It was the end of an era Tuesday when Bunny Wailer, the last of the original Wailing Wailers passed away, aged 73.
Bunny (original name Neville O’Rilley Livingston) completed the trio that formed the reggae music group, Bob Marley and the Wailing Wailers, alongside Marley and Peter Tosh in the 1960s. They recorded hit albums like Simmer Down, Stir it Up, and many others, before Bunny went solo around 1973. His reason was simple. He didn’t like extensive touring that the band did, saying it clashed with his Rastafarian beliefs, citing the pressure to eat processed foods and play in “freak clubs.”
He added: “Music is based on inspiration and if you’re in an environment where you are up and down, here and there, that’s how your music is going to sound.”
Bunny Wailer made a success of his solo career, just as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh did of their own. He won three Grammy Awards.
Bob Marley, easily the biggest and most successful of the Wailing Wailers, was the first to die of cancer on May 11, 1981. He was aged 36.
On September 11, 1987, Peter Tosh was shot dead by some gunmen, who had attempted to rob him at his Jamaican home. He was aged 42.
Bunny lived longest, but had been in and out of hospital for a couple of years, before he died this week. He stopped wailing at age 73. He was a cultural icon in Jamaica.
Bob Marley had said they picked the expression Wailing Wailers for the band, because “we started out crying” against different ills of society. But now, the wailing has turned full circle, as the original members of the reggae group are all dead.
In June 2015, just about a month into the Muhammadu Buhari administration, it was crystal clear that some people would not let well be. At the slightest drop of a hat, they began to ululate, wail and cry as if pepper had been put in their sensitive parts. They shouted themselves hoarse, particularly on social media, as if it was the beginning and end of the world, and as if it was the best way to distract the President from doing anything. Almost six years later, they are still at it.
The negative chorus was led by Olisa Metuh, the then spokesman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). If the President coughed, he would say he didn’t cough well, and issue a press statement. If he smiled, he would say what was there to smile about in the Nigerian situation, and follow up with a press statement. If it rained, Buhari ooo, it didn’t rain at all, Buhari ooo. If a man was like a stud with his wife, Buhari ooo, he suffered power failure at night, still Buhari. Press statements became a dime a dozen.
One day, Metuh had issued one of his ‘yeye’ press statements, and I decided to respond via a Tweet. I said those who shout endlessly about the President should realize that power had slipped inexorably out of their hands, at least for the next four years. I ended it with the expression; “Wailing Wailers.”
It caught on like harmattan wildfire. He has abused us o. He called us wailers. Yes, what were they? Wailers. Wailing wailers, no apologies. The battle line was drawn.
They came after me like wild coyotes, but to me, it was just like water off the duck’s back. If the woman cooking egusi soup sees a toad hopping by, she can only hiss, and turn her face away. The toad cannot end in her soup pot.
They screamed, shouted, wailed, and at the end of the day, they decided to adopt the appellation. They began to call themselves wailing wailers.
Now that Bunny, the last of the Wailing Wailers, is dead, can we see it as an allegory? Is it not also time for the wailing wailers here to keep their peace? Instead of grumbling, murmuring and complaining about everything, can they rather begin to wish the government well, pray for those in authority, and give constructive advice? Instead of caviling about our military and the security challenges, can they begin to applaud them for their exploits, and say ‘God bless our troops?’ Can they see the many good works that President Buhari is doing for the country, and not just wail about the shortcomings? Heck! There’s no perfect administration anywhere, not in the Americas, Europe, Asia, not anywhere in the world. And there won’t be.
Bunny Wailer is dead. It draws the curtains on the group called Bob Marley and the Wailing Wailers. Let our own local wailers understand that the wailing market is over. It’s now time to go home.
•Adesina is Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity.