We still miss Fela Anikulapo Kuti. The late Afrobeat legend, human right fighter would have turned 80 on 15 October 2018 and while it has been 21 years since that cold day on 2nd August, 1997, when death snatched him away from Nigerians and the entire world, the music World is still throwing him a party. Several parties, in fact, not counting the number of the shrines named after him, a statue of him at Allen Avenue Ikeja, a posthumous visit paid to him by the French President Emmanuel Macron. Fela may no longer be with us, but try as we might dare, we just can’t let him go.
Here are five things Fela would be doing if he was alive this day.
1. Fela would release more critical songs
In the 21 years since his death, Fela has gone from star to icon to legend. Fans keep poring over his lyrics especially in this period when the man who jailed his as a military leader is now in power as a democratic President. However, what Nigerians faced then is nearly understandable compared to what they are facing now under a democracy.
Fela wrote lyrics filled with resentment for the government and the inhuman treatment it meted on people. In Beast of nation, fela wrote one of his finest lyrics, lashes on the person and government of Buhari. Imagine what he would have done now?
With snake swallowing money, Fulani herdsmen killings from state to state, the president spending weeks in London hospitals, the president’s son getting treated abroad while Aso Rock clinic with billions of budget annually without paracetamol, the president calling Nigerians lazy, the Customs boss mocking the Senate. With all those and the charade of elections, Fela would have ran amok with lamentations and his crushing sarcasm.
Or perhaps, Fela would be in prison without trial like the journalist James Abiri, Shiites leader Sheihk Ibrahim Al-Zakzaky and Dasuki.
2. He would have launched a political party
In 1979, Fela launched a political party he called Movement of the People. At Tinubu square, about 100,000 people gathered to see the man who would clean the governance menace with a mop. People cheered him and showed their support. However, he never had any successful campaign because the military, a usual bug, clamped down on his party activities.
Fela Kuti’s party probably won’t be registered by INEC but being who he was, Fela won’t give a care and would continually mobilise his supporters to a rally of federal insults and tear gas.
In many ways, Fela was Nigerian’s rugged Nelson Mandela.
3. The artiste would have organised nationwide protests upon protests
Fela was arrested more than 200 times, most times not because of his love and frequent possession of marijuana but because he likes taking his activism to the streets where he belongs. When Kalakula Republic was brought down to nothing, he was in Germany performing at the Berlin festival. His mother Funmilayo Ransome-Kut had been thrown from a story building by Obasanjo’s foot soldiers in which she sustained death threatening injuries, bedridden for days before she finally died.
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Fela took to the streets with thousands of supporters behind him. He carried his mother’s corpse to Dodan Barracks that was heavily guarded by the military not minding the consequences to his health and freedom
One artist who came close to facilitating a nationwide protest on bad leadership was Tuace in 2017. But he pulled out at the dying minute when many believe he had the opportunity to write his name in gold. Fela wouldn’t have backed out. He would move against all odds and threats. Charly Boy does this in a small scale. Fela would have done this in large proportion.
His death also ended the era of revolutionary songs that spur activism. Falz’s “This is Nigeria”.
4. Fela would buy countless advertising spaces in the newspapers
Fela may have married 27 women in one day, of course, he is human, he has a life outside aluta, his message to the government was clear and defiant. He remained undeterred and unfazed in criticizing the government that he had to buy advertising spaces in daily newspapers of the 70’s. Under the moniker “the Chief Priest Say”, Fela was harping on the tyrannical attitudes of leaders.
From that advertising space, he touched about the debased lifestyles of some religious leaders who kept preying on the people they are supposed to be praying for. It’s been 39 years since he said these words, religious intolerance has intensified, the government seemed to be heading to the edge of the collective sanity of Nigeria.
5. The revolutionist would have been more philanthropic
In all that Fela faced when he was alive, the love he had for others never dissolved. He was philanthropic to a country that didn’t want him, that bruised him and treated him like a common rogue. It was his love for his people that he carved out the Kalakuta republic where people lived freely with no iota of fear. There was free healthcare which was made available to the people. He was moved by what the wretched of the earth were passing through when he was alive.
Nigeria of today is not far from what Fela had in his days. If anything, the poverty seems larger in the background and more pronounced. With the recent recession, Fela wouldn’t have eaten alone. He would have done a lot. With Social Media to help him, Fela would have had credited many ailing accounts with naira and giving hope to the many of the countless on the edge of hopelessness.
Bonus: Fela’s Social Media accounts would have had only one word to depict their activities: crazy.