The Davido example
Few young people are blessed to have it all: talent, wealth, influence, charisma, a cool head, a large heart. David Adeleke, to most of you Davido, falls into all categories. There’s perhaps another category: this great Nigerian kid is on the ascent, his star has just begun to rise. He is unstoppable. A string of smash hits and sold-out concerts since 2011 have taken care of that. But last week, Davido outdid himself yet again. He stepped forward to fulfill his obligations to his country as a young graduate; he registered for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). He was practically mobbed by other corpers after swearing his oath of allegiance. Who can blame them?
Everyone knows that Davido did not have to serve but he offered to. Which makes his explanation all the more sensible: “I registered for the scheme due to my strong passion for the NYSC.” Davido’s statement downplays the significance of what he has done but it shouldn’t.
The picture of Davido in NYSC khaki, boots and caps is simply priceless. It means that for a few moments, he took off his Christian Diors and those diamond-studded chains to wrap himself in patriotic glory. Truly inspirational. Davido may be the most illustrious young Nigerian to ever put on the NYSC uniform. We are not at war but think of Elvis Presley going to Vietnam.
He is easily one of the most exciting performers on the planet today. His influence on young minds is exceptional. Nearly 12 million of them swoon over him on Instagram and Twitter. And the awards? Who is still counting? Just bring on the Grammies.
Each time Davido steps in front of sold-out overseas concerts, he carries a piece of Nigeria with him. Ask anyone overseas about Davido. In Gambia and Uganda recently, the drivers who took us around town had pen drives full of Davido’s songs permanently plugged to their dashboards and streaming endlessly. And, unlike me, our drivers and our hosts all seemed to know the lyrics to his songs. Whenever the likes of Davido join the NYSC, they breathe some much needed fresh air on a scheme conceived by Gen Yakubu Gowon to unite the country after the bloody Civil War in 1970.
The NYSC has been on a rollercoaster ride since then. In my days (1987), decent washrooms at the Orientation Camp were a rarity and that is putting it mildly. Last time I checked, corpers had to pay bribes to charge their phones at the Camp. At another camp, operators tied a cow near the kitchen on hearing that inspectors were visiting from the Headquarters. Corpers who saw the cow salivated in anticipation of a good meal. Needless to say, the cow disappeared as soon as the inspectors left. Recently, I was alarmed to hear that a friend’s daughter was posted to Bornu State. Yes, Bornu State! Everyone who served has his or her NYSC story.
Davido now has his. The scheme may never see Davido’s kind again in the next 20 years. This must not go to waste. They should make it count. But NYSC was not designed to think like brand and image specialists. They may therefore not understand why Pepsi forks out millions for Wizkid or Tiwa Savage for the privilege of using their image to sell its sugared water. Or, for that matter, why Glo needs Richard Mofe Damijo’s face on its products. NYSC may be missing the boat. The Davido boat.
NYSC owes Davido a huge debt. They have the megastar all to themselves for 12 months; they could do a lot with his visibility provided it is carefully and smartly leveraged. I see other privileged kids following Davido’s lead and wanting to register to serve. That can only be a good thing for the scheme. Davido’s presence can arouse an unprecedented amount of interest in the scheme. After the circus of the Orientation Camp, Davido would have to be deployed for his primary assignment. The system has some flexibility, allowing corpers to “influence” their choice of primary assignment. (I could have killed just to serve at The Guardian but thankfully, I didn’t have to.)
I understand the NYSC favours deploying corpers to schools. Count Davido out. What will he teach the children? Just music perhaps? But that is hardly the subject our children need. Besides, celebrity has an overpowering effect on young people. Their words, deeds and public conducts count, and can sometimes be misunderstood by fans. Davido once listed his preferences as gin and oral sex. I cannot recall if it was in any particular order but he did indeed say it.
I have been reluctant to ask my two young boys to look up to Davido. I must confess that that was when I still had some control over them. With the last one leaving for the uni (not Covenant University) at the ripe age of 15, I am gradually losing that edge. But with Chioma on Davido’s side – and the stabilising effect she seems to having on him – I may be forced to walk it all back. Still, if I were a stockbroker, I would issue a “hold” recommendation on Davido for now. I am a keen observer of show business, not really a fan of Davido. I am a child of the 70s and 80s, and one of my legs is stuck there. In contemporary Nigerian music, my best respects are retained for Dare, who does not have Davido’s commercial success but is miles ahead critically.
But the world is at Davido’s feet. A lot more that Chioma is keeping him on the leash. And on the path of rectitude. Her man has a whole life ahead of him. His good education places him a step ahead of his contemporaries. His roots and pedigree are all clear success factors. He has no rags to riches story to explain his accomplishments at such a young age. His father has quite a pile and even owns a university. His uncle, Senator Ademola Adeleke, is making a strong bid to be the governor of Osun State. Senator Adeleke may not be able to sing a note but if dancing skills were a factor in the elections, he would be a shoo-in. Davido has matured gracefully. He is becoming more politically and socially conscious.
The other day, he stopped by to see Governor Nyesom Wike in Port Harcourt and thoughtfully used the visit to solicit support for his uncle. Davido can continue to keep it together because of obligations to promoters, the young men and women he is now signing on his label, promotional contracts with clients and of course his fans. He also has a large heart. This has translated into random acts of generosity, which seem to be calculated for maximum publicity. He would do well to organise his gifts into formal charity for greater impact and reach. But it is never too late to make Davido’s presence in NYSC count and work for our youth. This is NYSC’s call. The scheme can – and should – make the most of this while it lasts.
Ukpong, former Correspondent of The Guardian and managing partner, The Mavis Company.