20th of October 2020. You carry army go kill many youths for Lekki. Na so water oh, water, runaway my eyes. Nothin’ you go talk wey go justify the case of their murder
The lyrics to Burna Boy’s 20 10 20 are not subtle. Neither is the cover art. The background is red and black. Burna Boy is depicted, wearing a handkerchief (or is it a scarf?) around his neck. This handkerchief is in Nigeria’s green and white colors. There are red (blood) stains across the white. It is one infamous image, isn’t it? One that requires no demystification, no explanation, of the pain, anger and hopelessness it provokes in young Nigerian minds.
Has it been seven months since #LekkiMassacre? Exhale. We remember. We are keen on preserving this memory too, the way we know how to. We stood/ stand in solidarity with the amazingly united population of young Nigerians who protested/ are still protesting. Importantly, the efforts of Nigerian musicians must not be forgotten. So, welcome. Welcome to our overdue appreciation of music and musicians that reflected Nigeria’s recent, turbulent times.
Burna Boy – 20 10 2020
20 10 2020 is an impassioned rendition that literally refers to the “Lekki Massacre” that happened at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, Nigeria. On 20th October, 2020, military forces reportedly opened fire on a crowd that was peacefully protesting police brutality by SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad), a rogue unit of the police force. Later, Amnesty International reported that 12 protesters were killed. Some say they were more. We bet on more.
A few days after the incident, Burna Boy tweeted:
When it comes to his stance on political matters, Damini Ogulu leaves no room for ambiguity. At least, overtly. In 20 10 20, he speaks directly and authoritatively. As always, he seems to draw inspiration from the revolutionary spirit of “musical taliban”, Fela Kuti, to whom he nods when he sings, “Everything don scatter, scatter.”
“Water ran away from my eye! Nothin wey you go talk wey go justify the case of their murder,” he says. He calls on the appropriate authorities to investigate the shooting. He also raises concerns around corruption, “godfatherism” and youth unemployment. The song, produced by The Elements, begins with a simple melodic line that grips you until the end. In its final moments, he borrows audio from what sounds like field recordings of unrest and gunfire.
Before 20 10 2020, the last we heard from Burna Boy was his fifth studio album titled Twice As Tall. in the project, he lets us into his private rumination and convictions, as controversial as they might be. The standout track, as it concerns political activism, was undoubtedly Monsters You Made featuring Coldplay’s Chris Martin. In his Big Read cover interview with NME, Burna Boy explained how he wrote it to fight against systems of oppression.
There are so many situations where a fight needs to be had. A revolution is needed, and I want to inspire it. I’m painting a picture of what we already see every day, but maybe no one has painted the picture in an honest form before. I tried to do that with “Monsters”.
Later, he performed the song at the BET Hip Hop Awards and seized the opportunity to call for an end to police brutality.
Well done, Burna boy. But the Grammy winner was not alone…
Chike – 20.10.2020 (Wahala Dey)
Chike took the fight a little further in 20.10.20 (Wahala Dey). It is also in remembrance of victims but it proceeds to address public reaction. It begins and ends with a viral audio recording of Honourable Desmond Elliot’s address to the Lagos State House of Assembly. One that seemed to prioritize the politeness of social media users over the brutality of citizens.
Chike sings about the proposed bill to regulate social media. Ultimately, the sad realization that elected officials value their reputation over the lives of innocent Nigerians. It also touches on the deliberate distortion of facts by the political elite. The song is called 20.10.20 because that date must now never be forgotten in history, Wahala Dey to remind young people that we have a lot of problems to tackle. The fight has only begun.
Now, who else fought?
Rudeboy – Oga
On 18th October, Paul Okoye of Psquare, took to Twitter to apologize on behalf of other celebrities. According to him, Nigerian celebrities joined the #EndSARS protests late.
Days later, he dropped Oga to address the protest directly. Rudeboy took a break from routine love songs to consciously tackle police brutality, election violence and corrupt leadership.
In Oga, Rudeboy queries the greed, corruption and monopoly of Nigeria’s elite. Timely, the track reflects the plight of Nigerians, it echoes their sentiments. Produced by Chrisstringz, Oga asks important questions, especially why ogas (politicians) are only attentive, supportive during elections. Also, why they have been recycling themselves for generations. Ultimately, he calls on leaders to address pressing matters and citizens, to wake up and protest for real change.
On 20th October, Rudeboy tweeted,
Everybody should be at the lekki toll gate tomorrow…….. they have to kill us all 🇳🇬✊🏾🇳🇬✊🏾 we move
Well… We know how that day ended, don’t we?
Falz – Johnny
In October 2020, Falz’s Johnny returned to the charts. Yes, Johnny from 2019’s Headies Album of the Year, Moral Instruction. Since we are talking about it, Moral Instruction was the fourth studio album by Falz. Literally, the tracks gave moral instructions concerning corruption, police brutality, prostitution, social injustice and internet fraud. The cover art for the album was created by Nigerian artist, Lemi Ghariokwu, a long-time collaborator of Fela Kuti.
Moral Instruction opened with Johnny, a song that tells a sad, vivid story of an NYSC member who was shot dead by a police officer in 2018. It is a sample of Fela Kuti’s 1997 hit, J.J.D Johnny Just Drop. Broadly, it tackles Nigeria’s insecurity and extra-judicial killings. Before and after that nine-track project, Falz has been sounding the alarms on bad governance. Throughout the #EndSARS protests, Folarin Falana was an endearing voice for clarity, defiance and equality.
Johnny returned to minds because Falz finally released the visuals. Produced by OlutheWave, it mirrors a typical Nigerian day, clad with indiscriminately discriminate incidences of police brutality. Everyone has their peculiar, heart wrenching encounter – the “youth corper”, the roadside seller, the pedestrian. No one is safe, Falz depicts it all. In the video, he also takes time to honor the victims of the Lekki Tollgate Massacre. It includes footage from the shootings, as well as videos of other police killings.
Speaking about the video on Instagram, he wrote,
We will never forget the heroes that have been unlawfully slain. This is for them. For every single Nigerian life snatched away unlawfully, we must make sure we get justice. Almost two years since I released the audio. Even more disturbing to think that as time passed, the message became more relevant.
But Falz isn’t the only one with evergreen music…
Asa – 9 Lives
In October, Asa shared 9 Lives from her 2019 studio album, LUCID to support the #EndSARS and #EndPoliceBrutality movement. Her own rendition was geared towards the President’s seeming indifference to the killings. Do you remember that horrid speech? Lyrics from the song read:
How many days can I wait? How many more can I take? In this hell on earth. From those who I serve…
“Isn’t life hard enough?” she lamented (on social media). “Food prices are insanely high. A global pandemic. Police harassing and killing the young. President in Hibernation, absolutely deaf to the people”
But Asa isn’t the only one the Nigerian government has failed…
Prettyboy D-O – Jungle Justice
In the same month, Prettyboy D-O made his Colors Show debut and chose to expose audiences to a rollercoaster of personal emotions. Donald Ofik Le Omuora is exciting to watch, whether at the forefront of Nigeria’s alte movement or #EndSARS marches. Passionately, with all the emotive gestures he could afford, Prettybo D-O performed Jungle Justice. The spirited rendition was subsequent to comical rants about his own experience with SARS. Call it an experiential portrayal, punctuated with shots at the Nigerian government. Booya!
There are other powerful songs to write about, more artists to appreciate. There is Dice Allies’ No One as well as Ripple Effect by Dark Poet, Falz and MI Abaga. But let us conclude here, with one track that featured a pack and summarised the cause.
Banky W – Talk and Do
In Talk and Do, Banky W featured 2baba, Waje, Timi Dakolo, Seun Kuti, Brookstone and gospel choir, LCGC. Produced by Masterkraft, it is a call to action. Once again, Banky W lent his voice to a better Nigeria. He has been doing a lot, hasn’t he? The Wedding Party and Up North were decent acting debuts. Memorably, he ran in the 2019 general elections for a seat in the Federal House of Representatives. At the time, he announced his retirement from music and the closure of Empire Mates Entertainment, his record label.
Well, Banky W is back. On Instagram, he disclosed that the song was originally reserved for an album slated for early 2021. Ehen. Banky W, where is the album? “But the message is so necessary right now”, he added. “I think we should premiere it.” In Talk and Do, each verse, by a different artist, tackles a specific issue. The chorus unites everyone in sound and purpose. Seun Kuti’s saxophone addition was terrific embellishment.
According to Banky,
Just “talking” about our problems is not enough – we’ve got to try and do something about them. That’s what “Talk and Do” is all about… combining actions with our words, to try and be a part of the change we’d like to see in the world. If you’re already doing something… anything… to be a part of the solution, then hopefully this can be your soundtrack. And if you’re not… then hopefully this can be your inspiration.
To conclude, here are quotable lyrics from the actual song.
Can’t you hear our children crying
Why doesn’t it break your heart
Can’t you see our people dying
When did this world get so dark?
We’re not perfect but we’re trying
We all need to play a part…
Indeed, we all need to play a part. Clearly, Nigerian artists played theirs. Didn’t they? These days, what are you up to? #EndSARS #LekkiMassacre #20102020 #NeverForget