Arts, Culture and Sport
Speaking truth to power, Fela Kuti’s enduring legacy: A lesson in governance
Kalakutta’s President Fela Anikulapo Kuti has been proclaimed as one of the greatest icons to come out of Africa. The proclamation is undisputed. The king of Afrobeat music was a constant thorn in the flesh of the Nigerian government and till today, everything Fela sang about remains relevant. Tell us what you think of the legendary musician and his music in relation to Nigeria.
Fela Anikulapo Kuti still lives in Nigeria. Many have declared him a prophet, one that spoke of things as they were, telling it like it is. Many Nigerians and Africans have aligned themselves with his truth, which is found in the music he produced, be it suffering and smiling or international thief thief. His music, full of angst against the Nigerian state spoke against corruption. Fela never flinched from mentioning names, and Nigeria’s current president, Muhammadu Buhari never escaped acerbic criticism from Fela. This was in the 80s.
The evidence of a country progressing is that the socio-economic woes it faced four decades ago have at least found a solution. That unfortunately is not the case in Nigeria, a country which repeatedly goes through the mistakes of its past, and the conditions that would have sparked a revolution in other countries have only sparked murmurs in Nigeria.
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When Fela’s heavy beats hit your ears, there’s a distinction from every other music you’ve been listening to which rightly puts him as the king of Afrobeat music. But besides the many instruments, overtures and symphonies he created, are the profound lyrics which come after almost ten to 15 minutes after the sound of musical instruments. It is these lyrics that every Nigerian remembers Fela for. Fela’s music was not just entertainment but a form of activism, protesting against anything oppressive, from Nigeria’s dictatorship to colonialism.
Dem leave sorrow, tears and blood. Dem regular trademark, the line which refers to the Nigerian government is still highly relevant today. In the past few years, the Nigerian government has been accused of killing scores of pro-Biafran protestors and Shiite Muslims in Kaduna State in the northern part of the country. A recession hit the country, and for those that were alive in the 80s, it was history repeating itself all over again.
If Fela was still alive, he would still likely be confronting an old enemy, Buhari. There is hardly any difference between Nigeria during Fela’s time in the 80s and the current state of affairs. Much of the problems which confronted Nigeria still persist, from governance issues, poverty to rampant corporate and public sector corruption.
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Fela’s music will continue being played, a reminder of the need to continue speaking truth to power, to remain critical of the current state of governance in Nigeria.