By SOLOMON NDA-ISAIAH
Amidst the rising agitations seeking to redefine the Nigerian entity after 106 years of amalgamation and 60 years of independence, notable U.S.-based musician, social commentator and peace activist, Prince Ayo Manuel Ajisebutu is suing for peace at what appears to be a more volatile period in Nigeria’s history, urging the citizens to embrace love as the only virtue that can save Nigeria from possible genocide.
Ajisebutu’s concern stems from the alarming rate of separatist agendas by the different ethnic groups in Nigeria; the most recent being the call for Oduduwa Republic among the Yoruba people of South-West during the last 60th independence anniversary of the country. Before now, there have been similar agitations in virtually every area of Nigeria, like the call for Biafra Republic in the South-East, Arewa Republic in the North, and Niger Delta Republic in the South-South. What appears to be the only consideration for the unity of Nigeria as a federation, are pockets of other agitations for restructuring through a sovereign national conference, referendum or resource control.
Indeed, the unity of Nigeria continues to be threatened by perceived political imbalance and domination of the country’s top government positions like the Armed Forces, Police, and Civil Service by the Hausa/Fulani ethnic group since independence — such sense of entitlements, many believe, is responsible for the incessant farmers/herdsmen clash, Ruga settlement controversies, invasion of the southern Nigeria’s forests by armed nomads and high spate of kidnappings. This worrisome trend has led to a feeling of alienation, dissatisfaction and mistrust among the various constituents of Nigeria, giving rise to criticism of the current leadership by opposition parties, religious leaders, social commentators, including a recent statement credited to former president Olusegun Obasanjo that, Nigeria has never been divided like it is under the current administration.
With the ongoing political tension in the country, Ajisebutu brings his peace activism to bear, urging his native countrymen to eschew lawlessness in order to not plunge the country into chaos.
“Imagine how millions of lives could have been saved in Rwanda and Burundi if the world stood up at the beginning of the genocide that ravaged the two countries,” he says, adding that his “mission is to inspire people globally to behave royally and do everything with love for the greater good of humanity.” He believes we are all connected and we must burry all divisive ideologies in order to experience total peace and prosperity during our short stay here on earth.
Prince Ajisebutu is the Founder and President of MansMark Records, an entertainment outfit in Los Angeles, California. In 1995 he organized several rallies to save the Nigerian human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 9 from being killed by General Abacha. He later joined forces with comrade Tunde Okorodudu and other Nigerians in Oakland and San Francisco area to form Free Nigeria Movement. Their activities received the support of organizations such as Greenpeace, Amnesty International, and Rainforest Action Network. He was also the producer and presenter of Voice of Free Nigeria, a weekly radio show that urged Nigerians to take charge of their destiny. The radio was used to protest the annulment of the election of June 12, unjust imprisonment of oppositions and other atrocities committed by the junta regime of General Abacha. His history of activism and constant call for love, peace and unity date back to the 80s, and are reflected in his songs, like “Save Nigeria” (1991), “Africans Unite”(1991) and soon to be released “Make a Change.”
Today, Ajisebutu frowns at a situation whereby, under a supposed democratic rule, peaceful protesters cannot gather without being harassed by the police and men of the Department of State Security (DSS). He asks that the leader of Revolution Now, Omoyele Sowore, not be kept in Abuja under the order of the court for asking for better governance for Nigerians.
A social change agent, entrepreneur, and creator of A.Y.ZERO clothing line, his personal mantras: “Behave Royally,” “Love, Don’t Hate” and “We are Connected” serve as blueprint for all his business ventures, music, and creative endeavors. To this, he says: “I consider my work to be an evolving, expanding vision to create a better world, no matter what I am doing.”
His first album, “Love Candidate,” with his then stage name Ayo Manuel, was released on his label MansMark Records in 1983 at the height of the Second Republic in Nigeria. The album voiced his intention to run for office as the Love Candidate (a political statement) and received extensive airplay on radio and television. Ajisebutu released his second album, “Party Zone,” in 1991 and was distributed by Polygram-Nigeria. His album, “Put on a Smiling Face,” was released in 1996 and was met with high praise from fans and peers. As a peace activist, he writes and produces a hybrid-style of music that blends traditional African dance rhythms and Nigerian juju tunes with Western and Caribbean sounds.
Since his arrival in the United States, Prince Ayo Manuel furthered his passions with new music and activism, spreading his melodies and motivational messages through troubled youth homes and women’s prisons in the San Francisco Bay Area, along with playing a significant role in several human rights campaigns.