Hi there! It’s Thursday today, and you are about to be served your weekly dose of Nostalgia! Today’s feature is about a Nigerian legend in the person of Fela Kuti, who on the 21st of January, 1993 (which so happens to have been a Thursday), was arrested on suspicion of murder. Read on to catch the full gist!
The Afrobeats legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, a Nigerian dissident who was one of Africa’s most celebrated musicians, was arrested on the 21st of January 1993, on allegations of murder and conspiracy in the beating death of an employee over the sum of $138.
It was reported by the then Deputy Police Commissioner James Danbada, who had claimed in a statement that an electrician was killed by Fela’s bodyguards after he accused the musician of cheating him. The beating allegedly occurred at Fela’s home.
Fela’s brother, human rights leader Beko Ransome-Kuti, said in a telephone interviewdays after the incident that Fela was arrested on the night of the 21st. He also further said that the judge ruled on Tuesday, 26th January 1993 that his brother — who is known by his first name — should be held until the case would be heard on March 15, but that an appeal would be filed seeking to free Fela on bail.
The then 52-year-old musician, had recorded more than 50 albums and was known for his displeasure and apparent disaffection for Nigerian (corrupt) leadership and he made this evident in some of his lyrics which were critical of military governments like the one which was ruling Nigeria at the time.
He had been arrested many times before this particular unfortunate incident. He had faced constant harassment and maltreatment from the military in the past, particularly in 1977, when his house was burned by troopsfollowing his release of a song that likened soldiers to zombies.
In 1984, Fela was convicted of illegally exporting foreign currency and sentenced to 10 years in prison. A year later, the military government of Gen. Muhammed Buhari was overthrown by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, the sitting president (also known as Head of State) as at 1993, who freed Fela.
After the 1984 conviction, the international human rights group Amnesty International declared Fela a prisoner of conscience.
The facts surrounding the alleged murder of the electrician were blurred as it was extremely difficult for the prosecution to prove its case. The only established fact of the case was that the body of a man was found here in January, not far from Fela’s house.
He vigorously denied any involvement in the killing, and he regarded the charges ludicrous and politically motivated. He said of his prosecutors:
“These people aren’t serious,”. “It’s just another one of their ploys to trap me.”
“This is how the military works in this country,” . “They make things up. They’ll try anything to get you.”
In addition to being a renowned musician, Fela Kuti in his time, was an activist and a distint voice against social injustice and unacceptable practices by the Nigerian government.
Together with lawyer Femi Falana, and many members of the Kuti family by blood and otherwise, he was apart of the Campaign for Democracy, a coalition of about 40 trade unions and civil rights groups that has emerged as the leading opposition to the military rule of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. Campaign for Democracy
It was the Campaign for Democracy that brought Nigeria’s largest cities, including Lagos, to a standstill on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with three days of civil disobedience to protest the Government’s decision to annul presidential elections held in June.
Fela Kuti, though he didn’t live a particularly long life, lived through a time when things were constantly going south and the odds were almost always against individuals like himself who dared to speak up., and he has since established an evergreen legacy through his music, and overall contribution to Africanism and freedom from oppression.
The legend of Fela Kuti will always live on.
By Oluwamayowa Akinyemi
Oluwamayowa Akinyemi is a digital and web content developer with experience in web content development and management as well as research and writing. He is an avid reader of random subject matters and a sucker for movies and video games. He is also passionate about youth empowerment and is a global affairs analyst and enthusiast.