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Pendulum: And My Idol Died ( By Popular Demand)

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BY Dele Momodu

(I wrote this article the very night MICHAEL JACKSON died and wept throughout the typing… My wife looked on in wonderment… I rate it as one of my top three articles in 40 years… Now that Michael Jackson is back in the news, more for bad reasons than good, many people have requested me to intervene on behalf  of one of my known heroes of all time. I have nothing more to add or subtract from what I scripted on Thursday, June 25, 2009, which was published on this very page on June 27, 2009… Please, enjoy, or just read, and form your opinion…)

God, please forgive me, for claiming publicly that I worshipped an idol. Truth is I did. I worshipped Michael Jackson. I hated anyone who ever passed snide remarks about this greatest showman on earth. Strangely, I never met my idol. He was a god I accepted in good faith. A god I would have loved to meet. But I kept faith with his music, and was privileged to have met some of his siblings. There was nothing I did not try to meet him. I always knew it was only a matter of time before the relentless vicissitudes of life would take its final toll on this extremely frail but prodigiously talented artiste.
Michael was supposed to be the peak of success but he was the limit of sadness. His fame eclipsed that of all his siblings combined. He was the very epitome of achievement. No artiste in history had generated as much controversy in one lifetime. Like the quintessential dancer that he was, Michael waltzed from one crisis to the other. He was the true example that the world may pretend to love success, but the world actually hates success. Every imaginary story was conjured, or concocted, around this stupendously famous man.
He packed more than the activities of a thousand years into the 50 years he lived on earth. The world is allowed a glimpse of such demigods once in a blue moon. Michael was a deviant in all ways. He defied the laws of gravity and motion. He was a spirit child, and he acted the part perfectly. He was bound to go the way he came, with a bang. It was impossible for him to go with a mere whimper.
In his time, most things he touched turned into gold. He became as popular as the Coca-Cola bottle. He was known everywhere and was more popular than most world presidents. In our school, every music group mimicked Michael Jackson. At the then University of Ife, one young man became famous on campus for his dexterous performance of Michael Jackson in “Beat it”. He is the same Femi Elufowoju who’s currently doing Nigeria proud as an actor in the elite theater of London’s West End. Michael was every child’s ultimate idol. Even for those of us who grew up in rural settings, and had no television sets at home, we knew this boy who danced better than James Brown. His name resonated like Iraqi bombs, exploding beyond boundaries.
This was the main cause of his problems. Success breeds more sorrow than joy. There is the intrusion of privacy. The financial demands of trying to put up an appearance. The envy of peers, and the subject of sibling rivalries. It was impossible to ignore Michael, whether you hated or loved him. To describe him as an icon was an understatement. Everything around him was big news. He was never going to live a normal life, like you and I. He was sentenced to his own prison, and would never be able to break free.
Michael lived in a society where the policy was everyone for himself and God for us all. He was a lonely child. He started life too early. And fame and fortune beyond imagination chased him. He was haunted by both. They became his albatross. He had to wear a mask to go out. He was said to have experimented with all manner of weird disguises. He earned the acronym, Wacko Jacko. He was easy prey for both genuine and counterfeit extortionists. They found all manner of excuses to take his money, and practically took him to the cleaners.
Michael lived and was sustained on maximum hype. He regularly reinvented both his person and his career. From being an innocent Black kid, he transfigured into a white ghost, who became whiter than snow. It was speculated that the record labels that made incredible fortunes off him had encouraged him to engage in bleaching away his blackness, a terrible habit that would later become an incurable obsession. It probably worked initially. But it soon became a tragic flaw in his persona.
Those who wanted any reason to detest him found perfect grounds for merciless assaults. He was insulted and abused. His unusual love for children was another sore point. He was called a child molester. Who knows? Neither you nor I were eye-witnesses. Such stories abound about newsmakers everywhere. As a devotee, we accepted him warts and all. He was human after-all. I learnt a lot from his life. That success would never guarantee happiness. That money would never buy peace. That your friends would rather watch you die when you get into trouble than offer a helping hand.
All those shedding crocodile tears now obviously saw Michael in his various stages of dilapidation – that those who can never match your talents would always attack your efforts. That at the end of it all, all is vanity indeed. Human beings are always quick to judge others. They leave the log in their eyes and chase the speck in that of others. Michael this, Michael that, was all we heard. Now that he’s dead, may be they’ll leave him alone, and allow the dead to bury their dead.
The problems were just too many for Michael. And the burden must have been too heavy to bear. It is difficult to imagine how he even lived for this long. He had marital problems. He had acute financial problems. From being one of the richest men in showbiz history, he became a pauper, as poor as a church rat. His grace to grass story was one of the most frightening examples of the fall of man. It could not have been easy. It was as if he had no family, and no friend.
The man had helped to raise money for the world, but the world failed to raise money for him, in his time of dire need. They watched his life collapse while everyone minded his own business. This is usually the tragedy of great people. They are often seen as the supermen who can solve all problems alone. But my illiterate mum knew better, and used to warn that there is a thin chord holding the heart to the human body. It is just too fragile.
Die-hard fans like me were hoping for a miracle that would teleport Michael back to his original state, when he was that adorable kid, and everyone thought he was older than Michael. Michael had that childlike innocence that made him vulnerable. But he was awesome. The world was not big enough for his stage. Music was his life and we had all foolishly believed that he could live, sing and dance forever. We followed his every move, shared in his triumphs, and suffered in his pains. He was human, very human. He had his foibles, like all mortals do. He tried to keep to himself a lot, and came out of his shrine only when necessary. He was called the weird one. He had to be. His life was too extraordinary and too sensational.
I was always hoping to meet him, one on one. And even dreamt of bringing him to Nigeria to live under our protection, when his troubles became too suffocating to watch. We toyed with asking the Ooni of Ife or the Alaafin of Oyo to make him an African Chief and get our government to turn him into our national treasure. That would have been feasible in a land that understood the power of entertainment and tourism. But one Arab tycoon stole him to Bahrain, where I believe life must have been very miserable for him. He was just too broke, and was facing certain humiliation of unimaginable proportions.
The bailiffs were after him like bullets. Before his very eyes, his prized possessions were auctioned. His Neverland Ranch, which was his recreation of paradise on earth, became a dead place and he had to give up the ownership of this private sanctuary. By the time the relationship between him and his Arab friend broke down, and he had to return Los Angeles, the damage had been done. He was forced to move into a rented apartment. Just imagine, from living in paradise to living in the pit of hell. It is better imagined than experienced.
What I admired most about him was how he kept readjusting to his excruciating conditions. He accepted his fate with uncommon equanimity. He was determined to prove that he wasn’t finished. He travelled to London recently to promote his forthcoming world tour. He needed to disappoint the cynics who thought he was down and flat-out. His plans were going fine. He had sold a record 750,000 tickets for his concerts. For him, the shows were meant to be the grand finale to an incredible career, the sort we are not likely to see again in our generation.
Also, he was working hard to leave a worthy legacy, and a formidable empire for his family, especially his children. He was said to have written hundreds of songs which he never performed, but were meant to be released only after his death. He was a workaholic. He probably died working. He didn’t want his fans to be disappointed in him. They were the reason for his existence. We meant everything to him, just as he meant everything to us.
You don’t have to be a doctor to know he must have died of exhaustion. The London concert was meant to be his final farewell to the world. He had gone as far as getting a personal trainer to beef him up for the tour. His existence depended on proving this ultimate point. It was a dangerous fixation that would prove fatal. He had been off-stage for too long. Unknown to him, age was no longer on his side. Everything that has a beginning must have an end. He did not accept the verdict of God. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh. It was time to go and the time to be set free.
The elephant collapsed two nights ago. I cried like a baby. My wife had always found my love for Michael Jackson very strange. If she did not know me well, she may have suspected me of unprintable inclinations. I had wished Fela truly kept death in his pouch. We would have begged him to keep Michael for us forever. But Fela himself was killed by death. It is one debt we all owe. Sooner or later, the king of all bailiffs must come, and take possession of all. This is the reason we must do our best and leave the world better than we met it.

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ECOWAS Court Finds FG Guilty of Violating Rights of #EndSARS Protesters

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The Community Court of Justice, ECOWAS, has ruled that the Federal Republic of Nigeria violated the human rights of Obianuju Udeh and two others.

The court found Nigeria in breach of Articles 1, 4, 6, 9, 10, and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, specifically on the right to life, security of person, freedom of expression, assembly and association, prohibition of torture, the duty of the state to investigate, and the right to effective remedy.

The applicants, Obianuju Udeh, Perpetual Kamsi and Dabiraoluwa Adeyinka, alleged that these violations occurred during the peaceful protests at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State on October 20 and 21, 2020.

The presiding judge, Justice Koroma Sengu, who delivered the judgment, dismissed the allegation that the right to life as guaranteed under article 4 of the ACPHR is violated.

He, however, said that the Federal Government must pay each applicant N2 million as compensation for violations of their security of person, prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, duty to investigate human rights violations, and right to effective remedy.

Additionally, he said the Federal Government must adhere to its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, investigate and prosecute its agents responsible for these violations, and report to the court within six months on the measures taken to implement this judgment.

The applicants alleged that during the peaceful protests against the SARS unit of the Nigerian Police Force at Lekki Toll Gate on October 20 and 21, 2020, the respondent committed several human rights violations.

Triggered by the alleged killing of Daniel Chibuike, the protests aimed to address police harassment and brutality.

The first applicant’s claims include that the soldiers shot protesters, resulting in deaths and injuries, which she live-streamed, subsequently receiving threatening phone calls that forced her into hiding and eventual asylum.

The second applicant, responsible for protesters’ welfare, described how soldiers began shooting after a power cut, leading to her hospitalisation due to police tear gas.

The third applicant recounted narrowly escaping being shot, observing the refusal of ambulance entry by soldiers, and later witnessing inadequate hospital care for victims.

She argued that she and her colleagues took over the victims’ care and she faced ongoing threats and surveillance, believed to be by respondent’s agents.

The applicants sought declaratory relief and compensation from the court for these violations.

The respondent denied all claims made by the applicants, asserting that the protesters unlawfully assembled at the Lekki toll gate on October 20, 2020, under the guise of protesting against SARS.

The respondent also maintained that its agents followed strict rules of engagement and did not shoot or kill protesters.

It argued that the first applicant incited the crowd by playing music and using her Instagram page to stir disaffection against law enforcement, who were targeting escapee members of Boko Haram and bandits.

The respondent contended that the second applicant’s logistics and welfare support provision indicated her support for the violent protest.

It claimed that soldiers were present to restore peace until the police arrived, denying any harm inflicted on protesters and the refusal of ambulance access.

The respondent also denied that the third applicant’s presence was peaceful, asserting it was meant to escalate violence.

It argued that the Lagos State Government managed the treatment and care of the injured and submits that the applicants have not provided credible evidence to support their claims, or the reliefs sought.

In its judgment, the court found there was no violation of the right to life.

However, the court held that the respondent breached several articles of the ACPHR which occasioned fundamental breaches of human rights violation therein.

Furthermore, the court declared that the applicants were denied the right to an effective remedy.

The court ordered that the respondent make reparations to the applicants for the violation of their fundamental human rights.

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We’re Already Preparing 2025 Budget, Pro-Wike Lawmakers Are Gone – Fubara

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The Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, on Wednesday, said his administration has started the process of preparing the 2025 budget.

The governor also dismissed the threat by the Martin Amaewhule-led faction of the state House of Assembly that he should present the 2024 budget again, saying that having defected to the All Progressives Congress from the Peoples Democratic Party platform on which they got election, their seats remained vacant.

Fubara said this when he received on a solidarity visit, the leadership structure, critical stakeholders, opinion leaders, women and youths of Etche and Omuma Local Government Areas, led by Ogbakor Etche, the apex socio-cultural organisation of Etche Ethnic Nationality Worldwide, at the Government House, Port Harcourt.

In a statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Nelson Chukwudi, and sent to newsmen, the governor described the recent ranting of the Amaewhule faction as noise-making from delusional folks.

He urged the “25 former lawmakers” to wake up from their slumber, adding that the ship of governance in the state was sailing smoothly.

The lawmakers loyal to the former governor and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, had been having issues with Fubara over the political control of the state.

After an unsuccessful attempt to oust the governor, resulting in the demolition of the Assembly quarters, the lawmakers announced their defection to the APC, a move the state PDP latched on to declare their seats vacant.

A Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, the state capital, granted an interim injunction restraining the pro-Wike lawmakers from parading themselves as legislators in the state.

However, the Court of Appeal in Abuja, on July 4, affirmed Amaewhule and 24 other lawmakers as members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

Holding a session at the state Legislative Quarters on Monday, the court-reinstated lawmakers asked Fubara to re-present the 2024 budget to the Assembly and gave him a one-week ultimatum.

The government, in a swift move, approached the court to restrain the state Chief Judge and others from recognising the Amaewhule-led Assembly, while it also appealed the judgment of the Appeal Court at the Supreme Court.

Foreclosing the idea of presenting the 2024 budget again, Fubara said his administration had commenced preparing details of the 2025 Appropriation Bill, with priority placed on education, healthcare and agriculture.

“Let me assure you that agriculture is an area that we have promised the very special and peace-loving people of Rivers State that our 2025 budget, which we have already started preparing, will address.

“Don’t bother about those people that are delusional. They think we are still sleeping. Let me tell you people so that they can hear anywhere they are.

“I wanted to help them, sincerely because I know them. And I have said it before, these are people that I have helped. I paid their children’s school fees. I paid their house rent. So, I wanted to help them.

“We all knew what happened when they crossed (defected), and how did they cross? Because of our God, for them to make that mistake, they crossed. They are gone, and they are gone. Now, let me tell you: when I wanted to help them, I accepted to help them because we are all one. We disagree to agree as it is said,” he said.

He added, “They thought they were smart. What is holding them is the declaration of their seats vacant as done on December 13, 2023. We are not doing any budget to nullify that decision. It is what will send them to their villages.

“As I am talking to you, I have started preparing my budget for 2025, which I am going to present very soon. And, in that budget, my key areas will be education, healthcare and agriculture.”

Fubara said the three priority areas would ensure that even if more roads were constructed, emphasis would be placed on quality healthcare services for the people of the state.

“Our children need to go to quality schools. Even if they can’t go to private schools, let them go to the public ones that have standards. We need to go to good health facilities owned by the government and get standard healthcare services.

“Even if we cannot afford those private hospitals, when you go to the public ones, you can get the same services with qualified professionals. That is our thinking.

“And when we get to the issue of agriculture, it will address the issue of unemployment. When we start engaging our youths, they won’t have time to be involved in crime. So, our thinking is to secure and protect our state,” he added.

He reiterated that he was fighting nobody as insinuated, adding that being loyal did not mean losing one’s liberty, sense of discretion and doing what was right.

“I want to assure you of one thing: we are not fighting anybody. We appreciate what God has used people to also do in our lives. But, we are not going to rule (govern) this state on our bent knees. We will rule standing this way I am standing.

“If it is only being on our knees to rule that is the way that they will see us as being loyal, then, I will pack my few things that I have here, and go and relax in my house comfortably, because it will be a disaster, not just to me but to everyone in the state and even my generation.

“So, I will continue to stand tall and stand on the side of the truth. Let me thank the President General (of Ogbakor Etche) for bringing your people, the great people of Etche and Omuma together to come and pay us a solidarity visit,” he said.

Fubara urged the people of Etche Nation to sustain their support for his administration because its vision was clear and encompassing to advance the well-being of all Rivers people.

He promised to work with the Nigeria Police to resolve the issue of herdsmen attacks on farmlands and farmers in the area, including the issue of illegal dredging activities.

The Punch

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Yoruba Elders Council Rejects Agitation for Yoruba Nation

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The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) has voiced its opposition to idea of carving out Yoruba Nation from Nigeria.

The group, through a statement on Sunday, said it would rather commit to true federalism in Nigeria.

The statement read: “We have perused the document on the position of YSDM on the state of the Nation and their views for the Yoruba race to be separated from Nigeria. The Yoruba Council of Elders remains firm in its position that the entity called and known as Nigeria should remain as one Nigeria.

“Accordingly, the YCE has pooled-in all shades of thoughts, which show that majority of the Yoruba race feel cheated by the present lop-sided arrangement of the federating powers but they are solidly against going away from the Nigerian arrangement. They would rather go back to the agreement of our founding fathers when the Region administration was autonomous.

“YCE, therefore, stands firmly on the position of the founding fathers, who maintained togetherness but operated independently and contributed their quota to foster administration at the centre. To this extent, we would rather have a restructured Nigeria which will allow states to function independently as part of a whole.

“YCE wants Nigeria to remain one but, like the American arrangement, stay and function administratively devoid of interference by the centre. Let it be known that the strength of the unity lies in the socio-cultural inheritance of each section of the country and these can be deployed through education and efficiency of management. Our great country must rise again and we all will be in it together,” it added.

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