#ThrowbackThursday: Was the 90s the best decade ever?

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The 90s was a time of belief, discovery and hope against all odds

The 90s in Nigeria was the best of times and the worst of times. It was also the greatest of times.

Today's Throwback Thursday is dedicated to the 90s era.

Way before the apps, blogs, mp3s files, and Netflix there was the 90s, the era of the VHS, cassette tapes, video clubs and non-24 hour government-owned TV stations.

When you think of the 90s, you probably have that nostalgic squint in your eyes. It's a throwback to innocence when we danced the flex and butterfly as dancehall music flooded Nigerian house parties and we watched classic American TV sitcoms. Life was so simple then at least we think it is.

 

It would be tempting to look at 1990-1999 with romance lacking blemish. The truth is that it wasn't all bliss, it was a time of contrasts, despair and hope.

Two of Nigeria's most infamous dictators IBB and Abacha ruled in the 90s and with different versions of iron fists.

 

These were dark times. The middle class nearly went extinct. Journalists were thrown in jail, politicians and human rights activists ran into exile. A presidential election was annulled, and Ken Saro-Wiwa along with his Ogoni Brothers were hung.

 

This was the decade when HIV/AIDS became real as the great rebel of the 70s and 80s Fela Anikulapo-Kuti succumbed to death. It was the time Sgt. Rogers went on a politically motivated killing spree and MKO Abiola drank that tea. Generators took over NEPA and armed robbers invaded Lagos homes at night.

The 90s was a gloomy decade no doubt. NTA was the mouthpiece of the junta and confraternities terrified students, lecturers, shutting down universities with their acts of terrorism. Military rule made Nigeria a pariah state.

 

So what was so hip about the 90s that have led to a renaissance of the style and tastes from the decade twenty years later? A music lifestyle movement aptly called 90s Baby is heavily influenced by this era. What makes the 90s so great?

 

As much it was a dark time, it was a time of hope, colour, and a new beginning. By the end of the decade, Nigeria had returned to civilian rule.

The military strongman General Sani Abacha passed away in mysterious circumstances.

It was the golden age of Nollywood, the world's biggest home video industry that crawled out from Idumota, a suburb on Lagos Island.

 

Showbiz moguls Kenny and D1 had in 1998 launched the seminal record label Kennis Music which sparked the renaissance of urban music in Nigeria.

 

Before the old oppressive system of khakis and palace coups caved in, there were rays of hope in the 90s. Entertainment was the light. Ironically, the government-owned NTA fed us with American and British programmes as Nigeria got cut off from the world. We were raised on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Martin, West African kids in tune with Hip Hop culture.

 

Nigeria's first private radio station Ray Power was established in 1994. The Dokpesi owned radio station helped usher in the sound of Ajegunle. Daddy Showkey and co. brought the sounds from arguably Nigeria's famous ghetto and made it successful.

 

The first private TV station Clapperboard came on air circa 1995. It brought variety to NTA's now repetitive runs of Voltron and Fraggle Rock. No longer did NTA hold the monopoly.

 

The 90s was the best decade for Nigerian sports. The Super Eagles won the Nations Cup in 1994 and dazzled in the World Cup in the same year. The Dream Team at Atlanta '96 defeated Brazil in the semi-final in dramatic fashion and nabbed the gold- the first African team to do so.

 

Chioma Ajunwa won gold in long jump, Mary Onyali won bronze in the 200m race and Falilat Ogunkoya won a silver and bronze medal in 4 x 400 m relay and 400m races respectively.

 

5 Nigerian footballers won the African Footballer of the Year award within the 90s and Daniel Amokachi became the first man to score in the UEFA Champions League.

 

It's ironic that since the millennium, Nigerian sports hasn't reached such heights again.

The 90s was a great time because we were able to overcome despite a lot of obstacles. We were roses who grew from concrete. The turmoil of the times, hard-faced men with AK-47 machine guns dressed in khaki couldn't stop the freedom we found in house parties, one-touch football games and Super Mario.

We were forced to look inwards to find creativity and develop it with foreign pop culture as guides. It is not a coincidence that 'Shako Mo' the song by The Remedies that would spark the revival of urban music in Nigeria was based off an MC Lyte instrumental.

 

The 90s was all about succeeding against all odds. This era would always be symbolised by Kanu Nwankwo. After winning the Champions League with Ajax in 1994 and gold at Atlanta '96, his career was dealt a huge blow when it was discovered that he had a hole in his heart.

Kanu wasted on the Inter Milan bench for years. In the last year of the decade, his fortunes would be reversed as Arsene Wenger scooped up him from the hell in Milan to paradise in Arsenal, London. Kanu Nwankwo would go on to torment defences and astound analysts with his sweeping move and lazy feint of the shoulder.

 

The 90s was a time of two extremes- a rigid society controlled by dictators and bogged by failed economic policies. On the flip side, it was a moment of belief, discovery and hope.

And that was what the 90s was all about.



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