Fela Anikulapo Kuti, even in death, is a household name. The name has outlived the man and in every nook and cranny of the world there lies one or more narratives on who the man was.
He was a man of many parts; he meant different things to his massive pool of fans in his lifetime.To some who looked up to him for their daily bread, he was a father; to the bevy of ladies who surrounded him, he was their King; to the oppressed Nigerians living during the unforgettable military regime he was the divine Freedom fighter. At the mention of the name Fela tales abound.
Aside all this, he was majorly known as that extremely talented Musician who chose to use his music as a weapon against all forms of oppression he and his natives were faced with. The multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of Afrobeat through the sounds of his music and wordings in his lyrics captured perfectly the Nigerian story. This he did so well his music was filled with Prophecy that remains true to this very day.
We bring you four songs of “Abami Eda”(the enigma) as the singer was often referred to.
International Thief Thief (I.T.T)
At the time of release, I.T.T was the acronym for the fraudulent communication company multi national company named International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation which had a branch in Nigeria and was headed by the late Moshood Abiola.
In ancient Nigerian culture and Africa at large, when an individual or persons are caught stealing they are taken round the community by a large crowd who shout “Thief, Thief!” as they take the walk of shame. “International thief thief, I.T.T, International thief, I.T.T” . Modelled on this call and response way of shaming thieves, Fela began this song by singing on slavery and exploitation of Africans saying that if he tells a lie “Make the land punish me.”
In present day Nigeria, neocolonialism is fast becoming an acceptable norm as the Nigerian government keeps signing “deals” that are unfavourable to the Nigerian masses. Although the government takes a large chunk of the blame, foreign corporate and industrial organisation in Nigeria are now known to practise what is called Modern Day Slavery as workers are made to over work under terrible condition only to be given a pittance called Salary.
Beast Of No Nation
“Basket mouth wan open mouth again, oh” Fela sang upon his return from prison in 1986 where he had served two years from a five years prison sentence. Due to his absence from the musical scene, the people wanted to hear sing so they asked him “‘Fela wetin you go sing about?” whenever they saw him. “Beast of No Nation” tells the story of the singer’s experience in prison.
In the song, Fela referred to life inside prison as the “inside world” where peace and tranquility exist while on the other hand says life outside prison is one filled with chaos and craziness. Times are hard, every passing day the university churns out graduates into a ‘jobless system’. Young Nigerians now see Nigerian as a prison and now go to the extent of crossing the mediterrian sea in search of greener pasture outside of it.
“My people are us-e-less, My people are sens-i-less, My people are indiscipline” Fela continues to sing about how the Nigerian government demarket the country when they get the opportunity to speak at foreign conference. It will be recalled that in April 2018 there was social media revolt against Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari who while speaking at Commonwealth Business Forum in Westminster on Wednesday, 18 April 2018, described Nigerian youth as “lazy and want everything free.’ All thanks to a young Nigerian journalist, Mayowa Tijani who reported the news.
The song further dwells on how human right has now become an endangered tenet. “Human rights na my property. So therefore, you can’t dash me my property” Fela sings. The Nigeria Police are now wild dogs chasing innocent youths and even gunning down anyone who resists arrest; the Government deals ruthlessly with any journalist or anyone that writes or talks ill of them. Was Fela not right?
Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense
In this song, Fela talks about the role of the teachers in the society. According to him, when a child is given birth to the father and mother is the teacher as they do their best to put the child in the line they deem right. When the child grows up and begins to go to school the teacher is his teacher at school. Finally, at the university the child’s teacher is the lecturer. However, Fela lays emphasis on that the most important teacher is culture and tradition.
He talks on the need to perserve and nurture our culture and tradition so the generation years to come can learn from it. The average Nigerian is known to disregard their culture often times referring to it as Evill only to embrace foreign cultures. “Who be our teacher na Oyinbo? Who be our teacher na Oyinbo?” Fela makes a mockery of this decision.
This song can be related to the present day Nigerian Educational system which has become a clear shadow of itself. Students sit on bare floor without roofs over their heads to learn from their master whose salary has not been paid for over 18 months. Lecturers in the university now go on strike in proportion to the number of times the President travels out of the country. “Baba nla nonsense” Fela would’ve yabbed the government if he was alive.
This song is perfect example of what is currently going on in the country. Police brutality is fast becoming a norm in Nigeria and those in power are silent about it. “Alagbon close” sees Fela preach about how important everyone’s path in life is but yet some people still choose to act like they are not humans and misuse the authority given to them all in the name of performing their duty. The people are men of the Nigeria Police force.
“FSARS officers beat young Lagosian for refusing to unlock phone” Everyday the media space is filled with one report or the other about the numerous assaults both young and old Nigerians are subjected to by people paid to protect them. “For Alagbon den go know say you be civil servant den go lock you for jail…Dem no get respect for human being” he sings highlighting the problem of police brutality. This again solidifies Fela’s reputation as a Prophet.