The Infinix Strategy

​I was going through the posts on my Facebook page when I came across a post by Infinix Mobile with a capture and a caption (see image above). What captured my attention at first was the caption that read: Remember, Hard work beats Talent when Talent does not work Hard. I was busy ruminating on the validity of the quote when, all of a sudden, the relevance of the capture to the caption came to mind.

The capture is an iconic representation of two household names in the world of football. Football fans will definitely recognise them at a first glance. The character in the background is Lionel Messi while the character whose is image is foregrounded is Christiano Ronaldo. Currently, in the game of football, both names are the major point of reference. However, each player – and by extension – his club, has a fan base and loyalist. In most cases, supporters of Messi rate him higher than Ronaldo and vice versa.   

The purpose of this critique is not to pitch the players against each other. For all its worth, both are fantastic players who have put in a lot of effort to achieve greatness. I am however interested in the significance of the interplay between the caption and caption as used by the brand Infinix Mobile. I also intend to ascertain if the interplay of the caption and the capture was a marketing strategy by the brand. If so, would such strategy result in goodwill or backlash for the brand?

Infinix Mobile brand is currently one of the most sought after smart phones in the country. The brand did not achieve this status by sheer luck. It is definitely not the most dominant smart phone brands as there are other solid brands competing for the smart phone market in Nigeria. it has however come to stay relevant because, among other things, it annexes the power of advertising in its drive for commercial success. It has not only engaged the print and online platforms in its advert campaign but also tapped into the vibrancy of the social media of which Facebook is prominent. 

In the Facebook post in question, Infinix Mobile passes its message across to its target audience in the guise of a quote that offers a piece of advice. This approach is a smart rhetorical strategy in advertising. It takes an observant audience to read between the lines in order to decode the main message the advertiser is trying to pass across. One should note that the primary aim of any form of advert by a brand is amass goodwill and get the audience to patronise its service(s). While the advert may appear to be insightful/instructive, the brand craftily laces it with elements that would make the message accomplish its set target.

The post by Infinix has a capture that foregrounds the image of Christiano Ronaldo who is seen bearing a trophy and sets Lionel Messi’s image in the background. It caption then reads “Remember, Hard work beats Talent when Talent does not work hard”. What the brand has done is to engage both the verbal and visual elements to pass their message across. The visual element is the caption while the quote represents the verbal element of the post. It should be stated that each element is unique and contributes its quota to the success or otherwise of the advert/post. While the visual element has a more profound influence on the customers’ emotion, verbal elements engender a more favourable attitude towards the advert or the brand. In sum, both the capture (visual figure) and the caption (verbal figure) work together to pass s message across.

When the quote is read in isolation (without recourse to the images), it makes an objective and general meaning to whoever reds it. for instance, the general message the quote sends is that though talent is a huge plus, hard work pays more. Also, talent isn’t everything as a man who is talented but lazy will simply remain in a spot. On its own, the verbal content can pass for an axiom. Although not everyone may agree with it, it doesn’t stand to breathe any negative response.

The visual content used with the caption/quote however gives the post a new ramification and alter its essence. The brand posts a meaningful statement: Hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard. It then complements the message with the images of two controversial footballers. Foa almost a decade, the battle for the world best footballer has always between the two – either one wins in a particular year and the other takes second place and vice-versa. Ronaldo happens to be the current winner (2016). He is therefore foregrounded and seen bearing a trophy while the first runner-up Messi is set in the background in the capture. It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to decipher the fact that the image of Ronaldo is being projected while that of Messi is being shaded.

By the virtue of the image used, the brand induces the quote with a n intended meaning. Although the quote has an original meaning, its essence and impart is lost on the kind of image that accompanies it. A perceptive audience can put the puzzles together and connect the verbal and visual elements to make deductions. One can safely posit that ‘hard work”, as used in the post, refers to Ronaldo while “talent” is used to refer to Messi. The message can thus be interpreted to mean “Although Messi has the talent, Ronaldo beats him to the trophy because he his hardworking”. While the original message of the quote is reasonable, the visual content used waters don its essence. Again I need to restate the fact that I am no fan of any of the players hence my critique is far from being subjective.

Reading the comments generated by the post, some commentators counsel that people should focus on the wordings and overlook the capture. While it is wrong to throw the baby away along with the bathwater, it is equally wrong to taint a neutral message with a controversial capture. In my course of my research in the field of rhetoric and advertisement, I have come to understand that, in an average advert, images speak louder than words. Advertisers communicate much more effectively and accurately with the use of visual figures. This is so because visual figures often have positive effects on imagery higher than the verbal figures. When the audience is exposed to an advert rich in visual elements, he tends to be influenced by its multi-dimensional aspects, which then determines how he reacts to it. If the brand (Infinix) wanted the audience to focus only on the message of the quote, it would have used a neutral capture rather than a controversial one.

The choice of both verbal and visual elements may appear to be a blunder on the part of whoever designed the post for the brand. I am however of the opinion that the move is a premeditated marketing strategy by the brand. Nevertheless, that strategy may turn out to be a blunder or a positive game changer for the brand.    

The most probable logic for this move by Infinix is to draw the attention of the audience. Many adverts thrive on controversies. This style of advertising is called “shock advertising” or “shockvertising”. Such adverts are deliberately designed to startle the target audience by upsetting their beliefs and opinions. The content of the advert is situated within highly sensitive subjects. Like the advert in question, shock advertising employ controversial graphic imagery to highlight a service or product.

Infinix Mobile has successfully identified its target audience who happen to be mostly young adults and youths. These set of audience are known to be gadget lovers – especially phones – a product Infinix deals in. Next, the brand looks for something these audiences can easily relate with – sports, especially football. Football happens to be most controversial and keenly supported among the youth, especially the males. Infinix singles out two most outstanding and controversial footballers with divergent supporters. It then looks for an ordinarily incisive message and craftily situates the players in it. The audience reads the message, ruminate on it but on realising the connection between the message and the image, they get fired up. The brand successfully incites the supports of the two football phenomena and watch traffic rush to its page while it still get to pass it message across. Infinix wanted attention and got it!

A brand does not desire to draw the attention of its target audience for no reason. It draws attention in order to send a message that says something about the product. Infinix Mobile had a message they intended for the audience. The quote has both a surface and deeper levels of meaning. The surface level has a neutral and instructive meaning. Anyone who reads it can relate with and learn from it. However, the deeper level of the message is what Infinix intends to pass across. Infinix actually means to say that it is hard to beat a smartphone brand that has worked hard to make its way to the top. Infinix happens to be one of the late comers to the smart phone market in Nigeria. While other brands like Samsung and Tecno have an edge by being early comers. These early comers have amassed significant goodwill among smartphone lovers. They therefore have the tendency to relax a little on their marketing campaign. For the Infinix brand to meet up with and perhaps beat the other brands to the top, it had to work extra hard on selling the uniqueness of its product to its target audience in order to gain their goodwill. The capture (images) only serve as attention grabbers.

Having looked at the idea behind the strategy used by the brand, I’ll proceed to examine its implications.

Infinix Mobile, a supposedly giant smart phone brand, seems to have violated image rights. Has football has grown to become one of the most vibrant and marketable sport in the world, brands are beginning to associate with clubs and their high-profile players in order to stay relevant and grow their revenue base. In order to accomplish these goals, they enter into an agreement with the clubs/players to acquire image rights. This right gives them the ability to use the image, photograph, signature, statements or physical details in their adverts. Infinix Mobile used the images of two prominent footballers who play for top European teams in their post/advert. However, the last time I checked, the brand has no business relationship with either the players or their teams. This, in my opinion is a way of using cheap but illegal publicity. Going by the reactions the past garnered, it is obvious the brand has pulled traffic by adopting prominent players who have large fan bases although it has no form of mutual agreement with them.

The brand Infinix Mobile not only uses a controversial capture for its post/advert, it has perpetrated grand style plagiarism by using a quote without crediting its source. The quote “hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard” was made by the American professional basketball player Kevin Wayne Durant. Infinix Mobile availed itself of the essence of the quote yet failed to reference its source. By so doing, the brand has succeeded in wrongfully appropriating the idea of Kevin as its own idea.

As regards the commercial implication of the strategy for the brand, it has more to lose than gain. Infinix Mobile has successfully captured the attention of its target audience – most of whom are die-hard football fans. It craftily pitches two great footballers against each other. Meanwhile, these footballers have fans that are passionate about them. Any form of perceived discredit by any brand against any of the footballer will most likely result in the lack of goodwill of the brand by his supporter. As observed by the comments generated by the post, most Messi/Barcelona fans seem to view his positioning by the brand as a personal insult. Such people are unlikely to want to buy the Infinix products in the future. On the other hand, supporters of Ronaldo/RealMadrid feel the brand picked sides with them and may likely shower their goodwill on it. Either way, the brand would fare better if it had been discrete with its choice of capture. In a market with many competing brands, every single goodwill by a customer should be treated as invaluable.

Great businesses think and plan ahead of time. As a vibrant and growing brand, every single advert carries far and can be consequential. The internet and of course the social media the social media has made information readily accessible to anyone all over the world. Also, other smart phone brands are beginning to partner with top football clubs. Tecno for instance is now an official sponsor of Manchester City. With such a controversial post as this, one wonders what impact the Infinix strategy will make on a business deal with Barcelona Football Club (FCB) should such an opportunity present itself in the nearest future. 

Adverts are products of verbal and visual figures or the combination of both. Their success/effectiveness or otherwise  is determined by how advertisers use them.       

The Infix post:    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=627002910757517&substory_index=0&id=169905329800613

Image credit: Infinix Mobile
©ayansolaibukun

  

PRAY FOR ME: THE DYNAMICS OF ITS MUSICAL VIDEO

Dare

The song tells the story of a young ambitious man who becomes tired with the sedentary life of the suburbs and decides to seek fortune in the city. He informs his father of his decision but gets a negative and unsupportive response. His father tells him of the crazy nature of the city and advises him to stay back. His mind made up, he chooses to ignore his father’s counsel and leaves for the city. Though he acknowledges that he is bound to face life challenges, he braces himself and asks his father to forgive his disobedience. Four years and eleven months into his self-imposed exile, the young man sends his father a letter. In it, he intimates him of his ordeals in the city thereby confirming his father’s argument that life in the city is unbelievable. He recounts how he has to struggle to make ends meet. He urges his father to forgive him and pray that things turn around for him.

About the musical video

The musical video of 4 hrs. 50 sec begins with a short – 38-second playlet. It features the trio of the protagonist and singer Dare Alade, Olu Jacobs who plays the role of his father and Joke Silva as mother. Both father and son are having a serious conversation while the mother lurks behind the house eavesdropping on their discourse. In the course of the intercourse, Dare informs his father of his intention to leave the suburbs for the city. His father Jacobs tries in vain to restrain him from his plan, telling him of the madness that describes the city. The son insists on embarking on his journey, the warning of his father regardless. Seeing that his son is adamant and resolved to do as he wished, Jacobs leaves him with a caveat: ‘you are on your own’ and works away dejected. The eavesdropping mum is captured to be also distraught at the turn of event. 

The myth called the city

The story of Dare is the story of most youths all over the world. It speaks of a quest for self-liberation and a search for greener pasture. It is indicative of the rural-urban migration that is the trend among the young ones. Due to the low level of dream actualisation and life expectancy that plagues most rural setting in this part of the world, youths in those areas are beginning to consider the prospects of the city. They have heard of the skyscrapers, the ever-busy tarred roads, unending job opportunities and other facades that make the city appealing. What they haven’t been told however is that the city is just an enigma- a phenomenon one can never fathom. It’s like esu, the Yoruba god of duplicity who takes more than it seems to give; like the rat that bites you and then administer a gentle breeze on the spot so you won’t uncover its ruse; like the tortoise who invites the elephant to sit on a throne placed over a concealed pit; the story of one who stands in the position of a benefactor yet plans mischief for you; and the story of that man who invites you to eat but not to be gratified, he gives you a plot around the palm tree to till. The city is Janus-faced. It’s into the pitcher plant called the city that these youths fall. While some grow thick skins and make the best out of it, most are devoured by it.

Although there are no stated indications of the location of the dramatic act, one can conjecture from the language used by the interlocutors Yoruba that the playlet has a typical Yoruba setting. The actors also wear costumes that are peculiar to the Yoruba’s- the woman on ‘iro’ and ‘buba’ and the men on ‘buba’ and ‘sooro’. For all its worth, the image of the setting projected does not look particularly rural, judging from the kinds of houses we see, the semi- structured landscape and the cool décor of the room from which the protagonist says his last morning prayer before leaving home. It’s interesting to note that the father also spoke impeccable English alongside his mastery of the Yoruba language. This paints a picture of an average retiree who moves to the countryside with his family, not just to enjoy the peace and quiet but also to run from the high cost of living in the city. In addition, the utterances of the father propose the idea of a confident and self-sufficient man who can provide for his own. The family in question can therefore not be classified as indigent. One then begins to questions the sense of urgency that propels the young man to the city. Whatever this young man hoped to discover in the city must transcend the material scope.

The role our mothers play

During the course of the discussion that ensues between father and son, we not only see that the mother was side-lined but had to stoop so low to the level of an eavesdropper in order to glean from a conversation in which she as a stake. How on earth can a mother be shut out from such a matter that pertains to the well- being of her son? This scenario would undoubtedly give folks in the feminist circle something to talk about. Before we begin to build interesting conspiracy theories however, it’s possible to make a proposition out of this issue- there are two sides to a coin after all. Knowing the bond that exists between a mother and her child, it’s most likely that the mother was privy to her son’s plans all along. It has come to be accepted that most children find it less awkward to bring their mothers into their top secrets, most especially when it has to do with matters of decision-making. Mothers have a unique way of responding to weighty matters even while fathers may get overly excited about them. From the atmosphere of the skit, one can make a rough assumption: the son had informed his mother about his decision earlier on. The mother reasons along with his son but doesn’t have the ability to give a go-ahead without the approval of the father. She therefore advises him to talk to his father and hope for the best outcome. The outcome does not look good hence she is distraught. Theirs must be an awkward family relationship.

Why the short notice?

The young man started by telling us of how he woke up one Sunday morning and told his daddy ‘I’m living home’ for the city tomorrow. Those who only listened to the audio version of this song would find the opening lines illogical and implausible. How do you get up from bed on such a holy day only to give your father a short notice of your epic exit? Unless instructed in his dream, by an angel, to leave home within the next 24hours or face a certain loss, his actions would bother on the abnormal. The grey area in the narration is addressed howbeit in the light of the skit. In it, we see the father asking his son if he is still hell-bent on doing things his own way. This implies that they must have had a prior discussion over the issue where the father must have dissuaded him from making such a move. He is only making his final and hasty decision known so that his father won’t have time enough to discourage him further from living.

Don’t be a fool!

Yes, the words of our elders are words of wisdom- only a fool will choose to disregard them. Those who have read the biblical story of King Rehoboam in neglecting the words of his elders would know how well he ended. Let’s appraise at the father’s response cum counsel to his son’s decision. In the first stanza, according to the narrator, daddy says to him ‘son, don’t be a fool’. Well, that’s sounds like a familiar caveat an average African child hears from his or her father. our fathers’ have occupied the room of semi-all- knowing for too long they think the sense of sound reasoning is their exclusive preserve. Often times, strains in the father and child relation is caused by the inability of the father to see from the child’s point-of-view and at least try to reason along. The moment one’s subject of discussion borders on issues they are not convenient about, they dismiss it as a foolish enterprise. Although youths are easily given to rash and exuberant tendencies, to say that they are not capable of healthy and well-meaning thoughts would be fallacy at its best. History is replete with lots of youthful figures whose ideas have revolutionized the world. How about the adage that posits that a fool at forty is a fool forever? Shouldn’t a father feel disappointed if his child cannot take a wise decision at a youthful age?

Much assay about the city

Moving on, daddy says life in the city is unbelievable, that the son could get broken and may never find his way. Now, how pessimistic can an outlook be?  The fact that the city can be full of uncertainties has been established earlier. That’s however not to imply that it is devoid of benefits and pleasant opportunities. Life itself is filled with vicissitudes and risks- calculated or not. Come to think of it, where in this present world is danger-proof? Be it in the city, the town, the suburbs, villages or even hamlets. The entire globe has become a village where there is hardly anywhere to hide from the arrows of contrary events that besets us. Isn’t it instructive to note that it’s those who live in places far from the cities that feel the pang of human suffering the most? They often receive the greater and unfair share of the outbreak of famine, terror attacks (the boko-haram insurgency as a case study), and diseases. Wherever a wise man finds himself, he considers the alternatives available to him and makes the best of every situation. There is no safe haven anywhere!

Just a little boy? Seriously?

There is nothing a child won’t hear from a displeased father. The father’s persuasive skill keeps getting interesting with every utterance. Dare isn’t just acting foolishly but is also a little boy. Again, a mere audio play of the song would not have suggested any clue as to the age range of the narrator. As such, one could easily assume that he is at best a teenager. From what we can decipher from the skit however, nothing about the narrator justifies his father’s description of him as a little boy. Here is a full-grown man who is more than old enough to be a family man in other climes: tall, well-built, cheeks covered with beards and sturdy features. It’s not going to be out of place to set the man’s age between late twenties and early thirties. How do you then reduce someone of such physical features to the level of a little boy all in the name of persuasion?  

Memories keep us going

Though occasions are ephemeral, memories last forever. It’s the knowledge that one retains about a person, event or period. Oftentimes, this knowledge serves as an anchor and keeps one going during tough and trying moments. On his journey to the city and even in the city, he recalls the pleasant memory of the lovely moment he once shared with his mum. During this moment, mother and son are seen playfully throwing stuff at and lovingly embracing each other. Although in a pensive mood, he could still afford to smile at the recollection. The experience is the same in the city where nothing seems to be working. Try to imagine how a man can survive 26 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit or how a mother can survive been away from her family for a long time because duty calls. How would it feel if they had no happy memories to hold on to- no lovely occasion to recollect? Good memories are like anaesthetics; it reduces emotional pain, like balm; it soothes and comforts the hurting soul, or like cold water; nothing quenches psychological thirst like it. 

The road

May we not walk on a day the road is hungry. That’s a transliteration of a prayer commonly said among the Yorubas. In fact, in most African traditions, reference to the road often tends towards the negative. Running through the entire course of the musical video is the motif of the road- its recurring cum symbolic nature is too poignant to make it go unnoticed. The concept of the road varies from culture to culture. It’s allegorical in nature and is Janus- faced.  The road can imply a path/track through which one journeys or a course of action that leads to a particular action. This dual implication is evinced in the experience of our narrator. He decided to embark on a journey from his father’s house to the city. Since he had no teleporting ability, he needed to go through a designed path- the road. Luckily for him, he journeyed through a tarred one so his movement wouldn’t have been less stressful. However, the other side of the road (journey through life) didn’t look soothing for him. In one of his articles, Tai Solarin said the prayer “may your road be rough”; that prayer was effective in the life of our narrator. Although the road he took to the city was quite smooth, his road to self-actualisation was bumpy. The road now takes on a spiritual meaning. Unlike the physical road that leads him to his utopia (the city), his road to fulfilment was fraught with pain and uncertainties. In a strict sense, the road, as depicted in the video, is a means to two destinations- the physical (the city) and the metaphysical (life) destinations. Getting to the physical is not rocket science; however, the metaphysical requires resilience discipline. The journey of our narrator, through the road, therefore symbolises the human doggedness to keep surviving no matter the circumstance.   

Haziness

The beauty of musical videos is that it helps to appreciate the power of imagery and artistry better. Colours, costumes, props, sceneries, motifs and graphic designs in good videos are carefully selected to create symbolic effects. All the afore-listed, among other things, are called signs/symbols. Every kind of image can be seen as a sign of something else. Those involved in the creation of graphic effects understand this and therefore carefully select what they put in their messages while considering their signifying value. For a creative producer, the production and interpretation of media texts depends on codes (rules for how signs are selected). A notable graphical effect in the musical video in question is the use of hazy visual effect. This effect is used right from the moment he leaves home throughout his journey to the city. Of course, the graphics director didn’t apply this effect for no reason. Its use was to depict the mind-set of the narrator concerning the journey he decides to embark on. Haziness is a state of obscurity, confusion or uncertainty. It depicts lack of knowledge or understanding concerning a situation. By creating a hazy atmosphere around the journey, the viewer can deduce that the narrator is not certain as to what the future holds for him. Although he braces himself for the journey, he is still confused and has a sense of foreboding.

Oblivion

No one can hold back the hands of time- it keeps moving, our displeasure regardless. According to the narrator, four years and eleven months has passed since he left home and during the entire period, he didn’t share a single correspondence with his family. Whatever reason adduced to his decision is beyond the audience’ knowledge. One will however not be surprised when his case is compared to that of folks who live the shores of their country for another without renewing contact with friends and family. Some say out of sight is out of mind. Nevertheless, when you love someone, you keep his or her interests first. 

At the point where he asks if mama is okay, we see a scene of his father and a young lady (most likely Aduke) standing morosely by a gravesite. The lady drops a bouquet of flowers on the grave and rests on the shoulder of the elderly man crying. What catches the audience’ attention is the conspicuous absence of the mother in that scene. Not only is she absent in that scene but from also from the proceeding scene. Where on earth is mama? Could she have decided to stay away from the mournful scene? Was she away from home at that moment? How come we are shown a graveyard scene at the point where his son asks after her?  From all we saw of the video, we know of only other three members of the narrator’s family. Although there are no clear indications as to who the departed one is, one finds it impossible to wave away the likelihood of the mother being the departed. If this happens to be the case, then the narrator is in a state of oblivion concerning the loss he has suffered. One can only imagine his agony when he eventually receives the sad news.

In his letter, he makes mention of Aduke- the relatively mysterious character. What’s interesting is that he didn’t ask after her well- being but tells his father of how he heard she has come of age. It seems as though he was lost in thought at the point he chipped the part about Aduke in. Nearly five years is enough to transform a person, a female most especially. 

Things are bad though

Truth be told, the city isn’t wearing a smiling face for our big man. Talk of going from the frying pan into the fire. Someone with a good pair of eyes should be able to see from the video that Dare left the Garden of Eden for the Sahara desert. Of course, Eden was located in in an obscure part of somewhere; it had all he needed to live fine. Just a detailed comparison of the two locations he stayed is enough to prove the unfortunate turn of event. When he was at home, he had a moderately furnished room and naturally appealing environment to himself. Things however began to look doubtful from the moment he began his journey to his supposed promised land. First, he journeyed under an atmosphere. What strikes our attention however is the scenery of the part of the city from which he was writing. Wherever it was must be the slum section of the city he went- a sprawling collection of ancient looking houses with incredibly brown and rusty corrugated roofing sheets. It brings to mind the classic poem Ibadan by J.P. Clark: “running splash of rust and gold” (minus the gold). It’s like living in the Makoko end of Lagos or Russian Siberia. Even the room from which he writes is way below Spartan: the only piece of furniture visible is a wooden chair; there is a mattress lying on the floor instead of a proper bed; a candlestick serves as the means of lighting. From the look of things, the young man cannot afford a decent accommodation. One’s financial capacity determines his social standing after all.

Pray for me

It is a rite of passage in the African tradition for a child aspiring for greater heights or seeking to move to a new phase to court the favour and seek the blessing of his or her elders, his parent especially. From the video, we see that the condition under which the narrator left home was far from appealing. Instead of approving of and blessing his journey, the father makes it clear that he is in no way in support of it. He storms off from the place of conversation with the warning ‘you are on your own’ trailing him! While it is expedient to follow ones instinct and take risk, one cannot downplay the input of the supernatural, especially in this part of the world where we attach great significance to matters of faith and fate. The belief of the majority is that the spiritual dominates the physical and the neglect of the former will mean a shipwreck of the latter. While some could make other excuses for the man’s haplessness in the city, it won’t be out of place to suggest that his condition could have been better had he courted the favour of his father before embarking on his journey. There is something about the prayers of the elderly over one’s life. It’s catalytic, taking one to greater dimensions with speed inexplicable; like salt, bringing out the best of life toil. Although he overlooks the significance of this moral cum religious rite at first, having seen the result of his foolhardiness, he is left with no choice but to appeal to his father to pray for him for a turnaround. Well, when we chide a child with the right hand, we draw him close to our bosom with the left. The old man came around- he prayed for him.

There is hope for a tree

When the clouds gather, we know rain is about to fall. Who says there isn’t hope for a tree that is cut down? Regardless of how long a man has been trying, with an unrelenting spirit and a prayerful hustle, he will strike gold eventually. It’s funny when people critique the musical video as one that projects no bright future for the narrator. Some even go ahead to deduce that it is altogether pessimistic. Well, it takes an observant viewer to read between the lines and see beyond the ordinary. Yes, the narrator not only claims that things are bad in the letter to his father, the scenery from his city experience confirms the claim.  Does that mean his case was hopeless? The answer is far from no. From the moment his father stepped out of the house, stretched his hand towards the sky and began to mutter words of supplication; signs that things are about to change for the better begin to appear. First is the appearance of the flash of lightning, roaring of thunder, rush of wind and the gathering of clouds. All of these natural phenomena are signs that precede the outpouring of the rain and when rain falls, it brings about freshness, fruitfulness and fragrancy. Next, we see the egg of a bird begin to hatch and a young live about to emerge. What more than newness can this imply? In addition, shoots are seen sprouting from the earth, which means the dead seeds are coming alive. Lastly, the plants begin to blossom- bringing forth pleasant flowers. The song ministers hope and redemption using the positive aspects of nature. Before the dawn of a new day comes thick darkness. A frail chick, yet alive, can still feed on grains

The role the choir plays

A tree does not make a forest. The artiste understood this and therefore availed himself of the benefit of a choir. There is something about the choir. It breathes life into any piece of music as it sings with insights into the lyrics and their meaning. In the presentation of a choir, we see diversity take a positive and pleasant outlook. The different musical ranges- tenor, alto, bass, soprano and treble- blend and fill the air with the aura of utopia.    Talk about organization and unity of purpose and there you’ll find the choir. The artiste cum narrator adopts a choir call and response-chorus approach, a musical style hardly used in the present-day Nigerian music industry. More importantly, he goes the extra mile to feature the Grammy award winning Soweto choir. This fantastic group of singers are all South Africans and not Nigerians. It is therefore heart-warming to hear them sing a song that draws ample vocabulary from a language alien to theirs. They pronounce Yoruba expressions like ‘gbadura fun mi; kori bami se; o dami loju…’ so well that a person who didn’t see the musical video would assume that the chorus was made up of Yoruba folks. Their level of professionalism and musical capability not only came to bear on the output; their presence gives the song credibility and wider acceptability. Among other things, their choice of costume makes them stand out. A regular choir will wear a robe for its presentation. This choir however preferred to make its costume a strictly African affair. Adorning their bodies were lovely clothes made from local fabric – the same kind of pattern/design but different albeit bright colour combinations. If I were to define them concisely, I’ll say they are pleasures to the eyes and melody to the hears. 

Remember Robinson Crusoe?

Archetypes make the world go round. There is really no new experience or event. In the mind of every human is an inherited memory- an image from our collective unconscious that forms our idea/pattern of doing things. Anyone who has read Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe should have no problem relating with the character of the narrator/artiste. Matter of fact, they share a lot in common. The narrator, just like Crusoe, the protagonist in whose name the title of the novel was derived, was a man who had an insatiable desire to explore and see the world. They are both from good families and have parents who can take care of them and set them on a good course. Crusoe’s father was passionately against his desire to leave home. Actually, he left him with a caveat pregnant with foreboding. You will recall that Dare’s father categorically told him “you are on your own”. Also, there journey, howbeit under different circumstances, was characterized by not too good omens- Crusoe, a tempestuous sea and Dare a foggy path. Both characters literally went through hell in their bids to make a life for themselves- loneliness and hardship was their companion.  Their painful experiences, nevertheless, things ended in a hopeful and promising way for them. 

So Long…

Musical videos do more than entertain the audience. They lend more credence to the lyrics of a song. In the musical video for Pray for Me,aspects of the song that may not be clear are made clearer. The listener not only enjoys the ethereal lyrics. Dare Alade has always been a fantastic vocalist and outstanding entertainer. Not only does he make excellent songs, his musical videos are always top-notch and highly creative. Pray For Me is not an exception to the norm. Its lyrical content is the cake while the musical video is its icing. 
© ayansolaibukun

Romantics 

​Uncle Dairo was in a pensive mood. He still couldn’t come to terms with the fact that she was pregnant. Peju got pregnant on my watch? How could I not have seen the warning signals? The girl chose to humiliate me by getting pregnant, despite my efforts to better her life. So it’s true what people say about an indisposed person – he says ‘thank you’ by way of farting.

Peju was the daughter of his late brother – the young and only one he had. The poor man died of a heart condition after all efforts to help him recover proved abortive. The girl had been in his custody ever since the fateful event. Just like his own children, he made it his responsibility to take care of all her needs, at least as best as he could.

Uncle Dairo and his wife didn’t waste time deciding which school was best for her to attend. Shouldn’t we just fix her up in the same school with her children? That was Mama Tee, Uncle Dairo’s wife during one of their deliberations. The suggestion made sense to Uncle Dairo. For one, while she got the best academic care, she would feel at home there with familiar faces around. 

She was already 19 when she came to live with them and in SSS2 in her previous school. The age was a little ahead of her academic status you would say. Well, that assumption couldn’t be far from the truth. For one, unlike most children, she didn’t get to start school early. Her late father wanted her to grow a little older before living her at the mercy of educators. She got enrolled at preparatory school at the age of four. Even when she began schooling, her academic journey had been a bumpy ride. She had to repeat different classes in between JSS1 and SSS2.

Those were in the past anyway. She got enrolled in Crown Heights Academy – one of the best secondary schools in the Ake metropolis – along with her cousins. Although she was due for SSS3, the school authority had insisted she started from SSS2. Based on her academic performance overtime, we strongly advice she starts from SSS2. We’ll like to monitor her progress a little in order to prepare her for her O-level certificate. That was the voice of the school principal when she was enrolled almost a year ago.    

No sooner had he settle down at her new school than her guardian Uncle Dairo began to get discouraging feedbacks from her teachers. Her written English was below standard, she needed to buckle down on her performances in her science subjects. To crown it all, mathematics was more than problematic. Her first term result was nothing to write home about.

Taking her class teacher’s advice, Uncle Dairo had arranged for extra lessons in key subjects for her at school – Just so the girl could fare better in her studies. When she brought home her second term report sheet for that term, her class teacher’s report read Peju has a lackadaisical attitude to studies. She needs adequate supervision in order to make head way. Mathematics was the crux for the principal as she wrote, Urgent steps needs to be taken on your performance in maths. You can also do better in other subjects next time. Just like other times, she had performed woefully in mathematics. This time around, the result was worse than the last. At least, she managed to score 50% during her first term examination. Second term was a couple of steps backwards as she earned a 38% for her troubles. What else can be done to salvage the situation? he mused. 

The case was different for her cousins. Jude always aced all his subjects. Toun was second to none in her class while Kate had won awards for her school at various debates and competitions. The sharp contrast between the intellectual ability of his children and his nephew became a source of concern for him. What would people say when they get to know the situation of things? He thought. The last time the family head came to check on her, he seemed displeased with the report he got of her performance in school. Although he didn’t spell it out in plain language, one could read from his body language that he blamed Uncle Dairo for the girl’s dismal performance. He feared that things would go out of hand if he didn’t take further action, most especially concerning mathematics. Now that the children were on 2nd term holiday, he needed to look for a way to remedy the bleak situation. He resolved to get a home tutor who would take her in maths. The tutor would come to take her in the evenings – after closing hours and on weekends. 

After a long search, a young man by the name of Mr Smart emerged as the most suitable tutor. Mr Smart was tall, dark and handsome. He had the air of liveliness about him that made it easy for one to connect with him.

 I was told you are good at what you do, Uncle Dairo enquired. 

That’s right, sir, Mr Smart replied confidently.

Good, said Uncle Dairo. I’ll like you to start taking my niece in mathematics starting from Monday. She is a little deficient in that subject

You can depend on me to deliver, Mr Smart assured.

Having concluded the pleasantries, he introduced Mr Smart to Peju. Mr Smart will begin to take you maths lessons at home, he informed her. Ensure you give him maximum cooperation. Rather than looked displeased at the prospect of having another teaching session at home, Peju seemed overly excited on seeing the young man and getting to know he would be his private tutor. I’ll give him maximum support, she enthused. Uncle Dairo took the girl’s excitement as a sign of readiness and seriousness. She seemed ready to learn, he told his wife later that night.

So it happened that Mr Smart began to deliver on his promise. He would come at five – an hour after Peju got back from school. Mr Smart hardly met her guardians at home because both were top business executives. Uncle Dairo was the zonal manager of Fresh Bank – one of the biggest commercial banks in the country. His wife was the CEO of a high-class fashion line- Glitz Culture. The nature of their jobs required that they left home in the early hours of the morning only to return later in the evening. The weekends were all they had and shared with the children. The only elderly figure the children mostly had around was Chioma, their house help for many years. 

Each time Mr Smart came to take her maths lessons, during weekdays, Peju, being the eldest of the children, would fake annoyance at her cousins and send them upstairs (they lived in a duplex). You guys keep disturbing my lesson with your arguments, she would complain. Her cousins would obey, although grudgingly and leave their cousin with Mr Smart in one of the rooms down stairs. Chioma the house help was hardly within as she was always busy with other household matters. Besides, one needs a smart tutor and a quite environment to study and understand a subject like mathematics.

The change Peju’s uncle wanted showed up eventually, although in an unanticipated dimension. On a good day, Peju was a lively and enthusiastic girl. She hardly registered a dull moment in her mental diary. Even when she went about her house chores, she would be seen singing and cracking jokes. All of a sudden, her air of excitement vanished. She would keep to herself – in her room – rather than have fun with the rest of the family, as was her practice. Nowadays, she got easily irritated with every inconsequential and insignificant thing. Mama Tee was first to notice this change in attitude and she intimated her husband about it. She brought up the issue on their way back from a Saturday outing.

Honey, she began.

Yes, dear? Her husband responded in a tone that suggested that he was waiting for the catch.

Haven’t you noticed a change in Peju’s attitude of late

Not exactly, he replied. What are your observations?

Well, she hasn’t been her usual self for a while. Mostly sulking and hardly alive to anything going on in the house. Take for instance, she is not the type to miss out on a social occasion; yet she stubbornly refused to go with us to the wedding despite the urgings by her younger ones. That’s so unlike her.

Uncle Dairo listened patiently to his wife and wondered how/why he had been oblivious to the picture his wife had painted. 

To be honest, he replied at last. I haven’t taken notice of these things. I guess I’ve been a little more preoccupied of recent. But maybe it’s not as bad as you think. You know teenagers of these days can be unpredictable with their attitudes. Perhaps it’s just one of those transitioning moment

Perhaps was her wife’s tentative rejoinder to his response.

Meanwhile, Mr Smart had earlier informed Peju’s uncle of his decision to stop taking the girl in mathematics. You need not pay me this month’s salary since I only took her half way. When uncle Dairo asked him what led to his sudden decision, he said, I need to go look after my father in the village. He’s been ill for a while and has been without proper care. I happen to be his only child…

Heeya! Uncle Dairo sympathised. I’m sorry to hear that. Well, your decision has further proven how responsible you are. Most youths of your generation will simply abandon their aging parents and move on with their lives.  I wish your father speedy recovery. He not only gave him his full month pay but also gave him some money to take care of his father.

This is so generous and kind of you sir. I’m so grateful, Mr Smart said, prostrating himself.

Come on, Uncle Dairo chided. You are deserving of my generosity. I’ve seen the seriousness and consistency with which you handle your task.

That occasion happened to be the last time Uncle Dairo and his family would ever set eyes on Mr Smart. 

Way into the third term, Peju’s case did not get any better. Her performance in mathematics was the least of the trouble now. Actually, her case degenerated from attitudinal issues to physiological symptoms. The hyper active Peju had now become lethargic. She hardly ate half the meal dished to her and when asked what the problem is, she simply says I don’t have appetite. When performing and household task, it takes her ages to accomplish it. Just a couple of days ago, her class teacher had called Uncle Dairo to inform him of his niece’s worrisome attitude. Well, her academics is not even the issue now, she lamented. Her teachers tell me she is neither active in curricular or extra-curricular activities. Often times, she is found either sleeping away in class or being absent minded.   

In a bid to get to the root of the matter, Uncle Dairo called her to his study one fine morning. Having asked if she slept well, he got down to business. I’ve been getting reports from your school about your inactivity. The case is no different on the home front too. Everyone complains you’ve become grumpy and sulky. Is anything the matter? Peju assured her uncle she is perfectly okay. She promised to shake the dullness away and put it together.

Things finally fell apart on a Sunday morning. The family was planning to leave for church, being a thanksgiving service. The household was almost in frenzy as they were already late for service. They all slept in. Peju was in the kitchen, putting away the cutlery she had just washed. She began to feel nauseated and uncomfortable from within. It was as though the meal of rice she had couldn’t find refuge in her stomach and was going to force its way out of her mouth. She suddenly realized she was about to throw up and sped out of the kitchen into the adjoining toilet. She was hardly in the toilet when she began to vomit. 

Mama Tee was making her way into the kitchen just when Peju was making her way out. She noticed the speed at which she ran and followed her immediately. Peju almost vomited her heart in her presence. She quickly alerted her husband who came to the scene to find the girl in the fit. The couple decided to take her to the hospital the moment she got better. It was a good thing there family hospital was a drive away.

On getting to the hospital, they met with the doctor on duty. The young bespectacled man asked them a series of questions regarding any prior symptoms. He later conducted a couple of test on the girl, gave her some drugs to make her feel better in the meantime, and asked the couple to come back with her for the results of the tests on the following Friday. The couple got the news of their lives when they came back for the results. 

Peju was pregnant!

Uncle Dairo’s wall began to crack on the spot. It however came crumbling down when the girl eventually gave up the identity of the soul who got her pregnant. It was Uncle Smart, the mathematics teacher. 

It turned out that all the while Uncle believed Peju and her tutor were busy with mathematics; they were diligently looking into the field of romantics.   
Image credit: Hannah’s Hope

©ayansolaibukun