‘Jingling’ The Bell Of Political Ambition


I laughed so hard on Saturday. The run-up to any election is always hilarious: full of  gaffes and buffoonery. Thanks, at least so far, to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP),  this time around is no different.

I was born in time to witness the first democratic elections since the military regimes  of Buhari/Idiagbon and Babangida/Aikhomu (who replaced Ukiwe after the latter’s  resignation). The result of the 1979 elections had brought Shehu Shagari to power. He  held sway for four years and two months before he was overthrown in a military coup. The  military ruled till Babangida could hold out no longer and the much postponed democratic  elections held in June 1993.

While schooling then in the Ikeja Military Cantonment, we had no qualms singing all these  songs advertising the SDP candidate MKO Abiola (the majority’s preferred candidate), his  NRC rival Uthman Tofa, Bamanga Tukur and Olu Falae amongst others.

On the march again…

The most memorable then was of course MKO’s ‘On the march again…’ There was another  version, however, which referred to Tofa as a condiment for our pots of soup. I also  recall Olu Falae’s political jingle, which I found quite humorous: ‘Anywhere you see  Falae foto o, VOTE! VOTE!! VOTE!!!’

As if it was possible to vote more than once?! Besides, if at that time I was eligible to  vote, I would not have voted for Falae because my elder siblings had a wicked teacher  named Mrs. Falaye. I didn’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 one  of his wives was my mother’s friend. Because he lived not too far from our then-residence  in Opebi. MKO: ‘Money, Kudi,  Owo…’

The climax of his ambition has been widely discussed by those who should know. What more  have I to add but that I went to school the day after his July 7 demise only to be told  that school was out. My dad had dropped us and returned home, so we had to walk the  entire one hour  journey back home five minutes after arriving school. Even the contents  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 same  cantonment was not closed for the day. No, sir! Did the Nigerian Army think more of a  cheated political prisoner than they did their own Commander-in-chief?

Anyway, back to my primary issue. In the year 1998 –the same year we lost Abacha and  Abiola and the year when Abdulsalami Abubakar became an unwilling (?) head of state –  Nigeria was once again on the march to democratic elections. Subtract 1998 from 2010 and  you have the sole reason why our politicians have embraced the term ‘nascent democracy’  like a lifeline against military interference.

Once again, I digress, and in case you haven’t noticed this piece is about the musical  shenanigans that accompany many a declaration for president. So it came to pass that in  the electoral session 1998/1999, Nigerians were aurally and visually bombarded left,  right and centre by a motley crew of politicians desperate to become president.

‘Say and do’

The roll call reads like a who’s who of heroes and villains in a Nollywood-made spaghetti  western: Wada Nas, Olusegun Obasanjo, Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas, Olusola Saraki, Alex  Ekwueme, Ike Nwachukwu, Muhammadu Buhari (a veteran contestant), Olisa Agbakoba, Gani  Fawehinmi, Kris Okotie, Olu Falae (again) and many others. Definitely someone in each of  this contestants’ campaign team would have had a brain wave about composing jingles like  they did in 1993.

Enter OBJ: After a very ‘mumu’ song that is better forgotten, a dialogue ensued between  one Baba Bunmi and his friend. Both had apparently ‘enjoyed’ Baba Iyabo’s tenure as  military head of state in the ‘70s. Baba Bunmi, no different from the modern-day mumu had  regaled his son Bunmi of Uncle Shege’s exploits. The youthful voice we hear afterwards is  undoubtedly that of the misguided Bunmi: “Uncle Shege! He has done it before he will do  it again.” And again, if GEJ wins OBJ’s third term come 2011. Wouldn’t Bunmi be much  wiser now?

Move over to the doctor cum politician cum godfather cum Saraki patriarch (cock and bull)  Olusola Saraki. If I remember correctly, the jingle starts like this: “There is only one  man for you and for me and his name is Olusola Saraki…Sola Saraki for President! A-P-P,  A-P-P!! The man I want for president is Dr. Saraki.” Where are they now? His son, Kwara  State’s incumbent governor, not only ‘inherited’ his title but has now inherited the  ‘battle’ for presidency. Memo to this family: Nigeria is not Kwara State. By the way the  jingle above reminds me of that old Emzor Paracetamol advert: ‘Emzor Paracetamol will  make you feel better.’Along came Alex Ekwueme, architect and lawyer. I forget his other  professions now. Ah! Yes, failed politician. What did the voice in his jingle sing?  ‘Ekwueme will do what he says he’ll do. If he says he wants to make you happy…’ Needless  to say, he fell like Achilles of Troy and is now a passenger on the Goodluck Jonathan  express.

In the lion’s den
I don’t recall any jingles by the others, even though they probably had some on air.  Maybe the others just paid for more airtime. Not even a jingle by pop  star/pastor/presidential aspirant Kris Okotie appeared to have made any impact on the  airwaves, much like his ambition, which was truncated when OBJ was declared winner of the  1999 presidential elections. We might yet hear something from Pastor Okotie, after all,  he isn’t retired from the battle.

There was a lull in creative jingles for the 2003 elections as the presidential aspirants  were more of the same desperate type. The muse however moved over to state level and that  year, my personal favourite was Gbenga Daniel’s animated TV ad. Adopting a church song  about Daniel in the lion’s den, the ‘Emperor’ of Ogun State moved boisterously along the  road to the rescue of Sodeke’s children after God saved him from the lion:

‘Won gbe Daniel s’inu iho,    Daniel was placed in the lion’s den
iho kiniun nla, iho kiniun nla                          the huge lion’s den
Olorun ran angeeli re                                     God sent an angel
O di kiniun l’enu, o di kiniun l’enu     To shut tight the lion’s trap
E lo so f’araye                                                   Go tell the world
Pee Daniel nbo                                            That Daniel is coming
Eyin Omo Ogun                                     Children of Ogun State
E d’amure yin giri’                                           Gird your loins

Eight years later, wouldn’t many of them had wished the lion was set free instead of  Daniel?

2007 was another year of the states. Being a Lagos resident most of the fascinating ads  were by the state’s gubernatorial aspirants. However I do recall from Edo State: ‘Julius  Ihonvbere, wey una want. Na im be dis o!’

Back to Lagos where Babatunde Raji Fashola, Musiliu Obanikoro (Koro), Jimi Agbaje, Femi  Pedro, Remi Adiukwu-Bakare and Hakeem Gbajabiamila were having it out. Of all the  candidates only Koro and Gbajabiamila were not originally from the Action Congress.

Representing the Alliance for Democracy (the AD was once referred to as ‘Agba Didinrin’  by the late lawyer and human rights activist Gani Fawehinmi, after the party leadership  was conned by Obasanjo), Gbajabiamila, nicknamed ‘Gba be’ chose a song by a failed  musician titled ‘Akwa Oche.’ ‘Gba be’ replaced the title in the jingle: ‘Gba be o! Na im  we want; to make our life better.’

That was bad enough. Unfortunately, around the time campaigns were heating up, a  particular song from D’Banj’s sophomore album was also rocking the airwaves: ‘Gba be! O  ti rundown.’ This song soon replaced the poor handsome candidate’s campaign anthem making  him the butt of jokes even amongst primary school pupils. His chances at the polls were  ‘run down’ even before it started. Ouch!

While I can’t immediately recall Femi Pedro’s ‘song,’ I remember the ‘video’ vividly. A  lawyer, a policeman, a soldier, an engineer and a construction worker all in full regalia  were dancing to what I can only refer to as a ‘mumu’ dance while campaigning for the  juvenile politician. Making his surname an acronym for some kind of manifesto did not  stop him getting the nickname ‘Petrol’ because of his potential to self-destruct. At the  end of the ad, he does a solo version of the ‘mumu’ dance, which was later deleted from  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 All  Peoples Party (she left APP before it became the All Nigerian Peoples Party [ANPP]), also  of the AD and then AC. She put a forgettable jingle on air highlighting how her  femininity would be a bonus to the state amongst other exploits that qualify her for the  office. She lost in the AC primaries before proceeding to the Democratic Peoples Alliance  (DPA) where she lost again before moving to Accord Party, then Action Alliance and  eventually losing at the general polls on the platform of the Peoples Progressive  Alliance (PPA). She has currently found refuge under the PDP umbrella for the 2011  gubernatorial elections.

Everybody loves Jimi Agbaje. Or so he thought. This pharmacist turned politician must  have felt Queen’s English and a bundle of ideas would no doubt claim him the Lagos seat.  Not even a degree from the University of Ife could help his street credibility in the  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 the  “Everybody, everybody, everybody, everybody, everybody loves Jimi Agbaje” jingle. The  second ad featured an old man in danshiki doing some acrobatic choreography to a song  that sounded like it was from an Obiwon album: ‘Who be de man wey go fit change Lagos  State?’ the jingle asked. ‘Jimi Agbaje,’ came the response. All that ancient energy was  wasted considering voters weren’t on the same page with Mr. Agbaje. After losing the AC  primaries he had found refuge under Olu Falae’s DPA along with Adiukwu-Bakare, Pedro and  Afikuyomi. He dusted the others at the DPA primaries. Alas, victory was not repeated at  the polls. Who be de man?‘De man’ was definitely not Koro. During his second term as an  AD senator, he had decamped to the PDP in a messy affair. Following the assassination of  Funsho Williams (another AD decampee), the PDP gubernatorial primaries became a free-for  all, with Koro emerging the party’s ‘flagbearer.’  Despite battling allegations of having  a false identity, Koro managed to reach out to his fans with myriad text messages  literally screaming ‘Ko si Koro, Ko s’ibo. KORO!!!’ Some young children, probably with no  concern for posterity were also gathered to sing ‘We love you, Koro.’ With none of this  having the desired effect Koro and friends took a play at the Fashola jingle, singing,  ‘Fa-fa-fa-fa- Fashy dem!’ He could have been speaking to a population of deaf Lagosians…

Talk about your name being your selling point or did he just have a great campaign team.  Or a greater godfather? “Fa-fa-fa-fa-Fashola! Baba ni governor wa, RAJI FASHOLA!  FASHOLA!!! Baba ni governor.”The man in question, all smiles and ‘legal swagger,’ then  walks up to the camera at the end of each ad to remind us to ‘Vote Babatunde Raji Fashola  for a Brighter Rewarding Future. Eko o ni baje o!’ 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 the  charade of a declaration that was being aired live on the Nigerian Television Authority  and some private stations. Watching the ‘stars’ sing at GEJ’s late morning show had me  praying that someone would not be ‘bright’ enough to recommend that the songs be burnt on  a disc for public consumption. From D’Banj’s ‘Bobo too’ good o’ to Onyeka Onwenu’s ‘Run  Goodluck, Run’ (from his own shadow?) or Sammie Okposo’s Wellu wellu reloaded, I might  end up in stitches or a laughter-induced coma if such a CD is put on repeat.

Unlike the songs commemorating Obama’s (yep, he’ll always be a reference point) campaign  and inauguration, these songs will become ‘classics’ not for the message behind them nor  for being beautiful music but for the buffoonery and near slapstick humour behind them.  Seeing ‘established’ Nigerians embarrass their families and rubbish their accomplishments  on television is sickening to the point of regurgitation. There are more dignifying ways  to obtain combined honours in Sycophancy and Hypocrisy!

But why do I care on their behalf, when they don’t? Professor Wole Soyinka once called it  ‘deliberate ignorance.’ It is similar to what is more popularly referred to as ‘selective  amnesia.’ Is forgiving and forgetting beyond some of us? Or do we carry too many bad  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: Sani  Abacha’s infamous one-million man march in March. Most of the ignoble characters that  ‘graced’ this march in March at gunpoint or cash-point are the same crew haunting GEJ’s  presidential ambition: Onyeka Onwenu is unforgettable for her presence during both  campaigns. Outside the music world, there is Daniel Kanu, organiser of the notorious  march and convener of the group ‘Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha’ (YEAA). He is currently  lobbying Nigerians in America to support Goodluck Jonathan.

Abacha remains the only aspirant to accompany his transmutation from military to civilian  president with a musical concert. Top of the pops, baby! I remember during the intended  metamorphosis, there was a particular jingle on the NTA. Played to the backdrop of Bob  Marley’s ‘Who the Cap Fits,’ a baritone voice-over echoed, “Who the cap fits, let them  wear it” while a green beret morphed into ‘head dresses’ from the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba  ethnic groups.Thank God, the rumoured apple and Bollywood starlets pressed ‘Ctrl+D’  before disaster struck…

It remains amazing that while politicians are quick to hire musicians to sing their  praise in time for elections, the ‘favour’ is not repaid to the creative industry when  the politicians get what they want. Perhaps, we have returned to the days of the king and  the court jester (read ‘fool’), who lives only to massage his boss’ ego.

But musicians and politicians are not exactly strange bedfellows. Back in those days,  royalty and dignitaries were heralded with trumpet sounds. There is also the similarity  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 many  Nigerians aren’t fool enough right now to ‘k’omole’ to the pied piper’s cacophony.

—Derin Ajao

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