The Nigerian entertainment industry suffered an irreparable loss this week with the exit from stage of one of its icons, Sam Loco Efe. The big masquerade took a bow to join his ancestors. This is coming not quite long after one of the Nollywood creative talents, Ashley Nwosu, also bided farewell and transited to glory. I commiserate with the families of these fallen heroes and their clan of humour merchants. They brought laugher and happiness to families through their creativity. Sam Loco’s brand became synonymous with wittiness and comic relief, a product every one needed to survive in an environment where despair and frustration has enveloped the land.
Prior to commercialization of the art of comedy, Nigerian traditional societies had produced rare talents. There were court jesters and palace entertainers in the ancient Benin kingdom. The praise singers often adoring the Emirs palaces continue till today in many parts of the North. In the 70 and 80s, the likes of Zebrudaya and Ovuloria, Natti, Clarus, Giringori and Prince Jegede brought the art of comedy to a different level. Their soap, the New Masquerade, was rib cracking. The present day Nollywood could be said to be the progenitor of that era.
It was reported that the final curtain was drawn for Sam Loco far away in Owerri, Imo State capital while working on a new project. Owerri and Enugu are among the good locations in the East for shooting of Nigerian films. This could perhaps explain the reason behind the recent appointment of Senior Special Assistant on Comedy by the state governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha. I am sure that with the sudden demise of Sam Loco, this new political appointee would have much to do in terms of burial arrangement and from there craft a job description for him/herself. Critics of Okorocha on this appointment would then be forever silenced because it has proved that there is actually need for that comic position.
That brings me to the issue of governance in Nigeria which has been elevated to the act of comedy. Our politicians and policy makers appear to have mastered the act of comedy such that they could have challenged Sam Loco and his likes for awards. This could also explain why the most active and loquacious campaigners of Mr. President and Governors during the last general elections were humour merchants and hired comedy stars from the Nollywood kindred. The belief of the campaign managers were that the electorate just needed to be entertained and gyrate with the musicians. It was all glamour, no substance. Avenues for serious debate on issues that affect the populace and the future of the nation were totally avoided. Rented praise singers dictated the pace and agenda. Now that the victor and the vanquished have been declared, the new henchmen saddled with the serious business of governance are still day dreaming of what to do with the mandate they claim to have won. Their spin doctors are busy writing part two of the comedy. We keep waiting in suspense for what the quality of script would look like. The screaming comedy bill board has flipped tenure elongation, constitutional amendment, state creation, and some other sundry funny activities lined up as upcoming shows. Like those before them meant to keep the politicians busy to justify their holidays in Abuja will never succeed nor translate in improving the life of the man on street.
The hallowed chambers of the National Assembly and all the rituals of law making could also be equated with the act of comedy. The major difference is that unlike ingenious crafty comedians who cannot be predicted our legislatures are predictable. Take for instance the on going senate probe panel on privatization and commercialization of former government owned corporations and businesses. It is only a Johnny-just-come and an uninformed Nigerian that will take their investigation seriously. If it were to be a TV channel, many viewers would have switched to more serious entertainment to have value for their time and money. Remember the power project probe? The religious crises probe? The electoral violence probe? And the entire endless circus that goes on in the NASS in the name of probe. There is nothing serious that comes out of probe in this clime. That is why Nigerians would rather watch rib cracking comedy of the Sam Locos and Osofias of this world than waste their time to listen and watch Senate pirated comedy. Former gatekeepers of our treasury and minstrels in the corridors of power of late have been busy playing back the movie on the profligate days of the locust. How they foraged and devoured NITEL, NEPA, NAFCON, ALSCON, Iron and steel industry, oil industry and all the litany of failed public enterprises that give our nation an imagery of a failed state. Their revelations sometimes move from comic relief to horror and X-rated film. No body takes responsibility nor is there any consequence for the colossal waste and premature death of these organizations that ought to have helped to develop our economy. The comedy goes on.
To those who care to listen, born-again Al Mustapha like a lone voice in the wilderness has been telling the world how he belongs to the late Chief M.K.O Abiola’s family. He re-echoed his strident call for the release of political detainees and those renegades sent to the gulag by his master, the late Gen. Abacha. He has taken a centre stage in the court, entertaining his viewers with the unseriousness and intrigues that goes in the recesses of big palaces like Aso Rock. Like a humiliated and blinded biblical Samson, he has decided to pull down the pillars that all both the living and the dead may go down with him. Saint Al Mustapha will soon be on his way for an award for well choreographed dance drama and remiss. He may be turbaned and thanks giving concelebrated on his behalf by comedians high priests and Imams for his outspokenness and human rights activism long before he regains his freedom. In the land of comedians any thing is possible.
The rise of government of comedian portends a grave danger to the development of this country. A situation where those in authority continue to behave like Alice in the Wonderland and toy with the lives and future of the populace is not a good comedy. The exclusive club of governors and their resolve to arm-twist labour in the minimum wage tug-of-war is a clear demonstration of delusion and insensitivity of those in power to the plight of suffering Nigerians. That labour accepted N18,000.00 is bad enough. What can that realistically do for any average family of today’s Nigeria of hyper inflation? Many governors continue to cave out fiefdoms and appoint retinue of aids, political jobbers (PA to PA) at huge tax payers’ expense but find it easy to rationalise their inability to pay the agreed minimum wage. If not for the revelation of Gov. Rochas Okorocha that opened the Pandora’s Box, Nigerians would not have known what constitutes ‘security vote’. This unfolding comedy is not healthy for the electorate who laboured to vote in these governors.
Nigeria is an oil producing nation, yet many families today cannot afford to buy kerosene to fuel their stove for cooking and light their lanterns in absence of NEPA/PHCN – another failed enterprise. It is a fact that only a few urban families use cooking gas. The average urban poor rely mainly on kerosene stove. This product for whatever reason has become unreachable with endless long queues of buyers and time wasting in the filling stations. Some of our governors gifted in the act of comedy are now involved in distribution and selling of kerosene as a show of solidarity with the poor and exploited. The federal government has not done enough to mitigate the sufferings of the masses.
It is time that those who jostle for power become aware the responsibility that goes with it. Politics and governance deserve to be a serious business for those interested in public service and making a difference in the life of the people. It is not all about political jamboree but working hard to actualize the dreams and aspirations of our people to live a decent and happy life. The government should therefore do less with jesters and hirelings and face the urgent task of serving the people squarely. The season we are in nobody is really in a mood to watch a comedy film where few politicians continue to squander our patrimony and commonwealth. Let there be some seriousness on those who have power and authority.
Culled From The Daily Independent.