Last Wednesday, Falz the Bahd Guy, aka Folarin Falana, roared at the government. He was live on Instagram. Hair dyed pink. Beard. Black T-shirt. Brisk.
He was in Lagos, at the then five-day-old demonstrations against the Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS, a unit of the Nigeria Police Force accused of untold cruelty. He was talking to someone off-camera.
He said, “If the government is serious about police reforms, they will grant us our ‘Five for Five’.” This is the list of five demands the protesters want the government to urgently address.
Then Falz raised his voice. “What do we want?”
The crowd behind him replied: “Five for five!”
“What do want?!”
“Five for five!”
“What do we want?!”
“Five for five!”
You see, Falz is a rapper. On some occasions, he also sings. When he’s not making the obligatory club, romance, and cash money tracks — which is what you must do if you want a music career that actually makes money — he is singing about oppression and the eternal faults in the Nigerian government. Sometimes he hits the sweet spot where his dissent music and the young public’s taste collide.
Just like it did in 2018. Falz’s cover of Childish Gambino’s hit video This Is America had its own viral moment too. He called it This is Nigeria and in it, you could see the parallels between America’s multi-generational civil rights errors and Nigeria’s institutional problems.
As I speak to you, This Is Nigeria has collected nearly 20 million views on YouTube.
Like his father, the iconic human rights activist Femi Falana, Falz is a lawyer. Although Falz trained at the University of Reading, he, as other Nigerian graduates of Law, took the unavoidable one-year course at the Nigerian Law School. This is what you do if you want a law career that could work in Nigeria, if for nothing than to have a back-up career.
That Tuesday, as Falz addressed protesters in Lagos, he was exactly a dead ringer for someone familiar and familial. The moment, too, was just like some other time in, say, the mid 90s. This story has come full cycle, the issues and venues are similar and Femi has passed the baton to Folarin.