Sierra Leone musician Emmerson says – we are a nation of “coconut heads”

Andrew Keili: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 August 2020:

It is always good for someone to know when he or she is being disrespected, especially for his/her intellect or poor perception. But let us take a step back and learn what a “coconut head” is. Urbandictionary.com defines it as “Someone who is zany, silly, kooky” or “a round shaped cranium resembling a hairy dome, void of contents”.

But I like the definition in Naija dictionary, the Nigerian pidgin English dictionary – “Empty head, of low intelligence, a fool, an academic failure”, which also lists synonyms as “mumu, fool”. Aye Emmerson!

So when Emerson calls us “Coconut heads”, stop dancing to the music and reflect on why you are called by that derogatory term. “Coconut head” is one of the tracks in Emmerson’s new album called “9 Lives”. He has for a long time aired out his views on the national political situation.

One thing is for certain however, he has never been pigeon-holed as belonging to one party or another; hence the respect he has gained from many quarters as a fairly impartial commentator on the national political scene.

The song contains a litany of complaints about the performance of the current government. He complains about poor medical facilities, poor quality of education, partisanship, lack of productivity, economic hardship, land problems and a host of other issues. He claims things have not changed much and the government is likely to blame the COVID crisis for its failings.

President Bio, he says wants us to be patient and judge him at the end of his term but it is already getting too late.

In the midst of all this, there is inter party and intra party warfare. Meanwhile the government is trying very hard to “divide and conquer”. Things have stayed the same. “You can’t do what you criticised others about”, he advises.

Despite all this, us “coconut heads” unwittingly join the fight – “Coconut head, we nor day frade for mix pan fool man fet”, he quips. It is a “mental hustle to survive”.

But let us simplify what Emmerson seems to be insinuating:

1. Our Problems have been with us a long time and change is difficult

All political parties that have governed us since independence 59 years ago have failed us – “Any wan way cam day turn we lek say we na coconut ade”.  And he accuses us of acquiescing to their whims- “Sharp sharp bobor den day dance to the coconut hade”.

2. Translating ideas into success has been a pie in the sky

Many good ideas were floated during the election campaign and the SLPP claimed to have an inordinate capacity to govern this country. This has not been borne out by its performance in government. “What happened to all these ideas?”, he asks. “What about the claim that the economy could be turned around in six months?”. “Whatever happened to the commitment that we would be food self-sufficient?”. “It would seem the rice seeds did not sprout up”, he quips.

3. “Connectocracy” trumps meritocracy

“How do you get jobs?”  he asks. You would have to be a “party pikin or D Pa in paddy”, he claims. The claim of the absence of meritocracy and of jobs being dished out to party supporters and close associates of the President is one he makes repeatedly. “All tin na politics”, he asserts.

4. Indiscipline and lawlessness are still rampant

Emmerson makes mention of top people who have become “gun toting governors” and the general indiscipline among the “new governors” and in the country generally. “Whatever happened to the punctuality drive that was initiated when this government got into power?”, he asks. “Whatever happened to plan to rationalise the use of government vehicles?”.

5. We are still a divided country along tribal lines

You can read between the lines when he makes mention of “Mua lay lay mia”, “Nya vote a Ngewo va” and “Gbinka Kurumasaba”. Tribal associations and considerations are at the core of most decisions.

6. Corruption has not gone away – the “bigger fish” still get off unscathed

He talks about “sophisticated corruption” being rife and says “they only catch ‘Dem  small small cockroach dem””.

7.Youth problems abound

Youths still bear the brunt of our problems and are exploited. Emmerson says- “A hungry man is an angry man”. He also says “Hangry man go bumbu d fet because of bread and butter”. Youths face what he terms “a mental hustle” and are “brutal for survival”.

8. The Local private sector is not thriving

Though he does not mention the private sector, he claims foreigners are the ones doing well in busines s- “Salone bizness don dry”, he claims.

9. This current generation offers little hope for the future

He claims – “We don boku na facebook” and calls them “the play station generation”. They wallow in confusion and he refers to them as “confuse.com”. They are full of excuses – he also refers to them as “excuse.com”.

10. Avariciousness is rife among our new political masters

He says “munku den boss” and calls some of our political masters “munku by packet”. Many lack sophistication; and he claims they are avaricious. But he warns – “You can’t give what you don’t have”. He makes light of the purchase of “30 SUVs” when medical workers were being denied their allowances as an example of a decision that reeks of vanity and lack of sensitivity. “Lef gbagbati – lego mi pan mi yopoti”, he advises.

11.Economic difficulties are rife

Emerson says times are hard and the economy is “shitty”. Well, anyone familiar with Emmerson’s modus operandi would know he is a critic, not a praise singer. As would be expected, some government supporters have retorted on what they claim are the successes of this government to which Emmerson has turned a blind eye. These include the launching of Sierra Leone’s first Sexual Offences Model Court, repealing the Criminal and Seditious Libel Laws, the introduction of Free Quality Education, recruitment of health care workers and commissioning of hospitals, increases in pensions, rehabilitation of electricity service in provincial towns and many other projects.

Not surprisingly, some opposition critics, mindful of the fact that Emmerson’s criticisms also rope them in as being complicit in the country’s mess, claim he has treated this government with “kid’s gloves”. “Why did he not mention the recent killings, the violence at elections, the incarceration of opposition members, the usurpation of powers in Parliament etc.?”, they ask.

It would seem that Emmerson has succeeded in ruffling the feathers of both major parties, whom he claims are responsible for our current predicament as a nation.

Many government supporters however caution against attacking Emmerson headlong. One writes:
“One thing I know for sure is the fact that we have an honest and genuine President determined to improve the lives of everyone in this country. Emmerson’s new song is an eye opener for our President. It’s now time for HE to step in and make things right. Too many mistakes that require quick corrections in order for him to deliver safe and sound. Trust the process.”

But a few words of advice may be in place for government. Criticism can be a God-given instrument of needed correction! There will be times when negative judgments about how you handle some situations are entirely appropriate. It does not necessarily have to be 100 percent correct.

Listening to criticism is a leadership quality that does not appear in the job description, but it can make you a more effective and trustworthy leader if you handle it constructively.

But let’s get back to Emmerson. What does he think is the solution? He says that past generations had the forlorn hope it would be their great grandchildren who would fare better, but this generation is also making the same claim.

Though this government comes in for a large share of his ire, past governments have also not got off lightly. And as for the rest of us the populace who Emmerson calls “Coconut heads”, it is up to us to prove we are not “coconut heads” and that we indeed have high IQs and are perceptive.

Holding the hands of any government to the fire to address our myriad of problems and making them pay dearly if they fail, should be seriously considered if we are to move this nation forward.

Emmerson has thrown down the gauntlet to us. If we do not do this and become excuse.com and wallow in confuse.com, we will have nobody to blame but ourselves. Let us put Emerson to shame and show that we are not a nation of “coconut heads”. Arise, ye “coconut heads” repent and change your ways. For the day of reckoning is nigh! Ponder my thoughts.

5 Comments

  1. I personally believe that Emmerson lost an opportunity to transform himself not only into a superstar in Sierra Leone but the entire Africa just as Singer Prince Nico Mbarga of Nigeria/Cameroonian in the 70’s. Emmerson’s music was a major factor in bringing down the SLPP government of the late President Tejan Kabba. Within few months he realised that he made a major blunder, after the APC party started exposing themselves as the real “AYAMPIES”, so he immediately released “YESTERDAY BETTEH PAS TIDAY”. He finally released “MUNKU BOS PAN MATCHES” which was the final nail in the coffin for the Destructive APC Party which I personally believe was another reason they lost the 2018 presidential elections.

    After 2 years and 5 months, I don’t think Emerson has any reason to sing about corruption against the New Direction government other than “SUSPECT” which was orchestrated against our credible Chief Minister who was blackmailed by a rogue APC journalist, that was desperately trying to tarnish his image. I personally believe that with the positive Human Capital Development agenda of the New Direction government, against the Negative Destructive Agenda of the new “Adebayor People’s Congress (APC) party that is trying to “make our country ungovernable” with the signature of “Mammy Cuss”, Our renowned artist Mr. Emerson Bockarie should have released a hit about the “Free quality Education in Sierra Leone” and positive music about our “Sweet Mothers” in our country, to counter the disrespectful and insults towards our mothers.

    Prince Nico Mbarga took that route which made him one of the Superstars of Africa. But categorizing the people of Sierra Leone as “Coconut Ed” can be counterproductive.

  2. An absolutely candid piece of music by a musician who is a realist,not holding back firing his smoking pragmatic guns fully loaded with truth,tirelessly with both hands on the trigger;A young gun going on all out attack fearlessly calling things as they really are – Bravo!The inept criminal SLPP should now listen carefully in moments of delusions to the down to earth lyrics of this song,and perhaps,just perhaps they will be able to find inspiration for an authentic progressive New Direction from it.

  3. Indeed the music of legend Emerson is full of wisdom for those who are wise and mean good for Sierra Leone. And I hope our government will take this as a positive reminder for a better change of ways of governing our beloved country Sierra Leone,

    • Andrew Kelly please find something better to do with your time. I am flabbergasted that even people like yourself will take offence to a song of an ordinary musician. Maybe Emerson is right in calling the entire nation as coconut heads. It must have resonated with most including yourself to take offence. In my view, Emerson was very lenient and kind to the nation. Maybe headless chickens would have been a better description of the state of the nation since independence. Now I got it, you want to be noticed by the government for an opportunity.

      The description of coconut heads fit mainly so called learned people. Note I did not say educated people. There is a difference which I hope you know the difference. This government is trying to deal with a whole range of coconut heads including former politicians and some current members of his government. The only reason I am responding to this bizarre outburst is because I find it really annoying, foolish and stupid that a lot of people are so angry for what is blatantly true. Have a grip and be sober minded.

  4. In 2010, when Emerson released yesterday betteh pas tiday, the government and its machinery then went into over drive to not only attack him but also sabotage his shows. I remember APCers in the UK headed by the late Sorie Sudan Sesay organising another Sierra Leone show to coincide with Emerson’s show just to ensure that his show was a flop. Indeed his show was a loss because most sympathisers of that government boycotted Emerson’s show. I hope that the current government would not be childish enough to take the same foolish stand against a musician who is only doing his work. They should have a hard look at themselves and re-evaluate some of the lofty policies that they have been pursuing. They still have two and half years to go.

    Unfortunately, Covid-19 situation is not going to help them. They have to go back to the drawing board and see which tangible development that they can bring about that would affect the bread and butter issues of the population. Intangible changes like repeal of the 1965 seditious act are laudable and remarkable. But how many of the President’s subject know or value this repeal?

    Lofty project like the lungi bridge was launched on the premise that investors would pour their monies into the project. This is now very unlikely and it is going to be in the arsenals of the opposition as a White elephant goal. I hope that the government would do a retrospect of its goals and salvage the remaining years of their mandate results of which they can use as a manifesto for their re-election.

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