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Nigeria is a place full of people and goods, of heroes and bandits, of spirits and soldiers, of drums and music. While I write, also half of my heart is there.
This time again the elections in Nigeria have not been easy. All Nigerians know that the day of the elections, gangs start gathering, there is tension in the souls and someone might even die. For this reason everybody closes themselves inside their homes. But Saturday 16 April it was decided to go numerous to tick the cross, twice the people compared to the usual times, so the outsider Jonathan Goodluck won, with his funny hat.
“Good luck, Mr. Goodluck…” the young people and students from the south wish him. To rule Nigeria is a tough job, but young Goodluck is not like his father, although the old and dangerous rival, general Buhari pushed on him the anger of the people from the north, where violence is killing people. Goodluck’s followers answer but nobody should say it is a war between Christians and muslims.
“It would be nice for us” sings an old funky of Afro Sounders of Orlando Julius Ekemode, another godfather of afro-soul. Everyone thought he had disappeared since the times of Asiko, the dance bomb composed by young OJ in the Boys Doin’it of Hugh Masekela. Today he lives in California, but the afrobeat long wave is bringing him back high, and our friend Frank “Voodoo Funk” Gossner has found him and published him in a dated recording made by ARC Studio on 24 tracks by Ginger Baker in Lagos.
Take it, the record I mean. Intoxicated music, repetitive and hypnotic. There was the talking drum of Ayan Ayan, the farfisa organ and Moses Akambi on drum, and who said that Tony Allen was number one? I say this with respect, big brother.
Those were the early seventies, Nigeria was the light of its revolutionary infective music and the shadow of its inflated petrol-dollars presidents, Obasanjo and Buhari. During the nineties there was Abacha, the assassin of Ken Saro Wiwa and of thousands of other Nigerians.
He was an Ogoni of the Delta of Niger, Ken Saro Wiwa. “Excellence, my salary is miserable”. “Don’t accumulate goods on earth”. “Excellence I have a family to sustain”. “Thank God he gave you one”. Excellence, during the last six month I was not paid a salary”. “ You are only paying the unlucky consequences of our poor country”. “Excellence, in Church people were well paid and received their salaries regularly”. Said Daniel while watching the shiny car that was attracting everybody’s attention in the village. Daniel is one of the simple people of the stories of Saro Wiwa in the Forest of Flowers.
He was hung. His battle today is fought by MEND, Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta, a conscious fighting group of ljaw ethnic, the same as Jonathan Goodluck. What is a ljaw doing as president in Nigeria? That Government has always taken money from Chevron and our ENI and Shell to keep the ljaw quiet, to leave them in their stinky petrol marshes while hell’s gas fire is burning the sky. Is the sky turning up side down? Two days after the elections MEND declared that they would defend Johnathan Ebele Goodluck’s mandate.
Goodluck was a harmless naturalist. He took care of plants and tropical fish, when the governor of Bayelsa State called him to become his vice. It was 1999. But what story is this? Listen to it carefully because it is unbelievable. The Governor died, and he happened to take his place without looking for it. In 2008 Omaru Yar’Adua, new Nigeria’s president, called him to be his vice. Why … it is not easy to understand, Yar’Adua was Hausa and came after Obasanjo, who was Yoruba. In Nigeria since independence there is a succession of one Hausa president, then one Yoruba, then a Hausa. Well, I bet that you already know but don’t dare say it. Yes, even Yar’Adua died and Goodluck found himself president of the entire Nigerian giant without looking for it. It was May 2010, a little less than one year ago. He was practically unknown as politician and at international level everyone would ask themselves: but who is Jonathan Goodluck?
Also in Anikulapo Kuti’s family everyone was asking themselves this as it was the first time that Nigeria had a president who in the past had not persecuted Fela, who died before Goodluck entered politics. By the way it has nothing to do with it, during those days the afro american musical on Fela Kuti’s life is programmed at the Shrine of Lagos. Shit, it would be nice to be at the Shrine, with Postivie Force and all the rest.
Last record of Seun Kuti, From Africa with Fury: Rise has not even one peace dedicated to Goodluck. But there is a track indirectly dedicated to general Buhari, it is called African Soldier. Right, but what is happening in Nigeria? It is the first time that it has a president who is not a soldier. There is also Big Thief, but it doesn’t seem for him. It is about petrol and corruption and for Goodluck it is too early. Not Mr. Big Thief, it is still for Obasanjo and all politicians who shared the goods of the Nigerian for 50 years.
“Our ears are full of your words, but our bellies are still empty”. The front cover is by Ghariokwu Lemi, who used to draw for Fela.The music seems to go beyond Many Things, it has developed into an acid and modern orgy of Fire Dance, at the time arranged by Godwin Logie, here again present amongst producers like John Reynolds and Brian Eno. Already Brian Eno, who plays also, finally achieves his unforgotten dream since the times of Afrodisiac; to play with Egypt 80. You can hear Eno, the groove of the old Nigerian orchestra lines up as a human gear with invisible schizophrenia just like the time of the bush of ghosts with Byrne.
Since May 2010 Goodluck has done new things. He enrolled into Facebook like Obama, and started writing his ideas and asking citizens not to be afraid to criticize and to propose. Me too I am one of his fans, even if initially I had to overcome the trauma of clicking on “I like” for a Nigerian president. I was encouraged by the presence of friends like Comb & Razor and Latoya Ekemode.
He declared that after one year he would hold the elections and he did it. He won, two thirds of the states with almost twice the votes of Buhari! His rival, who was convinced that it would have been his turn because it was the Hausa’s turn. He immediately denounced fraud. But how could Goodluck manage to place 10 million voting cards under the nose of the international observers?
The journalist Ken Wiwa – the name reminds us of someone? He is the son, lives in Toronto and writes for Globe and Mail and supports Goodluck – he sais interesting things about him. “ We are used to the military style of the distant and hard presidents. Many people are also afraid of going close to him. He (Goodluck) is trying to cancel all this, to show that he is not an autocrat. We are demystifying the president, we are cancelling his cult. He is a shy man and kind and found himself in a position which he would never had thought to reach, but I am watching him grow and grow. Nigeria is a collective compromise, people need a President who puts them at ease. The ethnic tensions are not so deeply rooted, we need someone who simply listens”.
Now Goodluck calls Nigeria to the border of the abyss to unity with simple words. “In Nigeria there are only two kinds of people, the good and the bad, and not those from north and from south”. This says something to me, and also to many Nigerians who look at him with faith, with hope for not having to think back, for not having to find themselves sold to oyimbo, to the white men.
PICTURES BY EMUFEST 2010
1. Yio Si Da Miliki Beat (OJ)
2. Aseni (OJ)
3. Slave Masters (Seun)
4. Rise (Seun)
Author: Orlando Julius and the Afro Sounders
Title: Orlando Julius and the Afro Sounders
Label: Voodoo Funk
Author: Seun Kuti & Egypt 80
Title: From Africa with Frury: Rise
Label: Because Music