‘…‘Jaga jaga’ is his protest song denouncing societal ills’
‘…He is a conscientious fighter’
By Godwin Okondo
NIGERIA’S hip-hop star Eedris Abdulkareem was the subject of Unchained Vibes Africa’s Freedom Vibes 6.0 at Freedom Park, Lagos, last Saturday, August 13, 2022. Named Eedris Abdulkareem Colloquium, it was held in solidarity with the hiphop artiste who was recently diagnosed with kidney-related illness and the urgent need to raise funds for his operation. The colloquium also tied into Nigeria’s general election next year, with the caveat that the election is the country’s major decision-making moment that has the capacity to define the direction the country would take, whether for good or for ill, and how citizens should approach it with all the determnation to make it work.
The event had as theme ‘Towards 2023: The Role of Artists in Making Our Lives Better’, and had music executives and industry insiders discussing the impact of Abdulkareem on the Nigerian music industry and society in general. Many of his friends and acquaintances from the music and film sectors, who joined physically and virtually, shared stories and experiences of their collaborations with the artiste and how his music has influenced the Nigerian society.
Executive Producer, Unchained Vibes Africa, Mr. Ayo Ganiu, spoke at length on some of the things the music legend did with his craft and the impact of his activism on the Nigerian society.
“We are here to interact with, and sensitize the public on (his) conscientious music, and also for someone who has been fighting for the country through his music,” Ganiu said. “Within three months at the beginning of the year, terrorists killed 1,545 people in the North, and 6,205 died in road crashes months after. The Secretary of the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, made a statement that he wasn’t aware that our health sector was in a sorry state. Does human life really matter with the way we are being governed today? What is the most important thing that citizens must demand from politicians towards the 2023 election? A terrorist said on BBC that he only kills, and does not abduct people.
“Eedris has dedicated his life and career to address these issues. ’Jaga Jaga’ is his protest song denouncing societal ills created by bad governance which was released 20 years ago, and Eedris encountered so many problems for speaking the truth. My father was shot in the chest in the 1990s by robbers, and he lived with the pain for 17 years before his death. Twenty years later, insecurity is still a big challenge.”
Ganiu also recounted some of Abdulkareem’s socially conscious songs, mostly in defence of Nigeria, songs that draw attention to some of the social and political problems confronting the country.
“’Say No To Southern Kaduna Killings’ is an advocacy song demanding respect for human life, (denouncing) land grabbing and religious killings,” Ganiu said. “‘No To Terrorism’ is an artistic response to the attempted designation of Nigeria as a terrorist nation, also a warning to the political class about the danger of political killing. This song also addressed the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, popularly referred to as the ‘Underwear Bomber,’ who attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear while on board a flight on December 25, 2009. Eedris rose in defence of Nigeria with this song, to point out that we (Nigeria) are not a terrorist nation. This was also a warning to politicians, but they don’t listen.
“’Covid-19’ featuring Dede Mabiaku laments the poor state of our health sector and the hoarding of palliatives provided for citizens. The best way to speak to people at the grassroots level is to speak their language, and people really loved to listen to this.
“Eedris released a song last year titled ‘Fix Ota Road,’ which denounced the deplorable state of roads leading to Nigeria’s second most industrialized area occasioned by bad governance. The impact triggered the start of the rehabilitation of Ota Road. He also exposed sex–for–grades and sexual harassment on campuses and fought for respect for artistes and the financial freedom being enjoyed today by the new generation of Nigerian artistes.”
Not least in the contributions of Eedris Abdulkareem that Mr. Ganiu listed include socially conscious music that lends voice to the voiceless of the Nigerian society.
“Eedris Abdulkareem has contributed to the development of democracy in Nigeria through his music,” Ganiu continued. “He championed the revolution that brought respect to the music scene in Nigeria at the expense of his career and artistic freedom. He represents the voice of the downtrodden who cannot speak for themselves. Artists have a lot to contribute to strengthening Nigeria’s democracy, but there is a shortage of conscious artistes with fearless and consistent posture like Eedris. As 2023 draws closer, Nigeria needs Eedris to inspire a younger generation of conscious artistes, just like Fela inspired his own generation. Eedris deserves all the support and recognitions.”
In a pre-recorded video message, the Director of PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection project, Julie Trébault, acknowledged the hip-hop star for his selfless activism, noting that “he is a fearless activist who has dedicated his career to the development of Nigeria. His songs are filled with strong love for his country and addresses political issues and equity in Nigeria. Thank you very much for your courageous activism.”
Chairperson, Rastafarian Community and representative of Eedris Abdulkareem’s Lakreem Entertainment, Mr. Myke Pam, also shared a few words about his relationship with the ailing singer, who he said, “is a social crusader, who speaks for people whose voices can’t be heard. He fought for the new generation of artistes and he was on top of the Nigerian music industry. Those days, promoters didn’t really care about what was going on. He was blacklisted for asking for respect for Nigerian musicians, and he had to leave Nigeria for his safety and that of his family, and for the benefit of the industry.
“Wyclef Jean came to Nigeria and he picked 2Face and Sound Sultan, and that was how they became famous. Beenie Man also visited Ajegunle. We also need to look at the kind of lyrics we drop out these days and the kind of music the media promote. After all the harassments and blockages, Eedris is still standing strong, and now, he is being faced with some challenges. One of the basic reasons for this colloquium is to look for more Eedris Abdulkareem, who make conscientious music to deliver good messages. We need positive-minded people to spread Eedris’ kind of messages, because if we miss the next opportunity during the next election, Nigeria is going into damnation.”
The founder of Kennis Music, Mr. Kenny (Keke) Ogungbe, also shared some of the experiences he had with the singer after signing him to Kennis Music many years ago: “’Jaga Jaga’ was recorded in 2004 and is still going strong. Politicians aren’t making changes; they still make fake promises and still fail to carry out their duties. I know Eedris to be a great family man. Many artistes have girlfriends and baby mamas, but Eedris has stuck to one wife, and I was his best man when he got married and he is still with that same wife. He has been celebrated all over the world and he is just blessed. He is not feeling well at the moment; so, let’s all keep him in our prayers.”
According to culture communicator and journalist, Mr. Jahman Anikulapo, “One thing we don’t do in our country is to pay respect to those who have worked (hard). Eedris chose to speak for this generation of musicians and that’s why we are here today. We know those who worked for the arts and the society, dedicating their careers so we can enjoy this. Fighters don’t die, even long after they are gone. You can’t wake (up) one day and not remember Fela. Things are going to get worse, and that’s what the leaders wish for us so that they can keep dominating us. Spread the word in support of Eedris about what we are doing here today.”
The Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Chief Ganiyu Adams, who prayed for the singer and wished him long life said, “The new generation of artistes singing nonsense should learn from Fela. Eedris is alive and there is a lot to learn about him today,” and also wished the singer long life after saying a few prayers for him.
Veteran singer and saxophonist, Dede Mabiaku, who joined virtually, spoke of Eedris’ impact on the music industry. According to him, “I love his spirit, and if not for that, he wouldn’t still be relevant in the industry today. He took a lot of flogging because he refused to budge. Eedris is a very sincere, open-minded and down-to-earth person, and I thank God for Kenny for providing the means to mould him.
“He fought all through these years. Why can’t we find people who speak truth to power? If not for him, things wouldn’t have changed for artists at the time. He is somebody who fights for all. He is a conscientious fighter and entrepreneur who doesn’t want to sing anyone’s praises. Do you know what it means to do what Eedris does? He is from the North, and I am not; yet I am fighting to get the funds he needs for his treatment, and where are the rich northerners at a time like this? I am so much grateful that this call was heeded.”
AN entrepreneur, Mary Agbaje, spoke on ways she has tried to raise funds for the singer’s surgery, when he said, “When I heard about what Eedris was going through, I decided to start a GoFundMe to help raise money. I noticed that Nigeria’s reputation is so toxic. I couldn’t access the GoFundMe account in Nigeria. GoFundMe also went through Eedris’ profile and made a donation of N400,000 because they were touched by his story.”
“People ask me why I got involved without even knowing him. He is an activist and a fighter, and I know his spirit through his friends and music. He is always so polite and his friends always have his best interest at heart. We’ve received over N3m on GoFundMe, and we’ve been able to raise N19m offline. The donors really feel connected with Eedris and want to support him.”
Fuji House of Commotion star, Jude Orhoha, was also at the event, and said, “Eedris, continue the struggle. We are always with you and we will never stop fighting for the cause.”
Nigerian singer, Shugar, also spoke of his first meeting with Eedris and his self-sacrificing spirit: “I want to thank God that we are here to celebrate Eedris being alive. The first time I met him, he listened to my song and he said that was the kind of song he was looking for. On the day we were to shoot the video, it rained heavily, but he still made it to the set for the shoot despite the weather. When I heard what he was going through, I was too scared to call him; so, I just prayed for him. May God continue to keep him for us.”
Another singer, who goes by the name, Fire, also lent his voice, when he said, “A lot of people have misconceptions about Eedris. I had a friend who had a negative opinion of him. So, I took that friend to his house and that visit changed his view of Eedris. There was a time I invited him for a show and he had to jump a bike just to make it there on time and not disappoint the sponsors.”
A member of the Lakreem Entertainment group, said, “We came here to show love, because we know he is fine. I want to appreciate him for adding value to our lives, as well as everyone present.”
The star of the day, Eedris Abdulkareem also hooked into the programme virtually to show gratitude for those who were celebrating him: “Thank you all for the support. I am in strong spirit and I will come out strong after the surgery. Thank you for the love and support. I also want to thank my wife for her support through this period. I’m thanking God it’s not taking up to a year to find a donor. Thank you all very much for your prayers, contributions and love.”
Project Coordinator of Unchained Vibes Africa, Mr. Samuel Osaze, said the vote of thanks to bring the programme to an end.