11th February, 2023
By Nehru Odeh
They are both popular Nigerian artistes, though they represent opposite sides of our political spectrum. Seun Kuti and Peter Okoye have both given Nigerians content and vibes over the years, but they now remind us of the polarities at war in Nigeria. They now remind us of the polarities fighting to dominate discourse. They remind us of the polarities fighting to control our minds.
And just as the poet Christopher Okigbo says in one of his poems, they are like many other Nigerians shrubs among poplars needing more root, more sap to grow to sunlight, thirsting for sunlight.
This indeed is the intriguing story of Afrobeat musician Seun Kuti and Peter Okoye of the Psquare fame who are seemingly currently at war over their political preferences.
This indeed is the story of the fight of two brothers over what they feel is good for the nation. But the question is, what is good for the nation?
They may be fighting over what they feel is their political differences. Still, the truth is, this is the story of not just their fight but our fight. This is the story of not just their fight for survival but our survival. This is the story not just about their fight over political correctness but that of the common good. Their fight matters. But, more important, our lives matter too. The life of the average Nigerian matters. Our common good matters.
Still, the two artistes are currently at each other’s throats over not just the choice of political candidates per se as many erroneously think it but over our existential survival, over the survival of what Peter Enahoro refers to as the common man over our survival.
Their fight is not merely over a choice of political candidates but also our fight, the fight for our own soul and the soul of our nation. Their fight is not just over a morsel of porridge but over our birthright, the right of every Nigerian to quality life, quality education, quality healthcare and other qualities.
Their fight is not just the mundane fight of whom to vote for or whom not to vote for – even though that matters, even when most times our votes don’t matter or we don’t value our votes or we sell them for mere pittance. It is about the fate of the common man who cannot afford a meal per day, not to talk of three-square meals, as the cliche goes.
It is about the common man who cannot afford to give his children quality education. It is about the common man who does not have any life chance. It is about the common man who cannot access quality healthcare.
Seun, like his father the legendary Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti, has never hidden his aversion for the establishment, his impatience and intolerance for cant and hypocrisy. He has never hidden his contempt for bad leaders and bad governance.
That explains why in that online conversation with Channels television broadcaster Seun Okinbaloye he dismissed the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, describing him as an opportunist who he feels is not the right candidate to bail the country out of its doldrums.
Though some may read ethnicity in it, as is the wont of many Nigerians, Seun hinges his reason for his outright dismissal of Obi on the hasty manner he decamped from the Peoples Democratic Party to the Labour Party, which has socialist leanings, when he failed to secure the presidential ticket of the former.
Seun also described Obi as an internet president whose election starts and ends on social media, adding that only Nigerians themselves can save the country.
This indeed drew the ire of Peter who irked by what he perceived as Seun’s attack on his presidential candidate responded via his Twitter handle thus: “Dude, just keep quiet. So so disappointed. Dude just erased his father’s history. You said only Nigerians can save Nigeria, is PO and the rest candidates not Nigerians? Shame, shame, shame..
“My late Father was a nobody, but today everyone knows the Okoyes. Dude, try removing “KUTI” from your name, let me see if you are relevant. Remain in that your Local SHRINE while people like us and others continue excelling Globally. YOU CAN’T SHAME THE SHAMELESS. You had no music career in the first place. All you do is brag about your family background.”
Peter’s response, which many believe was a personal attack that holds no water was the fuel the already heated polity needed to not just set the internet on fire but also set the country on a tailspin, a country already polarized along religious and ethnic lines and whose citizens are struggling to survive on a daily basis.
Seun fired back in a video that has gone viral, passionately reiterating his earlier stance that Obi is not the messiah that Nigerians need at this period of our country’s history, while also dismissing the Psquare brothers as bootlickers who have always hobnobbed with politicians and the enemies of the Nigerian people.
He said: “After Psquare don do enough shows for all the rich men and all the politicians of this country, na today Na Peter wan dey tell me to say him know what is good for Nigeria?
“After they’ve played the game. They’ve hyped them up. They sit down with you coming to tell you today that they love you. Why didn’t they love you ten years ago? Ask Psquare why they didn’t love you 20 years ago when they were jumping up and down with PDP all over the place,” he said.
“After you played for Buhari in 2015. You think to say dem no reach out to us too for those times. But we know how to say no. No be everything we go chop,” he added.
Seun insisted only the suffering populace can solve the problems confronting the nation and not those who created or were benefiting from the problems.
:”The people that are going through the pain of this country are the ones that can solve the problem of this country, not the one that are causing the pain or benefiting from it, adding that the reason his music is not aired by radio and television stations in Nigeria is because they are majorly controlled by politicians and those who don’t mean well for Nigerians.
“We that abstained from that scene, we refused to condone, we refused to bow, we refused to sing any song wey dem go like. No politician can hear any of my songs and smile.
“That’s why my songs aren’t on the radio because they own all the radio. That’s why my songs aren’t on the TV because they own all the TV.
“That’s why all the social media boys don’t praise my songs. You know why? Because these mudaf*ckers own them.
Speaking further, Seun urged Nigerians not to be carried away by those pushing the narrative that the country is in its worst state ever, advising them to read about the country’s history so that they are not misled by such talks. He also stressed that the nation didn’t go bad just today but had been in worse state than this in time past.
“Did Nigeria suddenly just spoil today? Is it today? Because all of you, I don’t know what is wrong with you. Even you don’t know what is wrong with you. Did Nigeria just spoil today?
“They go, ‘Eh Nigeria has never been this bad’. Is this worse than civil war? Nigeria has always been through civil war. So definitely Nigeria has been worse than this. And it can still get even worse than this. Don’t let anybody bamboozle you.
“Go and study about ‘Operation Wetie’. Go and read about the first republic in this country. You people don’t want to be historical. You don’t want to know who you are. You want to listen to the latest song,” he added.
Still, while the confrontation has set Nigerians against one another with many pitching tents in order to set the records straight, Nigerians have undermined the essence of their arguments and by so doing throw away the baby with the bathwater.
They have thrown away the heart of the matter and are rather concerned about things that don’t really matter as far as the survival of the common man is concerned. What matters is not our political differences but our common good, our common humanity.
What matters is how Nigerians can rescue this nation from the filthy hands of those who have contributed to making life hellish for the common man. And that I think was what Seun was trying to say, It is high time Nigerians threw away their political, religious and ethnic differences and join forces to rescue this nation.
Rather than pitch tent with one side or the other and heat the polity the more, we should be cognizant of the fact that the survival of the common man, the survival of the soul of the nation is the heart of the matter. What matters is the life of the average Nigerian. Any other thing na jankara, as we say in Pidgin English.