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PROF. SOYINKA, THE PYRATES’S EMI LOKAN LYRICS, AND MATTERS ARISING

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The Emi Lokan lyrics has gone viral not only because of its melodiousness (it is indeed melodic) but because it sends a strong political message. Plus, it is alleged to be ridiculing the person of Sen. Bola Ahmed Tinubu—the APC presidential candidate. While it emanated from Tinubu himself, its conversion to lyrics is credited to the National Association of Seadogs, otherwise called Pyrates Confraternity and adapted by talented comedians who are never in short supply in Nigeria—courtesy of joblessness. Frankly speaking, I like comedy and therefore I enjoy the lyrics. It is a sort of comic relief to my wasted six months at home—which is still counting—caused by ASUU strike.

As soon as the lyrics got to the public, Prof. Soyinka immediately dissociated himself from it. Understandably, being a founding member, and now an elder statesman, he would not like to be associated with what he considers “a display”, which in his words, “acidly targets a presidential candidates in the awaited 2023 elections.” He further said; “like any other civic group, the Pyrates Confraternity is entitled to its freedom of expression, individually and collectively. So also is Wole Soyinka in his own person.”

Though the Professor publicly absolves himself, his acknowledgment of the right of the Seadogs to express itself is in order. But why the need for public disavowal? After all, he did not participate, and was not blamed to have participated in the well attended procession which took place in the broad daylight along the streets of Ikeja, Lagos. Some are of the opinion that he (Soyinka) plays an ethnic card for his dissociation. They claim his attack on the former President’s wife, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, when he called her Madam Sheppopotamus, is more acidic. Soyinka said, “People said I call her a domestic appendage, what’s the problem with that? What’s the problem with Madam Sheppopotamus?”

I recall that Prof Ebenezer Obadare from his base in the United States expressed his disapproval of Soyinka’s choice of word which he considered “needlessly insensitive.” He wrote, nine years ago: “It wasn’t just lacking in his usual delicacy; it was shockingly incongruous with the persona of a literary giant from whom Nigerians have learnt to expect a fair mix of balance, sophistication, and prudence.”

This aside, some are of the opinion that Soyinka is a supporter of Muslim-Muslim ticket! This is amazing. An avowed worshiper of Obatala—a Yoruba deity designated as the divine protector of the afflicted—a supporter of Muslim-Muslim ticket? Oh, Nigerians!

Astonishingly, Soyinka’s attempt to absolve himself from the lyrics boomerangs. He is now accused of going the way of the Seadogs. The BATified claim he also mocks Tinubu as one that suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. This is serious. Soyinka’s silence, in the first instance, would have been golden.

Now let’s turn to the lyrics. What is it all about? It goes thus: “Emi Lokan, Emi lokan, baba wey no well, he dey shout Emi Lokan. Hand dey shake, leg dey shake, baba wey no well he dey shout Emi Lokan.” This roughly translates as “A man with apparent health challenges is saying it is my turn.” I still do not understand the uproar about this lyrics. The lyrics says nothing new. That Tinubu suffers an infirmity of the body is well known. Thus, Prof. Soyinka’s dissociation from the lyrics surprises me except if he did so to popularize it too. It is indeed the lyrics of the moment. The Pyrates did not mention Tinubu; the comedians did. They replaced the ‘baba’ in it with ‘Tinubu’ to call the baba his real name.

If Tinubu is not sick, why should any of his promoters take offence? When did it become a taboo to say someone is sick? I am ill right now, I only manage to write. How is that an abomination? And in what way have I mocked myself? How does it amount to mockery if anyone informs any other person that I am ill? But the case of Tinubu’s frail health becomes a problem because it is associated with old age. He ridiculed himself by claiming it is his turn in a dramatic manner, despite his apparent illness, as if the Nigerian Constitution mentions his name.

I cannot feign ignorance or pretend to be naive, Tinubu’s frail health is seemingly what the Pyrates refers to in the lyrics. Though the spokesperson of the association, Abiola Owoaje, said the song was not intended to mock any politician; and not political. While I agree that the content of the lyrics is more factual than ridiculing, to say it is not political is to turn the truth on its head. At any rate, the Seadogs holds the right to attribute any intents to its lyrics.

May be we choose to be political or apolitical, objective or subjective, Tinubu is sick. I, for one, cannot, for the fact of being a Yoruba, support a sick Yoruba candidate. The burden of leading a sick state like Nigeria with over 200 million people is taxing and it needs someone with sound mind in sound body. A Yoruba proverb says; “Ẹni tí ko lè gbé eèrà, tí ńkùsà sí erin, títe ní ńte.” Translated as “A person who lacks the strength to lift an ant but rushes forward to lift an elephant ends in disgrace.” Our predicaments with our current Old President should have taught us a lesson. His frail health has resulted in an all-encompassing insecurity and woes to his ethnic group, the north, and the nation at large.

If Tinubu is the only Yoruba Muslim that the South-West can present, as some claim, it means Islam is politically wrecked and has politically sunk among the Yoruba Muslims. They should stop shouting marginalization. They are just the problem of themselves. I know there exists a strand of Islamic interpretation among some Yoruba Muslims which problematizes and rejects Muslims’ participation in politics (democracy). Democracy, and participation in Nigerian politics, is, to these Muslims, Kufr (disbelief). I see why Tinubu is paraded as the only befitting Muslim in the whole of Yoruba land for presidency with no one competing with him. What a pity!

Also, clerics should not lose their dignity just because of crumbs during this period of electioneering. Some Bishops were in the news not too long ago. Now, a Muslim cleric is saying; “It will be a shame on Islam if Tinubu loses in 2023.” Glory be to God. This is blasphemy! He did not stop at that, he described the Christians as “these things” just because of bread. This is bad. Anyway, he is on his own. Islam does not refer to any group of people as “these things.”

In conclusion, whether Tinubu wins or loses, I must admit that he has introduced a new concept, Emi Lokan, to Nigerian political lexicon. To that extent, he has contributed to Nigerian politics. Those of us who teach Political Science should help develop it, popularize it, and conceptualize it as a political theory.

Abdulkadir Salaudeen

salahuddeenabdulkadir@gmail.com

@salahuddeenAbd

 

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