It would sound a perfect ad lib to his most overly political song yet, “E be like say”. With a single Instagram anti-establishment post a fortnight ago, Nigerian pop star, Innocent Idibia (aka 2Face), stampeded the nation into what some, given the timing, began to fear might finally usher our own Arab Spring.
His lamentation on social media was arguably prosaic of the biting poetry of the old song, “E be like say”, with this punchline:
“They think money gives them power
“But power is nothing if your people can’t get quality education
“Power is nothing if your people keep dying of diseases and starvation
“Power is nothing if your people have no peace, no peace
“Power is nothing if your people can’t live in unity.”
To say 2Face’s Instagram jeremiad sensationally altered the lilt of public conversation on the national condition would be restating the obvious. Momentarily, he captured our imagination. It was now 2Face’s project, even though the protest march was originally conceived by an advocacy group, EiE (Enough Is Enough).
Not only the civil society became energized, even the authorities, for once, seemed in disarray. The police found themselves in an embarrassing situation having to issue a statement contradicting an earlier position in order to align themselves with the thoughtful and obviously progressive standpoint of both the presidency and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that people’s right to protest was inalienable.
But just after the nation began to spin in a dizzying frenzy of expectation came 2Face’s dramatic volte face that the historic march could no longer proceed out of new security concerns that hoodlums might hijack the procession.
Without him, the marchers still trooped out simultaneously in Lagos and Abuja with the likes of Charly Boy, Omoyele Sowore and Chidi Odinkalu venting public anger powerfully.
By all standards, it was a successful outing. So, it would seem 2Face’s fears were grossly exaggerated, if not utterly unfounded. On the contrary, to invert the title of another popular song of his, “Jungle Don Mature” for a national eruption.
Predictably, that eleventh hour somersault has drawn on the crooner a rain of barbs in the public space. The Sun cartoonist (Albert Ohams) jabbed on Tuesday with a depiction of a towering Police Inspector General teasing a little 2Face that national protest “is not like making babies”. His counterpart in The Punch joined more hilariously on Wednesday suggesting he softened probably after the IG plied him with some “African Queens”.
We need not crucify 2Face for that. Those who expected him to stand up to the IG’s intimidation would seem to equate him to the likes of immortal Fela. But the young man from Benue, on account of his pedigree, certainly lacks the depth and breadth – therefore, the political sophistication – to have acted differently.
By barging into the protest jungle musically from his accustomed pleasure zone, he was obviously punching above his weight. It was all reflected in his wearied look in the video message on Instagram Saturday evening announcing his withdrawal. With cloudy eyes, caked lips and froths in the mouth-corners, it was evident the ordinarily happy-go-lucky
minstrel had carried his ritual offering past the proverbial mosque’s door post. As he usually croons, “No be small thing o!”.
Otherwise, it requires very little political astuteness these days to read the national mood correctly against the backcloth of the rising misery index. It was, therefore, the height of naivety on Idibia’s part to assume that the clouds already loaded over the nation could, with a mere sleight of hand or a tepid Instagram post for that matter, be dispelled so casually from unleashing a downpour.
Rather than ignite something he could not finish thereby bringing himself embarrassment, perhaps 2Face should have limited himself to his accustomed musical arena. He could, for instance, have composed a single speaking to the moment. Like his older colleague, Daniel Wilson, whose recent “Never Again!” is a blistering put-down of Buhari. (I wager that will be the opposition anthem in the elections ahead.)
Also, the punches could have been delivered effectively by tweaking or adapting “E Be Like Say”. Or, the opportunity of a mega concert dubbed “Eargasm” (ha!) billed for Lagos tomorrow (hopefully to be transmitted live on cable TV), for which he is listed as the star entertainer, could be parlayed to detonate a dynamite.
Taken together, the key lesson of this episode should not be lost. The volcanic possibilities of two powers: social media and celebrity magic. While the former provided the platform to galvanize the youths ahead of the protest, there is no denying that more sparks came the moment 2Face entered the arena.
This is why, regardless of his last-minute cold feet, I believe we still owe the singer some credit for the popularity the idea quickly assumed. This was undoubtedly fueled by public appreciation of his past advocacy for non-violence in election with the “Vote Not Fight” initiative. In 2015 especially, he would earn further distinction by refusing, on principle, to partake of the naira bazaar political parties threw in the name of election campaign, unlike many of his colleagues who pocketed fat envelopes and became embedded on the train.
As an aside, I can also attest from my close observation while serving as Information Commissioner in Edo that 2Face carried himself with contentment and humility rare among his colleagues. On the few occasions he was invited to perform at open parties Comrade Adams Oshiomhole hosted for Edo youths during festive seasons, he always acted
professionally and was never one of those to be found in Government House the day after still scavenging for more “stomach infrastructure” even after being paid the appearance fees.
Overall, perhaps the most enduring lesson is for the artistes to become conscious of the power of their arts. As icons of the pop culture, they should realize their voices – even silences – and public conduct carry much weight. To misuse that power or conduct yourself in a way that suggests otherwise is to commit a grave social sin. Those who, for love of money, had honored invitations to perform at Abacha’s Million Man rally in 1998 soon learnt from the ensuing public outrage that, under certain circumstances, melodies become meaningless without social conscience.
Another good example is saxophonist Lagbaja who took a bold stand in 2015 refusing mouth-watering offer to play at PDP presidential campaign unlike others. His reason: he could not reconcile himself to playing for a political party he strongly believes was complicit in the gruesome murder fourteen years earlier of his mentor, Bola Ige.
At the height of the Britain/Ireland Cold War, Sean O’Conor, the Irish songbird of “Nothing Compares To You” fame, once bluntly refused to mount the stage until a British symbol in the arena was removed. Only last month in the United States, a member of the iconic Mormon Tabernacle Choir would not be part of the band to play at Donald Trump’s inauguration because, according to her, she was unable to see any consistency in the band’s stated value and Trump’s professed racism and misogyny. Fela perhaps put it most succinctly: “Music is a powerful weapon, if you toy with it, you die young”.
… The child of protest has grown
The biggest revelation of the anti-Buhari protest of last Monday would be Ms. Moremi Ojudu. The amazon led the column that swarmed the Bourdillon residence of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in Lagos.
Her appearance is quite historic in multiple terms. In Yoruba folklore, her namesake, Moremi, also did great exploits. In the hour when 2Face, symbol of entrenched male chauvinism, suddenly developed cold feet, she dared danger.
But much more striking is that she is the daughter of no other than the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Femi Ojudu. Obviously, the falcon could no longer hear the falconer. The feisty amazon came out to fight her dad openly.
Rather than despair, the glory is ultimately for the senior Ojudu. It is a measure of political education he gave his children that one could defy filial bond to publicly disagree with their dad based on convictions. Many in Moremi’s shoes would have taken to Instagram and other social media platforms to defend their dads assumed to be “chopping in Abuja”.
Honestly, I had thought Buhari people would have latched on to the hem of her garment and formulate the spin that her existence underscores how liberated Nigeria’s climate has become since APC took over. Lai Mohammed can even create a copy projecting her as the face of “constructive engagement” APC has been harping about, in case it doesn’t rhyme with the “Change Begins With Me” mantra.
With kids like this, there is still hope for Nigeria.
Maybe, we should not surprised at Moremi’s example. She was “born into the struggle”. She was still a little girl when her illustrious journalist of a dad joined the league of fearless and progressive journalists to resist military dictatorship of Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha in the 90s. As the editor of the crusading PM News and TheNews magazine, the senior Ojudu was a regular at the gulag.
Tired of his rascality, Abacha goons later waylaid, tortured and locked him up indefinitely.
It was under such defining climate Moremi grew up.
Above all, she must have read from Wole Soyinka’s timeless prison memoirs: the man dies in him/her who keeps silence in the face of tyranny. And now creeping despondency.
Obviously, the fortune spent on her education was well invested.
DSS: Are we back to Idi-Amin’s Uganda?
Even when the dust raised over its recent attempted midnight arrest of the Omega Fire Ministry Pastor, Johnson Suleiman, is yet to settle, the Department of State Security plumbed into fresh infamy last week in Calabar, Cross Rivers State.
According to media reports, DSS operatives swooped on the Federal Government Girls College and unleashed a reign of terror in “retaliation” of alleged caning of some errant students.
A Civic Education teacher named Mr. Owai Owai had thought it was within his powers to give two strokes of the cane on the palms of a group of SSS 3 students who had reportedly abused a junior student by forcing her to sweep their class during lecture hours against the school’s regulation.
One of them would have none of that. She allegedly grabbed the old teacher by the collar there and then, protesting her flogging. Outraged, the teacher whipped her some more.
With her ego now obviously wounded, she reportedly told off the teacher before her classmates that hell would soon be loosed on the school for the indignity she just suffered. Then, she stormed out.
She knew her power and privileges as the daughter of a DSS hierarch in town.
True to her threat, truckloads of DSS operatives soon descended on the school and Mr. Owai was beaten to pulp. His colleagues tried to rally in solidarity while the beating lasted. So, the DSS goons decided to spread the terror all over the school. Everyone in sight was brutalized, amid firing of volleys of bullet from their weapons of mass destruction.
So traumatized were the teachers and students, so extensive was the damage to school property that classes did not hold the following day.
Strangely, according to Punch on Tuesday, officialdom has been doing every thing in its power to sweep the matter under the carpet. A public-spirited lawyer, Baba Isa, who offered to take up the matter pro bono, was said to be under pressure to “hands off”.
Further twisting a knife in the fresh wound, Isa was also allegedly brutalized by unidentified security agents for the temerity to accept a brief against, it would seem, the “untouchable”.
Seeking justice, a group of teachers from the school later staged a protest to the State House of Assembly urging the lawmakers to lend their voices to their cry.
Curiously, at this writing, the DSS shamelessly continued to maintain a studied silence on this grave matter.
If the Cross Rivers branch of DSS is ashamed to own up, the headquarters in Abuja should know that this atrocity cannot be wished away. Not even under the despotic days of Sani Abacha did we witness something this barbaric. The closest would be under lunatic Field Marshall Idi-Amin of Uganda in the 70s.
But we hardly see this service ruthlessness, this James Bond stunt, on display against killer gangs of herdsmen dragging a razor on the thread of national unity.
In summary, anything short of bringing all the bad eggs to book is unacceptable.