This Is Nigeria: Falz And The Role Of Creatives In Shaping Culture
“It is only in Nigeria where you can take money from the church, money contributed by poor congregation members and you go and set up a university that the members cannot [afford to] send their children to.”
SARS. Lazy Youths. Capitalism. Fulani Herdsmen. Chibok Girls. Yahoo Yahoo. Big Brother Naija. Religious Hypocrisy. Failed Power Sector. Science Students. Thieving Reptiles: It appears Falz left nothing out in his recent music video, “This Is Nigeria”, filled with enough social commentary to fuel a final-year BA thesis.
I must admit, when I saw #ThisIsNigeria trending on Twitter, I sought out the parody video on Youtube to quench my curiousity, expecting comedic, if frivolous, celebration of the country’s supposed uniqueness. Instead, what I found was a cultured reflection on the many disastrous elements upon which the modern Nigerian society is built, without falling into any of the clichés which such undertakings unwittingly become victims of.
While it does not match the chilling idiosyncrasies of the original video [Childish Gambino’s “This Is America”], it does not intend to. It is its own thing: contextualized to fit the specificity of the Nigerian reality without buying into the overt ambiguity of Gambino’s version of American decadence. It is a shockingly bold critique of many aspects of the social order which we either do not reflect upon or are too scared to even talk about. And being a member of an Afrobeat genre which seems content with song about women’s bodies and bragging about material wealth, Falz’s radical act appears even more subversive.
One of the most poignant arguments made in the video is the decadent religious culture which we all are part of. Falz mocks the uncritical reliance on the words of preachers who sometimes use this naivety to further their own hedonistic and capitalistic ambitions. We have become sheep fully offering themselves to supposedly-divine shepherds who take advantage of such gullibility.
He evidently derides our moral value system, which prioritises achievement over effort. We celebrate the attainment of financial success without caring how the money was made or what it is used for. This is why we make celebrities of politicians who have made enough money to buy cities without thinking about the source of the money. Efforts have become less important than the flashy results: Person wey no get work is checking/To see if my watch is original. This is why we have made online fraudsters – or Yahoo-yahoo boys – aspirational points of reference.
This is also why we have a cultural establishment which is fine giving 25 million dollars to the winner of the Big Brother Naija competition, for doing the bare minimum, while ignoring start-ups, scientific research institutions and the creative industry – all of which need money to actually do something good for the country. But God forbid we spend money on any of those. Let us all rejoice that millions of money that could be spent on talent hunts or funding large-scale entrepreneurial innovations has been given to winners who basically just gallivanted round a house for a couple of weeks undertaking nothing significant.
Falz’s seminal video covers too much to begin to unpack now. Whether or not you are moved by the video, one thing is clear: Falz has a voice and he is using it. that makes him one of a kind.