By Sam Adegbola
I don’t have to be Dele Momodu or Sam Omatseye before I could eulogize the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
Today is exactly 18 years since the originator of Afrobeat music genre left us in this country of ours to find a cosy and opulent abode outside the earth after embarking on the great journey of no return.
Although I didn’t have the privilege of ever meeting Fela, I have been able to hobnob with his sons and
daughter. It was a rare opportunity to have met Ambassador Femi Kuti, Yeni and Seun Kuti in Lagos.
From that encounter, I was to conclude that Amb. Femi is such an easy-going man, calm, humble and very ‘felaistic’.
Fela was born as an ordinary man but his deeds were extraordinary and his ideology and works changed
the Nigeria we see today. His advocacy and music gave voice to many landmark movements in Nigeria
just as the late sage and activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) once pointed out. Like his parents,
Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti was an activist par excellence. Very fearless and dogged, who in Nigeria today can do what he did? Who can stand where he stood?
Amidst the military’s criminalization of freedom of speech, Fela didn’t hesitate to fight on. Not many people knew that Fela was educated. Not many knew he was jailed by Gen. Buhari (now Saint Buhari). Only few knew about his ordeal in the hands of Gen. Obasanjo. Fela was from a very sound family and he could have decided to focus on his personal life but he chose music in order to speak for the voiceless and the unheard. He risked his life and that of his family. His mother was thrown from a storey-building by Nigeria’s ‘unknown soldiers’. Concerned about socio-political issues that affects fellow Nigerians, Kuti still did all he could to influence government policies in the interest of the common man.
Today I’m remembering Fela Anikulapo Kuti on his 18th death anniversary and feel his teachings and
messages of truth should be revisited. Moreover, the present government of the day, led by President
Mohammadu Buhari, whose military government maltreated and imprisoned Fela should as a matter
of exigency find a befitting way to immortalise this great man. Previous governments didn’t consider this
because they didn’t believe in Fela’s philosophy. Our government loves to celebrate people without
Naming public places, streets, or avenues after Fela Kuti at this time would be an empty symbolism. If it
were in a country like the US and other European states, Fela would have become a course of study in
tertiary institutions. Nigerian governments, entertainers and top individuals should pay unique
and sincere tributes to Fela by announcing every August 2nd Fela Day; believing in his ideology and also
practising his teachings.
Why can’t we see Fela as the Mandela of Nigeria? Not only in Nigeria, anywhere in the world you take the name of Fela to, there is always a sense of respect.
This is because he stood tall even when the adversaries were much.
They were more talented, better singers and better activists. Yet, this man stood above them all, simply
because of his determination and commitment. He was so committed to the struggle against bad
government, he hated dictatorship, imperialism and all sorts of oppression.
Today, the second of August, is Fela Anikulapo’s 18th death anniversary. We’ve all forgotten so soon. Our
government is not talking about it, television and radio stations are not showing or airing any documentaries about Fela. The crop of Nigerian artistes we have are not talking about it, after all, the majority of them wanted to sing like Fela. Some still use ‘felaistic’ instrumentals. Well, we shall honour him by remembering his legacy and reflecting on its relevance to Nigeria and to the world.
The man Fela, King of Afrobeat and the President of the Kalakuta Republic lives forever. This is my humble submission