The past few days have witnessed various celebrations across the world; celebrations of martyrs and events of people that have shaped man’s existence, specifically a group of persons and their socio-political consciousnesses.
Let me spare you the awesomeness of these events for the paucity of time and I would for the sake of brevity limit the events to Nigeria and how Nigerians celebrated them in their own unique style with my fair historical tone. There seems to be an aphorism that history must be authored by those who conquer peoples and their beings. But I write to correct such assertion. Historical accounts must be written by the people who were ‘conquered’ because they only can tell of the sufferings and the events in the most pristine form. Africans must start telling their stories themselves.
It also appears like a mere coincidence that the difference between these figures is 10. The numbers represent years of remembrance of struggles; years of resistance and counter-resistance. Decades of A luta and its resurgence. I will dwell so much on the ‘first 20’ and have a beak-eat on 30, 40 and 50. Let’s do this!
20 years ago, the original "Black President", Fela Anikulapo Kuti was laid to rest in Lagos, Nigeria in a communist state burial. His lifestyle was characterized by communal approaches to the extent that he declared his own republic, Kalakuta where he, as the general, fed his army from what the Abami Eda himself called bread; proceeds from his everyday ‘hustle’.
He lived and dined with them irrespective of the fact that they were bringing little or nothing to the table. The place was very open to the masses, the suffering and downtrodden in the society. It was a place of solace for all except thieving politicians. They dare not come unguarded to Kalakuta. They dared not!
Nigerian students in tertiary institutions were not left out of his generous scheme, as he toured schools with books for distribution. Without any campaign promises, he gave his own ‘five thousand naira’ to not only the unemployed youths but also to the old around him. He never conducted a census to get the demography of one million poorest Nigerians before, in his own way contributed to humanitarian works. His legacies of radical struggles against neo-colonial capitalism and corruption in Nigeria can never be forgotten in spite of all plots by the elite to make history, history.
His music was never in the praise of any politician. Fela wasn’t conservative with the truth. He was never in the middle on any issue that concerns the oppressive ruling class and the ruled, despite his elitist acquaintances. He was for the oppressed. Everyone knew the non-hypocritical Fela had an uncompromising love for his igbo (weed). He suffered a lot for a philosophy.
The remembrance of his non-compromising stance against oppression, his perseverance, and tenacity in the face of heavy repression was the news last week even from people who never and would never believe in his ideology. He was celebrated in a synopsis of events, one of which was a debate where Mr. Femi Falana SAN eulogized Fela as his best client.
Falana recounted how Fela would write his defense before committing ‘crime’ in the bid to expose the faults in the ‘colonial’ constitution.
The annual concert ‘Felabration’ was also on the queue of events and expectedly enjoyed massive turn out of musical acts, tourists and people we classify as riff-raff in the society. I wouldn’t have attended the event at the African Shrine but for strong convictions. His last days on earth were no different from the former but it is rather unfortunate that the last day of Felabration took a shape that made a huge mockery of what Fela stood for. His ideals were trashed totally while the piper, in fact, close pipers were ceremoniously smiling. The Lagos State government of Akinwunmi Ambode called the embarrassing tunes because they paid.
Providence made me miss the last day because I am not sure if I won’t cause a scene at the African Shrine when I got the news of what happened when the real owners came. ‘We were shoved aside by overzealous aides and heavily armed anti-riot policemen who denied us entry because Ambode and his specially invited guests would be enjoying the evening first before we the commoners would be allowed. And I had to ask myself if I were in the wrong place,’ a die-hard follower of Fela recounted sadly.
‘Ambode is coming and so he has sent his people to reset the shrine to make befitting for his status and other VIPs. Anyways, the gist is that the regular constituents of the Shrine, the people Fela purely relates with would be dislodged and Uncle Femi (Fela’s son) with his band will perform for these VIPs. When they are done, the Shrine would be reconfigured for the ‘urchins’ to return.
Those selling around the Shrine have also been sent packing hours ago,’ another person recounted. "Would this be for Fela? Are we celebrating or mocking Fela?" he concluded. These are very sad accounts of how his ideas have been ridiculed.
Abami Eda would not be alive and anti-poor Ambode, a governor who chased and with his orders monitored the killings of Otodo Gbame, Makoko, Badiya and other informal residents in Lagos would cross the Oba Oyin Adejobi way, let alone come with pomp and pageantry to the hitherto People’s Shrine. Not even alone, but with some Vagabonds in Power (VIP), (credit to Fela himself), sit in the aura of his militarized environment, mount the traditional altar of Fela’s mothers (witches) to give a speech; spewing rubbish, a legacy ‘they’ read but aren’t living by.
Most unfortunately, he listened to music performed by the seeds of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. I am sad on behalf of the family.
The show of shame didn’t stop there, they later escorted themselves and one another to Allen round-about to unveil a headless statue which symbolizes the powerlessness of Fela. His defeat alongside his principles is being displayed at that round-about for the Head in Africa is believed to be the seat of power.
The awful artist then went ahead to justify the evil plot in a way that should prescribe as punishment for him, market-beating. In my own view, I would seek that the statue be demolished or I demolish it myself if I were Fela’s son. I prefer imagining rubbish to seeing it real life. We should not forget the Gani Fawehinmi statue at Ojota has been demolished and the park, given out to private managers.
As a young social crusader, I have started taking lessons from responsible mentors on how to sustain a movement even after death but my fear is what becomes of legacy. Africa is not only in dire need of leadership but also sustainable leadership.
Death is inevitable for mortals. Anyone could die anytime. I don’t know who would die first in this example I am about to draw; Saraki, Sowore, or me.
Dear readers, please we should not be surprised if Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters died today and at his funeral, Saraki and the ‘things’ he represents come to declare that Sahara Reporters is the best thing that has happened to investigative journalism in Africa.
Please do not be surprised if Saraki says Sowore fought corruption with all he had and he, throughout Sowore’s lifetime admired him. Please don’t be surprised if Saraki and his corrupt goons promise to take care of his family and sponsor his children’s education. Sowore himself had played a lesser prank on April 1st this year and we saw the reactions on social media.
Take a deep breath and imagine all these words coming from the Sarakis’ mouths. Don’t be surprised for it has happened before in this country. It can happen again. That is the extent the bourgeoisie rat can go when the revolutionary cat has bit the dust.
‘Our country produces enough to feed us all. Alas, for lack of organization, we are forced to beg for food aid. It’s this aid that instills in us the attitude of beggars’- these were the words from one of the speeches of the upright man, Sankara (Fela’s friend) from the country of upright people, Burkina Faso.
Thomas Sankara was the military defiant history would never forget. Last week also marked 30 years of Sankara’s death. It was celebrated with massive protests in Burkina Faso.
It was also 40 years of FESTAC (Festival of Arts and Culture). It was supposed to be a festival but it ended up as a theft; a story for another musing period. 50 years of the revolutionary Che Guevera was also marked last week.
Last week left us with memories laced with sweet and bitter lessons. We need history to shape our thinking. Think over these.
Adeyeye Olorunfemi, a victimized student activist writes from Lagos, Nigeria.