‘Country Hard, Scatter Scatter… Jaga Jaga’

Reuben Abati

BY Reuben Abati

“Omo, wetin dey shele. What’s gwan man?”

“Helloooo. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, my bro”

“Can you speak English? I don’t get your drift. All these your what’s gwan, and yeah, yeah, I hope you have not gone to take your thing again. If you want to engage me in a conversation, then speak straight English and stop saying yeah, yeah….”

“Bros, you sef, you too dey do. Who cares anymore in this country?”

“Ï do”

“This country don kpeme”

“What is that?”

“Country no level”

“Excuse me?”

“Ëverything don scatter scatter, Nigeria don jaga jaga. Na where we dey be that oh”

“Ï see you are a fan of Eedris Abdulkareem. Festus Keyamo will soon come after you. Have you not seen how Keyamo came after the musician for attacking and ridiculing the Buhari government? He exposed the young man as a hypocrite who is criticizing government because Keyamo did not give him money to pay his hotel bills and his mother’s hospital bills too. All these your social critics by day, and hustlers by night.”

“Na lie. Eedris sef don reply Keyamo. And Twitter don remove Keyamo’s tweets.”

“Please. Please. If you insist on speaking pidgin, I will end this conversation. I don’t engage in beer parlour talk.”

“Änd who told you pidgin English is beer parlour English. It is a major West African lingua franca. A major contribution by colonized peoples to the evolution of the English language. It represents the Empire speaking back whether you call it patois, creole or pidgin. But let’s leave that matter. I think we should go beyond Keyamo vs Eedris Abdulkareem. This is not about personalities, really. Eedris begged for money. Keyamo did not give him. Eedris asked to be sponsored to support the Buhari campaign. Keyamo thought he was an extortionist. Fine. I don’t want to focus on personalities. I am happy for Eedris Abdulkareem. He has been off the musical scene for a while. Now that he has dropped just one album, everywhere is shaking. We should focus on the message of his music. Eedris Abdulkareem has shown a capacity to use music as a weapon of protest. The rebuttal by Keyamo is just an aside.”

“Festus Keyamo also has a right to defend himself. He was accused of being a member of the cabal.”

“Änd what is the problem if Eedris says so. He merely stated the obvious. In fact, it is a compliment to be referred to as a member of the cabal in Nigeria. Isn’t that what all of you want to become? Common Keyamo wey all of us dey chop rice and dodo together for Anthony Village don become Nigeria cabal. Him suppose dey happy. Him suppose know say Eedris dey do him own cabal job too with his music. Instead, he begin talk about money wey no miss.. He even publish text messages sef dey sound like say heaven wan fall. Er begi. Because of how much? A whole Senior Advocate of Nigeria.”

“Can you translate that into correct English, please?”

“Dey there dey form. I think this Ikoyi wey you dey go everyday don dey affect you. You no dey hear our slang again. Whatever Eedris Abdulkareem did right or wrong in the past should not be held against him. That is what I am saying. Simple. He was a young man when he begged for money and asked to be mobilized to support Buhari. Like Isa Pantami, the Sheik Minister of the Federal Republic, he has now recanted. He has seen the light. And he has conveyed his position through music. Jaga Jaga Reloaded. We should listen to him. He should be allowed to have his say. Na today? When Eedris released the original Jaga Jaga album in 2004, the Obasanjo administration was so angry, they banned the song on radio.”

“So what is he saying this time around?”

“I will advise you to listen to the song. My kind of music. Yes, you may listen to all these artistes who do techno music. Sound without sense. But I prefer music that makes sense. Eedris is simply saying that the country is hard. This country is hard. Nothing has changed since 2004. In fact, the situation in Nigeria has worsened. President Obasanjo may have been angry with Eedris Abdulkareem in 2004, but today, Obasanjo is a Nigerian hero. Seventeen years later, Obasanjo’s Nigeria looks in retrospect like a shade of Paradise for the average Nigerian. And so in this remake of Jaja Jaga, Eedris Abdulkareem calls Obasanjo his father because him sef know say country don change. He collaborates with Mr. Raw, and Madarocha Chi to sing about bad governance, police brutality, the October 20, 2020 moment of crisis at the Lekki toll gate and the suffering in the land. He calls for restructuring and federalism. He speaks for us. Jaga jaga eh, suffer, suffer eh.. everything scatter scatter eh… Yeah mon.”

“Hmm. Hmm.”

“You get the point now?”

“To be honest, Ï get the point. Eedris Abdulkareem, Mr Raw and Madarocha are speaking for the Soro Soke (Speak Up) generation. But I hope Eedris will not again suffer his 2004 fate. Radio stations could be banned from playing the song. But I guess he and his collaborators are right. Nigeria is in a tough place at the moment. Can you imagine what happened over the weekend? Governors of the South East and the Ohanaeze Ndigbo had to meet to discuss how the Governors of the South East, all five of them can be protected from the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the group’s militant wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN). When state Governors, who are constitutionally described as Chief Security Officers of their states are no longer safe, then what can ordinary people do?”

“Ordinary people have become victims of banditry, kidnapping, terrorism, ritualists, and scammers. Once upon a time in this country, criminals used to steal money and personal belongings. Today, in Buhari’s Nigeria, it has become more profitable to steal human beings! Nobody is safe. I won’t be surprised if one of these days, a sitting Governor is abducted and the state is asked to pay ransom before he is released.”

“Ï want to guess that the first Governor that is likely to be kidnapped will be Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State”

“Why? Do you hate the man that much? No. I cover him with the blood of Jesus”

“Cover him as much as you want. Have you not seen the statement by IPOB and ESN? After the killing of Ikonte Commander, the Vice President of IPOB, and six others, at Aworama Village, Emma Powerful, speaking for IPOB and ESN issued a statement accusing Governor Uzodimma of colluding with the Nigeria Police, the military and State Security Services to kill their men. Extra-judicially. The same day, Uzodinma’s country home was set ablaze. His expensive Rolls Royce vehicle was damaged. One of his security guards was killed. He was told he should be prepared for the IPOB sting. I wonder how the man can still govern Imo State going forward.”

“He will govern, I beg. Which Emma Powerful? Have you not heard that Channels TV has been suspended by the National Broadcasting Commission because they interviewed this same Emma Powerful? What power does he have? Some people should not be allowed to go about just causing problems no matter how hard the country is”

“Channels TV? No, I missed that. But if it is true, that’s pure rubbish. Are we in a dictatorship regime?”

“You can ask me again. They say it is a democracy”

“I don’t support any attempt to harass and intimidate the media. The job of the media is to air all shades of opinion. It is in the interest of the government that the media does so. It is the best way to collect and curate open intelligence. No media house should ever be punished for promoting the democracy of opinions. When a government begins to repress public opinion, it is a sign of desperation and confusion. The NBC may have been misquoted.”

“Ï don’t think so.”

“But as you well know, we have been through this route before. Media houses in Nigeria are used to the adversarial character of government and state actors. Since 1859 in fact. But somehow, you can treat the media whichever way you like, the truth is that journalists will always outlive every government. They will be the ones to have the last say. They can build you up, but they can also pull you down. I advise the NBC to apply its rules with caution and wisdom. Things are bad enough, adding media repression to the Nigerian crisis is unhelpful.”

“But it is your brothers and friends that are in charge””

“Ï am not discussing personalities. Let’s focus on issues.”

“I hear you. But there are also people who think the Nigerian media is part of the problem. Journalists are always putting pepper and salt in everything. Country hard like this. Journalists go dey put petrol. Too much sensationalism. Government’s position is that the media should help government. But no. They will go and carry enemies of the state and put microphone in their mouths. I am sure if Shekau the terrorist wants to grant interview tomorrow or announce a World Conference, Nigerian journalists will be the first to get there. They will carry microphone and say they are doing their job.”

“News is news. News is what happens. Government has no right to determine what is news. You can’t blame journalists for doing their work. And don’t forget that the role of the media is constitutional. Sections 22 and 39 of the Nigerian Constitution recognise the rights of the media as watchdog, and the citizen’s fundamental right of free speech. So, whatever Emma Powerful says, let the government deal with it. Why are they fining and suspending Channels TV? How about Igbere TV where more critical statements are made on a daily basis? Even Igbere TV should be allowed to serve the people without hindrance.”

“But all of that should be within the ambits of the law. No country will allow a lawless media institution. That is the whole point about regulation.”

“The whole point is about freedom of speech”

“There are no absolute rights”

“That is not what we are dealing with here. Musicians cannot sing. Journalists cannot speak to people. Where are we? Idi Amin Dada’s Uganda?

“You want to hear the truth?”

“What truth?”

“The truth is that the Nigerian government does not respect, and does not trust the Nigerian media. They think most Nigerian journalists are like Eedris Abdulkareem. Friend today. Enemy tomorrow. Too many journalists looking for contracts, and money, running from one government office to the other to grab consultancies, or brown envelopes, or handouts. And yet they talk to enemies of the state.”

“That is libelous. You can get sued for group libel. People should stop blaming journalists. Fix the country.”

“Come and sue me”

“I fear for Nigeria”

“Ï pity my country”

“My big fear is even the fact that Nigeria is now surrounded by a ring of evil. There is crisis in Chad. Their president Idris Deby Itno is dead. There is very febrile succession politics in that country. Under Idris Deby Itno, Chad provided some kind of buffer zone for Nigeria, Libya and the Sahel region. If that country implodes, Nigeria will be in serious trouble. The Libya-nization of Chad will add to our woes. Niger is also unstable. Nigeria may have helped to install a new President in that country but we can suffer for doing so, particularly with the dubious role France is playing in Chad and Niger. Cameroon next door is also troubled. The Republic of Benin is another zone of uncertainty. We have trouble at home. We have crisis abroad.”

“Let’s deal with the trouble at home first.”

“You don’t see the connection?”

“Ï am not blind. I see it. But let our leaders begin charity at home before they begin to worry about other people’s problems. The big problem with Nigeria is that we tend to take pain-killers for other people’s problems while overlooking the cancer at home. Who does that? This is how you people send policemen to Somalia to help stabilize Somalia whereas there is no stability at home. We go everywhere giving others what we don’t have at home. We even refine petrol abroad and set up refineries in other people’s countries. I don’t get it.”

“What you don’t get is that the world is now a village.”

“I am not into slogans. I understand the point about global solidarity. But nobody should take Nigerian money to go and stabilise Niger and Chad or create employment in other countries.”

“We are the giant of Africa”

“Hey, Hey. Mr Giant. In one part of your country, the entire North West, 618 schools have been shut down in five states because of the lack of safety in schools. Many students do not want to go back to school. Over 10, 000 students are in Boko Haram captivity according to one Governor from that part of the country. Parents are anxious and depressed. For the past one month, 29 students of the College of Forestry Mechanization, Afaka, Kaduna State have been in the custody of bandits. Three students of Greenville University have been murdered. Two more yesterday. The whereabouts of the remaining 35 who were kidnapped along with them remains unknown. What do you say to their parents? The entire South East is in a state of war. The South West is suddenly at war with the same Hausa-Fulanis who have lived in the region for centuries. Boko Haram has just taken over a whole town. Geidam in Yobe state.

Your security chiefs are busy wearing fine uniform in Abuja. Your country’s unemployment rate is 33.3 %. Headline inflation is 18.17%. Food inflation is 23%. Your country is the second most unelectrified country in Africa. My heart aches.”

“Mine too. I have nothing to say other than to quote Chinua Achebe.”

“The problem with Nigeria is leadership”

“He also said there was once a country”

“So Eedris Abulkareem, the rap artist is right then. Keyamo misses the point.”

“Let’s say the two of them are doing their job. This life is a hustle. Every man according to his stomach.”