Sunday, July 12, 2009


Welcome to lunchtime class. As usual we are going to discuss contemporary issues over snacks and drinks. I am sure you are all aware of the passing away of Wacko Jacko, the King of Pop. A lot has been written and said about him in the papers, on radio and television. You must have heard of his humble beginning in Indiana, USA, his meteoric rise to fame, his choreographic artistry, his lyrical ballads and his infantile idiosyncrasies. You must also have heard something about his controversial nuclear family made up of him, a black man, three white children and two absentee white mothers, as well as his extended Jackson family. He was a superstar among stars. Remember the Jackson 5 and their contributions to Motown, Janet Jackson, the musician and (deliberate) victim of a wardrobe malfunction on stage, Latoya Jackson, the equally talented singer and Playboy Centerfold Celebrity and others who took the center stage too during his time. He was a huge success but so humble was he that he remained true to his Christian calling as a Jehovah witness. He never allowed success to take the better part of his brain and lead him astray like the Beatles who were so popular in the 1960s that one of them boasted they were more popular than Jesus!!

More popular than Jesus?!! That's sacrilege unplugged, sir. Thank God they didn't say they were more popular than Mohammed. We would probably still be engaged in World War III by now. But I'm sure they couldn't have been more popular than Michael Jackson. Yet he remained humble.

Actually that's one of the things to learn from Wacko's death. Can you think of other lessons?

Yes, sir. It shows that everybody is born with a talent and we should discover such talent and develop it like Ebenezer Obey once sang.

True. As early as five, Michael had shown signs of the monstrous vocal talent in him. He would face the mirror and sing all the popular songs of his clime and time.. He would also watch television and learn dance steps from the great dance masters like James Brown and Sammie Davies Jnr. The father noticed all these in his son and encouraged him to express himself the way God had made him. He became his mentor, teacher and choreographer, all rolled in one. But Joe was a stern teacher, tougher than Lucifer. When his words did not sink into his son's brain he used the whip, like a syringe, to inject them thereby driving him so hard to achieve the greatness already written large on his genetic map. The lesson here is obvious. Your parents should encourage you to make use of the gifts God has endowed you with. If a child is caught out to be an actor or a singer he will never be fulfilled as a banker or engineer until he has given expression to his inner calling. Is there any other thing you have learnt from the life and times of Michael?

Excuse me, sir. But I heard he did not like his father who helped him utilise his talent as much as he liked his mother.

Good observation. It is very natural for children to love their mothers more than their fathers because the first person a child knows is the mother. She is the 'hotel' where it resides for nine months while waiting to come to the world. When he checks out he enters the larger world still connected to the mother through the umbilical chord. Its first taste of liquid food is through the mother. So why wont a child love the mother more than it loves the father? But that's just by the way. Joe, Michael Jackson's father, seemed to have overdone his slave driving because of his excessive greed for money to the extent that he unwittingly denied Michael his childhood. He was too preoccupied with using his son to make money to remember to give little Michael space.

I see! That may be true. I saw him on television the very day Michael died talking about a new company he had just set up when he was supposed to be mourning his lost son.
That's the ultimate of greed and insensitivity on the part of a bereaved father and there is a literary allusion to that in that 16th century Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice. Do you know that when Shylock's daughter, Jessica, ran away from home all her father was shouting was "My daughter, my ducats (money)! O my daughter! O my ducats!" It was really appalling for Joe to be talking about his business (money) at the time the whole world was mourning his son's death.

Sir, may be he had some inkling that he had been left out of his son's will and wanted to seize the opportunity to advertise his business.

I think one important lesson that has come out of what you have just said is the fact that Michael had a will.. This is somebody who died at 50 and yet he had written his will when he was barely 42. I doubt if there are many men in Africa who do that. All we hear after somebody has died at the age of 60 or 70 or more is that he has died intestate, meaning he has died without leaving a will. And what follows is always a moral equivalent of World War II.

That's true, sir. I know of one alhaji in our town who died at 54 without a will. Immediately he was buried katakata just burst for inside his home. Come and see how Mama Silifatu dey fight Mama Suwebatu and Iyawo Kekere was pulling the leg of Iyawo Agba, Mama Shakiratu, over who would inherit the matrimonial bed! Sir, it was real Fuji House of Commotion. The children too were at each other's throat over their father's legacy. No peace, no rest until they dragged themselves to the magistrate court.

Why did you revert to pidgin? Anyway that's a lesson for all men. Write your will today before you drop dead tomorrow. Don't think that's a morbid thought. If Michael Jackson could do that while he was 42 what stops even successful 30-year-old businessmen and legislators to do same. Don't ask me if I have written mine. Nobody boasts about town that he has written his will. It is like akara Iya Imanu (Emman's mother's bean cake), only Iya Imanu (Emman's mother) knows the secret of its makeup.

Hmm, that's oro ijinle, sir.

Meaning what?

Meaning eni ko, ko mo; eni mo, ko ko...

Stop speaking in strange tongues without translation or interpretation. Are you a pastor?

Okay, let me interpret myself. I mean it takes only the initiated to decipher what you have just said about Iya Imanu's bean cake. But, excuse me sir, is it only men that should write their wills? How about women?

In traditional African setting women are counted as part of their husbands' property, which means they can even be willed out to already salivating Pavlov's male dog relations of the deceased and...

No, sir. I disagree totally and unequivocally. I'm nobody's property and will never be...

Sorry to interrupt you. You know this 100 level General Studies class is very large. I don't know every student. Please can you identify yourself?

I'm Iyabo Aktivis. I'm a Political Science student. As I was saying, sir, no man, and I repeat, no man can claim me as one of his property. It is an archaic, unjust and gender discriminating custom which should be eradicated. I know this is a common symptom of patriarchal domination in gender insensitive societies and which we, in the Gender Consciousness Movement on this campus, are fighting against. We demand equal rights and justice for womankind.

Thank you, Mrs Gender Activist. Let's go back to our Wacko Jacko lesson.

As you can see Michael Jackson is as controversial in death as he was in life. You will recall that he turned himself into a white man with the falling nose. Is there any lesson in that?
Yes, sir! We should all be proud of our colour like the great Aggrey Achimota of Ghana taught us. I remember our primary school teacher used to point to the church organ saying both the black and white keyboards work together in perfect harmony to produce great sounds, that neither the white nor the black was superior to the other. I can also remember the music of James Brown too, "Say loud! I'm black and proud!" I wonder why anybody should not be proud of his colour.

Well, you can't blame Michael solely for this. Blame those who denied him his childhood. Till he died he was a child. You know what? Though his chronological age put him at 50, his mental age was far far below that. He was only happy hanging out with children and dreaming childhood fantasies of playing with pets, teddy bears, see-saws and fondling children of same sex---characteristic of early adolescence. He never grew out of that. But on the more positive side his talent shone like a thousand stars. He broke many barriers with his brand of music. He was super good (don't mind him singing that he is bad, "I'm bad, I'm bad/You know me..."). Any particular lesson here?

Yes o! It shows that if we do good we shall for ever be remembered.

You are right but it goes further than that. You must be exceptional in your achievements. You must be seen to have contributed to the expansion of the frontiers of knowledge, leadership and entertainment. Great men like William Shakespeare, the playwright, and Alfred Tennyson, the poet, have through their works appealed to mankind to crave immortality through procreation, contributions to learning e.g. scientific discovery and writing. Procreation is the easiest and cheapest means of immortalising one’ self but celibates too are known to have attained immortality. Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and Father Tabansi are examples of great celibates who have been immortalized for their contributions to the development of the world. Scientists like Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Michael Faraday remain great immortals for their discoveries. And how about great writers like Charles Dickens, D H Lawrence, O'Neil, George Elliot, Oliver Goldsmith, Geoffrey Chaucer and a lot of poets and playwrights who have gone upstairs to join the pantheon of evergreens? Entertainers are not left out either. James Brown, Jim Reeves, Bob Marley, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and Mariam Makeba, they all remain immortal. Michael Jackson is dead but the whole world is mourning. It shows that mankind is always grateful to those who come to this world and leave legible and positive footprints. Michael Jackson is one. And he will forever remain one. Let’s all say “adieu” to Wacko Jacko, the King of Pop.

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