Dumbed by stardom (1)
By Olatunji Ololade25/05/2012 00:00:00
Sublime; isn’t it? That a greater number of Nigerian youths have in them the deportment of certifiable adults and the depth of frivolous boobs. Like muddle-headed chumps with infrequent lucid intervals, they epitomize the worst that Nigeria has to offer: think desperate youth leaders, overnight celebrities and their credulous, easy to fool peers.
Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa, Gani Fawehinmi…Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Duro Oni; these are leading lights among a firmament of heroes that have appeared in Nigeria’s history. Some are dead and those still living are lamentably in their twilight. Shame.
Shame that even at this minute; they are the epitomes of cool. Shame that they earnestly symbolize a sense, culture and approach to citizenship that signifies an indifference to vanities and which sticks a defiant swivel-on-it finger towards mainstream society.
These individual men are less secular stars than quasi-religious figures and their citizenship has so far earned for them a godly reverence that’s at once enviable and unique – little wonder they seem deserving of worship.
There’s nothing unique, nor indeed unusual about bestowing divine status on mere mortals. History is full of characters who actually encouraged their followers to do so – the Caesars, Aztec leaders, Pharaohs – and, in the modern world, millennial cults are typically led by charismatic figures claiming messianic powers; think 21st century Nigerian Pentecostal pastors or “Men of God” among many others.
Even individuals who had scorned such attributions, like Bob Marley or Bob Dylan, have been endowed with deistic eminence by fans. Marley had an oracular presence and his songs were infused with Rastafarian prophecy. Dylan perplexed one generation, while inspiring another with his sour condemnations of war and prejudice. Their influence makes their veneration comprehensible but of what worth is the current crop of Nigerian youth leaders, politicians, music and movie stars and other celebrity icons? What is it that makes them deserving of acclaim and hero-worship?
Their claims to affluence, ostentatious lifestyles and oratory. Add to the mix, their unrestricted access to eminent politicians, bank chiefs, technocrats and you have a “perfect” role model for the Nigerian youth. At the heels of many a loathsome politician, cleric and light-fingered technocrat, the Nigerian youth leader, celebrity and advocacy guru to mention a few, have evolved into some familiar but infinitely worse predatorship than we can ever learn to endure. More worrisome is the fact that they seem to be multiplying by the second.
The malaise has degenerated to the extent that these current crops of “superstars,” “youth leaders,” heroes,” “role models cum motivational speakers” are diversifying from their usual forte. Some have learnt to perfect the art of profiting by their clueless, dim peers by veering into politics. Many a self-styled youth leader, celebrity and motivational speaker currently serve as henchmen and henchwomen to the most awful band of leaders the country has suffered so far.
These foetal adults, adept at manipulating fellow youngsters with all manners of anecdotes, celebrity cult culture, mannerisms and clichés attain celebrity status by dint of fraudulence and “hard work.”
Eventually, they attain stardom or celebrity status not because they are deserving of it but because they have perfected the art of oratory and deployment of the society’s media apparatus to effectively further their con.
Having ridden to eminence on the might of a pitifully docile and unquestioning media, these embodiments of wantonness cum figments of hack writers’ imaginations intrude the imagination of their fellow youths and influence it; basically they corrupt it.
And like pitiful retches of human surfeit, suckers for celebrity culture are taken for endless rides; they remain on the receiving end of a barrage of outright lies, true lies and scorn impenitently dished to them usually by their most lovable “superstar.”
The problem of the Nigerian youth is their lust for undeserved acclaim; blinded by their yearnings for acclaim or inclinations to worship their favourite superstar, they do not take care to examine and see their favourite peer heroes and celebrity role models for the fraud they really are. But the problem is hardly with the latter for they can’t truly help being what they are; the problem is with their teeming fans and obsessed peers.
Celebrity worship is measurable; low worship describes what many of us do watching and reading about celebrities. At the other extreme are reverent followers obsessing about celebrity successes and failures. This is the kind of uncompromising and extreme disposition that might be regarded in a different context as inglorious zealotry or fanaticism.
We must have new names, Marcel Proust presciently noted—in fashion, in medicine, in art, there must always be new names, he said. It’s a very tidy remark, and the fields Proust chose seem smart, too, at least for his time. Now there must also be new names across various fields today. Implicit in Proust’s remark is the notion that if the names don’t really exist and the quality isn’t there to sustain them, it doesn’t matter; new names we shall have in any case. The Nigerian society somehow contrives to supply them.
It’s amazing to think that think that we haven’t had a major statesman whose statesmanship is timeless and worth emulating since perhaps the death of Awolowo, Azikiwe and Balewa or, to lower the bar a little…nobody!
But new names are put forth nevertheless—high among them has been those of the current crops of Nigerian “statesmen” and politicians. It is even more amazing to see what manner of “patriots” are today, invested with national honours by the country’s leadership. Year after year, national honours are given out to a myriad of characters, even if so many of the recipients don’t seem quite worthy of them.
Of the many dubious gifts bestowed upon the nation’s youth by celebrity culture, the most innocuous and pernicious is the rejection of abject reality for the comfort of lies and fantasy. The lust dizzyingly manifests into compulsive fixation that translates into a desperate and lamentable inclination to model their lives after that of their favourite peer icon or hero.
It will do the Nigerian youth greater good to understand that, that enviable affluence and grandiosity attractively touted as the result of their favourite peer icon or celebrity’s experience doesn’t really work for the vast majority of people – successful or not. It’s time they begin to see their favourite youth leaders and advocacy gurus for the fraud they have become – for what promising youth in their prime would abandon medicine, law, journalism, education, engineering for ‘motivational speaking’ at a fee even before they earned their first keep? It’s the indolent, fraudulent type that does that. It’s the conniving, covetous kind that does that.
There is no short cut to success. That is why reality show superstars never last. That is why the actress who sleeps her way to stardom as the artiste who sings gibberish to the gallery evolves into a mere flash in the pan.
The slow steady path remains the surest path. Everybody has to pay his dues. It is the way the universe is ordered. The greatest fraud is he who would die to get ahead rather than doing what is right – like following the slow, steady path of honest industry to progress