14th October, 2010
I laughed so hard on Saturday. The run-up to any election is always hilarious: full ofÂ gaffes and buffoonery. Thanks, at least so far, to the Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP),Â this time around is no different.
I was born in time to witness the first democratic elections since the military regimesÂ of Buhari/Idiagbon and Babangida/Aikhomu (who replaced Ukiwe after the latterâ€™sÂ resignation). The result of the 1979 elections had brought Shehu Shagari to power. HeÂ held sway for four years and two months before he was overthrown in a military coup. TheÂ military ruled till Babangida could hold out no longer and the much postponed democraticÂ elections held in June 1993.
While schooling then in the Ikeja Military Cantonment, we had no qualms singing all theseÂ songs advertising the SDP candidate MKO Abiola (the majorityâ€™s preferred candidate), hisÂ NRC rival Uthman Tofa, Bamanga Tukur and Olu Falae amongst others.
On the march againâ€¦
The most memorable then was of course MKOâ€™s â€˜On the march againâ€¦â€™ There was anotherÂ version, however, which referred to Tofa as a condiment for our pots of soup. I alsoÂ recall Olu Falaeâ€™s political jingle, which I found quite humorous: â€˜Anywhere you seeÂ Falae foto o, VOTE! VOTE!! VOTE!!!â€™
As if it was possible to vote more than once?! Besides, if at that time I was eligible toÂ vote, I would not have voted for Falae because my elder siblings had a wicked teacherÂ named Mrs. Falaye. I didnâ€™t care for the fact that they were not related.
MKO was the man. Because the papers said so. Because he was a philanthropist. Because oneÂ of his wives was my motherâ€™s friend. Because he lived not too far from our then-residenceÂ in Opebi. MKO: â€˜Money, Kudi,Â Owoâ€¦â€™
The climax of his ambition has been widely discussed by those who should know. What moreÂ have I to add but that I went to school the day after his July 7 demise only to be toldÂ that school was out. My dad had dropped us and returned home, so we had to walk theÂ entire one hourÂ journey back home five minutes after arriving school. Even the contentsÂ of my water bottle were still cold by the time I got home.
Amazingly, when Sani Abacha died about a month before, the same school in the sameÂ cantonment was not closed for the day. No, sir! Did the Nigerian Army think more of aÂ cheated political prisoner than they did their own Commander-in-chief?
Anyway, back to my primary issue. In the year 1998 â€“the same year we lost Abacha andÂ Abiola and the year when Abdulsalami Abubakar became an unwilling (?) head of state â€“Â Nigeria was once again on the march to democratic elections. Subtract 1998 from 2010 andÂ you have the sole reason why our politicians have embraced the term â€˜nascent democracyâ€™Â like a lifeline against military interference.
Once again, I digress, and in case you havenâ€™t noticed this piece is about the musicalÂ shenanigans that accompany many a declaration for president. So it came to pass that inÂ the electoral session 1998/1999, Nigerians were aurally and visually bombarded left,Â right and centre by a motley crew of politicians desperate to become president.
â€˜Say and doâ€™
The roll call reads like a whoâ€™s who of heroes and villains in a Nollywood-made spaghettiÂ western: Wada Nas, Olusegun Obasanjo, Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas, Olusola Saraki, AlexÂ Ekwueme, Ike Nwachukwu, Muhammadu Buhari (a veteran contestant), Olisa Agbakoba, GaniÂ Fawehinmi, Kris Okotie, Olu Falae (again) and many others. Definitely someone in each ofÂ this contestantsâ€™ campaign team would have had a brain wave about composing jingles likeÂ they did in 1993.
Enter OBJ: After a very â€˜mumuâ€™ song that is better forgotten, a dialogue ensued betweenÂ one Baba Bunmi and his friend. Both had apparently â€˜enjoyedâ€™ Baba Iyaboâ€™s tenure asÂ military head of state in the â€˜70s. Baba Bunmi, no different from the modern-day mumu hadÂ regaled his son Bunmi of Uncle Shegeâ€™s exploits. The youthful voice we hear afterwards isÂ undoubtedly that of the misguided Bunmi: â€œUncle Shege! He has done it before he will doÂ it again.â€ And again, if GEJ wins OBJâ€™s third term come 2011. Wouldnâ€™t Bunmi be muchÂ wiser now?
Move over to the doctor cum politician cum godfather cum Saraki patriarch (cock and bull)Â Olusola Saraki. If I remember correctly, the jingle starts like this: â€œThere is only oneÂ man for you and for me and his name is Olusola Sarakiâ€¦Sola Saraki for President! A-P-P,Â A-P-P!! The man I want for president is Dr. Saraki.â€ Where are they now? His son, KwaraÂ Stateâ€™s incumbent governor, not only â€˜inheritedâ€™ his title but has now inherited theÂ â€˜battleâ€™ for presidency. Memo to this family: Nigeria is not Kwara State. By the way theÂ jingle above reminds me of that old Emzor Paracetamol advert: â€˜Emzor Paracetamol willÂ make you feel better.â€™Along came Alex Ekwueme, architect and lawyer. I forget his otherÂ professions now. Ah! Yes, failed politician. What did the voice in his jingle sing?Â â€˜Ekwueme will do what he says heâ€™ll do. If he says he wants to make you happyâ€¦â€™ NeedlessÂ to say, he fell like Achilles of Troy and is now a passenger on the Goodluck JonathanÂ express.
In the lionâ€™s den
I donâ€™t recall any jingles by the others, even though they probably had some on air.Â Maybe the others just paid for more airtime. Not even a jingle by popÂ star/pastor/presidential aspirant Kris Okotie appeared to have made any impact on theÂ airwaves, much like his ambition, which was truncated when OBJ was declared winner of theÂ 1999 presidential elections. We might yet hear something from Pastor Okotie, after all,Â he isnâ€™t retired from the battle.
There was a lull in creative jingles for the 2003 elections as the presidential aspirantsÂ were more of the same desperate type. The muse however moved over to state level and thatÂ year, my personal favourite was Gbenga Danielâ€™s animated TV ad. Adopting a church songÂ about Daniel in the lionâ€™s den, the â€˜Emperorâ€™ of Ogun State moved boisterously along theÂ road to the rescue of Sodekeâ€™s children after God saved him from the lion:
â€˜Won gbe Daniel sâ€™inu iho, Â Â Â Daniel was placed in the lionâ€™s den
iho kiniun nla, iho kiniun nla Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â the huge lionâ€™s den
Olorun ran angeeli reÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â God sent an angel
O di kiniun lâ€™enu, o di kiniun lâ€™enuÂ Â Â Â To shut tight the lionâ€™s trap
E lo so fâ€™arayeÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Go tell the world
Pee Daniel nboÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â That Daniel is coming
Eyin Omo OgunÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Children of Ogun State
E dâ€™amure yin giriâ€™Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Gird your loins
Eight years later, wouldnâ€™t many of them had wished the lion was set free instead ofÂ Daniel?
2007 was another year of the states. Being a Lagos resident most of the fascinating adsÂ were by the stateâ€™s gubernatorial aspirants. However I do recall from Edo State: â€˜JuliusÂ Ihonvbere, wey una want. Na im be dis o!â€™
Back to Lagos where Babatunde Raji Fashola, Musiliu Obanikoro (Koro), Jimi Agbaje, FemiÂ Pedro, Remi Adiukwu-Bakare and Hakeem Gbajabiamila were having it out. Of all theÂ candidates only Koro and Gbajabiamila were not originally from the Action Congress.
Representing the Alliance for Democracy (the AD was once referred to as â€˜Agba Didinrinâ€™Â by the late lawyer and human rights activist Gani Fawehinmi, after the party leadershipÂ was conned by Obasanjo), Gbajabiamila, nicknamed â€˜Gba beâ€™ chose a song by a failedÂ musician titled â€˜Akwa Oche.â€™ â€˜Gba beâ€™ replaced the title in the jingle: â€˜Gba be o! Na imÂ we want; to make our life better.â€™
That was bad enough. Unfortunately, around the time campaigns were heating up, aÂ particular song from Dâ€™Banjâ€™s sophomore album was also rocking the airwaves: â€˜Gba be! OÂ ti rundown.â€™ This song soon replaced the poor handsome candidateâ€™s campaign anthem makingÂ him the butt of jokes even amongst primary school pupils. His chances at the polls wereÂ â€˜run downâ€™ even before it started. Ouch!
While I canâ€™t immediately recall Femi Pedroâ€™s â€˜song,â€™ I remember the â€˜videoâ€™ vividly. AÂ lawyer, a policeman, a soldier, an engineer and a construction worker all in full regaliaÂ were dancing to what I can only refer to as a â€˜mumuâ€™ dance while campaigning for theÂ juvenile politician. Making his surname an acronym for some kind of manifesto did notÂ stop him getting the nickname â€˜Petrolâ€™ because of his potential to self-destruct. At theÂ end of the ad, he does a solo version of the â€˜mumuâ€™ dance, which was later deleted fromÂ the full ad. Someone must have realised that it was bad publicity.
Same for the only woman left in the race; Remi Adiukwu-Bakare previously of the AllÂ Peoples Party (she left APP before it became the All Nigerian Peoples Party [ANPP]), alsoÂ of the AD and then AC. She put a forgettable jingle on air highlighting how herÂ femininity would be a bonus to the state amongst other exploits that qualify her for theÂ office. She lost in the AC primaries before proceeding to the Democratic Peoples AllianceÂ (DPA) where she lost again before moving to Accord Party, then Action Alliance andÂ eventually losing at the general polls on the platform of the Peoples ProgressiveÂ Alliance (PPA). She has currently found refuge under the PDP umbrella for the 2011Â gubernatorial elections.
Everybody loves Jimi Agbaje. Or so he thought. This pharmacist turned politician mustÂ have felt Queenâ€™s English and a bundle of ideas would no doubt claim him the Lagos seat.Â Not even a degree from the University of Ife could help his street credibility in theÂ eyes of Lagos State residents and politicians, who were professors in Political Thuggery.
Agbaje set to work anyway, even joining in the childish dance that accompanied theÂ â€œEverybody, everybody, everybody, everybody, everybody loves Jimi Agbajeâ€ jingle. TheÂ second ad featured an old man in danshiki doing some acrobatic choreography to a songÂ that sounded like it was from an Obiwon album: â€˜Who be de man wey go fit change LagosÂ State?â€™ the jingle asked. â€˜Jimi Agbaje,â€™ came the response. All that ancient energy wasÂ wasted considering voters werenâ€™t on the same page with Mr. Agbaje. After losing the ACÂ primaries he had found refuge under Olu Falaeâ€™s DPA along with Adiukwu-Bakare, Pedro andÂ Afikuyomi. He dusted the others at the DPA primaries. Alas, victory was not repeated atÂ the polls. Who be de man?â€˜De manâ€™ was definitely not Koro. During his second term as anÂ AD senator, he had decamped to the PDP in a messy affair. Following the assassination ofÂ Funsho Williams (another AD decampee), the PDP gubernatorial primaries became a free-forÂ all, with Koro emerging the partyâ€™s â€˜flagbearer.â€™Â Despite battling allegations of havingÂ a false identity, Koro managed to reach out to his fans with myriad text messagesÂ literally screaming â€˜Ko si Koro, Ko sâ€™ibo. KORO!!!â€™ Some young children, probably with noÂ concern for posterity were also gathered to sing â€˜We love you, Koro.â€™ With none of thisÂ having the desired effect Koro and friends took a play at the Fashola jingle, singing,Â â€˜Fa-fa-fa-fa- Fashy dem!â€™ He could have been speaking to a population of deaf Lagosiansâ€¦
Talk about your name being your selling point or did he just have a great campaign team.Â Or a greater godfather? â€œFa-fa-fa-fa-Fashola! Baba ni governor wa, RAJI FASHOLA!Â FASHOLA!!! Baba ni governor.â€The man in question, all smiles and â€˜legal swagger,â€™ thenÂ walks up to the camera at the end of each ad to remind us to â€˜Vote Babatunde Raji FasholaÂ for a Brighter Rewarding Future. Eko o ni baje o!â€™ O baje tii!!!
One-Million man March
Back to the dish of the day: why did I laugh so hard on Saturday? I woke up to theÂ charade of a declaration that was being aired live on the Nigerian Television AuthorityÂ and some private stations. Watching the â€˜starsâ€™ sing at GEJâ€™s late morning show had meÂ praying that someone would not be â€˜brightâ€™ enough to recommend that the songs be burnt onÂ a disc for public consumption. From Dâ€™Banjâ€™s â€˜Bobo tooâ€™ good oâ€™ to Onyeka Onwenuâ€™s â€˜RunÂ Goodluck, Runâ€™ (from his own shadow?) or Sammie Okposoâ€™s Wellu wellu reloaded, I mightÂ end up in stitches or a laughter-induced coma if such a CD is put on repeat.
Unlike the songs commemorating Obamaâ€™s (yep, heâ€™ll always be a reference point) campaignÂ and inauguration, these songs will become â€˜classicsâ€™ not for the message behind them norÂ for being beautiful music but for the buffoonery and near slapstick humour behind them.Â Seeing â€˜establishedâ€™ Nigerians embarrass their families and rubbish their accomplishmentsÂ on television is sickening to the point of regurgitation. There are more dignifying waysÂ to obtain combined honours in Sycophancy and Hypocrisy!
But why do I care on their behalf, when they donâ€™t? Professor Wole Soyinka once called itÂ â€˜deliberate ignorance.â€™ It is similar to what is more popularly referred to as â€˜selectiveÂ amnesia.â€™ Is forgiving and forgetting beyond some of us? Or do we carry too many badÂ memories about? Maybe we do. But are they unnecessary memories or lessons from the past?
The point here hinges on the biggest romance between music and politics in Nigeria: SaniÂ Abachaâ€™s infamous one-million man march in March. Most of the ignoble characters thatÂ â€˜gracedâ€™ this march in March at gunpoint or cash-point are the same crew haunting GEJâ€™sÂ presidential ambition: Onyeka Onwenu is unforgettable for her presence during bothÂ campaigns. Outside the music world, there is Daniel Kanu, organiser of the notoriousÂ march and convener of the group â€˜Youths Earnestly Ask for Abachaâ€™ (YEAA). He is currentlyÂ lobbying Nigerians in America to support Goodluck Jonathan.
Abacha remains the only aspirant to accompany his transmutation from military to civilianÂ president with a musical concert. Top of the pops, baby! I remember during the intendedÂ metamorphosis, there was a particular jingle on the NTA. Played to the backdrop of BobÂ Marleyâ€™s â€˜Who the Cap Fits,â€™ a baritone voice-over echoed, â€œWho the cap fits, let themÂ wear itâ€ while a green beret morphed into â€˜head dressesâ€™ from the Hausa, Igbo and YorubaÂ ethnic groups.Thank God, the rumoured apple and Bollywood starlets pressed â€˜Ctrl+Dâ€™Â before disaster struckâ€¦
It remains amazing that while politicians are quick to hire musicians to sing theirÂ praise in time for elections, the â€˜favourâ€™ is not repaid to the creative industry whenÂ the politicians get what they want. Perhaps, we have returned to the days of the king andÂ the court jester (read â€˜foolâ€™), who lives only to massage his bossâ€™ ego.
But musicians and politicians are not exactly strange bedfellows. Back in those days,Â royalty and dignitaries were heralded with trumpet sounds. There is also the similarityÂ in their profession: role-playing, rhetoric and grand-standing.
The king can only have as much fools. We might all be rats in this rat race but manyÂ Nigerians arenâ€™t fool enough right now to â€˜kâ€™omoleâ€™ to the pied piperâ€™s cacophony.