By MS Abubakar, PhD, CAS
Back in the ‘80s when those in leadership positions were running Nigeria aground, making a huge mess of everything they came in contact with, Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka summed up the situation as tersely as he could and not without his characteristic piquancy: Counting himself among that lot, Soyinka referred to one and all of them as a wasted generation, a generation, in his reckoning, that added no value whatsoever to a country they benefitted from immensely in several different ways.
Many of them in positions of authority at the time were professionals in accounting, banking, law, medicine, public administration and management but always fell short of what proper governance is, should be or even how to make things work efficiently without the bureaucratic bottlenecks and sheer ineptitude of those calling the shots. Nor did the free education and scholarships they enjoyed abroad turn them into better managers of their own educational system. Despite all that preparation for those replacing the departing British colonial administrators in post-Independence Nigeria, nothing much came off it, in Soyinka’s view, thus his unflattering description of that generation.
There has not been much changes from then till now. If anything, things have gone from bad to worse. While the older generation still hold onto power maintaining the status quo, as it were, Nigerians are witnessing another frightening dimension of another generation wasting away not from failure of leadership but because of self-inflicted wounds.
Early in September, Nigerians woke up to the awful news of the tragic death of pop musician Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba aka Mohbad under very controversial and tragic circumstances. He was just 27!
And such is the tragedy of his sudden demise that it has united in grief a greater population of young people across the country from north to south and east to west. Even now, bits and pieces of his death are still unfolding and trending with commentaries from Nollywood has-beens such as Tontoh Dike to friends and colleagues of the dead musician himself.
One has said he has been suffering from insomnia since Mohbad’s death because of deceased’s strong spirit. It did not help much that he was alleged to have been done in by his close friends and former mentors Naira Marley and Sam Larry co-owners of Marlian Music label where Mohbad was once a signee.
Following Mohbad’s demise are rumours of bullying from his senior colleagues. He was reportedly ordered beaten in Naira Marley’s residence once. He was also allegedly accosted and roughened up at a video shoot spearheaded by Larry himself along with other assailants bearing machetes, whips and much else. It was after that incident Mohbad promptly wrote a petition to the police authorities to alert them of the threat posed to his person by Larry.
“I, of the above name and address, a law-abiding citizen and a musician bring to your notice the assault and threat to my life by the above-mentioned persons,” Mohbad’s petition to the CP of Lagos State began. “On 25th June, 2023 while having a video shoot with another artist by name Zlatan (Ibile, the above mentioned persons numbering about fifteen led by Sam Larry Elegushi invaded the premises with dangerous arms such as guns, cutlasses etc where I was shooting video and scattered the whole process of the shooting, damaged the equipment I was using for the shooting valued about Five Million Naira and started threatening my life which in the process they became violent and assaulted me which I sustained injuries but narrowly escaped.
“Attached to this petition is the said pictures. Total amount I paid for the shooting they have destroyed is Eight Million Naira (N8, 000,000) which is non-refundable.
“However, during the assault, they were boasting that they work for Oba Elegushi and that they have been asked to deal with me for reasons best known to them which till date they are still threatening to kill me if seen.
“Sir, I call on your good office to save my life from the above-mentioned persons and bring them to book. Thank you for your timely intervention.”
As it now seems, the police authorities’ intervention may not have been timely enough. Or, as the authorities themselves claim, Mohbad probably delayed it himself. Following his petition, the police duly invited the petitioner, Naira Marley and Sam Larry to state their case at the police station. Naira Marley and Sam Larry honoured the invitation presto. But Mohbad himself never showed up on the day in question.
Not much was heard on the matter until news filtered around that the musician had died under questionable circumstances. Even now, information is still sketchy. One report had it he was rushed to a hospital shivering like he got the shakes at which point an auxiliary nurse injected him. Things became progressively worse from then on till Mohbad breathed his last and then the accusations and counter accusations started flying.
What made the pain unbearable for his fans and sundry mourners was his age – a mere 27, and a budding musical talent for that matter already on the way to the top in is chosen métier.
“Youth would be an ideal state,” an English wag once mused, “if it came much later in life.” The inference is that the beauty, freshness of youth, a forever-young state would be desirable in old age when the inevitable wrinkles invade us. But what about when young people die in their prime, when they’re almost just budding, sort of?
Shortly before Mohbad’s untimely death, a 19-year-old boy, according to reports, was buried in his father’s compound “after being shot by so-called cultists.” Last August, a just-graduated student of Lagos State University Ojo had a great time with her parents during the institution’s convocation. Rather than go home with them, she opted to stay back and have some fun with her friends. It would be the last time her parents would see her alive. The following day at 5am, she was found dead and buried in a shallow grave with her private parts sliced off. The graduate was a mere 21.
Another premature death involved an 18-year-old student who told her parents she wanted to visit her classmates. She returned in pieces, bloodied, mutilated and deposited right in front of her father’s compound. It was a cult-related killing.
Of course, their demise did not attract as much attention or traction in social media as Mohbad’s. “When beggars die, there are no comets seen,” Shakespeare long ago reminded us in Julius Caesar. “The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”
The deceased students were certainly not paupers. Neither was Mohbad a prince. He was born into an unremarkable home at Ikorodu in Lagos state but threw himself into a profession where he hoped for that infinitesimal chance of making money, of becoming somebody to be reckoned with in society – a celeb kind of. Therefore, his death became something of a national disaster simply because of his fame.
In the end, the same fame Mohbad sought was his undoing. Until his conversion by NDLEA, Naira Marley was the original poster boy of substance abuse, of copious consumption of mind-altering drugs. He sang about them, was never without a joint in his musical video promos and enthusiastically encouraged their use among his many admirers of which Mohbad was one.
In death, Mohbad is in good company with a fellow musician who died under the same tragic circumstances and was also destined for the top.
Oladapo Olaitan Olaonipekun aka Da Grin was the rave of the moment when he died in a freak auto accident on April 10 2010. He was two years younger than Mohbad, at just 25.
Now, Entertainment reporters have been pondering the eerie coincidences in the premature death of the two artistes. One account has said that “both deaths caught Nigerians unawares, leaving them in shocking disbelief given the musicians’ age and celeb status. Both were also noted users of mind-bending drugs. In the case of Da Grin, a postmortem conducted on him found the level of alcohol was enough to kill a man two times over. Da Grin died while driving under the influence in a car crash somewhere around Ojuelegba on Lagos/ Ikorodu Expressway.”
As a disciple of Naira Marley, Mohbad was also a notorious consumer of hard drugs, forever experimenting with a cocktail of drugs or anything as long as it can give a high. As anyone can tell and from as long as anyone can remember, substance abuse and artistes are somewhat inseparable. The great African American left-handed guitarist Jimi Hendrix died of a drug overdose. Kurt Cobain of Nirvana contemplated suicide many times before finally killing himself. South African songstress Brenda Fasie ended up the way many thought she was going to go. So with immortal Whitney Houston.
But not many of them foresaw their demise. In that, Mohbad was also in good company – again with Da Grin. Da Grin released “If I Die,” before he passed on. Those in the know insist it “sounded like a prophecy or a premonition of his death. The song was almost too accurate to be a coincidence and it remains a mysterious question to date. Did he know he was going to die? The lyrics of the song felt like he was sending cryptic messages of what was to come. This remains a question we will never get answers to.”
On his part, there are reports now (whether real or imagined is hard to say) Mohbad told friends of his apprehensions about his imminent death, of his quarrel with his former music mates and smoking companions. What is more than certain like the tattoo on the bicep of a teenage city boy with orange hair is that Mohbad died too soon (just like Da Grin) thus securing for them a prominent place among the wasted generation of Nigerian youths.