How bad has the world gotten for Wizkid to speak against Buhari and Trump?

A few days ago, I tweeted about the need for political art in Nigeria at this time. I said that whatever shape it takes, such art will not come from mainstream Nollywood or from pop music.

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I still feel that way. But today, something strange happened. The country’s biggest pop act, or one of its two biggest acts, Wizkid, tweeted words targeted at the highest authority in Nigeria and in the US. Talk about killing two incredibly large birds with one teeny tweet:

“Buhari/Trump same person lol only difference be say one sabi use twitter pass the other. Clueless!”

Of course, it is only one tweet and from person. But given the silence of Nigeria’s most influential personalities and Wizkid’s own indifference to the political happenings in his country, the tweet has an outsized importance. Naturally, there are already questions as to Wizkid’s motivation:

  1. Has he tweeted this based on a recommendation from his PR team?
  2. Has he done this because he hasn’t been in the news for sometime?
  3. Does he have some other motive besides identifying with his fellow citizens?
  4. Have the hits stop flowing so much that he’s now engaging current affairs to seek relevance?

There are probably more questions but there is only answer: Wizkid’s motivations do not matter. It matters only that he has taken a stand with the people against a government that has failed to communicate comforting words to its people in these evil times. It matters only that the clamouring for support reached his ears and spurred a response. It matters only that he recognises the failure of his country’s government.

Along with the surprise of Wizkid’s tweet, I wonder if this is a better way for contemporary popstars to address political ills, given how, historically, mixing their music with message reveals some inadequacy. With the songs of Burna Boy, what is conveyed is an unearned superiority complex. With Falz’s songs, it’s a lack of introspection.

Nigeria does need political art but its mere existence is not the end; a palpable sense of what the artist stands for, a sense of his/her emotional sincerity, a feeling of honesty and maturity has to come through. You could say that the stakes are higher for political art…and that is why artists seeking to be taken seriously take a shot at it. Unfortunately, it is for the same reason, the high stakes, that most Nigerian artists fail the political art test. Another reason is that political art in the form it is being discussed here proceeds primarily from the lyrics and Nigerian pop has never been great at songwriting.

Wizkid has never been a paragon of great songwriting and in the past, he has himself not exactly passed the political art test. We have to go back almost a decade to a time when Wizkid was on an explicitly political single. The year was 2012 and the song was titled ‘Change’. A track from EME, Wizkid’s former group/label, it also featured Skales, Niyola, Shaydee and label head Banky W. The major verses are handled by Banky W, Skales and Wizkid.

I was never really impressed by the song: at the time, I wrote that the song “shows the less confident Wizkid who is never comfortable singing seriously”. Listening to the song as I write this, I stand by my ancient verdict. I have now noticed that the one true adult on the song, Banky W, is convincing enough. This, of course, ties in very nicely with his recent foray into politics. Wizkid, though, has never really bothered with infusing politics so explicitly in his music or his life since that song. If it wasn’t clear at the time, it now is clear that the song was Banky W’s idea.

So if Wizkid has pretty much abandoned anything political in almost a decade (beside the regular election period posts), how bad is the current situation that he has broken what could be thought of as a private vow?

If he doesn’t delete the tweet, the answer is an obvious one: pretty bad. It’s still just a tweet and is insufficient to crown him activist-king. It, however, shows that maybe, just maybe Wizkid realises that although fame and wealth may elevate him beyond his millions of fans, he still inhabits the same planet as they do.

Nigeria’s most acclaimed writer-reviewer. Business: www.criticsandbylines.com.

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