Falz’s Mr Yakubu and the Rebirth of Music Activism

Nigeria may be famed today for Afrobeats ingenuity but it has a rich history of conscious musicians- aged, deceased or out of limelight. From Fela to Black China, music has been a powerful tool for peaceful and civil protest in Nigeria.

Falz, born Folarin Falana, is the son of the human rights lawyer, Femi Falana and indeed a chip off the old block. A trained lawyer, Falz prefers to pursue his career in music after graduating from the University of Reading.

He took a major shot at music activism when he did a Nigerian parody of Childish Gambino’s This is America. Titled ‘This is Nigeria,’ Falz recounts the episodes of corruption, kidnapping, insecurity, internet fraud and other social maladies at the risk of backlash.

Standing his ground to justify the hijab-wearing girls depicting the abducted Chibok girls, he coasted to safe zones after some aggrieved members of the Muslim community voiced their outrage at his visuals.

Fast-forward to 2023, Falz’s latest agitation song ‘Yakubu’ which featured ‘Vector tha Viper’ is a direct calling out of the chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.

Yakubu conducted the February 25 presidential election and declared the APC Presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the winner. Despite the widespread reports of electoral malpractice, violence and lack of transparency, the INEC boss ignored public outcry, directing aggrieved parties to go to court.

The song which was released on March 30, 2023 questions INEC Chairman’s judgement on the just concluded 2023 general elections.

Mr Yakubu! ẹ ma n se bi fraudster/You don’t want to prosper/Come and collect Oscar

Three hundred billion te gba lọwọ ijọba

Kí le fi se ná sir? (A ti fi je mossa)

Twitter dey talk

This one go hot

Other chairman corrupt but

This one is not

Youth sef dey talk

When we protest, they shot

Make we carry PVC

Make we see wetin go sup (Go sup)

Suddenly, e scatter,” the rappers lament in the opening verse.


In the second verse, Vector raps: “Mr Yakubu who is not like Gowon (No)

He’s not head of state (No)

He doesn’t need a gun (No, no)

He took the results verified by a lot (Yes)

In a recent television interview, Falz said he is against the victory of the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu because “the rules and regulations that were supposed to guide these elections were not applied.”


He also disclosed that he does confrontational music because he is not afraid of death, adding that life in Nigeria is not meaningful.


He added that he would rather go down fighting for justice than remain silent and die from the failed system of the country.


What makes this song particularly interesting is the ‘Mr. Yakubu Challenge’ that the artist curates online. It is a peaceful and creative expression of public outrage against the unsatisfactory conduct of the just concluded elections. Heavy military presence had silenced street protests. This ‘Mr. Yakubu Challenge’ allows the public to freely express their dissatisfaction with the electoral process and hold the government accountable as they should. 


No doubt, music activism is a vibey way to demand for justice and affirm human rights. Aside from Falz, the controversial singer, Portable has raised his voice against religious hypocrisy with the song “Apostle.” The song enjoyed critical reception and streaming while the audience online remained divided on his public persona.


Burna Boy, whom many believed to have a stronger stance internationally, had made songs about social realities. During his visit to the United Nations’ headquarters, he sang about the soot pollution in Port Harcourt. The pollution has become a public health crisis that has been ignored by the federal government for too long.


More often than not, Nigerian singers who venture into music activism out of their desire to see a better Nigeria either give up on the country and leave for greener pastures or simply resign into making non-commercial music while missing out on brand endorsements. Music activists live a life of self-sacrifice, putting public agenda first in their lives.


There’s no gainsaying that music activism is a necessary element in shaping a civil society. The era of racism in the United States of America and apartheid in South Africa were met with strong consciousness music. Today, the arts may just be the most diplomatic agent for demanding good governance and fighting corruption if the government is responsible enough to take it seriously.


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