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No Musician Owes You Their Voice


These days In Nigeria, you can wake up in the morning to anger at a pastor for allegedly raping a member of his church. But by the day’s end, you are fighting the Federal Government for grazing lands for the Fulani herdsmen via the RUGA scheme. We’re part of a conveyor belt of absurdity, which continues to supply us with enough brutality, drama, injustice or wickedness to leave us at the brink of our senses.

It is in times like these, that we need to amplify our voices for a common good. If you live in this country, and you have never had any reason to want to speak truth to power, you’re either a vegetable or are a part of the political and oppressive class. Each day gives us a valid reason to be outraged. And as we join collective voices to advocate and call for either justice and reparations, or some form of sanity, we need the most prominent among us to rise to the occasion.

Enter the music stars. Musicians are placed on a pedestal due to how wide their influence run, due to their art. In Nigeria, apart from oxygen and food, one of our most shared consumption habits lie in the local music. Artists who supply us with the art become mini-gods, packing worshippers daily. In times when we feel indignant or helpless, we expect these gods, who have more powers than the regular guy, to show up for us. We expect that they get involved in the things that mean much to us, and fight on our side. When people protest over anything in this country, any musician who joins in the fight becomes a rallying figure due to their visibility and celebrity. At the very least, a tweet or Instagram post by these artists would raise more awareness.

That’s why Ruggedman’s advocacy work with the Nigerian police is such a big deal. We have also had a lot of stars unite in support of Busola Dakolo and her husband, Timi Dakolo during this COZA saga. When the push to hold the bullish Senator Elisha Abbo to account, for assaulting a lady at a shop, celebrities joined in. These voices make a difference, and where they have applied themselves to stand with the people, they have been welcomed by the majority of their fans for doing the right thing. Every star who lends support to a good cause makes a real difference.

But trust Nigerians, we become entitled to this. Ask any artist, or visit their pages and you would find a spectrum of demands being thrown at them. The majority ask for money, (because Nigeria is a poor country with the highest number of people living in abject poverty). Others ask for birthday acknowledgements, while a lot of people just want their favourite artist to retweet them, or respond to their comment.

I know a guy who dined out on many evenings and his most interesting conversation was the day he took a random photo with Davido. Another girl, it has her photo with Wizkid as proof of her life’s value. And a star shared with me recently, how a lady who wanted to take pictures, used her kids as bait to draw him in for a selfie. It’s a lot.

When artists feel this heat the most is when they keep quiet during a heated national topic. Any artist who holds some social currency feels pressured in some way to address a number of topics. You are reminded daily by some entitled fan or follower, about how your privilege and status should be retooled to fight battles that don’t resonate with you. It’s a staggering level of entitlement.

Musicians are regular humans beings just like the fans. Successful artists carry a lot of clout because they chose to work in a field that interfaces with the emotional centers of the public. Half the time, they just want to eat their rice and sit in their living rooms and play video games.

Half-the-time, they don’t care about you. And rightly so.

You might have played some role in the creation of these stars. That song you listened to, fell in love with and shared. That video you saw, which stimulated you positively that you had to share it with your circle of friends. That concert ticket you bought, the track you streamed, the merchandise you purchased, and more. Those things helped the artist become who they are. But they don’t owe you anything. If an artist says “I didn’t force you to support my music,” that person will be right. You made your choice to rock with them, why don’t you allow them make the choice to reciprocate? You can’t because you are entitled. You can’t because you think you mean more to them. You can’t because you have silly expectations.

Musicians aren’t a moral center for your indignation. They don’t want to sign up for your struggles. Heck, they have privilege, and they have worked for it. Keeping that privilege and extending it is their primary objective.

In Nigeria, it’s a tougher job to do that, than in many countries. Why should they take on your cross when their privilege insulates them? There’s no logical reason why they should other than their “Church mind.” Guess what? A lot of them won’t. And no matter how much you pressure, your entire existence is communicated as a statistic: One song streamed, an extra like on their tweet, a random comment on their posts, and one insignificant face in a sea of bodies at their concert.

Understanding this will help you recalibrate your own existence, and understand that ultimately, when life and society comes at you, when Nigeria throws you a curveball (as it often does) and injustice rises all around you. You are on your own. Nobody owes you anything. Not even the guy that sings “Starboy dey for you.”Nobody dey for you. Nobody owes you their voice. You are on your own. Deal with it.

In this article:
Joey Akan
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