“Naija no dey ever carry last.” That’s one consistent doctrine that I have been fed all my childhood, teenage and early adult years. I am a 25-year-old living in Lagos Nigeria, and if there’s anything that has been drummed into me, it is the notion that citizens of this great country excel amongst their peers all over the world.
But for the first time in my life, I saw Nigeria carry last. And I don’t know how to deal with it. “Naija no suppose carry last. We no dey carry last.”
It’s like watching the sun refuse to shine. Or a smartphone loses its programming integrity and begin to display signs of a bug. Or waking up to the chill of snow in Lagos. Or going into the toilet to find just a little toilet paper, and you stand there with your pants between your legs, solving latrine-algebra to find the best way to wipe with what fate has handed you.
It’s a tough and unsettling position to be in. Like a dry joke from your new lover that leaves you with the conundrum of whether to laugh or not.
Nigeria is a proud country. Its citizens are industrious and work twice as hard to achieve everything and anything. That’s how we are conditioned in a country where the system is set up against your success. In this great country, to be something, to do anything, to survive and to thrive require that you go the extra mile mentally and physically. If you succeed, it’s ‘in spite’, of the government. If you fail, well, at least you tried.
That’s why when we are exported to other parts of the world, we survive and thrive. Living within the borders of this country is a finishing school of life. You have an unfair mental and spiritual advantage to everyone raised in various parts of the world.
This is why we are the most arrogant in Africa. Although our country lacks in every other sector of life when compared to our ‘poorer’ and ‘weaker’ African neighbours, we carry ourselves like black royalty and look down on every other African who does not own a green passport. Our currency is weak, our healthcare is ailing, education in Nigeria is a scam, and infrastructure has never been great since the creation of this entity. But somehow we still believe that we are better.
This behaviour is aided by the few things that we are actually good at. We have a traditionally great football team. Nollywood, our movie industry, is the best in Africa, and the third best in the world. It’s just behind the great Hollywood and emotional Bollywood. Our scientists, when enabled come up with spectacular inventions which have contributed to improving the human experience. And then there’s our Jollof rice, which has been scientifically proven, without a doubt, to be the greatest meal on earth.
Argue with your ancestors.
But the most defining endeavour that has Nigeria standing taller than everyone else is in the music industry. Life in Nigeria has ensured that its inhabitants have enough daily inspiration and raw material to create the best music coming out of Africa. From the protest days of Fela Kuti who pioneered Afrobeat, down to D’banj, M.I Abaga, Wizkid, Davido and others, Nigerian musicians have always dominated Africa. There’s no arrogance here. It’s just the status quo.
Although our music industry is unstructured, we have invented ways to create, market and distribute content. During the drive to export African music to various markets, Nigeria has led from the front, with Wizkid and Davido signing mega record and distribution deals to project the art to, and benefit from non-traditional consumers of African music.
Afrobeats to the world.
That’s why I can’t seem to process the fact that the Nigerian team led by Patoranking lost at the 2017 Red Bull Culture Clash.
The Culture Clash concept was introduced in the UK in 2010, by the Red Bull Music Academy. It is Red Bull’s longest-standing music programme and has since made its way around the world, to cities such as New York, Lisbon and Paris. Red Bull Culture Clash is based on the classic Jamaican sound system culture. It’s defined by the use of cutting-edge lyrics, fierce competition and ridiculously loud sound systems.
The rules are simple; four teams representing different cultures battle it out against each other. They are to use dubs, mixes and extremely loud sound systems to impress the crowd. The only criteria for disqualification is repetition. No team is allowed to repeat a song without altering the sound, or remixing its elements to provide a hybrid delivery.
The energy at Orlando Stadium was electrifying on the evening of September 23, 2017, as the four epic Sound Systems battled it out for the Red Bull Culture Clash South Africa 2017 crown.
Over four intensely competitive rounds, AKA fronting Top Boyz Sound System, battled it out against DJ Tira’s Durban Massacre Sound System, Patoranking and Red Hot Sound System and Admiral & Jahseed with African Storm – each repping their respective genres – Hip-hop, House, Afrobeats and Reggae. In the end, it was DJ Tira and Durban Massacre Sound System that won over the crowd and took the coveted title.
Nigeria, the giant of Africa, which had Patoranking repping Lagos, did not win. He was disqualified! Patoranking was disqualified because he didn’t adhere to the only rule of the game.
You see? They announced the only reason for disqualification was if you repeat a song. On the final round of the contest, Patoranking had the best performance when compared to everyone else. He was a true Nigerian maestro of the art. His team performed, the crowd was hyped, and he had the best guest artists. For special effects, he brought on Hip-hop prince, Nasty C, who performed ‘Juice Back’ and ‘Hell Naw’. ‘Mama Africa’ Yemi Alade was next. She joined him to deliver ‘Johnny’, before House legend, Busiswa, who handled business like a pro, performing ‘My name is’.
But you know who made them disqualify Patoranking? It’s Nigeria’s golden boy himself, Davido. Unknown to OBO, Patoranking’s team had thrown together a mix that involved the performance of the mega-smash hit single ‘If’. The song had been performed earlier by the team.
As expected. the moment Davido hit the stage, the crowd truly lost it. Africa’s most loved artist had just made an appearance and everyone felt his energy. He dropped ‘Dami Duro’, before proceeding to do the unthinkable; perform ‘If’.
It was at that moment, standing there in the crowd of over 30 thousand people that I knew that we had lost it. The disqualification was our portion, and we had earned it. Patroanking, Davido, his DJ and everyone who worked hard to deliver that set. We had thrilled the crowd without a doubt, but winning that battle cost us the war. It was a classic Pyrrhic move.
“If I tell you say I love oh, my money, my bod na your own oh, baby…30 billion for the account oh,” Davido screamed in unison with the crowd. It was a powerful performance to experience, and he gifted fans with US dollars which he sprayed into the crowd.
The energy was electric. But that electricity electrocuted Patoranking’s chance to win the night. Nigeria had shown up with force and the right strategy. But our refusal to obey a simple instruction had made us ‘carry last’.
As the hosts – Siyabonga ‘Scoop Makhathini’ Ngwekazi and Thapelo Mokoena – announced that Patoranking has been disqualified, you could hear protest noises from the crowd. Everyone wanted Nigeria to not carry last. But alas, we took last.
Not that the other teams were bad. But Patoranking had put in a shift worthy of champions. He just failed at the adhering to the fundamentals of the game. And that cost him the title.
Perhaps the Red Bull Culture Clash will make its way to Nigeria, where Patoranking might have the chance to redeem himself. But for now, he and every other Nigerian carried last in a music competition. In the wise words of Small Doctor, ‘Won ti gba penalty lo throw-in.’ (He had ruined something so simple in the most absurd way.)
“Sorry, my Lagos friend,” said Clara, my newfound South African friend, who had been lucky to catch some dollars from the doomed Davido performance. “Patoranking would have won.”
“Of course,” I responded with a weak smile. It was a weak consolation which did nothing to lift my spirits. Just like staring at the last roll of toilet paper, I was performing my personal latrine-algebra. In the end, after gulping a few Red Bulls and some alcohol, the pain sailed away, accompanied by my home training and consciousness.
NB: If it’s any consolation to you reading this, on my way back to Lagos via OR Airport in Johannesburg, I sat at the entrance of the boarding gate. The moment they announced boarding, I sprinted to the front and scored the prestigious honour of being the first Nigerian to board the plane. We might have lost in the Culture Clash, but I won in the plane-boarding Olympics. In some way that balanced out what happened to Patoranking. Unlike him, I, Joey Akan, a Nigerian by birth and by heart, did not carry last.