Olufela Ransome Kuti which he later changed to Anikulapo to profess his immortality amongst men meant so many things to different people. To some, he was the quintessential rebel, hemp advocate, lover of hedonism, while to others a Pan Africanist, moral conscience of the Nigerian citizens against the whims and caprices of those in power.
Fela began his music career in London where he was sent to study medicine but rather opted to study music at Trinity College of Music with the trumpet as his preferred instrument. He established a band Koola Lobitos which played a fusion of jazz and highlife. In 1967, he went to Ghana for musical inspiration and created Afrobeat which was a fusion of highlife, funk, jazz, salsa, calypso and Yoruba music.
His black consciousness was awakened when he took his band to the United States in 1969 and spent 10 months in Los Angeles where he struck a chord of friendship with Sandra Smith(now Sandra Izsadore) of the revolutionary African American militant group Black Panther Party which would later influence his style of music and political views. Fela renamed his group Afrika 70 when he returned back to Nigeria and established Kalakuta Republic, a communal abode which symbolized rebellion against the Nigerian state which was home to his family, band members and recording studio and had a free health clinic which also welcomed like minded rebels and declared it independent from the Nigerian state.
He established a nightclub at Empire Hotel within the Moshalashi area of Surulere, Lagos and called it Afrospot which was later renamed Afrikan Shrine where he performed regularly and officiated personalized traditional Yoruba ceremonies to celebrate his native roots. He had Yabis night sessions at Afrikan Shrine where he took the ruling class to the cleaners over corruption and impoverishment of the masses.
In the 1970-1980s Fela ran outspoken political columns in leading daily and weekly newspapers such as The Daily Times and The Punch bypassing editorial censorship in Nigeria’s media space which was under control by the government under the title ‘’ Chief Priest Say’’ which were extensions of his Yabis sessions.
He released a classic album ‘’Zombie’’ which was a derogatory term used to describe officers of the armed forces unquestioned loyalty to their superiors. That album infuriated the ruling military junta led by Gen Olusegun Obasanjo and led to an invasion on February 18 1977 by a thousand soldiers resulting in the destruction of Kalakuta Republic and the death of his biological mother. To protest this gruesome action, he took his mother’s corpse to Dodan Barracks, the then-seat of power for the ruling military junta, in Nigeria, and released the singles ‘’Coffin For Head of State’’ and ‘’Unknown Soldier’’.
Fela’s political activism led to the establishment of a political party ‘’Movement Of The People’’ which was a mass movement founded on the philosophy of ‘’Nkrumahism’’ and ‘’Pan Africanism’’. He was barred from contesting the 1979 presidential elections in Nigeria which was won by late Alhaji Shehu Shagari. He created a new band ‘’Egypt 80’’ in honour of Egypt as the cradle of civilization. Fela would later release classics condemning the corruption in government which earned him a series of arrests and detentions by the subsequent military governments after the fall of the Second Republic. As an anti apartheid crusader, he released the classic album ‘’Beast Of No Nation’’ in 1989.
His descendants decided to immortalize him by organizing an annual festival ‘’Felabration’’ in his honour, in October, when he was born featuring intellectual, cultural and entertainment sessions. Various artistes from Nigeria and across the globe participated in this programme to honour the late Afrobeat legend.
Considering the influence Fela had on Nigerians, Africans on the continent and the Diaspora and the rest of the world, the Federal and Lagos State Governments are not taking advantage to promote this cultural icon. When Emmanuel Macron visited Nigeria in his first visit since becoming French President, he made sure the New African shrine was on his schedule.
Felabration can be used to promote Nigeria as a global cultural and tourism destination, boosting our non oil exports. Here is how:
Collaboration With the Federal and Lagos State Governments: The Federal and Lagos State Government should be approached for a collaboration as partners to promote Felabration globally. The Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs should work in unison to make sure that all Nigeria’s Embassies and High Commissions worldwide market Felabration to their host countries so that their citizens will attend this annual event. Also the Federal Ministry of Information should ensure that UNESCO supports this festival. The Lagos State Government should ensure that transportation infrastructure within the Ikeja axis of the state is in good condition to support domestic and foreign tourists who will attend all the festivities.
Collaboration With Foreign Airlines: Foreign Airlines plying the nation’s airspace should also be approached for collaboration to market Felabration as a must attend festival to their customers.
Collaboration With Electronic Commerce Brands: Leading E-Commerce brands Ariya Tickets, Jumia, Konga and Amazon.com should be approached to sell tickets and merchandise to domestic and foreign fans of Afrobeat music.
Collaboration With Digital Media Platforms: Digital Satellite TV providers like Black Entertainment Television, MTV, Trace TV and media platforms like Netflix, and WeChat should be approached as media partners to beam Felabration live to their subscribers.
Creation of Felabration App accessible on all Mobile Platforms: A mobile app should be developed for Felebration which will be available for IOS and Android users as a guide to all activities.
Creation of Fela Animated Movie: An animated movie based on the life and times of Fela should be done by Fela’s children in collaboration with one of the major Hollywood studios which will help in promoting the legend of Fela globally.
Creation of Fela Video Game: An adventure video game should be developed for game lovers based on the life and times of Fela which will be available on Sony Playstation and Google Android and Apple’s IOS Stores for accessibility with the earnings split between Fela’s children and the technology companies.
Creation of Fela Theme Park: A Fela Theme Park should be built which will feature holographic and augmented reality performances of Fela, his band, dancers and other acts associated with the Afrobeat legend where his memorabilia of classic albums, wears and shoes, trumpets, photos of performances and other important events will be on display for millions of his fans to come and visit annually during Felabration.
With dwindling oil receipts, Nigeria needs to harness the opportunities of the non-oil sector such as tourism which has greater potential to generate more revenue for national development.