Fatai Rolling Dollar: The Nigerian Woman and the Stereotype of Want
Known as Baba Fatai Rolling Dollar, Late Prince Olayiwola Fatai Olagunju (1927 – 2013) was reputed for his landmark contributions to highlife music in Nigeria especially with his hit song, Wón Kéré sí Number Wa and his connections with Late Dr Orlando Owoh (1932 – 2008). He was in fact believed to have had influence on Dr Orlando’s style of music like many others’. Fatai Rolling Dollar was however unlike other famous highlife musicians like the Late Bola Johnson (1947 – 2014); in that he was not known for songs that (almost) routinely focused on women for the amusement of men.
Nigerian highlife musicians were known, at least during Baba Fatai’s days, for their habitual quips on the Nigerian woman. And for a man who, as at the time of his death, had altogether been married to four women from two different backgrounds, Baba Fatai would have been expected to use his “experiences” in revealing all he knew about women. It came as no surprise then, when he did a bit of this in his She Go Run Away.
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She Go Run Away (2010) is a 4-minute warning song to men about the Nigerian woman; what she wants; and how “she go run away,” if they do not provide it. The song simply states at some point or another (a) that there is a Nigerian lady from a particular part of the country; and (b) that since there is a particular thing people, especially – if not only – women from that part crave, you must give it to her; (c) if not, she would leave you.
The song begins with the Lagos lady:
If you marry Lagos lady, make you give am money o
If you no give am money o, she go run away
Lagos is the commercial hub of Nigeria and is said to be, like the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, expensive to live in. City rents are as high as USD7,000 per month, and food and transportation are also high. The belief here is that the typical young Lagos lady, who has no job of her own, has to rely solely on her man to pay rent, feed, get around town and let her friends know her man knows how to treat a woman. If the man then cannot provide her the money to do these things, there would be no reason for her to stay a single second more. What if she is kicked out of her house? That is if the man has not built her a house in Lekki, anyway.
Going further, Baba Fatai eases the tension by leaving money matters for food matters. He sings:
If you marry Egba lady, make you give am láfún o
If you no give am láfún o, she go run away
Egba, another word for Abeokuta, the capital city of southwest Ogun State, is known as the place for láfún, its delicacy. It would somewhat appear discomfiting to have food as one’s own “drug of stay,” but this is not at all surprising when Baba Fatai recommends àmàlà for the Oyo lady; ìkókoré for the Ijebu lady; akpu for the Igbo lady; iyán (pounded yam) for the Ekiti lady – all delicacies of their respective places.
Baba Fatai proceeds, defying all emotion, when he sings:
If you marry Ijaw lady, make you give am ogogoro o
If you no give am ogogoro o, she go run away
Ijaws are peoples from the Niger Delta region south-south of Nigeria, mainly Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta States. One of the most disconcerting stereotypes resounded in this intrepid song is found in the reference to ogogoro. Ogogoro, plainly put, is local gin – ethyl alcohol. In Baba Fatai’s opinion, this is the Ijaw lady’s “drug of stay”. But he sings immediately after this that if the man also refuses to give his Ijaw woman “fish”, she would leave him. He believes therefore, that the typical Ijaw woman would stay with her man for ethanol and fish. The Niger Delta region is, for the record, a predominantly riverine, oil-rich geographical area.
Looking at all these, one concludes that in Baba Fatai’s opinion, a man who has money, food and ethanol can get and in fact hold on to any woman – or at least, any of those mentioned – from any part of Nigeria. The highlife musician makes it this simple. With money, the other two come in easily. And with the three, the Nigerian woman comes in and stays easily. But is this accurate?
What this song attempts to do is recast the crumbling frame of stereotyping the Nigerian woman as a person who can be bought by one thing or another. While we must admit that Baba Fatai wrote this song in a light mood, the truth must nonetheless be told: that his inductive submissions are not valid airings. All humans want. We are never involved in anything, not even our different religions, without expecting something in return. This could have been a better premise for Baba Fatai’s submissions. In this case, everyone (man and woman) would stay with the other for the money, the food and/or the ethanol – and not by where they are from, but because they want something, anything.