Maureen Renfro's Blog: Today makes it 15 years since the death of one of the greatest men ever to come out of Africa.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Today makes it 15 years since the death of one of the greatest men ever to come out of Africa.

Born October 15, 1938
Died August 2, 1997
He fearlessly proved the human spirit is stronger than any
He invented a new musical genre and lived life on his terms.
He was a giant.
Born in Abeokuta, Ogun state, Nigeria, to a well-to-do family who
sent him to England to
study medicine in 1958, he chose instead to enrol at the
Trinity College of Music.
After returning to Nigeria in the late 60s, he created
Afrobeat, blending African rhythms with jazz and funk.
His lyrics were scathing denunciations of Nigeria's
socioeconomic reality.
He focused on corruption, abuse
of power, mental emancipation from colonialism and the
need for Nigerians to stand up for their rights.
complained that when a pauper is caught stealing, he is
labelled a thief and promptly jailed. But when a minister
pockets millions from state coffers, it's explained away
with fancy-sounding words to bamboozle the
uneducated, like "mismanagement" and "inquiry".
He, on the other hand, hardly minced his words when
criticising the government, referring to corrupt VIPs by
name and christening them "vagabonds in power".
were consequences: harassment, imprisonment,
beatings. But He said this only made him "stronger".
Audaciously, he declared his sizable compound in Lagos an
independent country, "Kalakuta Republic", complete
with its own constitution and a free health clinic.
Kalakuta offered sanctuary to the homeless while
students trooped in to take part in debates on Africa's
Marijuana, a key part of His diet, flowed
freely. Kalakuta was a libertarian's dream and a dictator's
In 1977, a thousand soldiers invaded the micro republic,
beating, raping and killing many of its inhabitants before
razing it to the ground.
He was almost beaten to death
while his 77 year-old mother was thrown out of an
upstairs window. She died soon after.
But this didn't break Him. After recovering from his
injuries, he married 27 women in a single ceremony –
saying they were jobless after Kalakuta's destruction so
he would take care of them.
His marital arrangements
and sexual politics continue to draw criticism – the mass
wedding was followed by a mass divorce 10 years
later, and He often dismissed Aids and contraceptive
protection as "un-African" – but at the time many
Nigerians were enthralled by His defiance.
He went on to establish a political party, continued to
lambast the authorities and suffered beatings and
In 1979, He ran for presidency, but the
military torpedoed his candidacy.
He also criticised us (his countrymen) for what he saw as
our exaggerated reverence for authority and
cowardice. "My people are scared of the air around
them, they always have an excuse not to fight for
freedom," he sang.
When men live in a system that does not even try to
camouflage its injustice, they react by becoming radical
or cynical. Radicalism costs, as His example showed,
so most Nigerians opt for the safer option of cynicism,
a useful mask to hide fear.
The truth is that many Nigerians were – and continue to
be – scared silly of their police and army, who don't hide
the fact that they are in the business of subjugation, not
protection. So despite His insisting that "a police uniform
is just a piece of clothing sewn by the same tailors who
sew your clothes", he was never able to charm away
that fear.
His views on mental emancipation from colonialism was
that Nigerians should
cultivate their own original identity rather than ape the
west in its tastes and fashions. And He has an utopian view
of African traditions.
He slammed
Christianity and Islam as foreign religions, imposed on
Nigerians to exploit them, and seemed to think the
panacea to all of Africa's ails was a "return to the
Many argued he would have been a great president.
My generation belief in him. For those of us who have
and continue to experienced Nigerian
government, He will forever remain our beloved hero.
For having had the guts to stand up to those who would
treat us as slaves.
He once said "the human spirit is
stronger than any government or institution". And he
proved it by example. Today, i celebrate this African Icon.
He is OluFela Olusegun Oludotun Anikulapo Ransome Kuti. He
may have died 15 years ago today, but his fight against
corruption and colonialism is still an inspiration for Nigerians.
Fela Kuti. 'My people are scared of the air around them,' he
sang. 'They always have an excuse not to fight for
15 years later, rest in power; Baba 70.