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As earlier stated; this year’s Mandela Day campaign message is:
"Nelson Mandela has fought for social justice for 67 years. We’re asking you to start with 67 minutes."
"We would be honoured if such a day can serve to bring together people around the world to fight poverty and promote peace and reconciliation".
To kick-off this year’s Nelson Mandela International Day (or Mandela Day), I will like to start our debate with a photo quiz:
Can you identify at least two of the three persons in the picture?
Where was it taken?
In the picture on the right; Fela can be seen in a warm handshake with African National Congress (ANC) members on a solidarity visit to the Cross Road Hotel. The delegation was headed by the second elected Black President of South Africa Tabo Mbeki. The picture was taken by Femi Bankole Osunla for Africa 70 Photo Agency. With no home and Shrine to live and perform but determined to keep the pressure on, Fela and the remaining members of his entourage took residence at the Cross Road Hotel situated on Ikorodu Road about five hundred meters away from the ruins of his burnt house. When I say “Fela and the remaining members” this is to show the psychological impact, of the army attack and how it scared away many members of the organization.
Fela’s sojourn at the Cross Road hotel was also the period when Jimmy Cliff, was put in jail in Nigeria arrested over a ‘breach of contract’ allegation by a Nigerian business man Ado Ibrahim. Jimmy had the presence of mind to send word to Fela to come to his aid and despite his personal set-backs from the Army attack on Kalakuta, Fela was able to settle the Jamaican musician’s problems with Nigerian law enforcement agents. Jimmy Cliff would latter sing the event into a song in one of his many albums titled “Have You Heard the News”. After about seven months of playing in the Cross Road hotel, during which he finished work on the twelve albums required of him with his contract with Decca, Fela decided to move his organisation to Ghana to try and re-dub the sound track of the film “Black President” burnt in the Kalakuta Nigerian Army attack.
In this debate; it is needless to remind us of the important contribution of Madiba Nelson Mandela’s struggle during his life time for social justice and to some extent, the world is discovering the same qualities in Fela Anikulapo-Kuti in the last decade after the musical icon’s demise. However for the benefit of those not aware, it is important to highlight publicly the unheralded link Fela had with South Africa’s liberation movements during the apartheid struggle hence the publication of the photograph above. To buttress this point; during a chance meeting at the East Berlin Airport in 1978 with President Sam Nujoma, then leader of the South West African Peoples Organisation (SWAPO), the latter asked Fela when he was going to sing a song against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Likewise when it was the “in-thing” or “politically correct” to sing about apartheid, many journalist and individuals asked Fela the same question like the first Black President of Namibia Sam Nujoma.
In reply; Fela said he already sang songs against apartheid with songs critical of acts from many African regimes, that he considered worse than the White South African apartheid leaders. If in 1978 like the situation is today; Nigerian army soldiers can shoot to kill protesting student and get away with it within international community, is this not worse than the apartheid regime’s treatment of Blacks? Black-on-Black apartheid perpetrated and sanctioned by so-called Black leaders. These acts have been condemned in songs like: Sorrows, Tears & Blood and Unknown Soldier. Fela underlined in those songs that it is the African struggle that continues without end because our leaders see the struggle in terms of travelling first-class and getting VIP treatments wherever they went. What else can we expect from the leadership of our liberation movements, judging from the prevailing situation in so-called independent African states that treat their citizens worse than the apartheid regime in South Africa?
Drawing our attention to the fact that every year; we organise conferences against apartheid in Nigeria, is the killing of nine demonstrating students by the Nigerian police force then like the situation today, not worse than the acts of the racist regime in South Africa? These are African police charged to protect us, at the same time killing our students like chicken sent to the slaughter-house. Bokassa, Mobutu, Obasanjo and several so-called African Heads of State, condemned the racist regime in South Africa then, while they individually committed worse crimes than those committed by the apartheid regime in their respective nations. Fela added that we call conference against apartheid because we are afraid to hit the nail on the head. We don’t need atomic power to depose the apartheid regime in South Africa, what we need is united minds. Take Vietnam for example, Americans fought Vietnam for fifteen years spending ten million pounds sterling everyday on bombs. Despite all these, the Vietnamese came-out victorious - that is the type of united mind we are talking about. Do we as Africans, have the united minds to resist ten million pounds sterling worth of bombs to defend Africa?
I have said times without number that the basis of African unity can only be laid in an authentic education system, planned in a way that all school children are conscious of what goes on in Africa. Our school children must be aware of what goes on in the liberation movements and the idea behind African unity otherwise we shall reduce the struggle to speech making. Like I wrote in my book “FELA - PHENOMENON AND LEGACY: “another significant change is the fall of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Nelson Mandela has since been elected the first Black President of post-apartheid South Africa, and all the opponents of the racist regime have been liberated from prison. However, it is important to note that the election of Mandela and the demise of the apartheid regime will be meaningless, unless it is linked with the total unity of all the independent states in Africa and the Diaspora. This is so in the light of the fact that, a united Africa both economic and political will bring a new order to the world’s political situation.
Especially since United States of America, with her North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement and the Pan-European union, constitute these two world regions into strong economic and political blocks. For now the only thing that has changed is that, the South African Blacks have the right to vote while White South Africans control the economy.” In conclusion, let us go and re-read African history and the ideology of Pan-Africanism, it entails the recognition of the equality of man, it gives everyone the chance to try-out his or her individual capacity to be a better person. Also as earlier stated; it is important to highlight publicly the unheralded link Fela had with South Africa’s liberation movements during the apartheid struggle hence the publication of the photograph above equally important, is that Fela believed the African struggle is one, be it on the continent or the Diaspora African the African struggle has the same roots.
Unknown to the public like his links with the anti-apartheid movements, Fela’s efforts to link and create a united front with like-minds were constantly sabotage by respective Nigerian regimes. For example, the Guinea Ambassador in Nigeria in 1978 contacted Fela inviting him to meet with President Ahmed Sekou Toure at the Embassy situated on Victoria Island during the president’s state visit to Nigeria. However, the Obasanjo regime would do everything to make the meeting impossible. Fela was waiting at the Guinean Embassy in Victoria Island as earlier arranged with the Ambassador, who had gone to the airport to receive the visiting Head of State. The Nigerian Government despite being aware of other engagements at the Embassy awaiting President Sekou Toure used state protocol to keep the visiting President from living the state reception.
Suspecting that the Nigerian authority might be blocking this meeting, Fela drove to the State House along Marina road where the reception for the visiting Head of State was taking place, but he was prevented by State security agents from gate-crashing the “party”. He returned to his Ikeja home after a mission impossible. However, since the President of Guinea’s visit to Nigeria was short he delegated Kwame Toure (Stockley Carmichael) on exile in Guinean and in the Presidential entourage, to see Fela explaining why they couldn’t meet. Kwame Toure would later explain that protocol, was the reason why the meeting with the President of Guinea couldn’t take place. He visited Fela on several occasions after - whenever he passed through Lagos and he discussed with us ways of collaboration with his All African Peoples Revolutionary Party. Kwame Toure was also during his exile days in Guinea, married to Mariam Makeba, many years after my departure from Fela’s Organization, I met Miriam Makeba in Zurich and we talked about Fela, his struggles and our attempt to contact her in Guinea. She ended our discussion with this beautiful autograph below.
Kwame Toure (Stockley Carmichael) pictured sitting second from right during one of his visits to Fela sitting right. Picture by Femi Bankole Osunla Africa 70 Photo Agency.
Many years after my departure from Fela’s Organization, I met Miriam Makeba in Zurich and we talked about Fela and our attempt to contact her in Guinea. She ended our discussion with this beautiful autograph below.
For more information pick-up a copy of Fela Phinomenon & Legacy from this link http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00C4QS9LK
Radio Shrine! Gan! Gan! Please Pass The Message