Explainer: Why The Headies Disqualified Controversy King, Portable

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At this rate Habeeb Okikiola, whom the streets and Internet know as Portable, may have to rely on a mnemonic trick to keep track of his controversies. He enjoyed his first minutes of fame last December, upon the release of his song ZaZoo Zehh. Since then he has led a public life as colourful as the hair on his head. A soap opera with no foreseeable coda, the Portable drama series got another plot twist on Tuesday. The Headies announced that they have disqualified the singer from the categories in which he was nominated for the 15th Headies Awards scheduled to take place in Atlanta this September.

The Headies reached this decision because of the “numerous indicting statements” Portable has made and due to the “incessant negative attention” he has received from “the Nigerian Police” in “recent times”. 

The award-giving academy cited a video Portable uploaded on May 25, where he threatened “to kill, harm or cause harm to the other nominees in the same categories he was nominated for”. The Headies cited another video as they dropped the gavel on Portable. In this now-deleted video, posted on July 18, Portable claimed to be leader of both the One Million Boys and the Ajah Boys. So grievous and plentiful are the atrocities of these two gangs in Lagos State that the former inspired a Nollywood movie in 2014. 

Some have said perhaps Portable was being intentionally flippant in the videos. It does fit with his brand, after all. He has built a reputation as a trash-talker, an irreverent tongue dispensing words with minimum editorial caution. But the Headies would have none of it. In an Instagram caption they wrote that they took the decision in order to “pass a strong message of not condoning reckless and uncouth statements”.

 

Background 

On May 24, Portable was nominated in two categories for the Headies Awards. One of them is the Rookie Of The Year category, in which are also nominated AV, Fave, Magixx, and Ugoccie. The other one is the Best Street Hop Artiste category, alongside Bella Shmurda, Mohbad, Naira Marley, etc. Soon after, Portable released the controversial video which has already been discussed, prompting Headies on May 28 to say that they might disqualify him. Portable quickly apologised to Smooth Productions, the organisers of the Headies Awards. 

The second video got the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, to order the Lagos police commissioner, Abiodun Alabi, to investigate Portable’s claim of being the leader of the two vicious gangs, and to “take necessary legal actions”. 

 

Other recent controversies

Portable has had a run of bad publicity lately. In June a video showed him and some other men seemingly assaulting a man called DJ Chicken. This was in the Ilogbo area of Ogun State. It was enough to get the state police’s attention. On June 20 Portable was ordered to turn himself in at the nearest police station in the state. He eventually did 10 days later, was interrogated, then released on bail.

Only about a day after the Ogun State police summoned him, Portable’s driver allegedly killed a commercial motorcyclist in vehicular manslaughter. This happened in the Ilogbo area of Ogun State. 

Most people would recall that last year December Portable lobbed accusations the way of the dancer Poco Lee, who with Olamide featured in ZaZoo Zeh. Poco Lee, Portable accused, had light fingers and had only given him $600 out of the $3,000 which Wizkid rained on Portable at a concert in Lagos. Portable also said he didn’t like that Poco Lee’s name came before his in ZaZoo Zeh’s title.

It was the first of many of Portable’s controversies. The pilot episode, if you will. What worth has a controversy got without its meme-worthy catchphrases? Nigerians will never forget that iconic Sunrise Daily episode that gave us “My oga at the top”. Slugging it out with Poco Lee, Portable gave us “Are you mad or something?” You guessed it, this was probably his reaction on learning of his disqualification.

 

Portable’s Response

Portable is yet to respond to Headies’s sentence. If the present would resemble the past, we may nearly be certain that a Portable video essay is in the works. If it would resemble the ones before it, then it would feature a bare-chested Portable speaking emphatic Yoruba, with many curse words doing the work of semicolons.

In the meantime, Portable launched an Instagram live video that was still running by midnight on Wednesday. In it he and some children danced in a living room, seemingly in blithe disregard of Headies’s snub. Is this how Portable has chosen to protest, in the interim at least? By countering a criticism of his flippancy with even more flippancy? A humanities professor apt to reading meaning into everything may go as far as hypothesising: “the children in the live video are a symbolism; they symbolise the Headies and Portable is saying to them, ‘I am your father’.”

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