21st February, 2021
By Festus Adedayo
On sighting the headline of her piece entitled Nigerian Media: Let’s Stop Ethnic Profiling!, I initially thought well-respected media mogul, Kadaria Ahmed, was set to confront a media orthodoxy. Though it was plain, unambiguous and self-explanatory, in a moment, I imagined that that piece was about to collapse ancient established theses about the Nigerian media dominance and vain hold on power. This is because I love anyone who audaciously perforates the majesty of principalities and powers, persons, objects or places.
This was what carved a special place of regards in my heart for late Egba-born bard, Sakara music exponent and poet, Kelani Yesufu. Before his very unorthodox thinking, packaged into a line of poetry in his album entitled Atosi, at least among the Yoruba-speaking people of the then Western State, gonorrhea was an ailment that was believed to afflict only society’s greats. It was why the euphemistic acronym for it was arun gbajumo, translated: disease of the notable.
But Kelani, in these very dense Egba dialect lyrics of his which sounded like an ululation, reversed that existing, very ancient perception. Atosi (gonorrhea) could not have been a disease of the notable, he vehemently argued in that vinyl. Why? And Kelani began his narrative. He chanted the disease’s long cognomen – atosi atoha – and many other attributes of its, paying unmatchable tribute to the destructive prowess of the then pestilence of this venereal disease.
Men are afflicted by gonorrhea due to their multiple dalliances and careless libido, he said. Gonorrhea had killed so many people in those dark days of its affliction before the advent of the white man who readily provided a remedy for it. Kelani also dramatized how this venereal disease perforated the mouth of the sufferer’s midriff member, necessitating the victim regularly swallowing inscrutable potions like potassium called kanhun bilala as its remedy. For an affliction that takes its victim on such painful merry-go-rounds and the inconveniences it brings, asked Kelani, was it then right for gonorrhea to be labeled a disease of the notable?
The Kelani thesis momentarily unsettled existing narrative of the clubbing society and notables of the 1970s. Society apparently didn’t look at gonorrhea from that perspective before then. Those who labeled it a social disease ostensibly did that, placing it side by side the affliction of impotency, with the shame and societal ridicule which the afflicted victim went through. For a chauvinistic and charismatic African society like ours, the strength of manhood carried with it a conceit that men wore on their garments like a lapel. So, when comparatively estimated, the African society believed that the man who had multiple women liaisons and who, in the process, was afflicted by gonorrhea, was more desirable than an impotent man.
Such challenge of existing order and narrative was what I thought Kadaria was about. By the way, Ahmed is a Nigerian journalist, media entrepreneur and television host who began her career in London BBC. Her media forays span print, radio, television, online and social media platforms. I was damn wrong on what I thought Kadaria was about after all. In the piece, she shared a sense of foreboding, of doom and war which she said the Nigerian media was spearheading.
Offered as rhetorical interrogation of what she said was the media’s guilt in this grisly drum of war, Kadaria asked, “What exactly will we (media) gain if Nigeria descends into war? How does it advance us, if our fellow citizens turn on each other and begin large scale ethnic killings, against each other? Let me even assume that a few of us don’t believe in Nigeria anymore and want to see it broken into its constituent parts. How does enabling ethnic strife help achieve this objective in a way that guarantees the outcome you want?” The questions were targeted at whetting the ground for a more sweeping accusation: Media reporting of today, alleged Kadaria, has thrown away “the book on ethical reporting” and is now “propelled by emotions” and betrayal of “every moral consideration.”
Kadaria then lapsed into the ready-made typology of media complicity in war in Africa – Rwandan. The Nigerian media had failed woefully to learn a lifelong experience from media involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide and yielded its platform as “a tool that enables hate” Kadaria alleged.
“We have given platforms to the worst among us, the extremists and the bloodthirsty. We have turned militia leaders and criminals into champions. Instead of us to lead calm and rational discourse on the existential challenges we face, with a view to promoting actionable solutions, we have succumbed to hysteria and the next exciting click bait headline. And yet for many of us, especially media owners, this place called Nigeria has been relatively good. This country has given many of us more opportunity than the majority of our fellow citizens. We have reaped a bountiful harvest from this place. We have done so well that if, God forbid, this country is consumed and chaos reigns, many of us will hop on a plane and bugger off to the many different countries abroad where our families live in peace, even though they are not native to those places,” she said.
And then, the well-known journalist, who anchored that notorious interview with President Muhammadu Buhari, shortly before the 2019 election, where the president physically and clearly confirmed President Donald Trump’s alleged claim of his being lifeless, chose to bring out scary imageries of war. Said Kadara: “There will be killings in the thousands, limbs will be chopped off with machetes, women and girls will be raped, food will be scarce, fear will reign. The most brutal among us will take charge. And their word will be law. They will not tolerate journalists who try to hold them accountable.”
In the piece under review, Kadaria exhibited a very uncritical mind that is everything but the hallmark of good journalism. If you remove her byline from it, you would imagine that a Federal Government demagogue had penned that piece. It brimmed with cants, assumptions, sophistries and ill-logics that can only be provoked by a poisoned mind. If you were not in Nigeria and not abreast of the narratives of cow that have engaged the polity in the last five years or so, you would think that Nigerian journalists were in a combat of strife and hatred against Nigeria. Or that the practice of the profession in Nigeria is done with a mind to incinerate Nigeria. Throughout the piece, Kadaria never apportioned any blame to the man her 2019 interview irritatintgly buoyed into presidential office for a second term, in spite of his manifest mental and governmental failings. Not for a minute in that interview did Kadaria communicate, either via innuendo or literally, that Nigeria was, with the Buhari she saw in that interview, going to be burdened by an impaired president.
Now, to the gravamen of Kadaria’s claim. I have been to Rwanda, where, between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were murdered within the space of 100 days, after the death on April 6, 1994 of President Juvenal Habyarimana. Habyarimana, a Hutu, had his plane shot down while about to land at the Kigali airport. I was at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Park; saw the mangled bones, tombs of reburied carcasses assembled from all parts of Rwanda and the eerie atmosphere of bloodletting in the park. I spoke with victims and victimizers of the genocide. Yes, the narrative of “mosquito” constantly used by Hutu Power, a private radio station which was established by extremists surrounding Habyarimana and echoing their tribe’s extremist narratives, contributed to the genocide, but Habyarimana, as well as men and women of both Hutu and Tutsi tribes had taken the hatred narrative to the cusp, merely having it amplified by the radio.
But let me ask, did Kadaria anticipate a media that should blind its eyes to the ethnic-driven perfidy of the Buhari government or one that should not communicate the different queer narratives of what is happening under Buhari today? Further interrogation of Kadaria is apposite at this juncture. One: does she think the media is making up claims of Fulani herdsmen’s notorious criminal activities or that the media should have blurted out such reports? Second: Perhaps because Kadaria can conveniently be said to have medially helped to brew this Buhari broth, the government was then doing the right thing by looking the other way while the killing, maiming and raping of southerners is going on? Again, does she think that those who are recipients of this violence should have kept quiet? If they are narrating their gory experiences in the hands of Fulani herdsmen, does Kadaria think that the media should have turned its back on the victims? The honest truth is that, if you conduct a comparative analysis of Habyarimana’s guilt in the Rwandan genocide, it may only be a little higher than the war that Buhari is silently provoking by his inexplicable governmental cronyism and silence at the killing of innocent Southerners by Fulani herdsmen.
Those who Kadaria wanted to impress with that piece, or those she intended the piece to earn their kudos or her further retainership, are Nigeria’s jailers. They are those who she ought to have concentrated her expletives and condemnation on. When Kadaria took to penning that piece which she said was borne of her distaste for her media constituency’s alleged recently acquired penchant for baiting blood and beating saber-rattling gongs of war, Bukola Elemide’s Jailer crept up my mind. Elemide, better known as Asa, is a Nigerian-French singer, songwriter and recording artist whose hit, Jailer holds a lot of refreshing narrative of both the current Nigerian situation and Kadaria’s misdirected bayonet.
In Jailer, Asa levels every hill of suffering separating both the oppressed and their oppressors and removes all boundaries hitherto celebrated. Unbeknown to those who believed they occupied some level of ascriptions which insulate them from the Nigerian problems, Jailer tells them that the calamities are layered. According to her, the man who holds the fire-brimming burner to the bum of the oppressed and the oppressed are operating on the same wavelength. I’m in chains, you’re in chains too//I wear uniforms and you wear uniforms too//I’m a prisoner//You’re a prisoner too, Mr. Jailer//Oh I have fears, you have fears too//I will die, but yourself will die too//Life is beautiful//Don’t you think so too, Mr. Jailer?
Unfortunately, there is a raging pestilence of minds which think uncritically like Kadaria’s in present day Nigeria. They afflict the rest of us with the impurity of their infectiously dangerous thoughts, in the name of defending the Kingdom of Cow that Nigeria is furiously turning into. Kadaria and her fellow travelers should know that, like the Jailer, we are all in this together and the earlier we got a resolution, the better for all of us.
Last week, we examined the vacuous claim of the Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, that since southerners who had been living in the north for decades were not expelled by their states of domicile, it was unconscionable for northern Fulani herdsmen living in the south to be expelled. Mohammed also justified Fulani herdsmen carrying that deadly weapon, the AK-47. We let him know that that reasoning was fallacious because, whereas the north had no reason to expel southerners. apparenty on the basis of their good behavior, the south had reasons to expel northerners living with them because their existence in their own land because of their recently acquired marauding inclinations.
Now, Zamfara State governor, Bello Matawalle, has joined this race of impure thoughts. After meeting Buhari in the Villa last Thursday, Matawalle told the press that, not all bandits who terrorize some parts of Zamfara and other neighbouring states were criminals. First is that, that statement is a violent attack on language and logical semantics. A la semantics, banditry is “a type of organized crime committed by outlaws typically involving the threat or use of violence.” So, in the name of the twelve angels, how can tigers be described outside of their tigritude, or outlaws, outside of outlawry? And this was a governor who is faced with a violent affliction of hundreds of Zamfara people being killed or kidnapped by bandits, as well as in neighbouring Kaduna, Zamfara, Nasarawa, Katsina, Niger and Sokoto, for many years now.
Earlier, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, who has recently began a weird forest evangelism, harvesting bandits whose hands are brimming with blood of innocent souls, had joined in the chorus as well. These deadly criminals and bloodthirsty hounds who make the forest their hibernation were offended by the Nigerian state and deserve not only federal armistice but amnesty, said Gumi. “The Federal government should give them blanket amnesty,” he said last week. Gumi belonged to the same set of people who canvassed that Boko Haram insurgents, who have killed thousands of Nigerians and on account of whom the federal budget, earmarked for procurement of armament, is yearly depleted by billions of Naira, be granted amnesty, rehabilitated and given sumptuous financial grants. After meeting violent outlaws inhabiting the forest of Niger State on his latest intervention to rescue the 27 students of Government Science College, Kagara, Gumi had said: “The outcome (of his visit) is very positive. We have many factions and each faction is saying ‘I have complaints and grievances – we are persecuted, we are arrested, we are lynched,’” citing the bandits’ claim.
If we trace the filament that links all these tendentious statements, from Kadaria’s to Muhammed, Matawalle, Gumi and the likes, you will find an identifier, to wit a campaign for a world for the tyranny of Fulani herdsmen and bandits. The campaigners’ ultimate goal is to get carved out for them a Ministry of Banditry or Cattle Matters and a generous state negotiation, in the mould of Niger Delta militants’. If one may ask, why would anyone in their right senses compare the criminality of militants to that of bandits? As said last week, while the former is criminality buoyed by ethnic nationalism, the latter is engendered by undiluted criminality. It is no hidden fact that banditry in the Northwest is fallout of illegal and criminal artisanal mining of lead, gold, as well as other mineral resources. Does Kadaria know all these?
Exit of Ewart Beckford, U-Roy
The reggae world lost a pioneering icon last week. He is Ewart Beckford, better known as U-Roy. Beckford was a king of the microphone, beginning his career as a disc jockey in 1961. It is almost impossible for anyone who had anything to do with this Jamaican-popularized music in the 1970s, 80s and 90s not to have had U-Roy barge into them. He was said to have passed on on February 17, 2021 after undergoing surgery in a hospital in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital city amid suffering from diabetes, blood pressure and a kidney disease.
Born on September 21, 1942, one of U-Roy’s most famous offerings to the reggae world was Dread in a Babylon and Natty Dread (1976), the latter spiced up Mighty Diamonds’ Have Mercy. U-Roy also voiced the ‘Version Galore’ album and was known for bringing bravura and uniqueness to reggae rap, atop the blaring of rhythmic songs underneath. He was renowned for popularising this vocal style which was popularly known as “toasting.” He produced further albums, some of which are, Rasta Ambassador (1977), Jah Son of Africa (1978) and Pray Fi Di People which was released in 2012. U-Roy also featured on the album True Love done by Jamaican iconic old group called Toots and the Maytals. The album, in 20004, won the Grammy in the Best Reggae Album category,
No one could duel with U-Roy in this “toasting” singing, pretty and mellifluous conversational chatter genre as he successfully overturned the paradigm of Jamaican music. The uniqueness of U-Roy’s contribution to reggae ranged from the cadence of his rapping voice, his shimmering howl mid-singing and his lyrical audacity. He was known to shout in the midst of his lyrical sessions and such shouts added huge difference to his music. U-Roy was a great Rastafarian who, like biblical Nazarenes, adhered to the injunction of keeping their hairs, which grow in locks, sacred. U-Roy will be sorely missed by the reggae world.
-Festus Adedayo, lawyer, journalist and public affairs analyst, writes from Ibadan