Heart of Arts

Debo Adedayo: Mr. Macaroni and Socio-Political Activism, By Toyin Falola

Toyin Falola

 

One of the qualities that distinguish humans from other species of living things is the capacity of the human mind and brain to form values based on many factors — society or environment, upbringing, religion, and a personal sense of purpose or lifelong goal. Although these factors often collaborate to make up a human’s wholesome value system, some have stronger influences on the individual, so much so that they override all other factors. Then, if the individual falls out of line in terms of value, they could retrace their steps and fall back in line if any of the more influential factors had enough influence on them. A personal sense of purpose or lifelong goal is one of the more influential factors that shape the human value system.

An interesting twist in this human phenomenon is that a personal sense of purpose or lifelong goal comes much later in life, unlike several other factors that design our value system. Some people discover it later than they should have after they might have veered off to an untoward path. However, once humans have successfully discovered their sense of purpose or found the path to their lifelong goal, their lives become more meaningful.

Debo Adedayo is a young man who has discovered his purpose and life’s mission and is earnestly pursuing it. It might not be in the obvious way you know him, but he is a man given to activism, social change, and advocating for the masses through legitimate and influential means. Debo is the popular Nigerian comedian, actor, and activist, whom you most likely know as Mr. Macaroni. The character and personality of this young man transcend an agbada-wearing rich Nigerian, a corrupt, people-deceiving politician, a student-harassing professor, or any other role he takes up in the course of his message-sending work. His environment and upbringing must have deeply influenced him, as his father, Chief Alao Adedayo, is a veteran journalist and the publisher of Alaroye Newspapers.

If there is anything about journalism, it is a profession for the vocal and fearless fenders of public interest. Therefore, it is not surprising that Debo grew up with an ambition to study Law. Although he ended up studying Creative Arts at the Redeemer’s University due to several issues that could be summed up into the dreaded maxim, “Nigeria happened to him,” his endeavours in the past few years are enough proof that if he had studied Law, he would most likely have ventured into human rights activism — for at his core is the burning wish to fend for the public good and speak truth to power.

Before 2020, Debo was a comic skit sensation whose social media pages served comic relief in various forms to teeming viewers. He was emerging as one of the most popular new generation comedians who were neither into stand-up comedy nor sitcoms, but what is termed skit-making. Of course, things did not start initially on the comic skit-making path for the Lagos-born Debo Adedayo. Being a graduate of both the PEFTI Film Institute and a graduate of creative arts from Redeemer’s University, he had initially ventured into the Nollywood industry at the early stage of his career, acting in several movies, the details of which could be seen on his Instagram page.

However, the Mr. Macaroni stage name and comedy skits started popping up on Instagram and YouTube in 2019, and within one year, the brilliant comic skit-maker had studied the industry and audience enough to know the trends and the kinds of content that appealed to the audience, thus riding to fame (his followership base on Instagram, Facebook YouTube, and Twitter stand at a combined figure of over 7 million). Mr. Macaroni strives to portray several social vices through his characters and support characters while also appealing to the audience and gaining more followers. While 2020 was a defining point in Adedayo’s life and career in terms of socio-political activism, the fact remains that the comic skit maker and actor has been more than a comedian for a long time.

Looking into Mr. Macaroni’s past, especially his undergraduate days at the Redeemer’s University, one would quickly notice that his adventure into social activism, taking up public responsibility, and speaking to power did not start today. If he claims to be of the S’oro Soke generation—the appellation the Nigerian youth adopted during the famous #EndSARS protests—then he is, not only for his role during the 2020 protests but also because he had demonstrated that he is a people-supporting activist on several occasions in the past — even before he came to the limelight.

While he was a student at Redeemer’s University, Debo held several leadership positions, including President of the General Students’ Association. He had a drag-on with the school management for a piece he published on his Facebook page in 2017. The post, which criticized his alma mater’s administrative style, caught the interest of the school management, leading to Debo’s expulsion on October 8, 2017. From a protracted dragging that later resulted in a lawsuit, he could reclaim his student status and graduate from the university after the school agreed to settle out of court. Thus, the vocal, openly non-partisan Mr. Macaroni did not just happen on a new identity in the wake of the events in 2020. Those events might have catalyzed his reawakening, but they did not create that side of him.

In 2020, at the height of police brutality and sheer mishandling of citizens, the Nigerian youth came out en-masse to protest their unjust suffering at the hands of law enforcement agents, infamously popular among whom were members of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. That period was one of the most unifying, defining, yet traumatic, perspective-changing, and orientation-shifting for the Nigerian youth. During this time, Mr. Macaroni was one of the most vocal influential Nigerian youth who spoke through their social media platforms, lent their voice to the protests, and occupied the streets to fiercely condemn the brutality of the police.

Adedayo was arrested, along with some other Nigerian youth during this troubling period, and members of the Nigeria Police Force assaulted them. The young activist tweeted about how some of the police agents who arrested and harassed them kept on hammering on how they would release him only because he is “Mr. Macaroni” — a popular influencer and comedian whose sudden absence would raise a lot of brows and generate rippling reactions if the police tried to keep him for longer. One of the most notable things Debo did during this period was to create video content, which we cannot pass as a comedy skit in this instance due to its nature. The video content aptly portrayed what was happening in the country, what the youth was suffering, and why they took to the streets to protest. The content also served as the youth’s statement about what was happening.

What did the video content achieve? Mr. Macaroni’s audience is not comprised of the youth alone. Some adult Nigerians or other Africans might not have known the cause of the protests and why the youth were on the street. However, the creation of the video content served as a means to reach out to that category of people to help them understand. Another thing he achieved by making a strong statement with the video was to boost the morale of the protesting youth. After the 2020 #EndSARS protests, Mr. Macaroni returned to his comic skits. However, he returned with a reawakening — a determination to continue to use his platforms and the influence he has garnered through them to create socio-political awareness, defend the public good, speak truth to those in power, and stand up for the masses. And he has not looked back ever since.

If you watch his videos on YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook, you would see the most popular of his characters, the agbada-wearing, contract-winning, promiscuous Nigerian rich man who is always trying to prey on the young. However, you would also see other videos subtly slotted into his video creation schedule — depicting the citizen-robbing politician who only knows his constituents every four years. Mr. Macaroni recognizes what has helped him gain such a following on social media. He knows the kind of content the people love, and he has not stopped delivering such content to them. Nevertheless, he is also advancing his cause of political awareness by subtly sharing content designed to look like comic skits. In doing so, he reawakens the electorate’s consciousness, all while they believe they are having a good laugh watching a funny skit.

In this imminent Nigerian election period, Adedayo’s concerted efforts to continually speak up for the suppressed and awaken the Nigerian people’s consciousness cannot be anything short of laudable. His efforts are undoubtedly yielding rippling effects on the Nigerians in his demographic bracket (the youth) and on Nigerians across all ages, social classes, and gender. Aside from religion, online skits are among the top things that Nigerians of different demographic and psychographic strata share in common. And thus, Mr. Macaroni’s efforts are not only laudable but also worthy of recognition and emulation.

Please join us for a conversation with Mr: Macaroni on

Sunday, June 12, 2022

5:00 PM Nigeria

4:00 PM GMT

11:00 AM Austin CST

Register and Watch:
https://www.tfinterviews.com/post/debo-adedayo

Join via Zoom:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82709322285

Watch on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/tfinterviews/live

Watch on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2lvX7A2iVndiCq0NfFcb0w/live

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