Nigeria’s Afrobeat legend, Olufela Anikulapo Kuti, the maverick musician, is now widely acclaimed as a prophet who saw into the future. He was recently referred to by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari (Media and Publicity), as a philosopher disguised as a musician who taught in one of his songs that, without knowing where you are coming from, you won’t know where you are going.
Many of the ills plaguing our society that Fela preached against are still very much with us and have grown in an incredible quantum bringing the nation to an avoidable economic recession. The issues raised by Fela are many but the focus of this piece is on the ‘DEPENDENCE OF FOREGN GOODS AND SERVICES’, which is a result of what he called ‘COLOMENTALITY’ or colonial mentality. That is, thinking with borrowed brains from the colonial masters.
After his studies in England and visits to other parts of the world, Including the USA where he came across the Black Panthers Movement and other activists, Fela perused a lot of literature on the true history of Africa and the position of the black man in the world as opposed to the White Man’s history which he described as ‘His Story’. He had discovered himself and his mission and could not wait to return home to preach his gospel of emancipation from mental slavery and Kwame Nkrumah’s Pan Africanism.
Fela was in his late twenties when he returned in the late sixties. He swung into action, changing his music from jazzy and romantic highlife to Afrobeat and the name of the band from ‘Koola Lobitos’ to ‘Africa 70’ to fulfill his mission. Fela Anikulapo Kuti was a master song writer, turning powerful messages into lyrics.
One of his first songs with the ‘Africa 70’ was ‘BUY AFRICA’, an informative and instructional piece to address the lack of patronage of ‘Home Made’ products by Africans. He was then about 32 years old and the fire of patriotism was burning in him. He was in a hurry to get rid of the vestiges of colonialism in his people. To drive the message home, he sang in Pidgin and his native Yoruba and English
Se tiwa ni o mi fe. Se tiwa ni o.
Mi o ra Is it locally made? I don’t want to buy.
Tani maa ba wa jee. Tani maa ba wa see
Who will eat or buy if we don’t?
Bawo la se maa lowo l’Africa, so fun mi.
Afi taa baa ra tiwa o e.
Afi taa ba se tiwa o.
We cannot have economic prosperity in Africa
Unless we produce our own and patronize same.
Koko o Ore mi o koko o, Koko o Baba mi o koko o.
So let us go back to the land and farm
Fela was spot on as dependence on foreign products and reliance on Crude oil, the price of which has crashed globally have caused the worst recession in about three decades. Now the Buhari administration is expected to perform magic. There is now a rush to diversify the economy and get results overnight. You start to wonder which economic policies will work without the kind of attitudinal change that Fela preached. It is heart-warming to know that we are blessed with fertile land to cultivate and grow the widest variety of crops. The same goes for Solid minerals. When are we going to shed the toga of ‘The poorest people living in the richest portion of the land’.
Fela also recorded hits with powerful motivational messages and became frustrated at a point when he realized that the people and successive governments were too slow in grasping his message. So he sang ‘Look and laugh’. I bet he is still looking and laughing.