On February 14, 2021, Nigerian superstar and Marlian Records boss, Naira Marley was slated to headline a Valentine’s Day concert in Central African country, Cameroon. On his Instagram story, Marley thanked his Cameroonian Marlians, who stormed the airport in numbers and mobbed him, to give him a superstar reception.
However, later in the day, Marley put up an Instagram carousel of himself smoking and captioned it thus, “Fuk that shii, light that shii, puff that shii, me I like that shii…”
A while later, the show was cancelled and Naira Marley left Cameroon on the morning of February 15, 2020. Prince Mykel Enobi, whose firm, The Empire Company, brought Marley to the country has since told excited Marlians that they should hold on to their tickets, pending the rescheduling of the concert.
How did we get here?
In the final quarter of 2020, Enobi and his company booked Naira Marley to perform at the ill-fated Valentine’s Day concert in 2021. This came in the thick of rising anti-Nigerian sentiment in Cameroon. It also came in the thick of the ongoing bitter Anglophone vs. Francophone sentiment in Cameroon.
The anti-Nigerian sentiment came to a head when Cameroonian comedian and actor, Pancho C.Y International called for a ban on Nigerian music in Cameroon. He claimed that continuous traction for Nigerian music was robbing Cameroonian artists of genuine traction in their own country.
After he attended a Cameroonian party in Francophone Cameroon and witnessed Francophone DJs slamming Nigerian music in preference to music from Anglophone Cameroonian artists, Stanley Enow pleaded with Cameroonian DJs to put the inter-tribal sentiment aside and support their own Anglophone brethren.
In January 2021 and on her show, Freaky Table, Joan Ngomba discussed the anti-Nigerian sentiment with artist and music producer, Phillbill Beats and Prince Mykel Enobi, founder of Empire Company. Enobi spoke about the positives of Nigeria-Cameroon relationship and collaboration.
He also rightly maintained that Cameroon music can grow on its own, without an outright ban on Nigerian music. Alongside his decision to make Naira Marley, a Nigerian a headliner at his Valentine’s Day concert in Buea, Cameroon over a Cameroonian, his sentiment on Ngomba’s show didn’t sit well with Cameroonian artists.
In response, Cameroonian artist, Tzy Panchak proclaimed that he was bigger than Naira Marley in a viral video. Later, he also proclaimed that he was bigger than all Nigerian artists, a statement that was mocked by a female Cameroonian blogger.
The scuppered Valentine’s Day concert
As the day got closer, some Cameroonian artists allegedly started spreading propaganda that Naira Marley was a weed smoker and an instigator of the EndSARS movement whose avant-garde would negatively influence young Cameroonians.
A source tells Pulse Nigeria that the propaganda got as high as the office of the Cameroonian Minister for Arts and Culture.
According to the source, detractors of the show also allegedly claimed that Enobi and his company had failed to obtain proper governmental authorization for the show. In reality, Enobi had actually paid all the necessary fees and secured all necessary licenses from the District Officer [D.O] of Buea, Cameroon to commence his show.
Due to the allegations, the show was then moved from Buea to Limbe, Cameroon. Still uncontented by the movement, the detractors again complained till the Ministry of Arts and Culture and Enobi rescheduled the show for the city of Douala, Cameroon.
Mykel Enobi, the show promoter says, "The problem has nothing to do with me. I wouldn't want to mention names, but two weeks before the event, people started these claims that Naira Marley was a weed smoker and strong pillar of the EndSARS movement. The government had pictures and even videos - I don't know how they got them.
"We thought we could manage it, until we had to move to Limbe barely 24 hours before show. From there, we then rescheduled to Douala. This isn't the first time I'll bring a Nigerian artist to Cameroon and this isn't the first time I'll lose money. I also don't regret anything I said on 'Freaky Table.'
"The solution to Cameroonian problems isn't a ban on all things Nigerian. I'm a businessman, I will only do things that favour me and things that will bring me money. Naira Marley is a big brand who will bring in money for me and my sponsors. Why would I not want him?"
Anglophone Cameroon is a hotbed for protests and unrest, so Enobi understands why the government would spring into action to quell anything that would heighten the unrest. He only has a grouse about the motive of the people who complained to the government in the first place.
In the end, the show failed to hold and Naira Marley had to apologize to his fans.
KO-C’s comeback show
In the middle of the drama, Cameroonian rapper, KO-C curiously announced his comeback show for the same day as Naira Marley and Enobi’s show. Interestingly, he made the concert free for all and slated it for his hometown, Kumba, Cameroon. Our source claims Kumba has the highest concentration of Nigerians in Cameroon.
Like Buea, Limbe and Douala - that at different times almost hosted Marley’s show - Kumba is also in the South-West of Cameroon; a place that seldom sees huge concerts. After Marley’s show failed irretrievably, KO-C’s show went ahead and became hugely successful.
The laughable claims of weed smoking
In response, another source claims that, “Whether Naira Marley is in Cameroon or not, people will smoke weed. Jovi, a Cameroonian artist is known for openly smoking weed. A few days before Naira’s concert, Kameni, a female artist, was smoking weed in a music video. This weed that we’re talking about has been legalized in different parts of the world for different reasons.”
The failure of the show allegedly cost Enobi in excess of 40 million Francs.
Our source then added, “If that show had held, a lot of businesses would have thrived from taxis to traders to food sellers, to event centre organizers and even internet service providers. These things aid our economy.
“But instead, the show has broken down, a Cameroonian has lost money while Naira Marley has gone with his money because he fulfilled all contractual obligations by showing up. And it’s not like Naira Marley was the only performer at the concert, he’s just the headliner. The performers at the show were significantly Cameroonian.”
In April 2021, the Cameroonian International Film Festival (CAMIFF) will be held in Boya, Cameroon. The event lasts for six days and brings in several Nollywood stars.
One of our sources claims that the show always presents an opportunity to help the Cameroonian film industry grow via collaboration in production and even acting.
“In the mid-2000s, collaboration between Nollywood and crossover stars greatly heightened the rise and success of the Ghanaian movie industry,” the source claims. “Cameroon needs something like that, but with the continued anti-Nigerian sentiment, how long will Nigerians be open to collaboration with Cameroonians on any front?”
“Some of the nationalist arguments are well-meaning, but they are now close to jingoist claims,” the source continues. “CAMIFF has seen attendance from Nigerian and Ghanaian actors in recent years. How long will the two countries stand with Cameroon if this continues?”
It’s also quite sad that the sentiment isn’t against all foreign acts, it’s only against Nigerians. A few days before Marley’s show, Congolese superstar, Fally Ipupa headlined successful shows in Douala and Yaounde.
French singer, Dadju also recently did the same. Kizz Daniel is set to perform at a show in October, only God knows how that will end.
Our sources hope that these issues stop, for the sake of Cameroonians.