In late 2010 I took the opportunity to go to the MTV Africa music awards which were being held in the same Lagos hotel I was living in at the time. Afterwards I made the following remark:
Clearly everyone who was anyone in Lagos’ media industry was attending this event, and they’d all donned their most fashionable clothes for the occasion…this was an event of some importance to the kool kats of Lagos. At 7,000 Naira ($46) per ticket for the standing area, and 15,000 Naira for the seats, those in attendance were drawn from the lucky few of the city’s 15m (or whatever) inhabitants. The minimum wage in Nigeria is 18,000 Naira per month.
The highlight of the night was a chap called Chuck D, former front man of Public Enemy, who came on to perform. Unfortunately, he is 50 and looked like somebody’s dad. But he turned out a reasonable performance which made sense to seemingly everyone but me right up to and including where he urged everyone in the place to “fight the power”. There is something highly ironic about an American rapper urging a concert crowd made up entirely of Nigeria’s wealthy elite to fight the power.
I was reminded of this when I heard that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – who is worth three million quid – addressed the crowd at Glastonbury, tickets for which cost £238 plus a £5 booking fee. In his speech, Corbyn said (emphasis mine):
Is it right that so many people in our country have no home to live in and only a street to sleep on? Is it right that so many people are frightened of where they live at the moment having seen the horrors of what happened at Grenfell Tower? Is it right that so many people live in such poverty in a society surrounded by such riches?
I want to see a world where there is real opportunity for everybody in our society. That means sharing the wealth out in every part of our country, and looking to global policies that actually share the wealth, not glory in the levels of justice and inequality, where the rich seem to get inexorably richer and the vast majority continually lose out. The desperately poor live on the margins of society which is basically known as the fourth world. Surely we can, as intelligent human beings, do things differently and do things better. And when we’re here today in Glastonbury, we’re doing things differently, we’re doing things better and we’re seeing that inspiration.
The Glastonbury crowd responded to these words with rapturous applause, same as the Nigerian elites did when Chuck D told them to stick it to the man.
I suppose Nigeria and the UK are not the only countries where the wealthy and privileged get together and pretend they’re on the side of the downtrodden masses, but I am nevertheless surprised at how universal such delusions are. At least the Nigerians laid on cheap beer.