WIKE, BURNA BOY AND RIVERS YOUTHS.
He returned home on a private jet, like a holy gangster. He rolled in a wave of SUVs, laughed like monsters, brandished bling chains like a gangster of occupation. His music is like the national anthem, and the town’s ears still echo with his hit records. The names of past proud artists have come and gone but his name shall abound more and more. The people know him as their own, he lives in their radios, party speakers, billboards and in their dreams.
The man at the bottom of this is Burna Boy, Africa’s Giant, who recently touched off a tempest with his Grammy Award. As an essayist, aplomb on my mnemonic faculties, I never uttered a word throughout the build-up to the homecoming concert, maintaining an avuncular aloofness from the friendly affray of the event hustlers and ticket racketeers. I did not want my enveloping silence ruffled with such interactions. I never contemplated attendance, based on an overshadowing event but from the advert, it was a feast of giants, the menu did flatter the mental palate. A wide range of entertainers on one stage.
The exchange of love between Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and the Grammy Awards Winner, Burna Boy reflects the larger picture of the political gulf in the Oil-rich Rivers State.
We can see it clearly as a false love between two tendencies making waves for the State. Wike, who loves to be called Mr Project, represents what I call the Politician tendency of the State. A Politician who has conquered his State and region, and now wants to stretch his arm to the centre. He’s a warrior who does not appreciate the wisdom of age but only the rascality. So such a warrior torpedoes the wise counsel. Burna Boy, the younger, has evinced a brilliance that baffles the elder. So the Political warrior resorts to the flimflam of last night to take away attention from his superlative bumbling.
What happened last night was just a flash of joy. The last time Burna Boy performed before the governor, there was bad blood. It is either amnesia or forgiveness had run its course. Suddenly, Burna Boy has a makeover. The one who is like the brand ambassador of marijuana is bouncing in and out of the government house. The portrait of a successful man can change anytime, and it often depends less on what he did right or wrong, but on what people feel at the time. A lady, a few years back used to backslash some Portharcourt artist for posting images holding or smoking cannabis on social media, she too has this collective amnesia. She was part of the stampeding audience who came out to see their beloved Burna Boy.
So, while Burna Boy, a recording musician with a Grammy to show for his performance, is the target of the world, a Wike whose colossal disdain for youth-friendly activities is visible to the blind will gladly spend good taxpayers money to host a Burna Boy who sought oxygen in another state to advance his music career. The same governor who ignored the lady from Rivers who broke the Law School record. This is responsible for the terrible image we have of the Niger Delta. The governor is one of the reasons it is a region of waste without guilt, ineptitude with bravado, plenty submerged by scarcity.
While Burna Boy speaks from the platform of hard work and excellence based on the fact that Lagos is the loam that he flowered on, Mr Project can only rant from the frivolity of politics. We can bring this up to the larger centre of common sense politics where the forces on the side of Brick and Mortar eye service politics are at loggerheads with people like me and other youths over the style of governance. Human capital development is at an all-time low.
The one that pained this essayist was the sudden solemnity that the governor used in expressing how yesterday was of the best days of his life. He waited for Burna Boy to win a Grammy before acknowledging the number of talents in the State. I guess the concert and the merit award would have come a year ago if Burna Boy had won the award the previous year. A politician shouldn’t always be political especially when it comes to matters that concern the youths. The political elite ought to think deeply about how selfish efforts cutaway employment opportunities for the youths. They don’t create an enabling environment for Youths to thrive and be self-employed. Jobs give the youths food on their table, but more importantly, the pride of life. After the RSU employment comedy, where are the 5000 jobs? Do we get them driving through the flyovers? Is it not in this same State that a governor employed 13000 people?
The narrative affirms a cliché narrative of contemporary Nigeria. Our youths are wasting away. To paraphrase the poet Wordsworth, it was not bliss that day to be alive, and to be young was not very heaven. In fact, some of our youths have gone to heaven prematurely. The youths want an opportunity to toil, to be useful to themselves, to their families and their country. Plato wrote: youth is the time for any extraordinary toil. They lack the opportunity. Must every Burna Boy wannabe living in PortHarcourt relocate to Lagos just to survive? I wonder if a Rich State like ours can change their fortunes.
That is why I say Wike and Burna Boy represent, the fight between a minority of hardworking doers like Burna and the majority of crafty never-do-well politicians with eyes for the spoils.
I beg you, readers. What image does Wike’s government have for Rivers Youths? Of total disdain.
I think our youths too have to think deeply about last night’s tragedy. It is a signal and a warning. We cannot continue to live with false flamboyance on Instagram when our government votes billions for contracts that don’t get done, or contracts that go through variations every other year, they fizzle out job opportunities. Imagine if we all rise above party lines and realize that we far outnumber those who loot the soul of our nation. The Endsars will be a child’s play, we will reset this nation overnight. We will not only create many jobs, but we will also unleash the wealth in the land. If all the billions of dollars allocated to revive power have been executed faithfully, shall we not have thriving businesses, and fewer jobless men and women? The tragedy of the power arrangement is corruption.
They always tell us they are doing it on our behalf. The new subsidy, for instance, is on our behalf. It is the way the political elite say they are doing infrastructure, roads, hospitals and schools on our behalf. The contracts are given on our behalf but we do not get the roads, or we get them partially done so they can get partially done again. So the unfinished road or school or hospital will remain a basket case for the people but a perennial goldmine for the contractors and the government.
The Wike and Burna Boy melodramatic episode just revealed one of the ailments of the Nigerian mind which is compulsive amnesia. We sometimes act as though the past is either too heavy with sorrow or casts us in a bad light, so we forget. Or it is so light we lose the sense of how to make it into a weight of glory. The media, just like our political elite, are culprits of the mnemonic sin. The media reports and comments suffered from a scant well of historical backgrounding. Our politicians ape the trend. In the end, we act as a people without a past. Amaechi’s CARNIRIV though imperfect, gave youths a platform to showcase their art form. Our local entertainers flourished, howbeit little. Our youths and the media have forgotten, all they now know is the overhead bridges aka Flyovers that we are told will enhance tourism. Socrates knew this and so devised a system of recall that is now called the Socratic Method in philosophical studies. Socrates says our senses deceive us and that we know more than we think we know.
By Chinweike David Okwu aka LYRICAL PONTIFF