#ThisIsNigeria

Here we are, Falz's warning week is over, and even though MURIC has decided on a different course of action other than the lawsuit they threatened the artist with if he refused to withdraw his #ThisIsNigeria music video and apologize to the Nigerian people, there are lessons to be learned from the experience.

BACKSTORY:


For those who aren't familiar with the artist nor the record, Childish Gambino, offstage name: Donald Grover, is an American actor, comedian, writer, director, record producer, singer, songwriter, rapper, and DJ. Gambino grabbed the world’s attention and shook America’s table with the release of #ThisIsAmerica, premiered on Gambino’s SNL special. With over 250 million views the music video was an instant internet sensation, many describing it as a ‘work of art.’ The video married the social, political (and some would say moral) crisis in America with the country’s frenzied and devotional love for the Entertainment Industry and all things trendy. The satirical commentary features the American racial crisis, specifically the Black American plight.


It was clear from the debut that parodies and covers of the viral video were soon underway; unfortunately, none could deliver the same impact, and some just missed the mark by a couple lightyears, i.e., Nicole Arbour. All failed tragically until Falz, Folarin Falana, a Nigerian singer, songwriter, and rapper released #ThisIsNigeria. As one could deduct from the title of the track, the Nigerian artist took Gambino's anthem and tailored it to showcase the socio-economic-administrative-cultural crisis within 'the Giant of Africa.'
Some of the issues addressed by the record are:

  1. Tribalism 
  2. Fulani herdsmen killings
  3. The kidnapped Chibok and Dapchi girls
  4. Rampant crime and corruption
  5. Numerous stolen Nigerian Funds (allegedly swallowed by animals)
  6. Codeine addiction epidemic
  7.  Failing justice systems
  8. Atrocities committed by religious figures
  9. The comical state of Law enforcement (Police and SARS
  10. Cybercrimes and 'Yahoo Yahoo' culture. 

Unsurprisingly, the mirror Falz held in front of the Nigerian population caught fire like wildfire. Currently, it is among the most watched Nigerian videos of 2018 with over 5 million views on YouTube. For all the video's merits, no one would have predicted the wave of positive response it gained both domestically and internationally, i.e., P. Diddy (Love a.k.a Brother love) mentioned the track on Instagram. Yet, the bigger shock was when Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), issued Falz a warning statement threatening legal action if the artist failed to withdraw the #ThisIsNigeria music video within 7 days.

In the earliest statement released by Ishaq Akintola, the director of MURIC criticized the depiction of Hijabis dancing Shaku Shaku, which was clarified by the artist to be a representation of the abducted Chibok girls still in Boko Haram captivity, Falz continued to say that the dancers in the video in no way depict the situation of the girls. Unfortunately, Falz's breakdown of his vision did nothing to ease the organization's dislike for the video. They went further to state, in a second statement, that "MURIC rejects Falz’ explanation that the girls in hijab in his ‘Shaku Shaku’ dance symbolize the Chibok girls because nothing in the video indicates that the girls represent the Chibok girls... At least none of the Chibok girls have been seen dancing like a drunkard. They are always in pensive mood. Do they have any cause to be dancing? Are they happy?" Furthermore, they went on to condemned “a character that dressed like a Fulani man, who suddenly abandoned his traditional guitar and beheaded a man” that featured in the video. The group concluded by calling the video “thoughtless, insensitive and highly provocative,”

While MURIC has the right to stand up for or against any cause they deem worth their involvement, the ordeal raised two points for me:

  • The deafening silence from Arewa (northerners)/Nigerian Muslims: with over 50% of the country of the Islamic faith, I had expected that when a Muslim organization's criticism of anything makes national headlines, it would, in turn, create a dialog within the community, at the very least. Sadly, there seemed to be an unspoken collective agreement from the Muslim community, more accurately Arewa, to act as if nothing was going on. While it is understandable for some within the group to think MURIC's statements weren't a big deal nor were they wrong, however, for the majority to skip over the conversation shows the prevalence of groupism within Nigeria. Some might argue that since it is the Holy month of Ramadan, collectively the Muslim community is going through a cleanse which also includes social media and anything that takes away from their spirituality. And for anyone who thinks that's a legitimate excuse, my question is how come Arewa was so vocal about the viral video of @Ustaz_Speaks who insulted and shamed women for being active (and praying for good husbands) during Taraweeh prayers? It saddens me to see we as a community would rather stay mute than stand up for what is right. As a consolation, it is a plus that an Islamic group called Muslim Against Terror stood up for the artist, countering MURIC’s objections. 
  • We missed the point, again: undeniably, #ThisIsNigeria is a great track, and it affirms many of the things we (the Nigerian populace) have been complaining about for the past 30+ years. But while half of us are enjoying the musicality of the track and others are trying either not to get their feelings hurt or making fun/light of the issues highlighted in the record, therefore, most of us have missed the point entirely; which is to educate and cause a ripple effect. 
 "Arts and culture make considerable and necessary contributions to the well-being of communities. Arts and culture are powerful tools with which to engage communities in various levels of change. They are a means to public dialogue, contribute to the development of a community’s creative learning, create healthy communities capable of action, provide a powerful tool for community mobilization and activism, and help build community capacity and leadership.”- Creative City Network of Canada
Falz's gave us (the entire country) an opportunity to look in the mirror and say: yes, we as a country are going through a hard and unfortunate time, but maybe this is a time for us to agree on doing our share to correct and mend ourselves. It was a chance for us to mobilize and take action, no matter how small, but here we are debating an art's right to expression and social criticism. Why? Because THIS IS NIGERIA.

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