Afrobeat Culture Federator

FELA, FELABRATION & LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT.

Saturday 21 October 2017 by Mabinuori Idowu (aka ID)

The adage “prophets are not known in their countries” comes to mind, with the unveiled effigy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. Particularly; the governor’s claim that the effigy is a symbol, of Fela’s philosophy and remembrance of everything the icon stood for. One cannot but ask, if this is an attempt to reverse the popular adage? As a prophet, Fela told Africans about the future, he had a vision for Africa and was inspired to do things for his people, but few believed in him in his own country. This is why I ask, if this is a reversal of the adage “prophets are not recognized in their homeland”.

In Yoruba we say, “won fi gbongbo sile! Won pa lapa lapa!” (“Leaving the roots and Killing the flower”). In my humble opinion, this is nothing but pulling the wool over our eyes. It is an undeniable truth that Fela Anikulapo-Kuti during his life time was persecuted in his own country. That he was literally crucified, ignored, and banned in his own country – is also an undeniable truth. Despite all the setbacks he worked not for his own personal gains, rather worked for an ideal - in what he believed. Fela sang for Africa and for the entire African Diaspora. He also worked for humanity and I hope one day, Nigeria his native and Africa his homeland, will accord him the necessary tribute he deserves.

One important aspect of his work is that he gave Africans, what could be termed "politic and historical consciousness". A "historical consciousness" means: I am conscious of my past, I am aware of this and I have a conscience of the future. This is what we call the historical consciousness of the human conditions. Today to talk about the memory of a continent, the people, everyone talks about Africa, you sing of Africa, history of Africa. You have books; you have this, and you have that from Africa. Thanks to people like Fela, who gave Africa the historical consciousness through his music and struggles – hence the question if finally the prophet is being recognised in his country?

From an aesthetic point of view, the artist that built the effigy did a great job. However; I maintain without any apology, that as a priority instead of building Fela’s Effigy; the Lagos State Government will do well to educate the average citizen on the essence of what Fela Anikulapo-Kuti stood for, by changing our current education curriculum. In a 21st Century Nigerian school curriculum, our young students are still being taught that Mongo Park discovered River Niger, etc. Our school children have nothing to identify with; according to books available in the school curriculum: maths, history, reading, writing, etc were invented in Europe and the Western Hemisphere – leaving African children with an inferiority complex. They are taught to look-up to Europe, America and Saudi Arabia for inspiration.

Thanks to research, and the historical dimension which has hitherto been lacking in African studies, plus the publication of 8 volumes of History of Africa by UNESCO, we know that in an attempt to keep all of the African nations south of the Sahara to a history without pre-Christian origin, Western historians for example have falsely assigned Ghana an origin of approximately 300 AD. Today; evidence are abound that as far back as 30 BC, a Roman Sentinus Flaccus, crossed the Sahara to reach the Kingdom of Niger around the region of Lake Chad. The report he gave upon his return to his native Rome, indicated that he actually saw ancient Ghana Empire. Flaccus was followed by Paulinus, another Roman who visited the northern-most reach of the Niger River in approximately 50 BC.

I saw in a museum in Zurich Switzerland in 1992, an exposition of a Yoruba wood carving with hieroglyphic works of art dating back to the 12th Century AD. From the information available at the expo, and my enquiry with the Curator of the exposition, the wood carvings like other objects exposed, are properties of the Nigerian National Commission of Museums and Monuments (NNCMM). With such proof in their possession, the NNCMM - a branch of the Federal Government of Nigeria, why are our school children still being taught history limited to 18th Century?

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, Buhari, Obasanjo and all those in power today in Nigeria, were educated with the same school curriculum and history books that attribute an 18th Century origin to all Nigerian past. Today their children and grandchildren are still learning, the same colonial education they were taught 50 years ago. They have the power and means to make the necessary change in our education system. In my humble opinion, making this information available in our school system is the best way to honour Fela. There are many groups and movements, calling through the social media, for the return of African heritage today in the possession of Western museums, what are those in power doing to bring back all these relics of our past?

Nothing yet is done; to correct this misinformation as far as I know, in our school curriculum and history books that attribute an 18th Century origin to all Yoruba Kingdoms and history. We have a document titled Colloquium on Black Civilization and Education; it is a blue print on how Africa should be ruled. It is a document printed by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Information printing division situated on Malu Road, Apapa Lagos. Who among the current African heads of state can confirm reading the recommendations of the colloquium? How many States Assembly members from current independent nation members of the African Union have debated the recommendations of the colloquium in their respective assemblies? How many African individuals know the contents of the colloquium?

The reasons why Fela resigned his membership of Nigeria’s National Participation Committee for FESTAC ’77, was his demand in a nine-point programme he presented to the committee, that the activities of the festival and the ideas behind them should be channelled through the education curriculum in the country to benefit future generations. More than three decades after FESTAC ’77, what do we as a country have to show for all that money spent to host the festival? Thanks to Gboyega Adelaja’s alarm on the social media like I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, we know that thousands of hours of film reels from the festival are disintegrating where they are stored. It would be interesting to know, if anything has been done to save those tapes since his post on social network.

If we had followed Fela’s advice in 1976, we would not already be celebrating 2nd World Black African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC), we would already have had FESTAC number 40 channelled through the education curriculum in the country to benefit future generations like he proposed to Nigeria’s National Participation Committee. Now they are building Fela’s effigy, as a symbol of Fela’s philosophy and remembrance of everything the icon stood for. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, rather than build an effigy will do honour to Fela’s philosophy by implementing the nine-point programme Fela presented to the Nigerian National Participation Committee in 1976.

Those in power make us believe that Africa is on the move, Africa is progressing, etc. What progress? We have AIDS, Ebola, and all sorts of deceases directly or indirectly spreading on the continent. Africa is poor, she is heavily indebted, and they continue to say Africa is moving in the right direction – things are working, etc. Making fun of our people, if I may ask what is working in Africa? They pollute the Gulf of Guinea, oil tankers navigating Africa’s waters and pollute everything from Cape Town to Cairo. Africa is not in any scenario of tomorrow be it military, security, scientific, we are in no scenario. Those people who want to make us believe that Africa is making progress, my reply like Fela sang: “I know where I am going, someone wants to say it is not the right way: I go shout plenty oh!”

It cannot be over-emphasized that the situation on the African continent is getting worse. As often stated here, the work of a whole generation of scholars will go to waste, unless these works are channelled through African school curriculum and education system. Many people have died for the cause trying to change things, and for me I think it will amount to a worse crime to let great people die in vain, without any attempt to give fulfilment to the cause they lived and died for. As suggested in my book Fela, Phenomenon & Legacy, the ‘Fela Debates’ part of Felabration festival could serve as forum that gathers together every year a selection of notable speakers that can shed-light on subjects like the social and political influence of Fela on African society, and if well coordinated could help a great deal in bringing like minds together, to access the progress of Black Struggle world-wide and map-out concrete plans for the future.

We can also contact for example, the team from the Journal of African Civilization created by the late Dr. Ivan Van Sertima author of the epic work: “They Came before Columbus” – African presence in the Americas before Christopher Columbus. Not leaving behind other structures that can give concrete direction and advice to the struggle. We can extend this invitation, to competent contributors from Institutes or Institutions dedicated to researches on Bantu history. Not forgetting the radiocarbon laboratory of the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa in Dakar Senegal (Le laboratoire du radiocarbone de l’Institute Fundamental d’Afrique Noir) founded by Cheikh Anta Diop. These Institutions could serve as a base for future research, and training of African scientists covering all disciplines.

The festival could also help by alerting family and friends, local bookstores, and schools to all the efforts put in place already, and those yet to materialise but under consideration. We have all we need to make necessary change in Africa. We have competent men and women, we have intellectuals, we have capable doctors, we have scientists, why then does Africa not have the right leadership?

Fela as a prophet sang to Africans about the past, the present and the future. He had a vision for Africa and was inspired to do things for his people – he gave us politic and historic consciousness and with a historical consciousness, you can take Radical decisions. Hence our call for a radical change in Africa!


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