Hearing that Michael was dying the day he did didn’t come as surprise to me, because I had always seen him as a tragic figure. But I was very shaken by the fact that the day finally came. Was I honoured? I don’t know. In recent times, I had felt pains the deaths of entertainers like Tupac Shakur, Brenda Fassie, Bala Miller Sunny Okosuns, and Lucky Dube. I also felt the death of Roxy Kassim Kachif, a Kaduna-based Bala Miller protégé and rising star that died in a road accident in October 2000. Each of these had their personal impacts on me for either the inspirations I drew from their arts or contacts with them.
Michael Jackson was the entertainer’s entertainer. Every artist drew some inspiration from him, no matter the generation in which we lived. We loved his perfectionism. You can hear this from the broad range of tributes, people sharing their personal pains at his loss, and even some taking their lives to ‘join him’. We knew Michael Jackson the songwriter and performer, whose choreography grabbed our collective attention. He gave his life to us all and voyeuristically we watched him perform for us all his life. The good, the sad and mindboggling.
I imagine his life, with very little moment to be alone with himself. He had the two ingredients for attracting large crowds: fame and money. He was electric, at his performances and the videos. So, people were always around to exploit any of these, and more. For a child brought up under protection from the world in its harsh realness, it was easy for Michael Jackson to be hoodwinked by world-savvy lawyers, managers and promoters. He may have hired the best of lawyers and accountants on whose advise he relied, but they were all there for a piece of him, even if it was (and is) to write another bestselling book from the antics they would observe at close range.
The media has been there to feed on it. Michael was a billion-dollar industry for those who recognise that even bad publicity is good publicity. That is why, in death, they are milking him, while we the consumers egg them on. Right now the rumour magazines have come out with their vilest of stories on MJ, just to sell some more. They are saying he died about 18 to 20 years ago and his corpse was buried in Neverland; they say he was bald at the time of his death last month; they say he kept money in garbage bins; they say so many more wicked things.
He was not a saint, just like we all are not. On the day he died, watching the outpour of emotions from his fans, I wondered if he won’t soon be deified. There were those who said he couldn’t hurt a rodent. They wept for so many reasons.
Michael was therefore an object used for entertainment and business, like a laptop. We, the ordinary people used him for the former, while the businessmen made money off him. This is why I easily ignore the “whacko” antics he was known for, because it was to the benefit of those parasites. And, true, most mobile phone networks are reaping their dividends of Jackson’s death now, sending texts to solicit that patrons download MJ’s songs for a fee. The world isn’t fair on Michael Jackson. It’s the tragedy of our existence. Now I really understand the three words of the often overworked in situations like this: “Rest”, “in”, “Peace”. Mike is.
Okenyodo is based in Abuja