuji musicians was put at N5Million while 2face Idibia and other comedians who endorsed the Fashola campaign reportedly pocketed N2M each- a report their managers and representatives have vehemently denied.

When in 2006, TV producer Cally Ikpe organised a workshop with the theme: ‘what is an artiste’s worth’, little did he know that in a matter of months, the topic would come to the fore. Unfortunately, most of the musicians singing for power-seekers to dance to seem to have been blind to the fact that their fans have turned deaf ears to the music. Their fans scorn the affair; and are scandalized by the discovery that the hammer in the hands of the acts, meant to shape an amoebic society into desired forms, has turned into  a balm- to massage the ego of power-drunk career politicians who lack the ability to mean well for the poor and helpless tucked in the slums of Ajegunle, Dioub, or Okokomaiko.

Just like Mary, the average Nigerian act is ignorant, gullible and constantly exploited. With no visible management structures in place, the artiste is isolated and dangerously vulnerable. So, even when their conscience has been compromised; when they have tucked their loyalty to the fans into their back pockets, thinking, ‘after all, Puff daddy said it’s all about the Benjamins’, they still end up short-changing themselves. Why? An average artiste is a bad negotiator. An average Nigerian artiste- a worse one. Eventually, in the process of massaging politicians’ egos until it’s bruised, they lose fans who don’t need recommended glasses to read in-between the lines. But they lead even more astray- young, innocent fans who have completely idolised their music stars, unable to reason that it is best to dissociate a musician’s music from their philosophy; thus, imbibing their music, but being absolutely wary of their lyrics and philosophy.

WHAT WOULD FELA DO?

Of course, Mr Kuti would f**k the Benjamins and tell the vagabonds-in-power to f**k off. Not that he used the F-word that much, but Fela was so pissed with politricks and politricians that his water closet was always filled to the brim. He may have died broke, with only a house to call his own and peanuts for bank balance, but the bold musician was the conscience of post-colonial Africa; and a prophet who anticipated majority of the ills that today confront us as a misled people. And if he were alive when the United Nations was considering replacing Koffi Anan with Ban Ki Moon; when Yar’ Adua was taking the baton from Obasanjo in Nigeria; if he were around when Paul Wolfowitz was making his disgraced exit from world bank, Fela would not have been in any of the political camps. He wouldn’t have sympathised with any of the candidates. He would only be on one side: on the side of the people. A Fela supporting a candidate, or waxing a song for an aspirant, would look like Bob Marley endorsing racism, or class inequality.

Today, hundreds of music makers may have missed the point, and fallen to the charms of politricks, but those who constantly ask themselves ‘what would Fela do if he were in my shoes?’, who constantly get inspired by the activities of U2 frontman Bono, Femi Kuti and the boldness of the NWA, have made sure that there is hope. Now, it is clear that all hope did not perish with Moshood Abiola’s 1993 campaign; when dozens of musicians openly pitched their tents with the billionaire businessman’s bid for the presidency, and got thumbs up instead of condemnation. Today, hip hop’s call for emancipation is as urgent as ever. The consciousness of reggae apostles pierce deep into the soul. And the message is clear; from ‘jaga jaga, and mathematics to crises, situation, make dem talk and sorry sorry, it is obvious the future will be brighter than a trip to the sun.

True, music of black origin has a long tradition of protest, from the blues performers of the early 20th century, up to and including the rap and hip-hop; Fuji and hiplife. And in modern times, acts like Miriam Makeba, Femi Kuti, Sound Sultan, and several others have served as the heartbeat of a people that have been raped for decades. Luckily, except for South Africa where there was great censorship during the aparthied era; and Fela’s frequent brushes with the military rulers of the seventies and eighties, in recent times, musicians have often been able to say what they want to say; how they want it, without having to run for their lives. Meaning an almost complete freedom when compared to 17th century UK, Russia and the islamic fundamentalist goverments in Iran and Afghanistan. Just like Fela, who found favour with fans despite constant harassment by the government, Sex Pistols’ ‘God save the queen’ reached no two in the UK top 40 after it was banned by the government of Queen Elizabeth- establishing that most times, there is little the establishment can do to silence a song that represents the interest of the people; either amplifying a social cause, sending out a political statement, voicing the plights of the repressed,  making definite demands or just making a mockery of the government’s goofs.

EPILOGUE

You probably having stopped to ponder over these lines from 2face Idibia’s pseudo romance song ‘e be like say’

Looking back at the years

You and I have been together

It looks like you’ve been playing me all along

So many times

You ask me to put a hole on my trust in you

So many times

You’ve betrayed me

 And played me for a fool…

It was Mary, in between sobs, talking to Peter; a day after she discovered he had squandered her inheritance, leaving the bank account in red; a week after she had a miscarriage after discovering her best friend was carrying Peter’s baby.

Why do good girls always fall in love with bad boys?

*fictitious names

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