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Celebration in a Ghost City!

Gov. Akala Leads Delegates to Jos


Dirge for a Dance!

Dr Lani Stephens <[email protected]>

African culture is sufficiently endowed in all ramifications; especially when it comes to the use of music.

For instance, in a traditional Nigerian community, there is a music for almost every life event, ranging from the music for the royalty which is called the chamber music/palace music, and others, like the coronation music, christening music, communal-work-music, love song, marriage-feast-music, sacred music, cult music, war song, victory song, hunter's music, wrestling music, down to the common satirical music . In our society, music starts and ends the story of every given life event. It paints the picture to the deaf and accents the rhythms to the blind. Observing from the sonic properties of the esoteric repertoire, depth of their textual rhetoric, to the utilitarian components of the musical instruments, and of the costumes of the traditional master musicians in performance.

Plateau State of Nigeria is popularly called the ‘ home of peace and tourism.' It has, for many centuries, been appreciated for its natural endowments like the cool weather and beautiful scenery and topography. Unfortunately today, the music over the Plateau is the mourning music, called the dirge. Unlike a typical African musical rendition, a dirge is never accompanied with a smile, laughter, dancing or spraying of money. Dirge derives its aesthetic values from other musical and extra musical indices but not a joyful artistic expression. It is an exclusive musical genre for mourning and for the rites of passage. It is melodically melancholic, textually contemplative, visually obsessing and emotionally overwhelming in rendition. On the Plateau, dirge has replaced music for celebration, singing, dancing, rejuvenation, merry making and friendliness, because of the evil of some fellows, which have been hypocritically managed to thrive by the inaction of the corrupt, unjust and insincere government of Nigeria. They have taken away our singing, our joy, our merry making and have given us darkness for light, crimson for snow, rags for robes, misery for merry making, lamentation for an anthem, desert for our shelters and nakedness for our warmth. They have turned us from the skies and thronged us down to the earth- they have stolen away our dancing shoes and have given us a dirge for a dance.

Shall I enjoin every lover of the Plateau to join the Wailing Prophet to lament, “Where is my God who gives songs in the night?” Our case is worse than that of the Israelites: they wouldn't sing the Lord's song in a strange land, but for us, we are deprived of singing our Lord's song even in our father-land and on the thrones of our ancestors. A partial and hypocritical government says there is freedom of worship but does nothing to the ones who violate that clause. It says thou shall not kill but does nothing to the ones who violate that clause, (provided the killing is done in the guise of a religion.) Who shall deliver us from the deceitful and lying tongues of Nigerian government? Where are the Nelson Mandelas and the Marry Slessors who would mean it, say it, implement it and stand by it? The Late dictator, General Abacha used our constitution to hang the famous activist, Ken Sarowiwa and he doggedly stood by it! (This is however, not an argument for or against a correct or an incorrect application of our constitution, but he quoted our laws and backed them up with ‘proven actions' before the whole world) Abacha executed actions in apparent consonance with his defence of our laws and the people, just as he did in Sierra Leone. But who will do the same for these “preferred terrorists?” This cry is certainly not to that self-seeking politician in the National Assembly, who wants a life-time fortune just for a furniture allowance; neither is it to the one who spends more than half a billion naira renovating just a house. Have you tried to imagine why the government never defends the victims of religious fanaticism until the victims begin to defend themselves? Only the gullible would call that practice ‘a security failure,' we would rather call it ‘intelligence collusion, sabotage and criminal conspiracy.'

It's festivity and holiday season in Nigeria: But in Jos City, the Christmas was unlike anyone in history. It was quiet and calm. Not the calmness of nature or choice, but of fate. Even more silent than the Silent Night itself. The New Year dawned on us today in a man-made ghost city . No joyful shouts of “Happy New Year!” No fireworks! No bangers! No drumming and singing processions in the streets! No Passover services ! I never heard a trumpet blare till daybreak. Of course! The celebrants have been killed last month! The mourners have lost excitement for Celebration! The fearful have fled to the neighbouring cities! The government still imposing curfew over the innocent, and feeding the arrested murderers in their so-called detention, pending when they would be freed as usual, to come out and kill even many more! They are not killing for Sango the god of thunder; not for Allah of Islam, not for Yahweh of Judaism or Jehovah of Israel- they kill because it's their religion to shed blood. They are of their father, the Devil. Since the military intervention on November 29, 2008, no fanatic has come out again to kill and be killed for Allah. They have suddenly fled and abandoned the promised paradise; the promised 6,000 virgin girls having breasts like mango. (Some of the scriptures used to coax and incite good Muslims into violence. Of course, there are good Muslims.) Why would a terrorist dread the state authority rather than the Almighty if truly his allegiance is to Him? They burn houses they wouldn't build. They kill graduates they wouldn't be. They destroy schools they wouldn't attend. They loot wealth they wouldn't gather- all in the name of a religion. What is such a strange philosophy of violence doing in a home of peace and tourism? No wonder the city of Jos is derogatorily now been nick-named home of war and terrorism instead. But for the leadership that deals deceitfully with its citizenry, the blood of the innocent is always on you, and the anger of God would hunt you all your lives, for knowing the truth but promoting falsehood. For taking away our singing on the Plateau and giving us a dirge for a dance !


Dr Lani Stephens is a Creative & Performing Arts consultant, based in Jos, Nigeria; <[email protected]>

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