Activists and Hustlers
With the recent Twitter war between Nigerian legendary musician, Eedris Abdulkareem and Nigeria’s Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo, it is pertinent to examine a range of issues that have sprung out.
Eedris Abdulkareem released a remix to his 2004 hit song “Jagajaga” but, this time around, he featured Mr. Raw & Madarocker. On the track, he spoke out against police brutality, the new government, and the notorious Lekki killings of October 10, 2020, citing the deteriorating conditions in Nigeria. In the song, the rapper also called out the minister, accusing him of corruption. The minister was irritated by the line, “Where Festus Keyamo sef?” He don chop with the cabal o.”
Mr. Keyamo, on the other hand, characterized the song as a clumsy attempt by the rapper to retaliate. He said he did so because he did not support the rapper’s attempt to extort money to support President Muhammadu Buhari.
Let’s briefly discuss the origin of this dispute. In a tweet, Mr. Festus Keyamo said; “In 2018, when I was named the Director of Strategic Communications for Buhari Campaign Organisation; Eedris waxed a song in support of Buhari & wanted to join us, albeit for a fee. He then made desperate efforts to see me through text messages from his phone no”.
Mr. Keyamo clarified that when he eventually met the rapper, he told him that he didn’t have the funds to do so.
“I explained that my job was voluntary. It was the same thing I told so many other so-called activists-by-day-and-hustlers-at-night who secretly approached me. He then switched to the fact that he wanted a loan to pay for his hotel bills to the tune of N1.3 m & to cater for his ‘sick mum’.
“That was already running into more than N3m. However, one government functionary called me to say he told him another story that his child was sick.
Many tweets called Mr. Festus Keyamo a hustler who abandoned his role as a human rights lawyer for a role in government. They also likened Mr. Keyamo and Eedris to individuals who are in the back pocket of the government.
Most interestingly are the unpopular tweets from some people. In these tweets, they tried to fish out why most activists in Africa, after advocating for people’s rights, get positions in the government offices and abandon their hitherto agitations. Many tweets even calling activists, hustlers at night.
On most social media platforms in Nigeria today, there are a lot of activists who voice out their displeasure at the government and they also seek to influence government policies through call-outs and clamor. The unpopular opinion from people is that there is an existence of government cabals that seek to shut the mouths of these social media activists by offering them positions in the government. The most-mentioned name among the few turned activists was Tolu Ogunlesi who is the Special Assistant on Digital/New Media. Before his appointment in 2016, many said before he became a government official, he was a government antagonist and usually called out the government to change their policies to suit the common man. Also, some said he organized protests against different government parastatals to express the people’s displeasure at the state of the nation.
Many also lauded a few activists who stood through to their words and refused to be cajoled into the government cabal by accepting positions. Activists like Wole Soyinka, Gani Fawehinmi, and Aisha Yesufu are among the few that have refused to be drawn into the government, thus they continue with their fight against bad governance.
The question I will like to ask is, does joining the government as an officer make you less of an activist? In a recent chat, Mr. Dandy Anwuacha, a copywriter and popular Twitter influencer said; “the best way to influence government policies is by causing a change internally”. In my opinion, there is so much that can be done by just clamor and social media from the outside. We should understand that the bulk of the relevant work comes from the inside and this can be achieved by holding government offices no matter how little it can be.
There is an obvious rot in our government system and this can be mitigated if there are good ones in the system. Worthy of reference is South African icon, Nelson Mandela who was an activist for years and even served a prison sentence for his agitation against the bad government in South Africa, in the long run, he delved into politics and even became a president of South Africa. What better way to influence these policies than from inside the government. Now, I am not saying the non-governmental activists are not doing an amazing job, on the contrary, they are doing a terrific job, we all are but let us further explore the reality that internal activism is the best way to go.
In another angle, we should not also neglect the fact that most activists just simply want a government appointment as a result of their activism. We know this and we know these people. Carry on.
Finally, even as activists continue to agitate for better governance, as is one of the purposes of a democracy, we should also understand that good governance is a collective work and all hands must be on deck.
As usual, this is my opinion.