Tiwa Savage At The Headies: The Night ‘Mummy Jam Jam’ Became Part Of Nigeria’s Codeine Crisis

There’s no getting around it: Tiwa Savage was a disaster at Saturday’s Headies Awards. She didn’t have any wardrobe malfunction nor did she fall off the stage. Her WTF moment was the much-anticipated performance.

For context, when her track with Wizkid was announced as the winner of the Best Collabo category, Dr Sid who received it on her behalf explained that Tiwa was preparing for her set and couldn’t make it on stage. That set didn’t happen for another two hours. When it eventually started, she shocked fans in the audience and online with the song choice: Coedine Diet, the street hit that she and Reminisce were featured on by DJ Enimoney. Was Ms Savage really perfoming THAT song?

Tiwa Savage has been damn near perfect. As a member of the Mavin collective, her star shone brighter than any of her colleagues- and as the record label struggles to maintain the dominance it once had on the industry, Tiwa remains the most successful female musician in the land. Her decision to hop on the ‘shaku shaku’wave is further proof that she can experiment with unusual sounds and get away with it.

Meanwhile there’s a widespread epidemic of opiate abuse in Nigeria right now. It is a common sight to see users drink copious amounts of codeine to get high. It has become a crisis of sorts, with the Senate revealing that over three million bottles of the syrup in northern Nigeria alone!

As art often imitates life, it wasn’t surprising that Nigerian musicians hopped on the trend to make music. There has been no end to the codeine references in songs, from Small Doctor’Penalty to Olamide‘s Science Student and the aforementioned Codeine Diet. Now one does not expect these men and women to be choir boys, certainly, they’re allowed a vice or two. One is not also not naive to imagine that some of them are not addicted to a few substances. This writer in particular, has said on several occasions that Nigerians need to hold their public officials to the high standard they do entertainers.

At a point in anyone’s career, they attain a level where they cease to be inconsequential. Tiwa knows that and that why on the Codeine Diet song, she attempted to self-censor by saying ‘protein’ instead of the problematic word. However during the performance in question, she not only sang the chorus along with the obviously inebriated Reminisce, she pranced around the stage in excitement.

There’s also the issue of if the song should even be on the playlist at all, seeing that is has such unapologetic drug use references, but that’s a different conversation in itself.

Whilst one does not excuse Reminisce, the rapper has always made no bones about his affinity for the ‘streets’. His own were-were is part of the persona. To expect him to behave differently is an exercise in futility: Alaga Ibile will always come across as an ‘area boy’. His latest song is titled ‘Ajigijaga’, after the Yoruba movie character who was a thief. Go figure.

On the other hand, Tiwa is the one who has positioned herself to be ‘Mummy Jam Jam’. Her son is an essential part of her brand. Her identity is carefully curated to portray her as a loving mother who just happens to be an entertainer. Jam Jamfeatures well on her social media page. At the very least, it doesn’t sit well that she doesn’t have a problem with the coedine theme. Like political commentators on Twitter say, the optics are bad. Worse still, the recklessness of her performance went beyond mere perception and the irony of making light of substance abuse must have been lost on her. In 2016 when her marital crises first became public courtesy of an early morning Instagram meltdown and a near suicide by her husband, Tiwa Savage’s well-orchestrated narrative was ‘TJ was on drugs and had addiction issues’. She kept emphasizing that she loved him still and would want him to seek help for the resultant mental illness. ‘Even if it was weed, I can still manage. But cocaine?! Ah….’, she famously said in the interview.

So what has changed now, that Ms Savage thinks codeine abuse is something flippant? Her repertoire is so rich that she could have chosen any song at random and it would still be a hit. But she chose this problematic track.

All around the world, entertainers are using their platforms for greater good. Kim Kardashian, for example, is working with her country’s government to free a woman who has been wrongfully imprisoned for twenty-one years and counting. In his own unique way, even Davido enjoined his entertainers to help other people with their platforms as he picked up his award as Artiste of The Year.

At 37 years old and as accomplished as she is, Mummy Jam Jam should not be random. She is too successful not to be a role model. Young people who are dealing with addiction should not turn the tv on and see a powerful woman like her wax lyrical about codeine. There’s a serious dearth of role models in this country. By her thoughtless choice to perform Codeine Diet on the biggest entertainment event of the year, she made herself part of the problem.

There’s ‘tone-deaf’ and there’s ‘irresponsible’.  Tiwa Savage was the latter on that night.

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