It has been 21 years since Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, passed on, but his legacy remains evergreen among fans and foes of the fearless musician whose songs also served as a platform to protest societal ills and bad governance.
Such remains Fela’s impact through his music that a lot of his lyrics are still relevant – whether he was singing against corruption in the land, or an occurrence in everyday life. Fela’s svelte ability to make music which was relatable to the letter then and now is what makes him one of a kind.
Fela would sing about some of the same people Nigerians still find governing them while others who have long left governance could be replaced by a present politician and Fela’s words would still ring true.
That speaks volumes about the state of Nigeria’s polity and gives a damning overview of the acute regression the country has undergone over the past 50 years, painting a rather gloomy outlook of Nigeria’s next 50 years being just as bad or if not worse than what currently obtains.
With the manner Nigeria’s political elite carry themselves today, Fela would have had a handful of platinum-selling records about embezzled trillions of naira, capital projects left uncompleted, and the calibre of politicians around Nigeria.
Knowing how outspoken and unwavering Fela was and juxtaposing it with the social media which was absent in his time, Fela’s words – probably more via statements, columns and interviews than music owing to his health and age – would have consistently caused a stir on social media.
But those words still would have inspired Nigerians to actually take actions in holding whatever government of the day accountable, rather than usually protesting with hashtags and retweets until a miracle sorts the issues crippling Nigeria’s development.
That said, Fela in this social media era would have made more enemies than imaginable and found hinself blocked quicker than the police do street corners on weekends and holidays for his bluntness and IDGAF attitude.
At this point, one would wish today’s artistes could be a quarter of what Fela was when it came to issues affecting the people and actions which held the government accountable. But here’s the thing, you cannot blame today’s artistes for not really toeing that line.
Fela understood clearly the path he took and his activism cost him his mother’s life, his freedom, and his health. Fela lost property, lost masters to songs our ears will never hear, once spent 20 months in jail and was arrested hundreds of times for simply speaking against ills.
It takes a huge amount of courage to fight for what’s right the way Fela did and one could excuse today’s artistes for not being as courageous. Not many of us today can brush off losing properties worth millions because of one’s activism.
It is this fact that makes Fela’s words and actions even more profound ,because he stuck to his words despite suffering those losses on many occasions. That said, today’s artistes do make use of the platform they now command to address certain issues in the hope of making a stand and you just get the feeling that if the situation of the country continues to worsen, there could be actual activism again.
Until then, one is only consoled by the memories of Abami Ẹ̀dá while enjoying the catalogue of classic tunes he left behind for the world to keep enjoying and pondering over.