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Atoke: Time to Start Using Jazz to Improve Nigeria

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If there’s anything that is well acknowledged by Nigerians, it is the concept of jazz. Any self-respecting Nigerian knows that I’m not referring to the music genre. But, if for some reason you don’t know what that is, I’ll explain.

Jazz (like dash) is a Nigerian word (yes, one of those few words that have a nationally accepted and co-opted English etymology) which refers to the dark arts, or voodoo, or, specifically, juju. Jazz is often called upon for use in some of our most crucial moments – exerting wickedness to people who have shown they are deserving, establishing supremacy, eradicating poverty, punishing offenders. Children are often shown/told that jazz exists as a cautionary tale – to know who to avoid and to know how to behave. The belief in the existence of jazz cuts across religious, political and economic lines. The degree to which one believes may vary, but that tiny shudder of doubt that runs through the average Nigerian when faced with a seemingly inexplicable concept is indicative of the power of the supernatural.

Someone somewhere has it in it for you and is ‘doing’ you.

Religious organization have built an entire industry around the quest for protection from jazz. Self proclaimed spiritual advocates charge honorariums to intercede on your behalf against attacks from the dark lords – You Know Whos.

Everyone knows that anyone can catch these jazz hands – you simply cannot predict from whence the attack may come. Perhaps you applied for a role that your supervisor at work has been vying for; you need to be extra careful, someone may put something on your office chair, you’ll sit down and next thing you’re bedridden in Igbobi Orthopedic Hospital for the next three years. You might be studying so hard at school and casually mention that you’re aiming for a 4.98GPA beside someone who is offended that they’re still straddling the bottom of the barrel … next thing you’re struck with inexplicable cerebral malaria on the day of your Company Law exams. The stories abound, and if Nollywood is to be believed (and they’ve done a hell of a good job pushing these narratives) jazz is no respecter of persons. You simply don’t know who is around and who is looking for your downfall.


A few weeks ago, Nigerian music artiste, Yemi Alade, posted a photo of herself in the cultural regalia of the Oba of Benin. The outrage that followed on social media was deafening. People saw the act as a desecration of the throne of the Oba, and some simply felt sorry for the singer. People came out with testimonies of the powers of Bini jazz and how it isn’t something to mess with. Everyone was united in the position that this was a bad move, mostly because she had simply endangered herself.

In the same vein, an Instagram page published the news of a woman who died in an accident in Edo state. The victim had been a volunteer with a non-governmental organization that works with victims of rape and sexual violence. The victim was reportedly on her way to court for an arraignment to seek justice for the woman who had been raped. Once again, the comments alluded to the fact that the power that ran through that city was not to be messed with. Apparently, seeking justice means messing with power.

The indisputable power that lies in jazz is also depicted in the seemingly innocuous talismans that are reportedly used to invoke these latent powers. In a song titled Logo Benz, by Olamide, the YBNL music artiste, there is an allusion to the fact that, in order to acquire a Mercedes Benz, all you need is a pair of panties (or two, depending on how many cars you want). There was an outcry on social media – per usual … why is Olamide promoting the dark arts? Why is he encouraging the youth to choose the easy way – a.k.a panties conversion to motor cars?

Interestingly, the real question should be: how do we harness this power of pant conversion on a higher scale for productivity and increase in the GDP?

One thing that is for sure is that we are all united in our understanding of the powers that exist in jazz. Whether it is those people who actively seek alternative ways for protection against the onslaught of jazz, or people who support their regular endeavors with one or two assurance giving talismans … there is an inherent belief in the validity of these supernatural powers.

However, it’s time for Nigerians to start channeling those powers into more positive causes. For instance, we are sorely lacking in  healthcare, education, social infrastructure and many more. It would be instructive to start harnessing these incredible powers to 24 hours of uninterrupted electricity. Imagine channeling the unyielding power that could be used to punish Yemi Alade for the sacrilege of donning the Oba’s outfit into magically providing good beds and bathrooms in the general hospitals in Edo State.

However, if these powers can only be used for causing harm and and inflicting pain or even buying fancy cars, then are these powers even worth our time?

Throw the whole jazz away!

PS: Please if you’re inclined to spend some money to pay for insurance against jazz, I’d like to implore you to give generously to Brave Heart Initiative, an organization in Edo State that provides medical, counselling and legal aid to sexual violence survivors. The young lady who lost her life a few weeks ago was a Brave Heart volunteer.

Email: [email protected]
Tel: 07033733538

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website for more information.