By Sa’id Sa’ad
Earlier this year – when Bello Galadanci’s videos were becoming popular on digital platforms – a colleague posted a video of his skit on his WhatsApp status. From what might be a simple curiosity, I asked him if he knew who the person was – of course, expecting him to at least know a bit – but he replied that he did not know him beyond his not-so-much-funny recent “comedy skits.”
That was weeks after the publication of my recent essay, A Crack on Hadiza Gabon’s Wall: Humanizing Northern Nigeria Storytelling, where I described what the show meant to storytelling in Northern Nigeria and the impact of what I called “hypocritical denial and intentional lack of acknowledgement” from the northern community. As it has always been, I bumped into a tweet where a young person from “northern” Nigeria condemned the entire comedy skits made by Bello Galadanci. If I weren’t from the North, I would have wondered why Northern consumers always find a way to devalue Northern content creators in whatever discipline. But I didn’t, because I understood the game. So. Well. It is nothing to raise a brow at, mainly because, as creatives, criticism as such is often expected, “Thanks for the PR” was the short response Galadanchi gave him.
Even with the recent trooping of young creators into the skit-making industry in Nigeria, majorly due to its financial and digital-popularity lakes tunnelled by TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, one could guess accurately – as most other useful or even useless “developmental” growth – that adoption of content creation as a business by young people in Northern Nigeria, came very late, as well. It is difficult to mention by name – the northern skit creators who began early – and still maintain the same consistency as one would mention Taoma or Aproko Doctor or Mr. Macaroni from the South. Only Galadanchi and a few others still retain their craft consistently.
Many young people in northern Nigeria continue to comment, criticise, or label Bello Galadanchi and his skits in multiple ways.
Aside from the unpopular northern Nigeria population that perceives his skit as the “working-for-the-white” theory (or the painting north black belief), and the many who – due to educational standards and exposure – fail to comprehend the satirical nature of his contents, most of those who do not find him funny do so due to Broda-Shaggying or Sabinufying Galadanchi’s skit.
Unlike most skit makers in Nigeria, whose focus is majorly only on sowing laughter and entertainment into the market and reaping their golds, built on creative juice – Galadanchi’s contents are meant for social and political commentary using humour and satire. Backed by journalism, creative, and educationalist careers, it might seem almost impossible for Galadanchi – even by himself – to create non-questionable or fluid content only meant for laughter because creatives are muscled with the hunger to correct and change using their art. His could be simplified as addressing serious problems without being too serious.
Therefore, this makes it difficult for those Broda-Shaggying and Sabinufying him to comprehend the content as, thus, they expect a consciously endowed full-length comedy. I don’t mean to belittle content created by skit makers whose conscious aim is to create a hundred-percent comedy piece. However, expecting an all-comedy-induced piece from a skit maker whose purpose is challenging social and political ills using humour could be as good as expecting something from nothing.
While writing this essay, I shared on WhatsApp status a short clip from an interview Bello Galadanchi granted CGTN where he sat on stairs with three other Chinese, in a swagger-spirited looks with polished accent and blonde hair. Most GenZ’s (respectfully) responded to have known him only through his comedy and never “expected” him to be this “polished”, so far away from what they expected Dan Bello (his character) to be.
That means most of those who denigrate his content would have been from their “expected lens” through which they measure him to be. As argued in my previous essay above – could this also be what I called “hypocritical denial and intentional lack of acknowledgement” of the northern population for contents and creators coming from the north? Because, of course, what Bello Galandanchi is doing for northern Nigeria-specific social and political issues is what Aproko Doctor is exactly doing for Nigeria’s health sector and health-related issues.
Though satire could emerge in professional, amateur, elitist, and popular forms, those who do not comprehend his satire might also be due to their level of comprehension rather than the perceived educational standard or exposure. However, I believe both play a role here. Of course, satire is meant to use humour and irony to criticise, as in the case of the Nigerian writer Elnathan John with his famous book, Be(com)ing Nigerian. However, because Galadanci focuses on the “North”, he is quickly labelled with the “working-for-the-white theory”.
Perhaps if Elnathan’s book was a digital piece as Galadanci’s – and produced in the same form and language – the same label could have been blanketed for him, too. Sometimes, the theory sounds a lot like a comedy skit as well because even a deported northerner fighting the cause of his people – in any way different from the (usual) northern norms – would be considered brainwashed to work for the whites.
More so, those who do not comprehend the satire in the contents are often blindfolded from seeing the patriotism in these pieces. If not for a deep love for a people, I wonder how one would continue to create these provocative contents that question deep political ills in the region. While also soaking insults from young people in the same region who barely understood the depth of what his craft was uprooting.
However, looking at his pieces of art critically (beyond Broda-Shaggying them), how they are deeply immersed in satire and sheer creativity, one could vividly tell how varying it is from the contents created by other skit makers. If other skit makers called theirs “contents”, a creative could easily describe Galadanchi’s as a “piece of art”. The beauty in the work is so immense that one could smell creative fragrances all over the place.
Imagine if the digital youths in the north focus on – if not creating – promoting creators from the region rather than policing social media in the holy name of the north. Imagine if we all question the system in the individual creative juices deposited in us. Imagine if we learn to place a market value on the creators and contents from the north rather than wasting our time watching these wayward girls crowd-chasing nonsense on TikTok in Hausa and serving them to your screen back-to-back. Imagine if we focus on the problems rather than those who help us understand the problem. Imagine if we don’t call for the heads of those who create alphabets to remind us of where we are.
Galadanchi didn’t just find questioning the ill social and political system for Nigerians in Nigeria. He has lived with the system, experienced the system and carried dozens of scars from the system to wherever the world took him.
If these pieces of art are what come out from creatives whom the ill Nigerian system has wounded, then very soon, the Bello Galadanchi in all of us will prevail.
Sa’id Sa’ad is a Nigerian writer, poet, and playwright from Maiduguri. He won the Peace Panel Short Story Prize 2018 and the NFC Essay Prize 2018. He tweets @saidsaadwrites and can be reached directly via firstname.lastname@example.org.