Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Fekete Pákó: Symbol and Victim of Media Hatred for Africans in Hungary

Fekete Pákó and audience; with fiancee; with a dancer; in a bull game

By Hakeem Babalola

The Hungarian tabloids knew their mission from the moment they discovered and created Fekete Pákó. A great deal of media hype has surrounded the making of this African till today. Fekete Pákó is what the local media circus needs to placate the Africans as human eaters, polygamous, and perhaps dummies. Hungarian tabloids need a figure, an African to generate intense media interest. They found the figure in Fekete Pákó.

Perhaps the above observation explains why the Hungarian tabloids could hardly do without our brother who seems to to be the vehicle by which they ride to roughshod Africans in Hungary. Hungarian media is so obsessed with him that unless he was present at an event organised by Nigerians, the media would not cover it. Such approach to news reporting further shows that certain segments of Hungarian media is biased in the portrayal of Africans in Hungary.

Although a newspaper or magazine or radio or television has the right to define what is newsworthy, at least, Hungarian media should have searched for an African whose view is different from Fekete Pákó's. This is highly necessary as to preserve the integrity of the profession that chew on fairness and balance. Surely it is an open secret that the news media are interested only in bad news. To come clean, I am of the opinion that Fekete Pákó should not be the only African to delight them, relating to African affairs.

It is apparent that Hungarian media is not ready to search for Africans who could match them word for word, even in Hungarian Language. Most Hungarian journalists are not interested in seeking knowledge about Africa from Africans in Hungary who are knowledgeable and competent to speak about African politics, culture and social life. Rather they need African man or woman who does not speak Hungarian well; or is desperate for publicity; who is ready to accept sarcastic jokes about his or her continent and country.

No, Hungarian media does not need a Gibril Deen or a Olu Owolabi or a Gasper Mtenga or a Peter Ihaza or a John Sessi, or a Tunde Komolafe or a Sammie Adetiloye to speak about Africa. Of course it suits their agenda to use someone who is somehow naive and who could easily be hoodwinked – to symbolize Africans as nonentity. A typical example is the continuous referring to Fekete Pákó as Nigerian singer. I think the appropriate phrase should be Nigerian born Hungarian folklore singer.

Of course they know the difference but most Hungarian journalists would rather choose the one closer to their innate ambition. Perhaps this is the main reason they often exaggerate whatever comes out of this Nigerian who says he is turning over a new leaf. Headlines such as "Pákó Fekete Officially Crowned Dumbest Hungarian" and "Cleb Dish: Szulak Stalked by "Cannibal" Pákó" is nothing but the kind of sensational misrepresentation typical of the tabloids. Blowing news out of proportion is their image.

Although Fekete Pákó, who has Hungarian golden platinum with 3 CDs should share the blame, I want to believe him when he says: "They asked me, do we really eat human flesh? I thought it was a joking question. They hounded me until I told them if you say we eat human flesh, yes just leave me alone. I just want to finish this question. I am Yoruba. Nobody eats flesh. Now I know that whatever you say in the newspaper, the media will exaggerate it. I speak for myself and not for Nigeria or Africa. I am surprised Nigerians turned against me because of this."

But should we blame the media? I am going to dodge this question simply because media publicity is a double edged sword. It can make or mar an individual, especially those who crave for media attention. However, it seems to me that this kind of approach by western media against Africans is a continuous trend all over the world. That Africa means poverty, disease, lazy, and full of unintelligent people pervades the thinking faculty of average westerners. Anyone who reads Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness would probably grasp the whole story.

Gone were the days when I heaped scorn on Fekete Pákó’s ideas which I described as pointless publicity meant to tarnish the image of Nigeria and Africa at large. Afterwards I sat down and asked myself some provocative questions:

Is this guy tarnishing the image of Africa more than African Presidents like Mobutu Sesse Seko, Sani Abacha, Idi Amin who deliberately destroyed Africa financially by siphoning people’s money to Europe and America? Is Fekete Pákó demeaning the image of Africa more than our African elite who are intellectually bankrupt to effect a positive change? Is Pákó spoiling the image of Africa than our eggheads who after finishing their studies remain in Europe or America or other similar countries?

Is Fekete Pákó guiltier than those of us who claimed persecution at home yet could easily return to our different countries without being persecuted? What of those African diplomats who use their exalt office to transact personal business with host countries?

Is Fekete Pákó denigrating Nigeria more than Nigerian official delegates who absconded in South Korea? Is Fekete Pákó soiling Nigerian image more than Nigerian former governors who stole money and kept it in a foreign account? What of Nigerian presidential candidates who needed to treat common cold and bruised leg in far away Germany and Britain respectively? You, Fekete Pákó and I are victims of our leaders’ lack of sagacity and rectitude.

Yet this should not justify attempt by Africans in the Diaspora to engage in activities that might further tarnish our image. But my buroda and sisiter, the issue is larger than that. I quite understand why we expect Fekete Pákó to be sophisticated or watch his tongue. It’s psychologically demanding to assume that whatever he says would be enlarged beyond the truth, thus representing Africa. But then I suppose Hungarians are more intelligent to think Fekete Pákó represents what Africa and Africans stand for.

Fekete Pákó, who is expecting his second child with his fiancee, Plank Ágnes in March, is a victim of bad leadership which has sent most of us into voluntary exile. Many of those who threatened to shoot this guy themselves would love to be in his shoes. It is not easy for Africans to sing in Hungarian language, although if Fekete Pákó were to be in Nigeria or Ghana or Kenya or Senegal or Cameroon, he might have starved to death because no one would have taken him seriously as a singer. But then, that is the beauty of it. Coming to Hungary and becoming the most popular African. I consider it a remarkable feat.

Though he has apologised to Nigerians, Fekete Pákó, whose next project is a reality show termed Fekete Pákó Babysitter to be aired in January on TV2, still does not know what he did wrong to the extent of reporting him to the Nigerian Embassy. "What did I do wrong?" he asks. "Nigerians don’t like what I do. They don't want to be my friends. They want to shoot me down and that was why I appeared during the celebration of Nigerian Independence Day. Let them shoot me there. I have been attacked several times by Africans and Nigerians especially."

Fekete Pákó whose real name is Oludayo Olapite, came to Hungary in 1994 on scholarship to study Law but later dropped out. He becomes emotional when he charged that his critics assumed antic disposition by repeatedly castigating his singing prowess. "If they think it's easy for an African to sing in Hungarian and maintains the tempo for 6 years, let's them try it," adding that, talking about TV personality in Hungary today, it's Fekete Pákó after Gyözika.

Olapite, who stole a warm handshake from the Nigerian Ambassador to Hungary during the Independence Celebration, is not the one to forget those who inspired and nurtured him on the way to becoming the most popular African in Hungary. Two people particularly came to his mind as he looked in retrospect. "Osubu (Tunde Komolafe) took us here and there. He encouraged me to play congas, and especially how to face Hungarians. I thank him for that."

He continued: "My relationship with Toyin (Akinwumi) dated back to 1997. Whenever I have problem, I call him. He is like a father to me. He produced my third CD, A Csoki a Szadba Olvad."

His fiancee is another person in his life he would never forget because of the unwavering emotional support he constantly gets from her. "My wife supports me," he says as he blew her a warm and long kiss. "We would soon get married."

Olapite says he got the nickname, Pákó, from those days when he used to chase girls. ″You know, my friends think I like girls too much. They asked me why I liked girls too much and we started joking about it and phew the word Pákó came up.″ On how he actually got into showbiz, Olapite recalls that it was actually his friend, Molnár Sándor who came up with an idea. Sándor had asked what seemed to be a crazy question: ″What if a black man sings Hungarian folklore?″ The rest as they say is now history.

All in all, I see Olapite as a victim of a larger conspiracy against Africans living in Hungary. Instead of outright dismissing our buroda, let us come up with a programme that would counter whatever we think damages Africa's image in Hungary and let us see if Hungarian media would report it or not. Anything other than this would amount to what Gibril Deen says about African man. " The problem is, African man doesn’t want another to progress. That is our problem."

copyright 2007 mysmallvoice@yahoo.com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, a very nice article. I'm a Hungarian, please do not think that this guy is the image of Africa in our eyes.
There is a lot of racism and misunderstanding of other cultures that exists in our country, unfortunately, however mostly among uneducated, or people so insecure they have nothing else to offer just some kind of 'patriotism' towards their country.. I have seen loads of criticism on 'Fekete Pako', personally I don't like what he has to offer, but to threaten to kill him is a bit too much... The media likes 'clowns'. They're not gonna introduce someone intelligent to talk about Africa, because on shows he's taking part in are not for intellectuals.. And Africa or Nigeria is not a topic discussed on these. I assume many people don't even know which African country he's from. Nigeria is seen as any other African country that is not a best place in the World, exactly because of all the factors you described, but I'm sure that Hungarian people are not less interested in your country as the Nigerians are in mine. :)