Burna’s Burnt Brunt – Kayode Akinwumi

To anyone conversant with Nigerian political history, the news about the Accountant General’s office fire wouldn’t be all that surprising.

It is an overplayed script in the Nigerian political scene, but quite effective nonetheless. In the coming days, we should expect reports about some vital files lost in the fire. Some outrage, mostly online, and then it’s over. Nigerian leaders know the kind of people they deal with. We talk, but that’s about all we do. It’s a truth we all know, but are not eager to admit. And we usually tend to get agitated when confronted with this truth. This has been the exact reaction of Nigerians to a video of popular Nigerian artist, Burna Boy, where he claimed Nigerians deserve the kind of treatment our leaders mete out on us.

To be fair, Burna Boy isn’t Nigerians’ favorite celebrity on the social media space. A lot of Tweeps can’t stand his guts and the popular opinion is that he’s full of himself. But we shouldn’t get carried away. We often make the mistake of attacking the messengers and leaving the messages hanging. Let’s ignore Burna Boy’s reputation and the fact that he blames Nigerians for Funke Akindele’s woes. Let’s examine his claim that Nigerians deserve the bad quality of leadership they’ve been suffering from.

If we’ll be honest with ourselves, the quality of leadership reflects the quality of followership more often than not. Popular British novelist, George Orwell, puts it in a democratic perspective:

a people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims, but accomplices.

Against this we might argue that our elections are hardly anything more than farcical affairs. Ridden with incidents of rigging and violence, it is not a very good democratic model. Yes, that much is true. But also true is the fact that governance is a sort of agreement. The ruled agree to the rulership of the rulers. Part of the resolution of the American declaration of independence is that when a government becomes destructive to some inalienable rights, the governed reserve the right to do away with it.

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Yes, this is not America. But if we copy our model of constitution from the Americans, copying the basis of that constitutional model is not too much.

In his track titled Authority Stealing, Fẹlá portrayed a classic imagery of Nigerians’ reaction to three forms of thefts he described. While Nigerians are very eager to burn a pickpocket who steals to survive, they treat the “authority” looters with reverence. Chieftaincies, patronages are ways by which Nigerians appreciate our leaders. Is it the case that we have some sort of Stockholm syndrome feeling towards our leaders?

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Is that to deny attempts from some quarters to hold government accountable? No. But the classic “Hosanna today, crucify him tomorrow” routine has ensured that radical clamourers for change in this country are left out in the cold. Nigerians want a savior but they love their oppressors. So, maybe Burna Boy was a bit uncouth. But Nigerians should learn their truth and live with it.



Kayode Akinwumi 


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