He is called Abami Eda, (the maverick) African black power man, the man who married 27 wives in one night, Afro beat king; the one who never dies – Fela Anikulapo Kuti. His life and times were full of Drama. He was, according to his daughter Yeni, full of surprises.
Speaking on a radio programme in Lagos recently, ‘The Discourse with Jimi Disu’ on ‘Classic 97.3Fm’, she took a retrospective look at an incident which occurred as a result of the death of Fela’s mother, Mrs Olufunmilayo Ransome Kuti.
The Afrobeat Legend`s own daughter Yeni Lawson (Nee Kuti) recounts the unforgettable incident which occurred just three days prior to Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, the Millitary leader’s handover to the civilian government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, in 1979.
That day, against all odds, Fela made good his promise to drop the coffin signifying the remains of his mother at Nigeria’s seat of power, Dodan Barracks. Fela’s mother had died as a result of injuries sustained in the invasion by soldiers and the burning down of his home, ‘The Kalakuta Republic’ in the presence of the iconic African Mother, who fought for Universal Adult Suffrage. Mrs. Olufunmilayo Ransome Kuti was thrown out through the window of the storey- building in Idi-Oro, Lagos.
The Military Government later performed what Fela referred to as ‘Government Magic’, by setting up an inquiry into the incident which came up with the verdict of the ‘Unknown Soldier’. Headed by the late Justice Kalu Anya, the panel came up with the verdict that the atrocities of invasion, arson and looting were perpetrated by an Unknown Soldier.
The ever courageous Fela was enraged and vowed to get back at the top hierarchy of military by embarrassing them.
Yeni, who is going to be 57 in September 2017, admitted that, following orders from their father to be present at the battle field she and her sister were scared off, saying, it was traumatic!
Fela had said via the media that he would make it to the military domain to deliver his mother`s coffin. The whole of Lagos, according to her, was agog . Roadblocks were mounted, security was beefed up. Dem no wan take am, but dem go take am! How did Fela pull through? “It was very traumatic, Yeni wailed.”
Fela, according to her, meandered through Ebuta-meta and finally made it to the Dodan Barracks through the Obalende back-gate. Nobody, including the soldiers had thought Fela could be so daring and so they were taken unawares. Seeing him, the soldiers raised alarm. Fela who had already dumped the casket and was about to cascade away, was ordered by the soldiers to alight from the vehicle. And Fela did.
While Fela and his son, Femi, were being beaten, he was said to have held on tight to an officer with the rank of a Major who, sharing a piece of the action as he too was being beaten in the process, ordered the junior officers to stop! Fela and his zealots were locked-up and released three days later, just after the hand over to civil rule. “They beat stupid and nonsense on their bodies, cried Yeni”.
Onuegbu na Chieze.