Anyone who knows me is well aware of how much I love the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. As much as I love his songs, I love his lyrics even more. The depth of his work often serves as excellent material for an aspiring writer like myself.
Take for instance his song “Teacher don’t teach me nonsense”. Here are some lines-
There’s this part:
“……. Who be our teacher na oyinbo”
And then this:
“…… Oyinbo teach us many many things
Many of dem things I don sing about
Me I no gree to follow oyinbo style…”
“…. E good make teacher teach something
And student make mistake,
Teacher must talk so but oyinbo no talk so….”
Basically, he’s talking about how oyinbos (mainly the British, them being Nigeria’s colonial masters) introduced us to a few things (such as democracy) but then seemingly looked the other way whenever we make missteps. [ I was going to quote another one of his songs, one where he talked about how the oyinbos taught us Africans to carry shit but I guess I’ll save that for another time perhaps.]
Another of the many things the British taught us is the word “oxymoron”. It is a figure of speech where 2 things that seem to contradict each other are actually used together. Examples are – “deafening silence”, “open secret”, and “awfully good”. If you’ve paid attention to the news recently, you’d have heard of this one- “Fantastically corrupt”. These were the words British Prime Minister David Cameron used to describe Nigeria and Afghanistan ahead of an anti-corruption summit his government is organizing this week.
Amidst the predictable backlash that has followed, which is quite amusing, there’s something we need to make clear here. It was President (then Senator) Obama who once said “You can put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig,” so let’s be honest here. Corruption thrives in Nigeria (I can’t speak for Afghanistan but I’m sure they’re also quite pissed) and is widespread and often happens in the open. Unfortunately, this goes from the official who stamps your passport upon entry at the airport all the way to senior level government officials. Then you have people in the latter group stashing public funds in foreign accounts and holdings and this is what really has people upset with respect to the prime minister’s comments.
To Fela’s point, your economy cannot be benefitting from “investments” in the form of stolen funds from our country while you do nothing but then turn around and call us corrupt.
There is definitely a point to be made but here is the thing. If you don’t want people to call you a thief, don’t steal. We cannot be accusing people of trying to smear our image when we keep engaging in filthy habits.
We need to get our acts right.