Afrobeat Culture Federator


Monday 18 February 2019 by Mabinuori Idowu (aka ID)

To the unsuspecting mind this song’s title represents a homage to military ‘heroes’, in keeping with world-wide tradition of erecting statues in memory of soldiers who lost their lives in wars. While Fela in his lifetime cannot be described as ‘a good bed-fellow’ of military orientation and approach in a civil society, his song Unknown Soldier has nothing to do with homage to the memories of fallen soldiers. Rather, Fela wrote the song as a result of a controversy that ‘rocked’ the military regime of General Obasanjo in 1977. On February 18, 1977 one thousand Nigerian Army Soldiers, attacked and burnt-down Fela’s Kalakuta Republic.

The official justification given for the attack by the army, was that they went to Kalakuta to arrest some members who after a fight with a military corporal for traffic violation, burnt down the motor cycle the corporal was riding and escaped into Fela’s Kalakuta republic. Contrary to what the Obasanjo regime (1976-1979) would have people believe, there is no doubt that Fela’s refusal to participate in the FESTAC ‘77 sham, the sea of black power salutes that surrounded him wherever he went in Nigeria, and his uncompromising bold lyrics condemning government’s corruption, plus his financing and publishing of YAP NEWS were the true reasons behind the Nigerian Army attack.

Fela’s attempt to rally the more than forty-thousand people watching was prevented by the invading Nigerian Army soldiers. The armed soldiers prevented Fela’s boys from mounting the public address system by throwing stone and sticks at them. Today with a simple tweet or text message on the social network, I am certain that at least more than ten-thousand of those 40,000 people watching Nigerian Army attack Fela’s Kalakuta would have reacted differently – that is the advantage of social network today.

Shortly after Obasanjo’s army regime burnt down Kalakuta in 1977 as a sign of protest, Fela and members of the Young African Pioneers placed a coffin (not his mother’s), on the balcony of the ruins of Kalakuta Republic with banner stating:
“This Is The Spot Where Justice Was Murdered”. People walking or driving-pass the ruins, saw this symbolic protest as a defiance of the military regime. One year after; Fela and his group Africa 70 was invited to headline in November 1978; the annual Berlin Jazz Festival in Germany!

On his return back to Nigeria after the trip to Germany, Fela discovered that General Obasanjo’s military regime had seized the opportunity of his absence from the country, to forcibly evacuate the inhabitants of the area breaking down their homes and what was left of the Kuti family house. More than five thousand people were forced, to evacuate their homes without alternative provisions or compensation; and we found the coffin placed on the debris of the demolished buildings.

Asked what he intended to do with the coffin, by members of the press present during his visit, Fela replied: “on or before 1st October 1979, we will deposit this coffin at the state house Dodan Barracks as a parting gift to the Obasanjo regime whom we hold responsible for this barbaric act”. Picture of this memorable moment, when Fela made the declaration to deposit the coffin in Doddan Baracks, was captured by Femi Bankole Osunla. You can see me watching closely while Fela poured libation, with alcohol as tradition demands before retrieving the coffin placed on the demolished ruins.

Keeping this promise on September 30, 1979, accompanied by members of his organisation, the Young African pioneers, and the public whom he described as Movement of the People (MOP) in the song Coffin for Head of State, we deposited the coffin despite security put in place all along the route to prevent us from getting to the seat of power.

I refer us regularly to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti because he was the man who sang yesterday about today and tomorrow to come. When we hear Babangida say publicly that he gave 35 million Naira to Abiola for his election campaign one cannot but remember songs like “Army Arrangement”. Army Arrangement is about Nigeria’s attempt in 1979, at a transition to ‘democracy’ after more than 3 decades of military rule. More than three decades after Fela wrote the song, we as Nigerians can ask ourselves the question: What has changed in the way we are governed?

Brothers and sisters out there at this point in our history, it is necessary to be determined in our purpose as all things that have happened in the history of humanity were due to the human determination and decisions. “Shoulder your arms and come!” The only way to take our country back from those PDP, APC, and Paracetamole or is it Alabukun powder is to get organized. Join our Movement Agaist Second Slavery (MASS) Now!

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