Fela: 20 Years On

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Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime,

And, departing, leave behind us

Footprints on the sands of time.

-HW Longfellow.

 

It’s been 20 years since Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the maestro died. He was arguably the greatest musician Nigeria, nay Africa has had. And really, he was more than a musician.

Born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti in 1938 to the illustrious family of Reverend Israel Ransomed-Kuti, an Anglican clergy and teacher, and Mrs. Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti, a foremost female anti-colonial activist, he had a very decent upbringing.

Fela as he was popularly known was expected to toe the line designed for him just like his elder brother, Olikoye, who subsequently became a paeditrician. His younger brother, Bekolari, became a doctor too while their only sister, Dolupo became a nurse. Fela, sent abroad to study medicine, opted to blaze his own track. He decided to study music at the Trinity College of Music.

Having studied music, Fela mesmerized everyone around and took the world captive by his songs. He sang against corruption and the corrupt elite. He used his music as a vehicle to confront all manners of social injustice. The military leadership of the country did all they could to suppress his will and make him dance to their tune, but he refused to be subjugated. He was a fearless radical that had the guts to say or sing what others could only think and spoke for millions of his countrymen who could not speak for themselves.

Yes, there were many things he did that I would never agree with, but if the truth be told, a colossus trod this part of the earth.

It was said that Fela died of complications of HIV/AIDS because he refused to acknowledge the infection and treat it, which should be a lesson for us all that infections and diseases do not respect status. But the thrust of this write-up is to encourage each and every one to look beyond the established order and live a liberated life. Fela may not have become a doctor like his elder and younger brothers, but his influence on the polity was not mean either. Olikoye, the elder brother touched the lives of many children, but Fela used his music to touch many adults and awaken the conscience of the nation and the African continent at large.

20 years from the day the maestro died, it is time to birth your own dream and fashion the path that will lead you into fulfilling your destiny. It is time to ditch the established order.

Yes, it is time to see that other half of your being.

And 20 years from now, what on earth will you be remembered for?

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Saul Adeleke is a Resident with LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, Ogbomoso. He's a seasoned writer with about 2 decades of writing experience, ranging from Christian articles to politics and health. He is happily married, and worships with his family at The Vineyard Assembly, Inc., Ibadan.

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