A Life of Protests: The Politics of Charles Oputa

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that Mr. Charles Chukwuemeka Oputa, better known as Charly is an unconventional rights campaigner who sometimes establishes advocacy groups with ridiculous nomenclature, albeit with underlying messages that are not lost

Charles Chukwuemeka Oputa, better known as Charly Boy is in a hurry to reach the landmark age of 70 years. There are two accounts of his age. One suggests he was born in 1950. The other puts his birth year at 1951. However, both are in agreement on his birthday as June 19. Speaking with this reporter on the issue of his correct age, he answered tongue-in-cheek, “Age is a number,” he said. If you say I am 40 years. That is fine. Whatever you say is what I am.”
Longevity runs in the family. His father, the eminent jurist, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa passed on at 89 years in 2014. His mother, Mrs. Margaret Oputa died last year at 100 years.

Charles, the second son of the Oputas was a precocious child.

He was only a teenager when he registered his first rebellious act. Sent to the United States of America to study Law so he could walk in the dignified footsteps of his father in the legal profession, he deviated and followed his mind to study Communication Arts. Since that apparent assertion of his independence, he has not shied away from confronting any challenge that confronts his conviction.

Back in Nigeria, he chose to live on his own terms, charting a path that was uncommon. The entertainment industry that he delved into had accepted only one deviant-Fela Anikulapo-Kuti-after he badgered the existing institutions with irresistible creativity that forced many to overlook his moral extremities. Then came Charly Boy with his divergent mannerisms. He had a well-structured script in which he was the protagonist, along with his willing wife, Diane, an African-American. This was a rare couple. Their outlandish items of dressing were irritating to many, but it caught and retained the attention of the youths.

It wasn’t long before the rest of the society who thought they were mad, started paying attention to them. Charly Boy was a mad man with a reason!

It took a couple of years for Mr. Oputa to earn a slot on primetime television with the Charly Boy Show and attract so much traffic to his residence that that part of Lagos was named after him. The television programme later metamorphosed into a personality interview session with some of the biggest names in Nigerian governance and business, including past Nigerian rulers.

While many still underrated his intelligence and ability to rally people round a common goal, he emerged as President of Nigerian performing musicians. In that capacity, Mr. Oputa was finally positioned to play activist and advocacy roles. He also deployed this newfound power to charity, like when he helped to raise money to help restore the health of his friend and co-entertainer, Tina Onwudiwe. The first institution of state to taste the force of protest was the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), the Federal Government’s broadcast corporation. In a never-seen-before protest, Oputa led Nigerian musicians to lock the gates of the main broadcast station in Victoria Island, Lagos for days, demanding payment for use of artistes’ works.

For his unwavering stance against bad governance and injustice, Oputa is frequently linked to protests to upturn obsolete hierarchies and kick out old cultures that impede the unfettered freedom and lifestyle he cherishes. In pursuit of this dreams and ambitions, he has been known to cross the line back and forth; sometimes looking confused to his critics. But his fierce passion for change can’t be mistaken and many times he has suffered personal discomfort in the process.
In the rebel life that has become his trademark, Oputa keeps no permanent friends or permanent enemies. He picks a placard and gets in the front of a protesting crowd, wherever his conviction takes him.
Whether he is standing with commercial motorcyclists, pensioners or students, he takes each advocacy seriously and does not mind being brutalised by the police and the military. It takes a lot of guts to march with military pensioners to defence headquarters to ask for their entitlements. He has also championed the cause of widows.

A rights campaigner who sometimes establishes advocacy groups with ridiculous nomenclature, the underlying messages are not lost. For instance, it may sound laughable to head a group called ‘Save Nigeria from Nigeria’, but that is exactly what he did. Come to think of it, is Nigeria not on a course to self-destruct? In 2012, the musician turned rights activist was out on the streets to lead the Fuel Subsidy protest. For this, he was put out of circulation for some time by the authorities. Oputa had at another time led a protest to pressurise the Federal Government to prosecute a former Petroleum Minister, Mrs Deziani Allison-Madueke for alleged corruption.

In recent tines, however, the myriad of controversies that attended the OurMumuDonMovement which he cofounded with Mr. Deji Adeyanju appears to have dwarfed every advocacy related effort of the past. OurMumuDonDo was characterized by all the elements that makes a blockbuster: fiery characters, tension-soaked seasons filled with twists and the prize of big money, which led to cutthroat rivalry and treachery.

The pressure group started well, for all intents and purposes. Its major goal was to awaken the consciousness of Nigerians to reject the two major political parties”the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 national elections. It would later be revealed that Oputa had some monetary transaction with one of the principals of the President Muhammadu Buhari campaigners, while Adeyanju was cooling his feet in Kano Prison on trumped charges spuriously arranged to take him away from the agitation.

Oputa, allegedly admitted he was paid, but that it was compensation for a video he produced against former Vice President Abubakar Atiku, who was then the presidential candidate of the PDP. The payment was fat and in excess of N100 million. After giving another thought to it, Oputa repudiated his earlier claim. Members of OurMumuDonDo were infuriated. A faction of the group sacked him as Chairman, while another faction pledged loyalty to his leadership.

The connection with Buhari in that demeaning form was why many who could not understand his alleged receipt of bribe money were quick to label him a disappointment and a turn-coat. This was the same Buhari against who Oputa had led a ResumeOrResign protest. He was wounded by the police in that protest, for which he sued the police in the Federal Capital Territory for N500 million. The court, however, awarded him N50 million in compensation.

A few months ago, Oputa surprised everyone when he and his group marched against the head of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), insisting that he must air his views on the wanton killing of Nigerians all over the country by suspected herdsmen.
For all his show of patriotism, Oputa is hated by his kinsmen in the Southeast of Nigeria, who are mounting a separatist agitation for an independent country, Biafra. He has

a target for physical at an Abuja market when he showed resentment for President Buhari’s long absence from Nigeria on account of ill-health. Oputa was also in the forefront of the OccupytheNationalAssembly protest.. Another protest championed by the former President of Nigerian musicians is the OneVoiceNigeria protest.

Explaining his penchant for civil disobedience, Oputa said, “I have spent over 40 years of my life leading protest for a better society, and I can tell you that street protest will not change our leaders.

“My father always told me back then that whenever I see injustice, I should fight it because it may come to affect me someday too, and that is my motivation for fighting injustice over these years.

“On several occasions, I have been tortured by the Nigerian police and the military for standing up to authorities to ask questions.

“However, on some occasions, I have been regarded as their friends, depending on the sensibility of those in power.

“I am not a professional protester, so now I have decided to use other means to hold leaders accountable.’’
Charly Boy who calls himself President of Frustrated Nigerians has recently promised to adopt other methods of pricking the conscience of his compatriot’s to demand for their rights. Apparently, his resort is to music and he will be churning out didactic and politically-charged messages under the broad theme, :NaWeBeGovernmemt.

QUOTE:

For his unwavering stance against bad governance and injustice, Oputa is frequently linked to protests to upturn obsolete hierarchies and kick out old cultures that impede the unfettered freedom and lifestyle he cherishes. In pursuit of this dreams and ambitions, he has been known to cross the line back and forth; sometimes looking confused to his critics. But his fierce passion for change can’t be mistaken and many times he has suffered personal discomfort in the process.