We Police Ourselves

Police is your friend.....and friends depend on friends

I have often mentioned it to anyone who cared to listen that the source of Nigeria’s socio-economic problems is that people feel they can get away with any wrong-doing, misdemeanors, torts or crimes. The average man may not be held accountable for acts or mis-acts. This is why you may see a woman crouching in a corner to defaecate and throw used tissue paper against a wall even though it has “Post No Bill “sign clearly inscribed on it.

The short arm of the law is a huge social anomaly – yes, even bigger than corruption. Let me illustrate: A chap decides to drive his new Honda “End of Discussion” flash motor without a current license, car particulars, motor insurance, fire extinguisher or a caution sign. The officials of V.I.O flag him down on Adeola Odeku Road in Victoria Island, and beckon for him to pull over for a random vehicle check. He gets down, and it is discovered that in addition to the above, he does not have M.O.T for his car.

The V.I.O officers decide to tow the car away and issue a N50, 000 fine. The chap starts begging, gets on his knees and offers them a token to make the traffic crime go away. After much prompting, the officers ask for N20, 000. They both finally agree on N15, 000, which the boy pays in cash and drives away, sighing as he adjusts his rear-view mirror.

Even if this chap is a Dangote or Otedola, and 15 grand bribe is chicken change, his time has been wasted, and this becomes a huge deterrent for him, so he makes sure his motor particulars are complete to avert a future occurrence. The long arm of the law has taken its course to shape a person’s behavior in line with societal ideals.

In Naija, anything can go. If you believe in it long enough, and if you have the money, time or connections to back it up, it can happen. In this country, someone can sell you a plot of land on the moon, and provide the certificate of occupancy as evidence. Here, a sports minister once took a huge generator plant from the National Stadium to his village house for domestic use. He should have taken all NEPA’s faulty transformers and power plants along with him.

In the early 1990s, a popular and rich former presidential aspirant paid a visit to his Alma Mata somewhere in a rural part of Ogun state. He was received by the principals and vice principals and the students congregated at general assembly to meet with him. Noting that he had observed the bushy areas in the school environs, he announced that he was donating 5 grass cutting tractors to be used to cut grass, clear bush around the school, and also help cultivate the school’s huge farmland so as grow food for the student’s feeding. All the students were elated. At last maybe there would now be some actual rice to go with the stones, which usually constituted their afternoon lunches at the school refectory (dining hall, but refectory sounds better)

The principal gave a huge speech, espousing the qualities of the donor, and the school head-boy came out in his over-starched bongo shorts to give a vote of thanks on behalf of the entire student body.

True to his promise, the tractors were delivered about 3 weeks later by the wealth aspirant’s agents. Immediately the agents left the school premises, the principal convened a general assembly. His announcement cut like a knife: the tractors would be sold and the money would be used to buy 10,000 cutlasses, so that now every student had his own cutlass for general labour.

The principal later actually bought 5,400 cutlasses and a used Peugeot 504 saloon car for himself and pocketed the change.

Some years back, my friend’s cousin Gbenga came to Nigeria for Christmas holidays after about 15 years in America. On Christmas Eve, we all decided to go out to a couple of bars and clubs so he could have a good time. My friend had a 6 pack of Heineken in the car and some bottles of Peppermint Schnapps, Rum and Chelsea dry gin for “topping up” before we entered any joint. Don’t blame us, we were cheapskate university kids then, and there was no way we were paying cut-throat fees for warm beer or a watery cocktail in an overcrowded over-rated bar.

Oceanview restaurant had just opened then so we touched base there. The place was as full as hell, so we decided to leave after like 35 minutes. Gbenga was enjoying himself, and we were bumping Ether off Nas’s album “Stillmatic” while cruising past Adeyemo Alakija when we got to a mobile police checkpoint. The junior constable started flagging us down, with an enthusiastic look on his face, like he was seeing awoof. “Make una switch on una car inner light!”

Gbenga started panicking, trying to hide the open and half empty bottles of liquor under the car seats. He couldn’t hide all of them in time. The policemen saw Gbenga’s hand movements under the car seat, and one of the them waved his automatic rifle carelessly, as he asked “Na wetin dey under there?”

My other friend quickly interjected, before a now nervous Gbenga could answer “ Officer na nothing o. We de go our friend house for Ikoyi.”

The policeman didn’t look convinced, and as he cast his gaze inside the car, he saw an empty bottle of Chelsea Dry Gin.

The cop now sneered “Una de enjoy o. No be akpeteshi be that?”

Gbenga who was pissing his pants by now, tried to make a weak excuse “O.C, please…”

The policeman didn’t allow him finish, as his eyes suddenly brightened up at the sight of a wallet with a thick wad of crisp N200 notes sticking out of Gbenga’s shirt front pocket “ Make una do us Christmas.”

“Sure!” replied Gbenga enthusiastically.

We ended up giving the cop about N400 and a half empty bottle of Dark Sailor whiskey, and then they merrily sent us on our way. From our rear mirror as we drove off, we noticed the senior officer snatch the bottle of whisky from the constable, and swig from its contents, emptying it totally.

Gbenga was like a man reborn.

He put this head through the car sunroof and screamed “I fucking love Nigeria!! Anything goes in this country! I cannot believe that a policeman saw us driving under the influence, and we got away without a charge. Plus the policeman even asked us for a drink!”

I wasn’t thrilled though. Alcohol plus armed trigger happy police officer equals accidental discharge. I mean this cops were meant to be protecting the public and other commuters from drunken drivers. It reminded me of the time when the final officer at the immigration desk was begging me for the remaining naira I had on me, rather than concentrating on frisking my luggage properly for contraband or flammable substances.

So there you have it – in Nigeria, people get away with committing offences, and this breeds disrespect for the law and a breakdown of structures. Because the average person believes that an offender would get away with a crime, people are prone to disregard legal structures and take matters into their own hands.

It is no wonder why jungle justice is still prevalent in many parts of Nigeria. If you shoplift at Shop-rite, you are made to return the tin of sardine to the shelf, and are escorted off the premises or handed over the security agents. If you tried to nick a wrap of moi moi at Ghana High buka, you were taken backstage and beaten to a stupor so that you wouldn’t not hold up the line, then released almost half-dead with your purchase. If you tried to “fap” ube (African pear) at Onitsha market, you were lynched by an irate mob, revived, beaten again and introduced to a used car tyre, fuel and a lit match stick.

Going somewhere??!!

Once in Aba’s Ariaria market, a thief was set beaten to a stupor and set ablaze by a mob, after being caught trying to pick the pocket of a market-woman who was wearing Ankara so kept her money in her bra. Just after he was set on fire, he grabbed one of the members of the mob and hugged him, so they  perished together in the flames. I guess the thief wasn’t planning to go out like Joan of Arc.

Sadly, yes, jungle justice sometimes may punish the innocent too. But no system is perfect.

Yes the concept of Jungle Justice is cruel, but it is swifter than our court system. There are no opportunities of grounds for appeal, and the stolen item is usually returned to the victim of the theft, unlike under the court system. It is also convenient and does not cost a kobo. You cannot imagine someone calling 911 or Operation Sweep from a mobile phone wasting precious credit just because someone stole an agbalumo and was caught. Jungle justice also dispenses away with the hiring of lawyers, whom ordinary people detest and distrust anyway.

In Nigeria, people take matters into their hands because the police may not be bothered to do their job. Their greatest forensic or investigative procedure is asking the victim who they suspect. Heaven forbid if you and victim had a mini quarrel some days before the incident.

And in Nigeria, whoever reports to the police first about a matter is usually deemed the right party. Two men had a quarrel, and Peter smashed Paul on the head with a pestle. Bleeding from the head, Paul rushed to the police station to report, but unfortunately the okada he took broke down on the way. Peter meanwhile, took a bus and got to the station and reported that he had caught Paul trying to break into his house and had acted in self-defence. Paul is now “behind the counter” in a cell, surrounded by hardened criminals with names like “Tambolo”; he also has a big lump on his forehead.

The disadvantage of people handling matters instead of reporting the situation is that sometimes the punishment they mete out may not fit the crime. In fact, it usually surpasses the crime or misdemeanor by a huge margin.

lynching then hand-cuffing - a fair compromise?

Sometimes naija people get carried away when they are abroad. Sometime ago, there was this 30 something year old ,Nigerian Post-graduate student working as a security guard at a Virgin music store on Oxford Street in London. He got a call on his walkie talkie from the security cameraman that one oyibo teen had loaded his knapsack with CDs and DVDs and was approaching the exit door of the store.

The guard apprehended the oyibo and asked to search his bag. After a brief resistance, the guard yanked the bag, and while holding on to the oyibo’s belt buckle to prevent his escape, searched the bag. The bag contained stolen merchandise including CDs by Sporty Thieves, Rob Base and Take That, and DVDs like The Thomas Crown Affair and Ocean’s Eleven amongst others. The thief seemed to like Winona Ryder movies in particular.

At this point realizing his game was up, the oyibo tried to leg it, but was held firmly by the Nigerian guard, who started dishing him dirty slaps. People started stopping in front of the store and taking pictures with their camera-phones. The stunned oyibo guy’s face was now bleeding like he had been hit with a scud missile. He sat down on the side-walk too stunned and dizzy to even attempt running.

Then he saw a police car passing and flagged it down and turned himself in. The policemen into the car got down and started taking statements; they were quite angry with the guard and took him in. To cut the story short, the thief was handed over to the NHS for treatment and trauma victim counseling, while the security guard paid a short visit to Scotland Yard Police Head-quarters. I hear he was deported for attempted murder, and tells anyone in Nigeria who cares to listen that he relocated because of the economic “crunch.”

Back in the days of our parents, punishments were more balanced as people were fairer and more forgiving. There were fewer frustrations, and levels of aggression were less among the general populace.

Back then, if you stole a kobo, you were beaten up but allowed to live. If you snuck into your neighbor’s barn and stole a fowl, well the law of otumokpor (jazz) applied. The thief woke up the next morning, and found out that he had grown a chicken comb on top of his head. Panicking, he quickly turned himself in to the village baale.

Similarly, a chap stole a video, and was ejected from the community and exiled. A girl stole suya from a mallam’s tray…

As a nation, we have been policing ourselves for many years now. House-dwellers erect tall walls to help secure their properties and livings from dare-devil bandits, because policemen cannot be relied upon to tackle violent crime satisfactorily. From the 1980s, walls for residential homes just grew taller and taller, with first broken glass then spikes and electric fencing being added to keep out wall scalers. I know someone’s living room which has enough CCTVs installed to rival the number in Al Pacino’s bedroom in the movie “Scarface”

Unfortunately, in Nigeria NEPA must take light, and diesel scarcity is an annual event, and these CCTVs need power to operate. The armed robbers decided to strike during this brief window of opportunity. They were really pleased with the amount of “computers” they saw for the picking in the house.


In the underworld we take care of beef ourself/

And another thing yo, we police ourself/

Jay Z (Gangsta Shit, 1998)

Groupie Love, Easy Ladies and the Rise of the Nigerian Mack-daddy




Two are better than one; and there are three of us....


I remember when I was 8 years old, I and my female neighbour Joan would play “mum and dad” make-believe games.  It was fun stuff and infantile exhuberance. She would act like her barbie doll was our baby infant feeding it “milk” made of ground chalk and water before heading into an imaginary kitchen to “cook” up a meal for me.

Sand and water were mixed  as garri – she used would get on her knees and mould it into the most perfect paste. Garden plants were plucked and used as soup leaves like oha, bitter-leaf etc. For pieces of meat, we utilised pebbles or gravel from  my neighbour’s drive-way. Funmi Davies of the then Maggi Kitchen TV Cooking porgram would have been proud.

She then set up my “dinner” on a plate (the huge leaf of a banana tree) perfectly. She watched smiling and proud as I pretended to wolf down my sumptious meal. Afterwards, “wifey” packed away the “plates” and returned to sit by my side and make small talk. What a domestic goddess – Nigella Lawson could learn something here.

Sometimes we would end up under the ironing table with the cover cloth overlapping its sides as we chatted and laughed in the dark. Intimacy was holding hands, but that was it….honest.

For our other neighbour’s wedding, I was the page- boy and she was the flower girl. Our mothers dressed us in our Sunday best – me in a nice black suit and she in a lovely lace dress which she proudly flitted about in. In a sweet, innocent gesture, I asked her to wait a second as I ran to our back garden and fetched a “Queen of the Night” flower from the garden and planted it affectionately in her hair. Just like that cheesy old Impulse deodorant ad from the 80s.

 At the church, we glanced at each other at the same time as the main couples took their vows. I whispered and sign-lauguaged the words “my wife” to her, and she giggled softly, as she called  me her hubby.

Candy girl...Not randy boy?

By calling her my wife, I was subconsciously according her the greatest accolade a man could bestow on a woman he cared for and respected. I didn’t know that then, but those were much more innocent times than now. Present day male kids, if they left their Ipods and Nintendo Wiis alone and played this game, would call their female playmate their baby-mama. And never mind Sunday best, kids these days have been known to show each other their birthday suits.

My princess later moved houses when we were both 10 years old because her father got transferred. On the day they were moving, she gave me a peck behind my house, and I gave her my Hot Rod Transformers action figure , as a momento to remember me by – honest.

There is no doubt that our attitudes are changing. Respect for women and female-folk is slowly ebbing away in our society today. Many men believe that woman exist just for sexual gratification. It is hard to blame them, though they deserve a reprimand, because everywhere you turn in Nigeria, especially in the metropolises of Lagos and Abuja, cheap girls are like a dime a dozen.

You drive into the mall; there are girls in skimpy outfit looking for mugus to buy them popcorn in exchange for popping their coochie. How can you barter some creamie pie for some ice cream? Not even  for Haggeen Daas. Never for Walls. I know diamonds and bling-bling are a girl’s best friend, but please don’t trade your maiden-head for Fan Ice.




oya take the ice cream cone, my house is nearby


When I was in primary five, there was this girl in my class whose mother was our class teacher. Her mum was extra hard on her and used to flog her with the cane at the slightest provocation. She would ask the class a question, and if noone could answer, she would flog her daughter – alone. It was ridiculous.  I thought her mum was just being a saddist. Now in hindsight, I wonder if her mum used to beat her, because her mum could see the future and wanted to punish the girl in the present.  That girl is now a first class groupie with clientele drawn mainly from the federal legislative houses. If you ask her what she does for a living, she says she is a, err, consultant. Ah let me guess, you are the founder of Dominatrix, oh sorry, Domitilla Consultants.

And every chap in Nigeria wants to be a player; You have fellas who would try it on any skirt walking, even if the broad should be off limits. Even pregnant or married women are not exempt from the lust of some chaps. A chap tried it on a woman, and when she declined and politely explained that she was married, the chap sneered as he said “I didn’t expect a beautiful woman like you not to be married. Nne biko give me your love.”

Come on man, I like beautiful women just like the next lad, but there has to be limits somewhere. Ikechukwu the Nigerian rapper twitted a couple of weeks ago about this: he said that Nigerian guys were the only ones who would try to chase their best mate’s girlfriend or fiancee. His supposed words on Twitter were “Omo I bow for Naija sha, niggas toasting their niggas babes is regular practice. Guess we are all different. Good morning.”

Good morning to you too sir; I cannot stand such behavior myself.

In Nigeria, people will toast your girl in your face! Once I and a couple of workmates in an office where I briefly worked went for after-work drinks on a Friday evening at that water-front bar in Lekki Phase One. One chap, called Edet invited his fiancée and girlfriend of 10 plus years to join us – we were about 15 people in all. This chap introduced his fiancée to everyone, and we all settled down for beer, pepper-soup and sweet meats.

Edet was one of those types of dudes who just couldn’t handle their liquor. After 3 bottles of Star, he was out cold, throwing up and yarning gibberish. While he was out in cuckoo-land, one of the work-mates was trying it on his fiancée, like trying to get her number and to fix a date to meet her. She felt very small, and called Edet aside and told him what had just occurred. His drunken stupor evaporated immediately. Words were exchanged, and the erring jerk nearly got tossed into the Lagoon by the bar.

Even when I was abroad, everybody found it easy to spot the chaps who had just come in fresh off the plane from Nigeria.  It was laughed that they were the ones with “dudu” eyes. These were the ones that entered  a club, a bar or a party with blood in the eyes and starred down any girl who showed a bit of skin or mistakenly glanced their way. Especially if the girls were oyibo. It is as if they just caught a severe case of jungle fever as soon as they stepped into the arrival lounge at Gatwick.

This manner of “hunting” down girls for the take-down even has corporate approval in some circumstances. I know of a corporation which has pimps in all the tertiary institutions in Lagos and the neighbouring states. These pimps organise pools of girls for company executives and managers anytime there was an AGM, company retreat or conference. And if you think that the class of girls you would see there were like Funke Akindele’s character in Jenifa, you are grossly mistaken. Most of them are from decent middle to upper class families – besides this blue chip company will only pay top dollar for pink ladies.

Once in a bar filled with chaps, we began talking about the level of waywardness in Nigeria presently. One guy in particular was upset that his girlfriend of 3 years had been dating an aristo, behind his back all this while. The said aristo was some top shot on a Federal Government board, and had rented the girl a swanky apartment in the Chevron area of Lekki. Then one other chap we called Makaveli because of his mundane theories on life said something that I found weird at the time, but may be a logical explanation if not a justifiable one.

Makaveli dismissed the other guy’s heartbreak issues. He asked why any pretty looking average girl faced with 2 economic choices in present day Nigeria  would choose a young professional guy for a boyfriend over an older rich man. The young boyfriend spends less, tries to monitor her movement, and sleeps with her more often. In fact, according to Makaveli, a young boyfriend would use her “to experiment doing what he has seen in all the American films” thereby devaluing the girl whom he may not even eventually marry. Meanwhile the older rich fella who is a busy man may take care of all the girls needs, will not be as possessive and will not have the stamina for advanced or sustained bedmatics. He may ask the girl to fondle him briefly till he snoozes off, and may leave a hefty sum on the bedside table for her the next morning. Wax on wax off. Hmmmm…..

I know someone that has blamed the problems of this country on these fast ladies who close-mark legislators whenever they are in town to sit, leaving them no mental energy for their legislative duties. I dunno about that, Bill Clinton did quite well as US president despite the Lewinskies of this world. In fact JFK is one the most celebrated presidents despite his finer qualities. And Abacha……ok on to the next one.

Everyone wants to be a mack nowadays – that’s the difference between these days and when I was a teen growing up. Back in my day, there were the players and then the nerds and nothing in between. Being a nerd wasn’t necessarily social suicide as there were different interests to occupy N.E.R.D.s than chasing tail.

Back in secondary school, the nerds were divided into classes. Those who liked video games, owned a Super Nintendo, a Sega Megadrive, a Neo Geo and a GameBoy. These class of nerds usually found Chun Li sexier than a real lass, like say Monie Love at the time. These nerds were more pre-occupied with virtual womenfolk in skimpy kungfu outfits than say, attending an over-crowded party at Glover Court where you spend more time outside trying to sweet-talk power-drunk bouncers than any sweet-faced beauties.

Then there were the nerds who were comic and cartoon buffs. They were into the Ninja Turtles, the Simpsons, Swamp Thing etc etc.  

There were also the academic nerds as usual. They would never miss a class, and their uniforms were always spotless.

There were chaps into WWF which was really big at the time. Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Million Dollar Man Ted Di Biase etc. Guys into wrestling used to take it personally when other people laughed at their hobby. They especially got every angry if anyone said wrestling was fake or scripted. One guy in particular called Toyo was the greatest advocate of wrestling – he had all the Royal Rumbles on video, and knew every fighter’s special moves. He got into a hot exchange with some guy named Cole who said wrestling was for psychos with no social lives. The argument turned into a bloody brawl which settled the issue of whether wrestling was fake or not for prosperity. Mr. Toyo gave Cole a pile driver. Cole’s head needed extensive stitches. So there you have it…

I remember getting into an argument with a WWF fanatic by the name of Rasheed about how fake wrestling was. Thankfully he disarmed my arguement with brain not brawn. Listening to my reasons about why wrestling was fake – the punches that never connect, the feigned anger and showmanship, Rasheed sighed as he pointed to the TV which was showing footage of Shawn Michaels giving Baba Jango a suplex which was a complex physical stunt “But can you do it?!!”

There were the rap music fanatics too, to which I belonged. Ok, I lie, I was also one of the cool kids. But seriously, the rap afficiandos were the chaps who dubbed all the latest jams on Maxell or metal TDK cassettes. They also made mixes, and called them names like “ Hardcore G-funk 1994” or “Best of Soul 1995.” They were the chaps that swore that they dubbed the songs from someone who bought the original CD in Jand; bloody liars – they dubbed their cassettes from someone who dubbed their cassettes from someone with the CD. These chaps usually carried a Sony or Aiwa walkman about, and sat in groups comparing rap lyrics, or arguing about who was harder between Spice One and Scarface.

So basically, the nerds had a preoccupation. Now, everyone is grown up and wants to be a player. What now happens if that the roles are reversed – the wannabe players end up breaking girls’ hearts and making more females cynical and bitter about true love or romance. Adversely, players start acting like nerds to settling down end up making a groupie a housewife.

Nollywood’s potrayal of the Nigerian woman does not help. Even as a casual viewer is introduced to the movie’s preview, he begins to form a sterotype in his head.  If some hot headed chauvanist is not slapping some lady to within an inch of her life,  there would be scenes where women are protrayed as cold blooded, money-hungry opportunists. View any dialogue between a set of college girls – they are always loose, materialistic and thinking of how to get money from “Chief” or “Senator.”

In Nollywood flicks, why o why cant a man and a woman have a decent row or conersation without the brute hitting the lady? The lady herself, acting according to a perverse script almost always wills the beating by her antics.

Lights, Camera, Slap!!!!

I have heard people try and defend Nollywood by saying Hollywood encouraged violence and murder in their movies. These people say that action stars like Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone killed scores of people in bloody movies scenes with huge guns. Surely such wanton shows of violence and carnage are worse than Nollywood images of a man striking a woman across the face in a movie. Well the fact still remains that Stallone and co never continuously struck women in their movies, as these would have cause an outrage from pro-feminist groups. Ok scratch that, Stallone did slap women in his early movie career as a mojo entertainer, but it was on the butt-cheek not the face cheek and the women looked like they actually liked it.

Are we raising a nation of men that slap ladies  and a nation of slutty, loose, female slappers?

And life imitates art. A friend of mine promised to visit Nigeria again and again from America after he had the time of his life last year. He attended a party where the guests were all put up in a hotel. Around 9pm, desert was served via room service. He heard a knock on the door, and when he opened, an older lady was standing there with a group of about 12 girls of different statures, complexions and builds like ice-cream flavours in Ice cream Factory. He was offered his pick of 2 or 3 of the different flavours  – tropicana, vanilla, coconut, coffee, chocolate, mango etc. Lets just say that  he ate till he purged that night.

Don’t get me started on our advertisments and radio jingles too. The latest Etisalat add is a bit queer. A scheming girl gives out her number to guys freely so that she can get free credit under a promo that rewards you for calls received with your Etisalat number.

I have heard girls compaining that these fast women’s antics are making it difficult for decent girls to be taken seriously because they are heating the marriage and  dating polity.

Even oyibo people have started catching reverse jungle fever. But awoof dey run bele, and oyibo people can overdo it sometimes. A few years back, here was an expatriate who came into Nigeria to oversee a project for a multinational. Knowing his taste, the mutlinational company sent a driver as well as a “hostess” to pick him from Lagos airport.  The girl was one of these volumptious riverine girls who wear waist bids to accentuate their 36-28-36 body dimensions. Before long, the expat and the girl had hit it off, no doubt aided by the dollar signs in the girl’s eyes. The  girl ended up giving the oyibo man fellatio in the car on the way to the hotel. It was all too much for the oyibi man as he screamed “I am in an African paradise!” The driver managed to prevent himself from crashing over the culvet on 3rd Mainland Bridge as he peeked through the rear-view mirror and tried to concentrate on the road.

A week later however, the expat was sent to Warri on company business, and got kidnapped and hidden in a dense Naija delta jungle – well a jungle is paradise to monkeys and swamp things. T.I.A – This is Africa.


Yo, I seen you at the five and dime wasting your time/

Oh you shine, I’m looking at your ass from behind/

You walked by smelling like watermelon/

You might make me a felon, my eyeballs swelling/

 Cappadonna of Wu-Tang Clan (Maria, 1997)


It’s time to call a world order where every girl’s your daughter/
and priceless as ices and pearls fresh out the water/

Big Punisher (Boomerang, 1998)


And since we all came from a woman/
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman/
I wonder why we take from our women/
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?/
I think it’s time to kill for our women/
Time to heal our women, be real to our women/
And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies/
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies/

 Tupac (Keep Your Head Up, 1993)

Naija Entertainment 101

Yes o!

Last weekend, I was at the Nigerian Music Video Awards at the behest of one of my close friends who owns an entertainment company and had one of his artists up for nomination. The event held at Eko Hotel on a balmy Sunday evening, so I threw on a pair of jeans and a sports blazer and headed there with 2 of my mates and my girl.

At the start of the awards ceremony, the organizers played back a 20minute video chronicling the tortured history of the present day Nigerian music industry. As the NMWA was founded by Cally Ikpe, a former music video presenter in the mid to late 90s, footage was shown of him interviewing up and coming artists back then, some of which included Messer Tuface Idibia who had a full head of hair then, a really slender dreadlock-less DJ Humility, Weird MC when she was less weird and was crooning to the world about that famed Ikeja Boulevard in her hit single “Allen Avenue” plus also the remaining members of the Plantashun Boiz crew.

Speaking of the Plantashun Boiz, the group included Black Face. Remember him? He was most people’s choice to blow with a solo career as he was the most obviously talented then. Sometimes having the most talent in a group doesn’t mean you would have the most successful solo career; sometimes the least celebrated member sneaks up on everyone. Robbie Williams of the Brit pop group Take That is a case in point (nobody gave him a chance).

Early days of Plantashun Boiz, including Tuface before he met his African Queens

Back to the NMVA event, the audience screamed while the music history video was playing, because our artists had grown in the public eye, and music in Nigeria has really come a long way from the rut of the early 90s. Artistes like Chi Chi of Africa back in the day wore costumes on stage that belonged on the set of the German game show Telemarch. Even as recent as the 90s, artistes lived from hand to mouth and were written off as drop-outs and never-do-wells. Nollywood actors were no better treated. I remember seeing Ramsey Noah at Video Mart in Surulere circa 96, and no-one in the video-club even gave him a second glance. The video store cashier even fined him for a late return without a smile.

Apart from that, some people around me was marveling at how Cally Ikpe looked back then in his Boy Alinco spectacles and polka-dotted button up shirt. He looked like Spotty from the SuperTed cartoons.

The host for the evening was a veteran of Nigerian TV presenting by the name of Israel. Now if you don’t know who Israel is, let me tell you a bit about him. He was the kind of person you imagined in a circus with a tux, brimmed hat and a magic wand opening the show for a set of performing sea-lions. He spoke in a barely understandable accent, rolling his tongue and using huge words. He is the type of fella to say something like: There was pandemonium and gnashing of teeth when the motor-car ran out of premium motor spirit.

He was also the type of guy who would say “I had cow-peas and cassava flakes a fortnight ago” rather than simply saying “Two weeks ago I ate beans and garri.”

When he came on stage in a black suit, waist coat and a bow tie, and spoke his special brand of English, in a grandiose, ventriloquist’s voice, the crowd just laughed and laughed. Not at him, but for him. Feeling he was doing something right, he carried on with his amazing brand of showmanship which seemed like something a ringmaster would do in a circus before a magician came on stage. A chap sitting behind me opined that his type of hosting seemed out of sync with a basically hip-hop music award setting, and he was dressed like a shipmaster on an ocean-liner cruise for oyibo OAPs.

I recalled when Israel was a host for the popular movie phone-in program on DBN called “The Night Shift” which aired circa 97-99. He, like his alternate host on that program a female called “Eva”, used to get harassed by some members of the calling public. The unfair bit about Naija people is that they hit on female hosts, and try to unsettle the male ones.

Well, there was this particular night that a girl called in to select a movie. Before she made her choice, she observed that she hated Israel’s shirt and said that he didn’t have a good dress sense! Israel was wearing an Ankara safari suit with huge shoulder pads and large plastic burtons.

He was so embarrassed that he didn’t know where to look, so he said something along the lines of “thank you, I am here to please you, and if you think my top is not nice, then I am sorry for displeasing you.”

The girl wasn’t budging and said she thought he should improve his dressing and change his wardrobe.

Israel thanked her for her comments, and she said he was welcome.

That was not the end of it. Two nights later, the same girl called again and commented that she noticed that he had improved and how much she liked his top. Now he was wearing a smart fitted polo shirt with the Ralph horse proudly galloping. He resisted the urge to grin from ear to ear as he reiterated that he only aimed to please his audience. The naughty female caller advised him not to stray, said her thanks and dropped.

In the present at the NVMA, as the video ended and Israel spoke and disembarked from the stage, my mind drifted to a forgotten area of Nigeria entertainment. These days choreographers and dancers like Kaffy are celebrated and earn a decent sum from their craft. But almost two decades ago people were strutting their stuff on the hit TV dance program Sunday Rendezvous, and were getting laughed at by members of the viewing public.

The show which came on around 12noon on Sundays, just in time for after church Sunday entertainment was hosted by our own Don Cornelius, the amusingly named Prince 2000. I wonder what he would think about that name now, because in the 1980s, the year 2000 seemed soo futuristic. A shiny suit wearing, Afro-puffs sporting man, he was for famous encouraging encores from the audience by saying “Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!”

Nobody knew where the dance studio was situated although people claimed it was located somewhere in FESTAC town. Then people looked down on entertainment and certain people that appeared on TV, and the general though mistaken opinion was that the dancers who went on Sunday Rendezvous were mostly house-helps and domestic servants. I remember hearing that a madam sent her help to the market to buy vegetables for lunch. She decided to watch some TV, and screamed when she saw her help boogie-ing on Rendezvous. She screamed her head off reporting her hubby “I sent my house-girl to the market to buy carrots and cabbage, and here she is on TV doing the cabbage dance-step!”  Na wa for this madam o.

Her husband looked up from his Concorde newspaper as he replied dryily ” I think you will find that she is actually doing the running man.” The house-help never came back home, and days later they heard she was back at her village.

I smiled as I reminisced. Back at the awards, Adeyinka the comedian was on stage cracking everyone up with some really funny jokes.

However I remember when the industry was a joke itself. There are things we take for granted now. You switch on your TV, and if you have cable, you have the choice of a multiplicity of music video stations to catch Nigerian or foreign music on – MTV Base, MTV, BET, Nigezie, Trace, Channel O and Sound City etc. There was a time in this country when everyone used to tune in to see the latest videos on AIT Jams. Some people found Kenny and D1 rather annoying, and stomached their long boring exchanges just to be able to see the music videos. It is a FUBU men!

I remember someone phoning into their Radio program on Raypower FM and saying that they reminded her of her favourite American entertainers.

Thankful, they asked her who.

She cheekily replied “Beavis and Butthead!”

They both rained abuses on her so she quickly terminated the call to escape their rising aggression.

Back to the NMVA, before I had settled down to watch the show, I had hung around the lobby saying high to people I knew in the industry. An acquaintance of mine who was an entertainer invited me to a suite upstairs full of some stars in the music industry – some artists, music execs and network owners.  Everyone was well turned out, laughing, sipping cocktails and networking. I was so proud. We nearly got stuck in a faulty lift on our way down; the elevator cabin had that much star power in it!

And the "winner" "are"....

I lifted up a champagne flute and toasted with another star by the poolside a bit later on as well.  Later at the entrance to the event’s hall, I looked around proudly as I glanced around me, noting how far music, film and comedy had come. Casting a 360 gaze, I spied Djinee giving an interview to a foreign music TV network, exchanged daps with the chaps from Skuki and told them I was a fan; I saw Wunmi and Obe, our own Sunny and Cher – my friend took pictures with them while I clicked away. I saw Bisi Olatilo – broadcaster/presenter/interviewer/newscaster/ show host/ talk show host – a true jack of all trades. Stella Damascus was taking pictures with a few other entertainers. I realized what the above mentioned represented – film, broadcasting and music all in one room.

The award event went smoothly, but I left before the end as the missus was tired and wanted to grab something to eat.

One more thing, Kenny St. Brown came up to receive a Best Gospel Award for her song “Turn Me Around.” Receiving the award, she said that this award was her first recognition from any Nigerian award organization in a decade. She further retorted that her critics had said she could not sing but further added “Kirk Franklin nor fit sing, e nor fit rap.”

 I understand her pain, but no artiste ever downplays his/her own talent in public. Ever.  Jennifer Lopez is not a powerful singer but you would never hear her admit that in public, either directly or indirectly. It would also surprise many people to know that Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Queen and Diana Ross have never won a Grammy Award in their lifetimes but are all internationally recognized musical maestros, so Ms. Kenny St. Brown can draw inspiration from this.

It is great to see today’s artists being rewarded financially and critically for their craft, being well off and acclaimed for their artistic endeavors.  Long may it continue.

Finally let them continue to be more original, apply their creative sides and make music and movies that are truly Nigerian. And what is the route not to follow? I will give an example – well in the early noughties, there was this Nigerian rapper who was a DMX copycat. He shaved his hair off, and wore heavy dog chains and spoke in a deep gruff voice just like the New York rapper did. Everything about this Naija rapper’s music, performance, ad-libs and on-stage mannerisms were similar to DMX’s to a tee.

There was a time a presenter was interviewing this chap -let’s call him “NMX” – on a popular Naija music TV show. Finally she asked him the cliché question – what final word would he like to say to his fans out there.  NMX barked “Grrrrrrr…….” in the deepest growl ever. Madness.



You are easier to see when you are in flight/

So keep your game tight, do your thing right/


M.I. featuring Tuface (Nobody, 2010)