The post today was inspired by the video of On Your Own, the song by Mavin Records artiste D’Prince which is by the way a very nice song, everyone should listen to. While I don’t consider Omooba as a big player in the Naija music industry, I still can’t but acknowledge the effort he put into this one. However in case you are wondering, I am not doing free hype for him, neither do I intend to, so don’t turn away just yet.
In the video, D’ Prince plays a broke and homeless man who has taken to begging in order to survive. His pleas for help are repeatedly ignored by people around him, reinforcing his message “unless you are willing to help yourself nobody will help you”. At a point he run into this rich business executive who after several days of ignoring him like the others, finally pulls over to him and starts to query him about the reasons why he has become a beggar. The business exec then reinforces the message of the song “you are on your own” and ironically rubbished it at the same time.
Why do I say the exec rubbished the song’s message, even though he only gave him that flippant reply? Because “you are on your own” in the context the exec said it is advice, and the fact that he pulled over meant he had been watching, and watching out for the homeless man for quite some time. So in that context was the homeless man actually on his own? Unless like D’ Prince you honestly believe that the only way people can help you is when they give you money, the answer should be obvious.
I did a course known as Indigenous Communication Systems a few years ago, where we had class discussions on the African worldview versus the World views of other parts of the World. Part of what we discussed as the African worldview was the concept of the” Ubuntu”– I am because we are. It is a concept that explains the high premium that Africans place on family and society. For example if you are a full blooded Nigerian, born and bred in Nigeria and you claim you didn’t have uncles and aunts and cousins and family friends trickling in and out of your home, mostly at inopportune times, I’d call you a liar. Either that or your parents are sociopaths who are best avoided. If like me any of your grandfathers were polygamous (both of mine were), then you have all those relatives all over again in “halves” so being neck deep in relatives like that, not to mention family friends, co workers and people who live on the same street with you among others) who believe it is their duty to know what you are up to, so can you really be on your own? Unless you are sociopath , then you are truly on your own.
The truth is that the “Own Your Own” assertion has no basis in the Nigerian reality (which the video is incidentally set). There is a popular joke with working class Nigerians, that if you don’t have a “relative” or a “friend” who incessantly drives you up the wall because of their demand for favours, then you are not doing something right. Even if you are a sociopath, you quickly learn that some people cannot be stopped not by high fences, not by guards, or guard dogs. you just have to deal with it. AAnd it is not by location either, as far as I know, Nigerians who live abroad have it worse from friends and relatives. Even when you die,you will still find company in the grave or in heaven or hell, whichever ever one you go to.
I find it interesting when I read or hear about well off Europeans or Americans, old people who talk to their cats and dogs because they have nobody else to talk to. I cannot help wonder how that can even be possible in a place like Nigeria, where there are no relatives queing up with children for you to adopt. I am not talking about trafficking here, I am talking about legitimate children of relatives freely given up to be trained.
To meet D’ Prince half way, maybe the song is implying that nobody will willingly support you unless they have something to gain from you. But then even though they won’t help you, they will demand things from you so they can’t leave you alone, at least in the technical sense of abandonment. People care about you, maybe not always in the sense of giving to you, at least in the sense of them hoping you have something they can take from you. Actually I hope I am not the only one that finds it ironic and hilarious that someone like Don Jazzy with the insane amounts of requests for favours he receives on social media would allow his own brother sing that kind of song.
Anyway to cut the long piece short, dear Omooba, by the power vested in me by errr…. Well me, I hereby call you out on this one. You can never be truly alone, at least not in the context of the song you sang and video you made. Unless you are a sociopath, or you honestly believe that people only care about you when they give you money. In that case you are truly on your own.