You know when one of your favorite artists of all time schools our leaders on how to give an effective State of the Union address just four days before Democracy Day? That’s exactly how I felt last week when I woke up to a link on Whatsapp and I saw “Falz – This is Nigeria”. I pressed play hesitant of my data, as we can all be in Nigeria, and after three minutes and forty-two seconds I was reminded of the exact grass root of my hesitation – this is Nigeria. I know how I felt when Childish Gambino released ‘This is America’ a few weeks ago and I watched the music video, which had a huge impact on me. It actually hadn’t crossed my mind that a Nigerian artist would bless us with a relative remix, but of course Falz did it and did it right.
There are several messages that Falz sent across in what should be seen as Nigeria’s current National Anthem as the artist touched base with the extreme realities of Nigeria today. Let’s start off with the voice recording at the start of the song:
Nigeria’s health sector is one of the greatest drawbacks that the country has today. First of all, we continue to pay out-of-pocket for basic health care services and it is one of the main reasons why Nigeria is one of the lowest tax paying countries today. As I write this, the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU), are currently on strike and have only returned to work in four states based on negotiations with their state governments. While on strike, there’s an Ebola outbreak just two thousand kilometres to the south-east of the country in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While on strike, citizens are being taken to hospitals with gunshot wounds and being rejected based on the fear of health sector workers to attend to criminals – which is ironic, as every human being is entitled to health care regardless of status within the justice system. The issues that we are seeing are a clear depiction of the dilapidated state of our health sector, which may not get any better, considering an extremely low four percent allocation to the health sector in the 2018 budget. But, this is Nigeria.
Moving on, Falz directly addresses insecurity in Nigeria. Just last week, our senators stated that our security agencies need more funding and once again, we all rolled our eyes at the fact that more funding never leads to more effectiveness, in any organization or institution relative to the Nigerian government. The artist depicts the constant violence that we see on the streets from area boys fighting to herdsmen slaughtering and armed robbers stealing. He stated “everybody be criminal” and quite frankly touched on one of the largest issues that we have today when it comes to justice in Nigeria with those three words. Insecurity has reached a point where every citizen is a target to the most corrupt security agencies on the land. I know that I don’t go anywhere without my ID anymore based on the constant stories of police brutality – this is a nation of 198 million citizens yet we do not feel protected. What was extremely effective was the depiction of a citizen who is set free by the police for having a high-status father – a common norm in the Federal Republic. We pay out-of-pocket for private security like we do with health care and many prefer to have night time vigilantes than to rely on the police. Everything, with regards to security is up in arms.
Falz then gives a direct address to the minimal value for life in the country as he steps over the body of an assassinated citizen and before we know it, four girl children wearing Hijab’s appear behind him dancing the nationwide ‘shaku shaku’. When it comes to education in Nigeria, we have the highest out-of-education statistics in the world and the girl child suffers the most. More so, based on insurgency in several parts of the North, several boarding schools have been shut down and we have experienced the heartbreaking abduction on many accounts of our children. The most recent to have made the rounds in the media was the abduction of the Dapchi schoolgirls and it is important to note that Leah Shabiru is still missing. Two weeks ago marked her sixteenth birthday and her parents called for the collective efforts of us as citizens to pressurize the government for her safe return. No one knows if she is dead or alive, this is Nigeria.
The next few lines of Falz’s song goes to show that he knew the importance of cutting across every intersectional problem that we face in Nigeria today. He stated that just because he’s on TV, people that don’t have work are busy checking to see if his watch is original. This is relative to several unnecessary problems that public figures face in Nigeria today. Emphasis is taken off the important issues that we should be discussing and we wake up nearly every morning to a new story going around several blogs about a particular celebrity wearing fake designer or a social media battle between public figures that boils down to irrelevant things. Falz is inspiring a generation to wake up and start asking the right questions – a foundation that I am actually using for a radio show I wish to start soon. We need to start fuelling the right conversations, asking the right questions and encouraging healthier debates in society. There are too many issues in Nigeria today for us to be worrying about whether Kiss Daniel is wearing fake Louis Vuitton or not.
Back to what’s important – let’s speak about corruption. Earlier on this year thirty-six million Naira went missing from the JAMB Office. For those who may not know, JAMB is the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board. Now a team of auditors were sent to different states across the country to account for sold and unsold scratch cards. Benue State were placed in a difficult position when a sales clerk of the JAMB office in the state mentioned that she could not account for N36 million and that her house girl and another JAMB staff “spiritually” stole the money through a mysterious snake that would come in to the office and swallow money from the vault.
Corruption is so imbibed in our culture that it has intertwined itself with spirituality and not only can people feel confident enough to give such flabbergasting justifications, several citizens are so brainwashed that many actually bought what she said. I remember speaking about the stigmatization of infertility on radio the other day and a caller stated that infertility is spiritual that his sister was taken to the Church and the pastor put a lizard inside of her and once the lizard was brought out, she was finally able to conceive. We have become so brainwashed by jazz or “black magic” that we can sell and buy any tale that the IQ of a five year old in a stable country probably would not buy.
What Falz does next really stuck with me. While speaking on the problems of our polity and how those who have drank Nigeria dry over the years are still battling over the elections, we see a young man walking by with a cup of what looks like codeine syrup in his hand. We have so many pressing issues in Nigeria today such as the prevalence of drug abuse and what’s more important to the same people that have ruined Nigeria is to argue about where funds for power have gone over the years as they enter campaign mode leading up to the 2019 elections. Very recently, the BBC released a documentary called ‘Sweet Sweet Codeine’ depicting the shocking prevalence of drug abuse in our society.
The documentary was so impactful that it led to the banning of distribution of all codeine related products within twenty-four hours and it was a clear example of what happens when we put pressure on the government. 28 million African youths today are addicted to drugs and with one in four Africans being Nigerian, on average, seven million Nigerian youths are addicted to drugs. The saddest part is that research has shown that women and youths in the North are the main abusers and a lot of this is based on the extremely poor welfare for people in our society that leads vulnerable citizens to looking for escape routes. The prevalence of child marriage, poverty and several other unfortunate failures of our government has pushed one too many citizens in to drug abuse and now, we need to find a way out and a source of rehabilitation for our people. From codeine to tramadol to valium to fermented urine, citizens are doing anything they can to escape the harsh realities of life in Nigeria.
Of course Falz takes us back to corruption. Has everyone seen the 112 page report on corruption in Nigeria released by SERAP? Well, we know that three fraudulent citizens were actually given presidential pardon. Can you imagine? This is 2018 – we have seen the ex-President of Brazil head to the cells, the ex-President of South Korea head to the cells and Zuma, which is even closer to home, has had his day in court and will be held accountable and responsible! Meanwhile, like Falz said, politicians stealing billions won’t go to prison here in Nigeria. There is a genuine hierarchy of liberation in this country. While the most innocent citizens are shackled at their ankles based on negative factors that are endemic in our society, the greatest criminals are set free based on status. Justice has become mythical over here in Nigeria and quite frankly, it is possibly the greatest grassroots issue that we are seeing in Nigeria today.
Moving on, we see someone holding a twenty five million cash prize next and yes, Big Brother has been addressed in Nigeria’s most effective State of the Union Address! It was announced that 170 million votes came in for Big Brother Nigeria 2018 at N30 per SMS. Firstly, 170 million is nearly the entire Nigerian population and of course we know that certain people account for the number of votes and not necessarily the majority of citizens. However, at 30 Naira per SMS, Big Brother Nigeria raked in over five billion Naira. Many expressed that they wished Nigerian’s would put that same energy in to voting as less than 30 million citizens voted in the 2015 elections, but I think it was actually more of a call-to-order to the government to introduce electronic voting systems across all states, seeing how convenient it would be for a modern generation to vote in! Either way, it is extremely powerful for Falz to have touched on that in the song as once again, this is the reality of Nigeria.
Back to spirituality, Falz made a clear reference to the extent to which Christianity has been taken today in Nigeria. A few years ago I remember a video going viral of a pastor screaming “TAAAAKEEEEE ITTTTTT” and his entire congregation throwing themselves to the floor. Shout out to the Holy Spirit that injured those people but, really? Have we become so brainwashed by the words of our pastors, who by the way are going as far as banning beards, that as soon as they tell you to take it you clearly throw yourself over? This is not to say that the Holy Spirit is a fallacy as I actually believe strongly in the Holy Spirit but Christianity has shifted from a lifestyle to a choreographed stage play over here in Nigeria. The same pastors that are brainwashing the minds of citizens are using the Church as a shield to join our politicians and slurp the straw. Citizens continue to fuel these pastors and support the inhumane and quite frankly sickening actions that we experience from them.
Away from religion, Falz moves on to the power issue that we have in Nigeria today and calls out on the President who recently stated that Nigerian youths are lazy. We live in a nation where we do not even have access to constant power supply, we work multiple jobs to make ends meet and yes, our President thinks it is okay to travel out of the shores of Nigeria and make a negative reference to Nigerian youths. With poor human development, poor investment in human capital resource, no welfare systems for the people and the amount of money that has been stolen in the country, did you really have the audacity to state that Nigerian youths are lazy? This is Nigeria, where Nigerian youths are so focused on job security that the average Nigerian youth will take the poorest working conditions just to have something. This is Nigeria, where Nigerian youths are reviving the economy through several sectors by constant perseverance out of our love for the nation. The government need to do more to maximize our potential because if we can do so much, given so little, imagine how much we can achieve if we are given just the basics? Thank you Falz for ensuring that this conversation does not die.
Recently, it was stated that Nigeria has the largest market for money laundering in the world. What a national and international embarrassment. The prevalence of “yahoo yahoo” across the country has become such a norm and we literally witness it every single day. Recently, the EFCC blocked Awolowo Road in Lagos and raided cars outside of Club 57, arresting certain people that they’d clearly been on the chase for. What was more upsetting was the number of citizens who took to social media to express their dismay stating that Yahoo boys are adding to the Nigerian economy and instead the EFCC should be chasing politicians taking from the Nigerian economy. Really? Did you go to school at all?
So many citizens have become involved in money laundering. Many started off desperate for a way to make money and became indulged by greed, leading to the prevalence of laundering today. Falz stated that we continue to act like Yahoo Yahoo is so cool and he’s right, we do. But the truth is, it is disgusting, it is disgraceful and it is criminal. If you are guilty of money laundering you should have your day in court like every other citizen with no pardon whatsoever. Yet unfortunately, many continue to get away with it.
Back to police brutality, Falz makes a mention of SARS and how irrational they have become. So many cases have been reported of abuse by SARS to the point where certain officers have lost their jobs. Aforementioned, I don’t go anywhere without ID anymore for this particular reason and it is scary that this is a nation where we feel more frightened than protected when it comes to our security agencies. This is Nigeria, where no matter how innocent you are, you can be painted as a victim based on citizens in uniforms being led to irrational actions just to make sure that they don’t go home with an empty pocket. So many citizens have been led to criminal actions based on poor welfare yet instead of investing in human development for a long-term, sustainable solution to the problems, every administration is concerned with what they can do in the short-term, during their tenure in office, just to be able to say that they did something. There is no continuity in government and based on that, even the few things that are set up to last, do not last.
Falz can clearly make a better address than our Inspector General of Police as he depicts exactly what we were hit with in the news about ten days ago. Our IGP completely humiliated us, failing to read an address for reasons that remain alien to us. The video ends with what is one of the most powerful shots I have ever seen, summarizing Nigeria today and catching global attention:
This is not the first time that Falz has spoken up. Last year, he voiced his opinion in an interview, on musicians that encourage the wrong things through their music – something that is so prevalent within Nigeria’s booming music industry. He stated that entertainers are in a position to serve as role models to younger generations and using your platform to hail fraudsters and going as far as even calling out their names on tracks is what he said is “destroying our future”.
This is Nigeria, as expected, has received several public accolades and the most exciting for us was definitely Diddy’s response to the track. It is time for the world to know that This is Nigeria, it is time for the government to step up and take its rightful place and more importantly, it is pertinent that we continue to fuel conversations on the dilapidated state of our country until we see the necessary and well overdue change that we need. Today is Democracy Day in Nigeria, marking nineteen years of democratic rule and Falz’s release is a clear depiction of our democratic “progress”.