By Nehru Odeh
Cardi B is an American rapper that cannot be easily ignored. Though 27, she is recognized by Forbes magazine as one of the most influential rappers of all time. Of course, this is understandable considering the fact that not only is she a Grammy award winner and an artiste whose singles have been number one on the Billboard Hot 100 thrice, her debut album, Invasion of Privacy was number one on the Billboard 200, breaking several records. The album won the Grammy Award for best Rap, thus making her the only woman to win the award as a solo artist. However, the intriguing thing about Cardi B is that she was once a stripper and started her music career in 2015.
Still, Cardi B is an activist with a strong voice and has been very vocal about race, gender – she having been raped at 19- and American politics. Recently she lent her voice to the American- Iranian face-off after Donald Trump ordered the killing of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in an air attack in Baghdad. She aired her grievance against the killing via a tweet in which she made known her plans to seek Nigerian citizenship. “Its sad this man is putting Americans’ lives in danger. Dumbest move Trump did till date … I’m filing for my Nigerian citizenship,” she tweeted.
Any big deal? Of course a lot. This is not coming as a surprise, considering the fact she visited Nigeria and Ghana recently, as part of her African tour, where she had a swell time. In that visit she fell in love with Nigeria. Not only did she perform at the Livespot X Festival on Saturday 7 December, she drove around Lagos, cracked jokes with the people she met, donated at an orphanage and took photos with the staff. She also did a meet-and-greet with young media personalities and had a swell time at a high profile strip club and hung out with the strippers afterward.
The rapper’s love for Nigeria seemed to have blossomed after that visit, and her teeming fans in Nigeria gave her a nickname, Chioma B, online for embracing Nigeria willingly. However on 6 January, 2020 she took her love affair with Nigeria a notch higher when she asked Nigerians to help her decide between Chioma B and Cardijat. “Let’s settle this one and for all CHIOMA B Or Cadijat,” she tweeted.
Cardi’s B declaration to seek Nigerian citizenship has generated not a few ripples and interest globally. Abike Dabiri, Senior Special Assistant to President Mohammadu Buhari on oreign Affairs and Diaspora responded to Cardi B’ tweet, telling her she is welcomed. “As one in charge of the Diaspora for [Nigeria], we can’t wait to receive you again. Our doors are open, sister.” She tweeted.
Still, the interesting thing about this latest development is that a few days before Cardi B arrived in Nigeria, Nigerian-American singer, Jidenna, had shared a video of himself crossing the street in the major urban thoroughfare in the Lekki neighbourhood of Lagos, referring to it as a “concrete jungle,” – a term which many Nigerians took exception to online. It would be recalled that Trump had earlier referred to African nations as among shithole countries.
However, here is an American multiple award winning rapper, whom Forbes magazine recognized as one of the most influential rappers of all time not just falling love with Nigeria but threatening to seek citizenship here. No endorsement can be bigger than this. Still, the questions are: what social, political and economic capital could Nigeria make out of this? How could Nigeria make use of this opportunity to redeem her already battered image? Could Nigeria make use of this opportunity not just to make this internationally-renowned artiste its cultural ambassador but also do business with her in many ways?
It is not gainsaying the fact that the western media and texts have erroneously portrayed Africans as primitive, uncultured, and barbaric. That unfortunately is the damage western media and movies such as Tarzan have done to Africa. And many across the globe now believe Africans never had a life before colonialism This is what Jean Baudrillard, the French postmodernist, means when he says people are caught up in the play of images, spectacles, and simulacra, that have less and less relationship to an outside, to an external “reality,” to such an extent that the very concepts of the social, political, or even “reality” no longer seem to have any meaning. There are many who still believe Africans still live on trees, that Africa is a country, and that Europeans brought civilization to Africa. It is narratives and tropes like these that Chinua Achebe debunks in his masterpiece, Things Fall Apart.
Multiple award-winning writer, feminist and public intellectual, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently challenged this narrative when a French interviewer asked her if there were bookshops in Nigeria. “When you talk about Nigeria in France, unfortunately there is not much said about Nigeria, but when people talk about Nigeria it’s about Boko Haram. It’s about violence. It’s about insecurity …I should like you to tell us something about Nigeria which is different, talk about it differently, and that is why I’m saying are there bookshops? Of course I imagine they are,” the interviewer said.
And Adichie reacted calmly to the question. “You know I think it reflects very poorly on French people that you’ve had to ask me that question. I really do. Because I think, surely it’s 2018. I mean, come on. My books are read in Nigeria. They are studied in schools, not just in Nigeria but across Africa, and it means a lot to me. Because, obviously, I’m grateful to be read everywhere in the world, but there’s something about being read by the people about whom you write.”
That encounter speaks volumes. Though Cardi B is not the only foreign artiste who has performed in Nigeria, her love for this country is palpable. And she’s in the best position to sell this country and, nay Africa, to the world. She’s already doing that through her tweets. It’s high time we made this official and make political capital out of it.