Lessons from the Kokomaster

by Chude Jideonwo

So, about a month or two ago, a coalition of musicians led by D’banj – who had sung for the Goodluck Jonathan campaign – and Psquare – who had sung for the Babangida campaign, gathered the press to a briefing in Ikeja, Lagos and announced that they were committed to a series of free rallies across the geopolitical zones of Nigeria to encourage young people to register and vote.

Something wasn’t quite right about it – and not just because, as someone who has been part of civil society working on elections and youth participation over the past year, the leading lights for this sudden campaign had been the most reluctant to engage in any non-partisan process to get young Nigerians involved.

The response across social networks shared my surprise when the news hit. “We know those who will do free shows,” one popular name Tweeted. “And they have not yet been born.”

I agreed – a little. We know those who can do free shows – and they have been born, they just weren’t the guys who were now involved in this free show. And conspiracy theorists soon emerged – who swore that the presidential candidate with the deepest picket was using this supposedly non-partisan platform to drive a deeply partisan agenda.

Nothing was heard about the concerts for weeks after.

In that period, a group of young people (including me, for purposes of full disclosure) began to work on the country’s first youth-centred political debate – fixed for March 25. A debate that President Goodluck Jonathan (you know, the big pocket candidate) and General Muhammadu Buhari had telegraphed a refusal to attend.

Then suddenly, on the eve of the now famous NN24 national presidential debate, whispers turned to  frenzy: D’banj was going to be interviewing President Jonathan on Silverbird Television. There’s no need to recount the ‘Dbanjing’  (a new word for nodding mumu-ly) that followed or the opprobrium that attended D’banj immediately after the interview – as well as his cohort and boss, Don Jazzy, who made the mistake of trying to defend the action on Twitter against a  band of angry young people.

As it is, and obviously as post-interview fallout, D’banj has not been seen anywhere near the president, he is said to now have security due to threats to his life, and his credibility as a youth advocate

is terribly impaired.

What was the annoyance? Yes, there were some who would get angry anyway just because D’banj exercised his constitution right to endorse Goodluck Jonathan – a point which is really, er, pointless, as there is absolutely nothing so terrible about the Jonathan candidacy that makes impossible for him to have true believers.

The anger was, first that D’banj positioned himself – wrongly and inappropriately – as representing the youth. That was weird. Of course he was buoyed by his UN Youth ambassadorship, his The Future Awards for Young Person of the Year and other such laurels, which he mentioned disingenuously during the interview. But worse for him, was the advertorial that followed – announcing one of those suspicious “It’s our time” free concerts, to hold on the same day as the youth debate! Ah, the danger of free shows.  The battle line was drawn – many asked, did Dbanj and his sponsors really think young people are so vacuous they would choose music over a conversation bout their future?

There and then the concert’s buzz died.

Young celebrities should be paying attention. Last year, when a host of singers and actors began to gyrate for the candidates, while they denied that money change hands, antennae were raised. But of course it is alright to endorse a candidate or even do your job as a singer by entertaining at his event.

The problem is when you get high on your own supply.

D’banj will yet recover from this – but the elasticity of that recovery will lie in whether this kind of, well, mistake becomes a pattern with him or whether it is a one-off; a mistake to which he is entitled. The choice he makes will determine if his image goes the way of Onyeka Onwenu – who has now sung for and ‘endorsed’ three consecutive PDP presidents, in addition to that pesky concert for Sani Abacha in 1996 – or whether he will build a powerful, activist brand, like his colleagues Banky W (who shunned the concert) and MI, (who promptly returned the performance fee, according to reports).

You see, folks might like it when you sing about the koko, but when push comes to shove, they know what the real koko is.

So, about a month or two ago, a coalition of musicians led by D’banj – who had sung for the Goodluck Jonathan campaign – and Psquare – who had sung for the Babangida campaign, gathered the press to a briefing in Ikeja, Lagos and announced that they were committed to a series of free rallies across the geopolitical zones of Nigeria to encourage young people to register and vote.

Something wasn’t quite right about it – and not just because, as someone who has been part of civil society working on elections and youth participation over the past year, the leading lights for this sudden campaign had been the most reluctant to engage in any non-partisan process to get young Nigerians involved.

The response across social networks shared my surprise when the news hit. “We know those who will do free shows,” one popular name Tweeted. “And they have not yet been born.”

I agreed – a little. We know those who can do free shows – and they have been born, they just weren’t the guys who were now involved in this free show. And conspiracy theorists soon emerged – who swore that the presidential candidate with the deepest picket was using this supposedly non-partisan platform to drive a deeply partisan agenda.

Nothing was heard about the concerts for weeks after.

In that period, a group of young people (including me, for purposes of full disclosure) began to work on the country’s first youth-centred political debate – fixed for March 25. A debate that President Goodluck Jonathan (you know, the big pocket candidate) and General Muhammadu Buhari had telegraphed a refusal to attend.

Then suddenly, on the eve of the now famous NN24 national presidential debate, whispers turned to  frenzy: D’banj was going to be interviewing President Jonathan on Silverbird Television. There’s no need to recount the ‘Dbanjing’  (a new word for nodding mumu-ly) that followed or the opprobrium that attended D’banj immediately after the interview – as well as his cohort and boss, Don Jazzy, who made the mistake of trying to defend the action on Twitter against a  band of angry young people.

As it is, and obviously as post-interview fallout, D’banj has not been seen anywhere near the president, he is said to now have security due to threats to his life, and his credibility as a youth advocate

is terribly impaired.

What was the annoyance? Yes, there were some who would get angry anyway just because D’banj exercised his constitution right to endorse Goodluck Jonathan – a point which is really, er, pointless, as there is absolutely nothing so terrible about the Jonathan candidacy that makes impossible for him to have true believers.

The anger was, first that D’banj positioned himself – wrongly and inappropriately – as representing the youth. That was weird. Of course he was buoyed by his UN Youth ambassadorship, his The Future Awards for Young Person of the Year and other such laurels, which he mentioned disingenuously during the interview. But worse for him, was the advertorial that followed – announcing one of those suspicious “It’s our time” free concerts, to hold on the same day as the youth debate! Ah, the danger of free shows.  The battle line was drawn – many asked, did Dbanj and his sponsors really think young people are so vacuous they would choose music over a conversation bout their future?

There and then the concert’s buzz died.

Young celebrities should be paying attention. Last year, when a host of singers and actors began to gyrate for the candidates, while they denied that money change hands, antennae were raised. But of course it is alright to endorse a candidate or even do your job as a singer by entertaining at his event.

The problem is when you get high on your own supply.

D’banj will yet recover from this – but the elasticity of that recovery will lie in whether this kind of, well, mistake becomes a pattern with him or whether it is a one-off; a mistake to which he is entitled. The choice he makes will determine if his image goes the way of Onyeka Onwenu – who has now sung for and ‘endorsed’ three consecutive PDP presidents, in addition to that pesky concert for Sani Abacha in 1996 – or whether he will build a powerful, activist brand, like his colleagues Banky W (who shunned the concert) and MI, (who promptly returned the performance fee, according to reports).

You see, folks might like it when you sing about the koko, but when push comes to shove, they know what the real koko is.

2 Comments

  • eMJOY Mayowa says:

    D'banj and PSquare: money over values of integrity? wake up yall. It's a #NewNig

  • D Seer says:

    Hmmmm! Well written Chude, I hope other artistes take a cue and learn frm his mistakes, since he refused to learn from Onyeka's, and this just proves that some Naija peeps have their brains buried in their belly. D Banj! D banj!! D banj!!! How many times did I call your name? Mscheww

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