MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT AS TOOLS FOR NATIONS SOCIAL AND POLITICAL MOBILISATION
With the multidimensional issues begging for attention today, one would wonder why any writer would choose a subject like entertainment to write on. Come to think of it, entertainments are never in the budgetary allocation of most nations and were found, it maintains special mention in an obscure manner. This sector which has never failed in rising to the occasion when frequently beaconed on is forever neglected. Yet no occasion goes without music and entertainment for effect. The just concluded PDP primary at Eagle Square was a washed with all manner of dancing and what have you before the real players arrived. It kept the guests waiting joyfully despite the function starting hours behind schedule.
All over the world, from Hollywood to Bollywood and now our dear Nollywood, the various governments pay lip service to this sector which is one of the major source social integration, unity and peace. In the Bible, monarchs and governments, music has been used to quench the anger of kings and queens and most requests have been swiftly granted were diplomacy failed. In Yoruba land south west of Nigeria , talking drums and dance steps have been used to deliver urgent messages of war or peace given the prevailing circumstances. In the military, once the Trumpet of war is blown, every soldier is called to order in minutes based on the tune sounded. In the international scene, late Michael Jackson received the nation's highest honor through music and late American president Ronald Reagan called him the “American Dream” based on his musical exploits. The freedom of elder statesman Nelson Mandela and by extension South Africa was partly through the efforts of late Mama Africa - Mariam Makeba, Huge Masekela, Ipi Tombi, late Lucy Dube, late Sonny Okosun, Onyeka Onwuenu, Chris Hanen of Ozigizaga fame etc. All these set the tune for the diplomatic and successful moves of late General Muritala Muhammed as Head of State and late Joe Garba as External Affairs Minister among others.
Music. Music it was that our late legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti used in “Confusion Na Quench” and “Go-slow go-slow” in the 70s'to graphically present the scenario at Ojuelegba (a chaotic business junction in Surulere Lagos Nigeria)were at the road crossing, there could be no Police man to control the traffic and so all would be held for hours without movement. But applying the wisdom in the song caused the government of the day to construct the two fly-over bridges on Western Avenue and the National Stadium Lagos as well as the application of Odd and Even number on vehicles during the 1973 All African Games and FESTAC'77 the measure reduced and controlled traffic. So music worked.
Music is used to read the mood of a people and nations. It is an instrument of cultural re-awakening, adding values, and getting peoples perceptions. Shortly after the civil war in Nigeria , music was used to sooth the nerves of everyone who lost someone or property when Eddy Okwedi sang “Happy Survival”, same with Nicco Mbagas' “Sweet Mother”. To awaken out spirit for call to duty, Mike Okris' “Time Na Money” controlled the air waves during the nonchalant days before Muritala sacked people on account of lateness to work. In the early days of the bad administration of IBB when almost every Treasury was burnt, even the Defense building and NITEL House, Late Fela decorated it with “ITT-International Thief Thief”. Also, when the whole nation became tensed up due to election cancellations, Onyeka Onwuenu encouraged us with “One Love”. Tuface has through his “African Queen” promoted the beauty of the African woman in Adire and other African textiles. Music has been used to promote dress code by praise singers like Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey in the 70's who praised the nuovo rich when Oil money was on the rise, not now that women spend their hard earned fortunes to buy handkerchiefs to barely cover vital areas of their body. Everywhere it hurts or brings joy, music has a statement for it.
But why do we need entertainment as a means of mobilizing the people? It has long been identified as a veritable tool. In 2003, when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo thought that he was reconstructing Nigeria , a musician sang “Nigeria Jaga jaga”. The president was so angered that he cursed the family of the singer. Not done, he fast tracked the departure to obscurity of the man.
Just last year, when Dr. Goodluck E. Jonathan decided to run for the presidency, he recognized the indisputable factor of music and assembled the best brains in the entertainment industry to do his campaign promo. Like wild fire, it captured the youths and the mood of the nation and suddenly, the general without any army became a washed with volunteers. Today, it is foregone that the man is the next president because after his landslide victory of the January13, 2011 PDP primaries, no other force has come any stronger. This feat may not have been achieved without the message of music.
Now more than ever before, Nigeria is in dire need of national reorientation, and any valuable contribution from anyone would be a step in the right direction. We need to tell the world through arts that we are not what they think. It is very shameful that the apostle of rebranding of Nigeria Prof. Dora Akunyili could dump the ship of her “Nigeria Great Nation, Good People” for a sectional interest in an opposition party. We need to tell everyone to stop the politics of the stomach. We need music to help address burning issues of our time and they are many indeed. We must be reminded that there is dignity in labour. Late James Brown in his tinny room in America sang “Am Black and Proud” and the world was agog. Bob Glendorff collected artists to sing “We Are The World” and hunger left Kenya . In the heat of Sadam Hussain hostilities, Michael Jackson sang “Heal the World”. Our actors have sold million copies of CDs in home videos as they presented bad leadership in their acts. The Bakasi syndrome vanished because its evil was brought to life through acting of “Isakaba”. Comedians have made mice meat of IBB, Abacha etc. the press is doing well ok. But compared to the viewers of films, how many people read quality articles today? How many musicians will read this work and take advantage of it? The attentions of our youths are divided and some even think that we as a nation have never had any value system. Do you blame them? Who are their role models?
When we ask people questions about the direction we should go most shrug their shoulders as to mean that nothing can be done again. But how many have made definite attempts? Dark as the tunnel looks, there is still light at the end and we must catch the dream to be part of this great country that is soon to unfold. It is definitely not a lost battle at all. We can start from point one and l feel very strongly that music should be the fore runner for a faster pace and effective change. Our music should address our dress code, respect for elders, and value for money. We should take improved educational standard head long, economic values, vote out thieves, make a mice meat of everyone who has misrepresented us as is currently going on in the various political parties. We should in the same way identify and punish or banish through music, those who want to cause disharmony, disunity and war by any and every means just because the pendulum did not swing to their direction. We need change. Dr. Goodluck we are in desperate need of change. In this your second coming, you have much to do.
In Rotary International, and you are a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary, any president of any local club is elected two years in advance. The reason for this, is for them to have enough time to plan their projects. Once in office, from day one, it is project implementation all the way hence within the one year of reign, so much is achieved in so short a time. I expect nothing less sir.
Final shot, former American president Jimmy Carter left office more than 28 years ago. Today, his pet project in Africa has put him in the annals of past American presidents found to be busiest even after office. He was asked why he took to eradicating Guinea Worm in Africa as a project. He said that even as the president of America , he never heard of the disease, hear him “… but l had been governor of Georgia before l became the president. …And obviously, l had the resources of an entire nation, and l had three million people in the US government. I was Commander-in –Chief of the military forces. And l was the spokesman of the most powerful nation on earth. But when l left the US government, l did not have any power, or authority or money. It's been challenging, interesting and gratifying but much more, l have found an opportunity to relate more intimately with people at the grassroots'.” Are our politicians reading this? The process of progressive and positive change must begin now and there is certainly no more time to waste. Mr. President, if you must succeed in your second coming, irrespective of whose ox is goad, choose your men. You have just this once to prove to the world that you nobody's man. Do it. If not for yourself, then for posterity's sake. And if music be the food of life, let it play on. Happy February.
Mike O. Akpati