by Olusegun Adeniyi
But no society can develop when you have, as Nigeria evidently does, a preponderance of people with such warped values in critical positions in both the private and public sectors.
While many of our idle rich people have for long stopped celebrating their birthdays in Nigeria, preferring to transport their friends and associates to some choice destinations abroad, the new craze in town is that the wedding ceremonies of their children and wards also no longer hold in our country: It is now a Dubai affair!
Ordinarily, wedding ceremonies are religious cum traditional affairs between two individuals and two families who would invite their relations and well wishers to share in the joy of the day. And it is usually held, in most cultures in our country, at the location where the parents of the bride reside or the community they hail from. But because of the corruption of our values and all that we once held dear, wedding ceremonies are now being exported to countries that have nothing to do with the family of either the bride or the groom.
The latest of such happened recently between the son of one of our subsidy billionaires and the daughter of a top civil servant. Even when the parents on both sides are Nigerians who have done well for themselves here, they did not consider our country good enough for their children to tie the nuptial knot. The father of the groom had to spend a scandalous amount of money ferrying no fewer than 20 senators, numerous House of Representatives members, many bankers and politicians of all hues to Dubai in the United Arab Emirate for the obscene wedding that has now put the career of the bride’s father in serious jeopardy.
For sure, there is no law that prevents anybody from taking the wedding of his children to the moon. But there is something immoral about Nigerians who make cheap money here and would not even allow our people to share in the crumbs. Because by their offshore wedding ceremonies, they are cutting off the local event planners, the caterers, the musicians, the photographers and the poor people who ordinarily mill around such events to take home reception leftovers. Beyond all these is the image problems they create for our country.
When people associate Nigeria with corruption, it is not that other countries are immune from such sordid practices but rather because here, people flaunt ill-gotten wealth. And with no tax man after them, they can afford to advertise their debauchery since the money they spend is not worked for and no one is putting them to task on how they come about such humongous wealth. Yet we are talking about people who don’t employ beyond drivers, cooks, gardeners, stewards etc.–domestic staff who only minister to their personal indulgences. For instance, I cannot imagine that Alhaji Aliko Dangote will buy flight tickets for about a thousand people to go to Dubai, just for the wedding of any of his children. He won’t do that because he knows the value of every kobo which he works for while he is also conscious of the fact that thousands of families depend on him. But when you can get billions of Naira without sweat, you can as well decide to hold burial ceremonies in Alaska to feed your vanity!
Interestingly, President Goodluck Jonathan last week alluded to the debasement of values in our society. Represented by the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ms. Amal Pepple, at the official kick-off of the National Christian Campaign on Social Transformation, the president said: “The whole society has failed, that is one reason we have incidents of cultism, armed robbery, murder, ritual killing, drugs, sale of babies, kidnapping and sexual immorality. Indeed, we have lost our moral values and principle; so much has gone wrong in our family life, schools, churches and society in general.”
Such is the level of decay that when someone recently gave me details of the private jets owners, I just could not place many of the names. When I sought to know what many of them do for a living, the standard response was, “he is into oil”, which essentially means they are mostly rent seekers who prey on the lack of transparency in our oil and gas industry. It is therefore understandable that they will be taking their birthdays, wedding celebrations and even the naming ceremonies of their children to Dubai. But no society can develop when you have, as Nigeria evidently does, a preponderance of people with such warped values in critical positions in both the private and public sectors.
Rolling Dollar: A Remarkable Life
The death last week in Lagos of highlife musician, Mr Fatai Olayiwola Olagunju a.k.a. Fatai Rolling Dollar, 86, brought an end to a remarkable story that teaches several lessons about life; with a powerful message on the power of journalism. But I personally feel a sense of loss because so fascinated was I about the man that I had a desire both to meet him and also to do a serious story on his rather inspiring life. Now that the octogenarian artiste, who would have turned 87 next month, is gone I owe him a fitting tribute. So for that reason, I have in the last one week been speaking to people so as to piece together the story of this grand old master of highlife who reigned before my generation was born, endured a season of serious deprivation that lasted almost three decades, and then finally died a celebrated man.
Having slipped into oblivion from 1977, following the destruction of his house in the infamous ‘Unknown Soldier’ crisis at the late Fela Anikulapo’s “Kalakuta Republic”, Rolling Dollar was given up as dead until his resurrection as a performing artiste started at the 1997 World Music Day concert at the French Cultural Centre in Ikoyi, Lagos. It was the late music impresario, Mr Steve Rhodes, who first presented him on stage, with the assistance of Mr Muyiwa Majekodunmi, then proprietor of Jazzville, Onike, about the most active and influential live music centre in Lagos at the time.
Even though his performance that night was reportedly lousy, Rolling Dollar was nonetheless the revelation, as many people were surprised to realize he was still alive. It turned out he had been sharing a dingy face-me-I-face-you room with his family at Idi Oro, Mushin in Lagos; and that was where the late Rhodes practically exhumed him from. As it would happen, Mr Jahman Anikulapo covered that event for The Guardian newspaper and, as he recalled, Rolling Dollar could not even walk properly and had to be propped up to mount the stage. At the end, he could only do two songs — one of which was his now famous ‘Won Kere Si Nomba Wa’, which he did solo on the guitar.
After that 1997 return, Steve Rhodes again presented Rolling Dollar a year later at another concert at the Glover Memorial Hall, though he was still frail. But his fortunes changed in 1999 when the Goethe Institute, under the directorship of the African music-loving Renate Albertsen Marton (now deceased) asked Jahman Anikulapo to coordinate a highlife concert for them. Veteran broadcaster and music columnist for The Guardian, Mr Benson Idonije, who was contacted to present the concert decided to feature Rolling Dollar. That night, it was the late German who bought a new set of dresses with which Rolling Dollar was kitted.
Titled “Great Highlife Party”, Rolling Dollar appeared in the concert alongside other veteran highlife musicians who were by then out of larger public attention. They included the guitarist Alaba Pedro (now late); Tunde Osofisan, a retired civil servant who was however the lead singer and sometime composer for the late Roy Chicago and Chris Ajilo (composer of such classics as ‘Eko o Gba Gbere’). A year later in 2000, Rolling Dollar was also featured among other largely forgotten highlife maestros like E.C Arinze (‘It’s Time for Highlife’); the late Rex Lawson’s memorial band fronted by his wife and the trumpeter, David Brown.
By this time, Anikulapo had become Deputy Editor at The Guardian where he also doubled as the Arts Editor, and he helped to give the two shows a huge media profile. Together with Idonije, who was using his column to promote the old man, that effectively placed Rolling Dollar back in public reckoning. But I understand the first person to invest faith in the musician is a young lady called Ebun Olatoye (now Mrs Feludu), who had started some project with the Hafsat Abiola-led Kudirat Initiative for Democracy, (KIND). On her own, Mrs. Feludu decided to manage the resurrecting career of Rolling Dollar and indeed found him some gigs, including at the reading tour of Chimamanda Adichie’s debut novel, ‘Purples Hibiscus’. That day, Rolling Dollar shared the stage with Bukola Elemide (popularly known as Asa), who was just coming on the scene, fresh and unknown.
With the ceaseless media promotion led by Anikulapo who effectively used his vantage editorial position at The Guardian to pursue his passion for the arts, highlife promoters who began to cultivate Rolling Dollar included Jazzhole Records, which eventually recorded some of his works; and Mr Kayode Samuel of Eko Star Records, a London-based music promoter who would later push Rolling Dollar’s record through the UK and US circuits. The Committee for Relevant Art, (CORA) led by Mr. Toyin Akinosho also collaborated with Ojez and Benjay Promotions owned by Benson Idonije to give Rolling Dollar a professional new lease of life.
In 2001, the idea of the Great Highlife Party (GHP) was sold to the proprietor of Ojez Restaurant in Iwaya through his then media consultant, Mr Odafe Oghoghome. Tagged “Elders’ Forum”, the monthly concert which ran for two years drew many high society people, including Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, the late Ambassador Segun Olusola, Mr. Rasheed Gbadamosi, Mrs Francesca Emanuel, Mrs Taiwo Ajai-Lycett and others. With Rolling Dollar as the star act, it was not long before he caught the attention of the former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who gave him a house in Abule Egba.
By his own account, Rolling Dollar entered an aircraft for the first time in his life at age 76, just ten years ago yet before he died last week, he had travelled to virtually all corners of the globe. Now, here is the lesson: No matter the cards life may deal us at any point in time, there is no greater joy than knowing that we have something that makes us who we are; and that when we focus on this ‘something’, which could be a talent or a calling, we will ultimately come to a full realization of our true essence and finish well – as Rolling Dollar did. May his soul rest in perfect peace.
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