A visit to the New Africa Shrine on Thursday nights promises more than good live music. As the night draws to an end, afrobeat legend Femi Anikulapo-Kuti pauses the Grammy-nominated hits, gives his bands members some time to rest. Sometimes he sits, other times he remains standing. He begins to tear into the situation of things in the country. He calls out politicians. Religious leaders get some flak. And on nights when he’s feeling really animated, sweat pouring down his face, even you might get some stray bullets.
It’s fine, you think. He is Femi Anikulapo-Kuti, after all. Son of the Fela. Both he and his dad have sung over and over about Nigeria and her leaders. They’ve walked the walked. Femi is allowed to make fun of you for walking the length of the Third Mainland Bridge to work during a fuel scarcity and not slapping your boss after he handed you a query for arriving late. But when Burna Boy writes on his Instagram stories that you’re an “unprogressive fool” he will continue to fight for because you are not “mentally advanced enough” to fight for yourself, you begin to ask, who the hell is this one?
Sure, Burna Boy has sampled a few Fela songs. He’s even performed in underpants. He’s alluded vaguely to colonial and racial politics in one or two songs, politics he’s showed no real understanding of. But, like 2Baba, has he called for a protest (and then cancel it)? Like Genevieve Nnaji, has he consistently supported human rights for all? Or, like Davido, has he encouraged the Nigerian youth to go out to vote? No. No to everything.
So when activist Omoyele Sowore mentioned him on Twitter asking him to walk the walk, you’d expect maybe, just maybe Burna Boy would step up and fight for us like he said he would. But welp! Looks like he wasn’t interested.
Nigerians have, again, been protesting the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). On and on and on we’ve been going on Twitter, demanding that this time, more be done than the perfunctory banning. (How many times have they been banned? How many times have they been ordered to not stop and search the populace? When has that ever stopped them?)
Thankfully, the responsibility of leading the Nigerian youth outside Twitter and to the streets that Burna Boy so casually shrugged off has been picked up by other celebrities. Here is not where you’ll find why it is important for personalities with real influence to speak truth to power. Here, instead, is where you’ll find what personalities are doing that.
On Tuesday, badly behaved rapper Naira Marley is leading a peaceful protest that starts at 9 AM at the second toll gate (that’s Chevron/Eleganza). No vandalism, no fights, and no stealing, he says. If you see a SARS officer, do not fight, he says.
There’s another happening on Thursday the 8th, this one lead by lowkey singer Runtown. His begins at the Lekki Toll Gate, at 10 AM, and he wants us to reach out to our “elected” leaders beyond social media.
Where is Burna Boy, the one who has promised to fight for us, in all this? It’s radio silence so far.
Photo Credit: burnaboygram