Fela Lives, As We ‘Look And Laugh’

By Morak Babajide-Alabi

The trend of the emails I received on the back of the publication of this column last week was the question – why do I ignore issues happening in Nigeria and concentrate energy on the politics of another country? This was in reaction to the piece on the travails of Theresa May, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister. Severally, I made attempts to defend this by justifying that the column is written about happenings in the diaspora that will interest Nigerian readers.

I did not convince myself with this line of argument and I knew I would not succeed  with a particular gentleman who had advised in his email that I should take out the mole in my eyes before attempting to remove the speck in other peoples’ eyes. He asked me to show what I have written on the many ills that are confronting Nigeria. In another email, I was asked: “What can we say about the performance of those in charge of running our own affairs?”

Reading the email messages, I could feel the anger of people who need a voice on their side, to talk about the disappointments and failures of a supposedly great nation. They are looking for a writer who will see what they see and feel their pain and what they are undergoing in their motherland.

I “see” the disappointment of a “people” who invested so much in their future but has been let down variously by past and present administrations. I read between the lines and understood their bewilderment at why they are being shortchanged by leaders who are supposed to champion their causes, but are so unconcerned. I could “hear” the cries of Nigerians that once thought change was coming – the bands of Nigerians who two years ago thought they were on the road to redemption. The Nigerians that have waited endlessly at the “Change Bus Stop” for so many months and years now, but the “change” bus has refused to turn up to take them to the “Promised Land.”

Where is the messiah? The email messages were indirectly asking.

Unfortunately, there are no “beautiful ones” to answer these myriad of questions. They “are not yet born”. The leaders that should address the concerns of the masses are busy chasing the shadows, enriching themselves and bankrupting the country. The saints that were “anointed” to clean the Augean stable are busy making deals and consigning the future of generations of Nigerians yet unborn to poverty by obtaining huge foreign loans.

This time, I paused and asked “What’s there to write about Nigeria again?” Is it reiterating the fact that no change will come? In July 12, 2015, in the article titled “Who Short Changed Our Expectations?” I wrote – “Nigerians now have idea of what change will be. We have seen the “colour” of the change as we struggle to accept that in this dispensation the players will fight, kick, bite, back stab and cut the limbs of “friends” who stand in their paths to power. They have shown that they belong to nobody but themselves. And we have realised that the APC is not a saintly party after all. We see the cracks widening everyday as these strange bedfellows are bringing out their knives and stabbing each other in the back.”

As I ruminated over all these, the words of the great Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti floated in my head – “My brother no be so, tabi, no be say I wan keep quiet. My brother no be say I no wan write new song for you to make you think and happy. Wetin I dey do be say. Wetin I dey do be say. I say wetin I dey do seh? I dey look and laffu.”

Coincidentally, today would have marked the 79th birthday anniversary of this legendary Nigerian, whom many refer to as a prophet of his generation. He wrote this song “Look and Laugh” after years of singing and campaigning for a better Nigeria, yet his entreaties fell on deaf ears. Fela was a man who saw into the future, warned us many times, but we took him for granted.

Is there still anything to say about Nigeria? Fela said it all. Happy Posthumous Birthday to the one and only “Abami Eda”. A man who saw beyond the deception of our leaders and into the future.  He sang – “Shey the tings we me and you don see for this country no reach for me To dey looku and laffu. Wetin I no sing about, in this country. Sing Sing Sing till dem come charge me with armed robbery. Seh, I must looku and laffu”

THE BATTLE IS NOT WON YET, MAY

When I wrote last week, it was an immediate reaction to what Theresa May went through the week before and during UK’s ruling Conservative Party annual conference in Manchester.  There is no point reliving again the harrowing experience she had in a week that was supposed to be a comeback one for her.

As a result of her “performance “ and the barrage of criticisms against her person and the handling of the BREXIT deal, it was easy to conclude that May was a toast, just waiting to be “eaten” up.  The highlights of the week gone by raised expectations of high political drama in coming weeks, further exacerbated by the threats of the former Tory Chairman Grant Shapps to unseat the Prime Minister with the initial backing of thirty Members of Parliament.

We would not know what happened, as he seemed not to be able to gather the needed 48 signatories that should have “started” the journey to the end of May’s Premiership. If Shapps had expected applause, he did not show his disappointment with the backlash of criticisms against him after his rebellious kite refused to fly.

Another figure that we thought would kick off something drastic and irrational was Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. By his stance a few weeks ago, you would have expected him to sustain the pressure on May and force the lady to resign his position. But he seems to be a tactical man. He knows where his bread is being buttered, and he was wise to check himself, stay in line and wait for another opportunity to make a bid for the leadership.

One thing is sure though, the Prime Minister has managed to ward off the threats to her position, for now. She is back on top of things and trying to make the most of the media mileage she could get. She definitely still has a lot to contend with in the future, but for the time being, Mrs May had just barely “won the fiercest” political battle of her life.

I wish she does not mistake this for a reason to indulge in a little celebratory dance. To be politically naive at this time of her career would be suicidal, as she should know that there are evils lurking in the dark for her, especially on the BREXIT front. Wisdom suggests she gathers the best strategists she can afford right now and give her Cabinet a little shake to drop the ministers who are not on the same page with her.

As published in the Sunday Vanguard October 15, 2017

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