By Jibril Musa
There is a reason why Majek’s plight should concern every Nigerian. He was once a national pride. He brought global recognition to Nigeria. He was Nigeria’s best entry into reggae’s hall of fame. He did the country proud.
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But in his present state, he is not a good picture to be proud of. Yet we cannot deny him. He deserved a token of our sympathy. He is deserved of the milk of human kindness in us. How do we redeem the rainmaker? That is the million dollar question.
Filmmaker Charles Novia once brought him back from the wilderness with the Little Patience album. After that brief respite, Majek returned to the wilds. Again, friends and fans rallied, curried a noblesse oblige from the Edo State government and took him in for rehabilitation. The effort ended as an exercise in futility. Majek woke up one day and zoomed off to America where he was a citizen since 1998. After the fiasco, we get glimpses of his warped life from disheartening pictures of him as destitute and from Youtube interviews where he appeared drunk and sounding like a broken record.
Mercifully, despite his somewhat ‘loony’ tendencies, Majek Fashek has not lost his art. Far from it. Music is still his soul. His voice still intact, his music sense not rusty either. Give him a guitar and in a jiffy he’d become sane, transformed into reggae extraordinaire that he used to be in the past.
Now the question: what is bugging Majek?
His insatiable thirst for alcohol is his manifest problem. If alcoholism is his problem, there is a method and there are institutions that can fix that. Therapy. But do chronic alcoholics you know go street-begging or pestering strangers for a penny for tots of spirits? His alcoholism is symptomatic of a latent cause. If you had interacted with him at close quarter, you would know that there is more to his malaise than mere liquor.
Two years ago, I met him at Airport base, Ikeja, Lagos. We had a refreshing interview session surrounded by the A-Plus Global management team. That day, I found him listening to “Dekha Ek Kwab”, an Indian song from the Bollywood movie Silsila. He said he derived inspiration from such music. He took his guitar, expertly strummed the strings, played Marley’s So Jah Says, not one of my seeds shall sit in the sidewalk and beg for bread…His voice vintage Marley. That moment, Majek was sane and savvy.
He offered to cook for us – me and my photojournalist colleague, Ayo Sode. We declined. Yet his good humour was belied by a disturbing undertone. I figured it out: Majek has lost his mind. I left with little faith that the A plus crew can turn him around. Even when they subsequently stage-managed him for some months – Majek in church. Majek at shows. Majek in the public – the whole PR shebang. It wasn’t long before the cookie crumbled again.
In his muddled state of mind, Majek still has a sense of right and wrong. He still talks about Olodumare. He talks righteousness. He cites the Bible. He recites psalms like poetry. It is all decoys. The cold fact is Majek has lost his mind. Hear Monica Omorodion Swaida, once his back up singer and still close to his family in America: “apart from his alcoholism, he has spiritual and mental issues to go with it.” That is what we should be fixing for him. His broken mind. By whatever therapy we are going to put him back in one piece, the Project Save Majek should not lose sight of what he most needed. New soul. New anointing. New mind.