This week’s show is about songs that take Nigeria’s government and politics to task. Nigeria is rich in natural resources but has been plagued since time immemorial by government corruption. ‘Kleptocracy’ is a word sometimes employed. Nigeria exported 37.2 billion barrels of oil in 2011 at the average price of $110 per barrel, which would follow that 2011 revenues should have added up to…er…my calculator can’t even add that up. Can somebody figure it out?

So why is Nigeria so poor? Why do people get burned alive trying to steal gasoline? Why did Ken Sarowiwa get killed for standing up for Nigeria’s ecology versus the behemoth Royal Dutch Shell back in the late 1990s?

And the ultimate question: Why does a country with so much oil wealth have to borrow money from the International Monetary Fund? See first paragraph for the answer.

This week, we feature four songs by popular Nigerian artists that address this issue. The blandest one is a 1984 classic by Sonny Okosuns (1947–1984), “Which Way Nigeria.” It asks about Nigeria’s future; it is sung patriotically, not critically, in hopes that Nigeria will overcome its perennial problems.

Fela Kuti‘s famous song, “ITT (International Thief Thief),” from around the same year takes multinationals doing business in Nigeria to task, in this case International Telephone and Telegraph, which did big business there at the time. He drops the MF bomb in the lyrics. Fela is also brazen enough to name names: two big Nigerian presidents are in the lyrics, “Start to steal money, like Obasanjo and Abiola.” No wonder the generals put him in jail (on trumped up charges of course).

Fela’s youngest son Seun Kuti‘s latest song, “IMF,” follows in his famous father’s footsteps. As they say, the fruit never falls far from the tree. IMF is an acronym for “International Monetary Fund” to most people, but here it means “International Mother Fucker.” Why mince words? You won’t be hearing this version on the airwaves because the MF bomb is not allowed there.

The final song is by another young guy, Keziah Jones, a popular contemporary Nigerian singer-songwriter. More of a pop singer than an afrobeat artist, he address the theft, the corruption, and the usual government vices that keep the country poor. Jones was born in 1968, a year before Fela’s fateful visit to LA and his discovery (via Santa Izadore) of black power and the Black Panthers.

All four artists are brave. The Nigerian government puts people in prison (or much worse) for writing and performing songs critical of it. I’m glad these artists’ messages are getting out here to us in the west. Listed below are the lyrics to each song that you can read.

RP-Click-to-listen-2

Rhythm Planet Playlist: 8/1/14

  1. Sonny Okosuns / Which Way Nigeria / Which Way Nigeria / Jiva Africa/Aris
  2. Fela Kuti & Egypt 80 / ITT (International Thief Thief) / Original Suffer Head/I.T.T. / MCA
  3. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 / IMF / A Long Way To The Beginning / Knitting Factory
  4. Keziah Jones / 1973 (Jokers Reparations) / Nigerian Wood / Because

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Sonny Okosuns – “Which Way Nigeria”

Which way nigeria (x2)
Which way to go?
I love my fatherland
I want to know
Which way nigeria
Is heading to?
Verse:
Many years after independence
We still find it hard to start
How long shall we be patient
Before we reach the Promised Land?
Let’s save nigeria, so nigeria won’t die!
Verse:
Every little thing that goes wrong
We start to blame the government
We know everything that goes wrong
Because we’re part of the government
Let’s save nigeria, so nigeria won’t die!
Verse:
Inefficiency and indiscipline
Is ruining the country now
Corruption here, there, and everywhere
Inflation is soaring high
Let’s save nigeria, so nigeria won’t die!
Verse:
We made mistakes during the oil boom
Not knowing that was our doom (bang on!)
Some people now have everything
While many, many have nothing
Let’s save nigeria, so nigeria won’t fall!
Verse:
Our ambitions to be millionaires
Is running the country down
We all want to be millionaires
And to live in the (air?)
Oh, let’s save nigeria, so nigeria won’t die!

Fela Kuti & Egypt 80 – “ITT (International Thief Thief)” 

International thief thief, I.T.T. (x2)
International rogue
Well, well, ha
Well, well, ha
Motherfuckers
Bastard motherfuckers
We yab dem, yeah
Hurry up there, say, “Yeah”
Well, well
Well, well, na true I want talk again o
Na true I want talk again o
If I dey lie o
Make Osiris punish me
Make Ifa dey punish me o
Make Edumare punish me o
Make the land dey punish me o
Make Edumare punish me o
I read dem for book ee-o
I see so myself ee-o
Well-ee well-ee o
Well, well, well, well
Well, well, well, well
Long time ago
Long, long time ago
Long time ago
Long, long, long, long time ago
African man we no dey carry shit
We dey shit inside big big hole
For Yoruba-land na “Shalanga”
For Igbo-land na “Onunu-insi”
For Hausa-land na “Salga”
For Gaa-land na “Tiafi”
For Ashanti-land na “Yarni”
For Ethiopia-land na “Sagara-be”
For Kagyu-land na “Cho-Cho”
For Bemba-land na “Chimbuzi”
For Tunga-land na “Echibuzi”
Long, long, long, long time ago
African man we no dey carry shit
We dey shit inside big big hole
Long time ago
Long, long, long, long time ago
Long, long, long, long time ago
Before them come force us away as slaves
During the time them come force us away as slaves
Na European man, na him dey carry shit
Na for them culture to carry shit
During the time them come colonize us
Them come teach us to carry shit
Long, long, long, long time ago
African man we no dey carry shit
Na European man teach us to carry shit
Say am, say am
Many foreign companies dey Africa carry all our money go
Many foreign companies dey Africa carry all our money go
Them go write big English for newspaper, dabaru we Africans
Them go write big English for newspaper, dabaru we Africans
I read about one of them inside book like that
Them call him name na I.T.T.
I read about one of them inside book like that
Them call him name na I.T.T.
Them go dey cause confusion
(Confusion)
Cause corruption
(Corruption)
Cause oppression
(Oppression)
Cause inflation
(Inflation)
Oppression, oppression, inflation
Corruption, oppression, inflation
Them get one style wey them dey use
Them go pick one African man
A man with low mentality
Them go give am million naira breads
To become of high position here
Him go bribe some thousand naira bread
To become one useless chief
Like rat they do them go do from
Corner corner, pass-ee pass-ee
Under under, pass-ee pass-ee
Inside inside, pass-ee pass-ee
In in, pass-ee pass-ee
Out out, pass-ee pass-ee
Peep peep, pass-ee pass-ee
Up up, pass-ee pass-ee
Then he gradually, gradually, gradually, gradually
Then he gradually, gradually, gradually, gradually
Them go be, friend friend to journalist
Friend friend to Commissioner
Friend friend to Permanent Secretary
Friend friend to Minister
Friend friend to Head of State
Then start start to steal money
Start start them corruption
Start start them inflation
Start start them oppression
Start start them confusion
Start start them oppression
Start start to steal money
Start start to steal money
Like Obasanjo and Abiola
International thief thief
I.T.T.
International rogue
International thief
We go fight them, well, well
Well, well
Well, well
We don tire to carry anymore of them shit
We don tire to carry anymore of them shit
We don tire to carry anymore of them shit
Well, well
International thief thief

Sean Kuti & Egypt 80 – “IMF”

U BRING PAIN
U BRING TEARS
U BRING SUFFERING
TO MY PEOPLE
INTERNATIONAL MOTHER FUCKER
I SAY NA SO SO
CHEATING FROM THE
I.M.F.
SO MUCH LYING FROM THE
I.M.F.
I SAY NA SO SO
STEALING FROM THE
I.M.F.
SO MUCH SUFFERING FROM THE
I.M.F.
MANIPULATION FROM THE
I.M.F.
INTIMIDATION FROM THE
I.M.F.
I SAY SO SO KILLING FROM THE
I.M.F.
VERY DANGEROUS PEOPLE
INTERNATIONAL MOTHER FUCKER
DEM AND THEIR WORLD BANK
BROTHER
AND SOME AFRICAN FOOLS
DEM GO GIVE THEM TITLE, MAKE
DEM COME RULE
DEM GO SAY DO AS WE TELL U
LIE TO YOUR PEOPLE
DEM GO SAY DO AS WE TELL U
CHEAT YOUR PEOPLE
ODE GO SAY I.M.F. KNOW
WHAT’S BEST FOR ME
I TELL THE FOOL I.M.F. NO KNOW
WHAT’S BEST FOR ME
JONAH GO SAY, I.M.F. KNOW
WHAT’S BEST FOR ME
I TELL AM, I.M.F. NO KNOW
WHAT’S BEST FOR ME
SO DEM GO GIVE ONE DOLLAR TO
THEIR BOYS SAY NA FOR WE
PEOPLE
AND WE GET BACK 20 IN THE
NAME OF DEBT FROM THE PEOPLE
WE NEVER SEE NO DOLLAR
MY PEOPLE
WE NEVER SEE AID
MY PEOPLE
WHERE THE DOLLARS AT?
WHERE THE MONEY GO?
SEE THEY TALK FAST
BUT THEY MOVE SLOW.
POP CHAMPAGNE,
AND MAKE IT RAIN,
GO DOWN THE DRAIN,
WHO FEELS THE PAIN?
THE PRESIDENT TAKE THE MONEY
AND HIDE IT!
AND CELEBRATE WHILE THE
PEOPLE DIVIDED.
OVER HERE WE CALL IT POVERTY
PIMPIN’
THEY BOOTLICKING, THE PEOPLE
THE VICTIM.
KISSING THE ASS OF WHITE
POWER,
MY PEOPLE ARE COMING FOR
WHAT’S OURS,
GOING ALL OUT ‘CAUSE ITS NOW
OR NEVER,
BREAKING THE CHAIN, WE GON’
SEVER…
THE HEAD OF THE PARASITE,
WE TAKIN’ IT THERE TONIGHT,
BAD MOTHER- SHUT-YO-MOUTH,
YEAH YOU RIGHT.
EXCUSE MY FRENCH, THE
COLONIZER,
TRICKNOLOGISTS, CHEATERS AND
LIARS!
BUT WE DEY SEE ALL THE PAIN WAY
DEY COME WITH THEIR KNOWING
UNTIL THEN
INTERNATIONAL MOTHER SHUT
YOUR MOUTH HAD WE DEY SEE
ALL WE DEBT AND HOW WE
MONEY DEY FALL DOWN]
DEM GO POLLUTE OUR LANDS
CALL OUR
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
SPREAD THEIR LIES DEM DEM
BOYS FOR GOVERNMENT
MAKE WE DEY RAN’JU
MAKE WE DAY BEGI O
MAKE WE DEY FE’JU

Keziah Jones – “1973 (Jokers Reparations)”

In 1973 the naira was introduced
to help the economy
but the value is kinda weak
one naira is 0.06 dollar
in official calculations
before “inflation”
we used cowries
we all knew what things were worth
but for mirrors and beads
the’ve sold us a whole nation
you say “now wheres all the money gone?”
to banks in switzerland
where you r wealth is our poverty
a jokers reparation is kinda deep
its got the punchline “democracy”
on the stage of globalisation
and now we go-a-begging
internationally
to the countries
no apologies
for jokers reparations

 TS_RP_FB

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  • Henry Eshelman

    Thanks for the support of Afrobeat, Tom, and as you know our Fela movie Finding Fela is coming to LA after great opening weekend in NYC, with public and invitation-only screenings starting August 12! http://findingfela.com. Just to see if anyone reads this far down the next poster can come to a press screening tomorrow as our guest!

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