By Chukwuma Ajakah
Sonny Okosun’s legendary song, “Which Way Nigeria?” resonates with the rhythms of the times, echoing in the #EndSARS protest which began like a little drop of kerosene on a cemented floor, but has snowballed into an inferno that may, if unchecked, consume whatever remains as a pointer that things will ever get better.
Although many are yet to grasp the essence of the late musician’s message about the uncertainties surrounding the nation’s future, there is a realization that certain frightening realities staring us in the face now could have been averted if policy makers had taken time to design a roadmap to where the country ought to be at this time.
The music legend asked that prescient question: “Which Way Nigeria” in his hit-track which ruled the airwaves in the 80s. Regrettably, 60 years after independence, the country still drags her feet unsure of “which way to go” in terms of development. Rather than lift the spirit of the people when it is played these days, that song arouses a deep sense of self-pity, sadly reminding many that the country has come to a crossroads.
When the “Ozidi King” demanded to know where the country was headed many joined in chanting the refrain oblivious of the ominous implications in failing to resolve the puzzle. Over three and a half decades down the line, it remains doubtful that a significant number of the citizenry had time to mull over the crooner’s question long enough to fathom an assuring answer.
In their resolve to compel the government of the day to effect urgent reforms in the Nigerian Police Force, the youth seem to agree with another contemporary of the Ozidi King, the Elegant Stallion, Onyeka Owenu who buoyed by patriotism, churned out the inspiring tune, “One Love Keeps Us Together.”
However, as the beat goes on, we are sadly reminded of another song, belonging to the same era, “Beasts of No Nation” by the late Afrobeat King, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. “Beasts of No Nation” is a metaphor of the power mongers caricatured as ruthless beasts who at the slightest provocation, dehumanize or spill the blood of the innocent. Fela also observes the people “Suffering and smiling” in one other song. Interestingly, some political elites have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to provide a clue to Nigeria’s socio-political utopia with sing-song slogans that either preceded or followed Okosun’s “Which Way Nigeria”. These include the gap-toothed General’s confusing gimmick “A Little to the Right, a Little to the Left”, the farce, “One Nigeria”, the deceit of “Federal Character”, the monkey dey work baboon dey chop “Structural Adjustment Programme”, and illusory visions of political Eldorado from year1990 to “Vision 20:2020”.
Although the Ozidi King was by no means a doomsday prophet, his song echoes the words of Solomon in Proverbs 29: 18: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” and Hosea 4:6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Now that apprehension pervades the atmosphere will the people be destroyed or can someone provide a sincere answer to Sunny Okosun’s age-long question?
In retrospect, Nigerians ought to have reached their Promised Land when a popular youthful musician, Eedris Abdulkareem, intoned that “Nigeria Jaga Jaga, Everything Scatter Scatter”. Which Way Nigeria, marketed by EMI Records, features thought provoking lyrics, opening with the poser: “Which way Nigeria/ Which way to go?” and extending to include themes of patriotism: “I love my father land/ O yeah/I want to know/ Yes I want to know/ Which way Nigeria is heading to?” The absence of a solution to the myriad of problems bedeviling the country all these years implies that a genuine vision for the country is non-existent.
In virtually all spheres of her national life, Nigeria apparently lacks a definite sense of direction. This assertion is validated in the conscience-nagging stanza where the crooner recalls: “Many years after independence/We still find it hard to start/ How long shall we reach the promise land/ Let’s save Nigeria/ So Nigeria won’t die”.
The disconcerting metaphor of Nigeria as a land that eats up its inhabitants scares visionary and honest leaders from aspiring to lofty political positions, but the youth appear poised to bell the cat with the #EndSARS #Endpolicebrutality mantra, providing the catalyst that may herald a new dawn in Nigeria’s socio-political culture.
Which Way Nigeria reminds the listener that the masses need to know where the country is headed and warns that unless those entrusted with power share their vision, the people will keep doing what they think is right: “Every little thing that goes wrong/ We start to blame the government/ We know everything that goes wrong/ We are part of the government…As he quips on the necessity of collective responsibility in the onerous task of building the nation, the music maestro pleads, “Lets save Nigeria/ So Nigeria won’t die.”
The alluring melody of “Which Way Nigeria” endeared the Ozidi king to a lot of people, including those who may be deaf to the patriotic undertone embedded in lines like “I love my fatherland”.