Recently, I changed the profile pictures across my social media accounts to one I took at a popular Lagos rooftop the February before last.
That photo’s date is genuinely one of the most depressing of my life. I and my team of strangers performed so badly at a hackathon we were the only one of the five competing teams not to be given an honorable mention in the announcement of the top three. At the same time, it was also a very wonderful day; I left the three-day event with a sense of purpose, perfectly captured in the hackathon’s tagline also imprinted on the back of the shirts we were given to wear:
“Not every time rant, sometimes act”.
I have internalized that line, the sense of not just complaining about how bad things are but doing something towards change or at least drawing attention to the need for change. But ranting is not bad; the line was not devised to convey that. A ranter who prompts action is just as formidable in keeping the law as those who “act”.
So feel free to look around you. Is there something you’ve just heard on the news worth ranting about? Did something just happen right now?
Something has been happening since August 11 2017 when Lasisi Elenu started posting his rants on social media. Don’t call it a movement – you may jinx it – but his humorous two minutes car-seat video selfie tirades have been the primary media channel for many Nigerians, young and old, of diverging professions. How does an Instagram account grow from under 200 followers to over 500,000 in six months?
Lasisi Elenu is no loafer. When not veiled by the filter that gives him an eccentric pair of lips and exaggerates the size of his eye balls in a funny way, ‘Nature’ is the finely-bearded young man whose diction and command of spoken English is as good as it gets for a posh millennial. The latter moniker is his stage name for his music, the hustle that was slow in paying before the scaling of what were just WhatsApp stories caused the 26-year-old to blow. Without formal employment (a “nine-to-five” if you’re hip), emceeing and music were his means of working his way up the dream.
A ‘Lasisi Elenu’ bust by Adeniyi Adewole Easily (@ayowole_art on Instagram)
But Lasisi has always loved to rant, and it was to everyone’s advantage that he started putting them up on Instagram. In a country where everyone historically suffers while smiling, Lasisi has cracked the perfect combination of anger and comedy that living daily in Nigeria inspires.
A Nigerian, by default, frowns. A stranger, by habit, prefixes a question for direction with “abeg no vex”. We are a sad-faced people; how exactly are we not a nation of sadists, but actually one of the most welcoming, hospitable and fun-to-be-with in the world?
As Lasisi explains, the rudeness of sellers at Amala joints does not affect the taste in the mouth of those who continue to queue daily. Like amala, the staples of our daily lives are Lasisi’s rant points. But politics being the major source of our suffering and smiling, it is not impossible to see how those two minutes weave a narrative that bring political issues into focus. The difference in swerving over potholes on the Island and Mainland is because the never-ending comparison between life on the Island and Mainland in Lagos is political. The pepperrish-suffixes pastors add to every sentence during sermons are political because that is how ‘anointing’ is supposedly evidenced, bigger tithes encouraged, greater preferences granted to big tithers and social inequality engendered. And can we laugh off our problems with Taxify drivers without fuming a little about the condition of our roads, safety and the recent unilateral hike in tolls?
As must be allowed, Lasisi’s rants are not funny to everyone. There are caustic comments sections where he’s been adjudged guilty of taking advantage of filters for profit, implying he has nothing in him as a person. But what’s the point of being young, adventurous and innovative? What’s the hope for disrupting any aspect of the present structures stacked against the youth towards attaining financial empowerment and independence from the establishment if one cannot take advantage of tools at his disposal? So far, lasisification has not been at anybody’s cost. He is not funded by the government, either through taxes or some ‘n-power’ment scheme as to justify public accounting and scrutiny into his budget. On the contrary, if someone whose sister dies in the afternoon gets through the rest of the day by laughing to rants about the ills of our society, the ranter, who uploads using unreasonably expensive internet data, should get credit for pro-active ranting.
Nigerians are so angry. We are provoked by our leaders, pained by our bosses, petrified of tomorrow’s prospects and pricked by the inconvenience suffered at home and in church at the hands of pests like ‘brah segun’. But just the way we increase our fondness for Segun with every new rant about him, there just might be a chance on mending issues with those who cause us the most frustration in our lives at this time. A very angry person still willingly arguing with you without throwing a punch is actually dialoguing and making a case.
I had written the best part of this piece before President Buhari’s ‘lazy youth’ comments ticked everyone off on social media throughout Thursday. As at his last birthday before he became a year older today, Lasisi Elenu (real name Nosa Afolabi) may not have been one of the strongest examples with which to definitively argue the Commander-in-chief down. Over the last eight months, he has not only begun an economically viable enterprise, he is now our Ranter-in-chief.
This is hoping he keeps on with sketches asking us if we are mad, defending every creative young Nigerian out there Making A Difference.