Today, Fela will be turning in his grave observing Nigeria’s political chemistry and all the items of experiment.
Late afro-beat sage, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, was a social crusader and more. Across the world, many people regard him as one of the most iconic personalities to emerge from Africa. Through the grand instrumentality of his music, he challenged neo-colonial mentality in the new African states that sprang from the debris of colonialism. He confronted the military establishment, exposing glaring criminality, misrule, corruption and unrivalled sadism against the populace. As an unrepentant agent of critical scrutiny in governance, Fela spurred the masses to action against a decadent economic and political order that compromised their existence. In his constant query of anti-people government policies, he was always involved in a battle with the military hierarchy whose rule of conquer was consistently laid bare in his music.
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In other climes, Fela will be elevated to the honorific level of a pantheon over some politicians who played a part in viciously consigning Nigeria’s economic potential to the necropolis. Given his commitment to social revival, he should be canonized. The fulcrum of his musical philosophy should be studied as a compulsory course in Nigeria’s universities in the same way English literary god, William Shakespeare, is presently studied. Fela’s music touches the raw nerves and the soul. His music is a gospel to the disoriented and a compass to the misguided. These days, while the lyrics of music celebrate sexual depravity and emotional misadventure misnamed love, Fela’s music seeks to awaken the populace to official complicity of rogue acts in government. His dexterity with musical instruments and their disarming, rhythmic symphony create a nostalgic return to African roots. He mostly sang in Yoruba and Pidgin English to identify with the common people. Fela was our own, his music is our heritage.
Although many have criticised him for a lifestyle of immorality and for popularizing the demand for marijuana, his message, like late American reggae maestro, Bob Marley, far outweighs the nodal tensions of his lifestyle. Today, Fela will be turning in his grave observing Nigeria’s political chemistry and all the items of experiment. From the great beyond, he will be shocked to see the present crop of youths who are stripped of the natural impetus to reasonable thinking and as a result have collectively become the Mr. Follow Follow character in his celebrated track by that name. In this essay, Fela’s musical track Mr. Follow Follow shall be used as a metaphor to interrogate Nigeria’s political reality.
Presently, it is apparent that Nigerian youths have become Mr. Follow Follow whose minds and thinking processes have been recolonized by inexplicable, elemental by-ways which find expressions in political idiocy. To be certain, Fela’s conception of Mr. Follow Follow is someone who, lacking direction and any form of initiative follows another person with closed eyes, closed ears and closed senses. In a way, the Nigerian contemporary youth fits into the Mr. Follow Follow narrative without any iota of doubt. It is simply incomprehensible how the Nigerian youth has failed to understand the hide and seek orchestrated by the current political class. How on earth is it possible that the youths have failed to understand the chicanery and dubiety being perpetuated by the existing political establishment? The social media has become the battle field for youths where they practically go at each other’s throat in the defence of people who do not have their interest at heart. No wonder President Buhari rightly called the youths of his country lazy and uneducated. Instead of coming together to collapse a superstructure and every human principality negating the rise of their ingenious possibilities, the Nigerian youth has seemingly become Fela’s Mr. Follow Follow.
It is bad enough that Nigeria’s political peregrination apparently leaves us with two choices in Atiku and Buhari, it is more soul-wrenching that youths fight over these two people who are above seventy years. A developing country like Nigeria does not deserve a seventy-year-old person to superintend her affairs.
Buhari has served Nigeria as a youthful military head of state. He has paid his dues in the Nigerian project. At a time like this, one would expect him to retire to his village, enjoy his retirement and give the younger generation the opportunity to steer the affairs of this country. The world has matriculated beyond the kind of mathematics that operates our machinery of governance and Nigeria’s current economic state is a testimony to that fact. Nelson Mandela of blessed memory promised to serve for one term, he did and retired as a statesman. That is integrity as I understand it.
Atiku Abubakar has served this country as a youthful customs officer for many years and also as a vice president for eight years. Like Buhari, Atiku is over 70 years. On the scale of enterprise, human resources and business acumen, Atiku stands tall above Buhari never mind all the political gymnastics and sophistry to the contrary. However, Atiku should retire from the political space and mind his many businesses so that the younger generation can contribute their quota in uplifting the country. His entrepreneurial intelligence will be needed as a statesman in an advisory capacity.
There are many young people in this country with impressive academic profiles from the best universities in the world. There are also many young people in this country who have been exposed to the best business ideas, best leadership/political communities and best human resources environment. Yet, educated youths still support either Buhari or Atiku to rule Nigeria. Beyond being Mr. Follow Follow, I am convinced that something is wrong with our individual and collective sensibilities, perhaps it reflects a genome that is inherently retrogressive.
It is unfortunate that with millions of distinguished persons, erudite scholars and eminent young personalities, Nigeria’s choice of leadership is left to the death kiss of aged persons. It is more repulsing that like Fela’s Mr. Follow Follow, Atiku and Buhari are egged on by millions of Nigerian youths who unfortunately are caught in the whirlwind of what Wole Soyinka calls “the recurrent cycle of human stupidity.” What is wrong with an Oby Ezekwesili or Kingsley Moghalu presidency? What will happen if Fela Durotoye or Omoyele Sowere becomes Nigeria’s president? Will the heavens fall if Ibrahim Dankwambo or Rabiu Kwankwaso is elected as Nigeria’s president? Is it beyond Donald Duke to preside over the affairs of this country in the capacity of a president? Unfortunately, some youths, hitherto seen as progressives, have become political turncoats, daily yielding to the lure of ventriloquism with its cosmetic, transient patronage.
Going forward, we must do away with the divisive mantra of ethnicity and religion which are instruments in the hands of the aged elite to keep the youths apart. When the youths are set against one another, they are sufficiently distracted to identify the problem and seek solution. It is only when Nigerian youths wake from their delusion and divest themselves of the retarded garment of Mr. Follow Follow that our journey to a new world will begin.
Adiele writes from Department of English, University of Lagos, via [email protected]