By Ochereome Nnanna
THE involvement of the name of Innocent Idibia (Tu Face or 2Baba) in the mobilisation towards the just-concluded #OneVoiceNigeria protests against bad governance and its painful offshoots on the people the country helped hype the event.
Nigerians had been murmuring, complaining, despairing over the continued failure of the Muhammadu Buhari administration to make good his litany of campaign promises which lured those who did not know him well to vote him into power some 21 months ago. Apart from poor approach to almost every aspect of governance, the tribalism, sectionalism, nepotism and religious bigotry that have pervaded the past couple of years under Buhari have manifested in many forms.
These range from the armed Fulani attacks on mainly non-Muslim Nigerian indigenous communities in the Central and Southern parts, extreme Northern/Muslim predominance in the All Progressives Congress, APC, Presidency and Federal Government, Nigeria’s increased visibility in the affairs of international Muslim interest groups, a sharp rise in attacks by Muslim mobs over alleged “blasphemies”, abduction, and forcible conversion to Islam and marrying-off of many Christian under-aged girls without the consent of their parents by Muslim men with the backing and protection of Northern Islamic clerics and emirs.
The Buhari regime has returned our agencies of law enforcement, such as the Army, the Directorate of State Services and the Police to the mode of military dictatorship, using them against perceived enemies of the President, such as the Shiite Islamic sect, the Independent People of Biafra, IPOB, and the various Niger Delta self-determination groups, while ignoring all the cries of defenceless Nigerians who are under siege by armed Fulani militias.
With the economic situation biting harder as a result of the ineptitude of this regime to find a viable way out, Nigerians have been groaning under the suffocating effects of hunger, rising cost of domestic essential commodities, the worsening power situation, massive job losses (which in the past one and half years pared off over two million employed Nigerians into the Labour market), and the inability of most employers, especially governments, to pay their workers, the protests were meant to send a message (a sort of “yellow card”) to the regime.
When Tu Face and other concerned artistes and entertainment celebrities began signing-on to this protest venture, I was a bit skeptical. There is little in the messages they send out through their songs, movies and comedic jokes that portray political consciousness. If anything, these artistes (including Tu Face) forcefully aspire to be “friends” with top political and business moguls. They fancy being able to walk into Aso Villa, any Government House or Minister’s office with doors thrown wide open.
They want to be in the good books of the same people who are misgoverning us. They want to perform at weddings, birthdays and state galas involving the political high and mighty. They actually sing the praises of these elected people. For instance, Phyno, one of my most favourite musical artistes, ended his epic track: Fada-Fada on a rather sour note, by so needlessly reeling out the names of some poorly fancied Igbo governors.
It is not really their fault. Most of our top musical legends dead or alive: Oliver de Coque, Sunny Ade, Dan Maraya Jos, Ebenezer Obey, Osita Osadebe, Sonny Okosuns, among others, made millions singing the praises of rich men (including fraudsters) and politicians. Not every musician is a Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who actually fought these guys with his music all the way to his grave. I can’t remember hearing Victor Uwaifo singing anyone’s praises, but then, I don’t understand even come chop in the Benin language with which he delivers his songs.
So, when a Tu Face Idibia, who has rampantly hobnobbed with these politically-exposed persons suddenly turns around to lead an anti-Federal Government protests, the only reason I could adduce for chicken growing teeth overnight was the Fulani herdsmen massacres of his Benue people. This outrage is capable of radicalising anyone.
Again, I reflected that maybe Tu Face, having lost much ground as an active musician, was “changing level” – using the protest as his vehicle into politics. When the Nigerian Police issued the warning that he would be arrested if he participated in the protest and he still sounded defiant two days to the event, I thought for him the die was cast.
Indeed, it was. This was the defining moment for Tu Face. If he had gone through with it, the chances were very good that he would not be arrested. If arrested, he would be a hero. I have no record of any arrest of the major celebrities and civil society groups who proceeded with the march. Imagine what 2Baba’s rating would have been today if he had gone ahead! His importance would transcend the level his music took him to.
Allowing himself to be swayed by an old police gag that the protest would be hijacked by hoodlums and pulling out on such a silly alibi has severely damaged the Tu Face brand. Is it not the job of the Police to ensure hoodlums do not hijack a peaceful protest? In fact, I was at the poolside of an Abuja Hotel on Saturday evening when the news came out that Tu Face had “chickened out” of the protest. When one of his tracks came on, there was uproar, and the DJ was forced to skip all Tu Face tracks.
That is what happens when you raise the expectations of millions of people and dash it at the last minute. Courage is a rare commodity. Not everyone is blest with it. That is why those who have it are revered.
The youth must know that there is a time to fight for their future, and a time to maintain the peace. There is no peace for the cowardly. Those who picked courage to fight will become your overlords. Legendary American country singer, Kenny Rogers, sang about the Coward of the County and declared:
“Sometimes you have to fight to be a man!”