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Everything you need to live well

Nothing about Nigeria ever changes, even our music

UNITED KINGDOM – JANUARY 01: BRIXTON ACADEMY Photo of Fela KUTI, Fela Kuti live at The Academy, Brixton, London 1983 (Photo by David Corio/Redferns)


We are in a simulation called Nigeria. Nothing is real, nothing holds actual value, not even human life. This simulation is looped with everything going in cycles. The leaders of the past never leave. They become leaders of today and as long as they have breath, they will be leaders of tomorrow.

Our economy loves to dance. It shakes and sways to music played from mismanagement, bad policies and the insistence of our leadership to embrace their selves before the needs of the people. There is rice in Kano. But is there money in Ekiti and Ebonyi? Human capital is sprawling, and their gaps in the market for every business to be launched. But is there a market in the gap to monetize this? People are poor.

They are the reality of our today. They exist in the memories of our yesterday, and will likely outlast us. Poor people are never in short supply in Nigeria. They are like a negative human resource. Ready to be recruited for a spectrum of things. Good things, bad things, horrible things. That’s why crime is our sibling. It is connected to us by blood. We are never escaping it. We are in a looped simulation and we just don’t know.

A good place to explain this in our art. Nigerian music has a fine history of activists led by the legendary Fela Kuti, the pioneer of Afrobeats. Kuti in his time rallied against Nigeria’s military governments, which was riddled with bad policies, and stifling poverty. He also railed about the reverse racism of Nigerians, where we elevate and venerate anything that has a touch of ‘abroad’ while loathing our indigenous attributes and culture. There’s Eedris, who gave us the classic ‘Jaga Jaga’, where he told us all that the government isn’t it, and the common man’s lot is bleak. African China begged a sitting president and all his lieutenants to “lead us well, govern us well, and senate am well.” Sound Sultan created analogies to explain the depth of our decay. Oritse Femi was militant in his approach, threatening to ‘flog politicians koboko.’ 2face Idibia nko? That guy has sang through generations about our problems and all.

You want to know the result of this hard work put in by these fine gentlemen? Nothing. Nothing changes. The simulation machine was not turned off, and so the centrifugal force stays intact, spinning us round and round in a circle of doom. Nothing has changed. These records did their fair bit to awaken consciousness and band us for a while. But they were never powerful enough to make the people rise us and push for real change. We are all pawns and victims. Pawns of a system that is designed to be a liability, extracting from us and our bodies to a point where we die from its toll. Our victimhood is perpetuated daily, manifesting in the sighs that we heave and the crack of our bones as they give way under the pressure of bare existence. A few of us are thriving. But how many of us are barely making survival? Everyday a Nigerian navigates, he wins a trophy; “Thanks For Not Dying.”

The greatest indicator and tragedy of this loop can be explained like this: You see all of those songs that we are happy to mention as songs that were released as a reflection of an earlier time? Well, if you gather every one of them, remaster them, update their production, but don’t touch their content, you would find out that each of them is relevant today, and would not sound dated.

Nigeria is still “jaga jaga”, Fela’s “Sorrow, tears and blood,” album stills speaks to this generation as the soundtrack of the Nigerian reality. Don’t you feel the urge to flog politicians with a lot more than Koboko? Are the presidents presidenting right, the governors showing up where and when it matters, and the senate showing their people that they have their backs with the bills that they sponsor? Our colonial mentality has spiked. A foreign land, Canada is sucking our best minds in. Those ones are the lucky ones, they escaped the machine. The loop no longer controls their lives. Their existence can now be led with less interference. And if it does get interfered with, they won’t be a in a loop because they are not in Nigeria.

We have an old president beginning a new term. In the first one, Nigerian groaned under the weight of the nation’s hydra-headed problems. The next four years, hope continues to provide comfort. Will he change? Will he move faster? Are we going to break the cycle of poor leadership? Just ask the late Fela Kuti. He already recorded your answer. Even from the afterlife, his relevance shines through.

In this article:
Fela KutiJoey Akan
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