By Taiwo Okanlawon
A professor of International Law and Jurisprudence, Akin Oyebode has described the pioneer of the Afrobeat music and human rights activist, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti as an avatar who could not be destroyed and a phenomenon that decolonized Nigerian and African minds by shaping their perceptions about who they really are.
He also described the iconic musician as a genius, one of a kind who cannot be replicated but only “people can try to approximate the great man”, commending his children for carrying on with the legacy he left behind.
Oyebode was a speaker at the 2019 Felabration symposium referred to as “The FELA Debates,” alongside renowned award-winning writer, Chimamanda Adiche, Kingslee James McLean Daley, a British activist popularly known as Akala and Ugandan pop star turned politician, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (Bobbi Wine).
The debate is a segment of the annual Felabration festival designed to intellectualise the Fela ideals and ideas with this year’s topic, “Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense,” which was derived from Fela monster hit of same title.
“It is about 30 years now that Fela came to University of Lagos campus at a symposium where he made a statement that teacher should not teach students nonsense, the song was not out then, I was in the same panel with him and he said what you have been teaching in the University has not helped in the liberation of Nigeria,” Oyebode describing one of his encounters with Fela.
“As a teacher, I felt a little bit embarrassed that I have failed in my occupation, so when I got this invitation, I thought the organizers wanted me to play a mere pullback for teaching my students nonsense,” he added.
According to Oyebode, Fela touted himself as Abami Eda, a phenomenon and a scorpion on the consciousness of the Nigerian elite, adding that the gathering of the symposium was a testament of the fact that death can kill good men but cannot destroy their good ideas.
In his words, “I was not surprised when Emmanuel Macron, the President of France decided to revisit the Afrika Shrine to celebrate the greatest African musician who was like a scorpion on the consciousness of the Nigerian elite.
“Fela, who got a Mercedes and put firewood on it to dramatize the loss of value, what we use to worship. Mercedes is a super car by any name as a favorite of the Nigerian elite and here is a musician who got the car and put firewood on top to tell Nigerians that a car is just a means of moving from one place to another.”
“The MC that introduced me said I drive a Cherokee, yes I started with Beatles and I moved to Cherokee, and one of my students said, that man has sold out and eventually when I got the Mercedes, it’s fourteen years now which I still drive, that was when the students were now convinced that this man has abandoned the revolution.
“This is a very interesting country where we worship different gods and it is to Fela that we owe the heritage of rebelling against the society and the rebellion of power which is the revolution is not something to be scared of, it is only big men that are scared of revolution,” he added.
“Fela that we are celebrating so many years after he moved to higher collage was an avatar aside the phenomenon that could not be crushed. The concept of Anikulapo, he changed the colonial name of Ransome to Anikulapo to symbolize the commitment for the destruction of Nigeria.
“The other thing that Fela did that to me was very remarkable was that he set to himself the task of decolonizing Nigerian minds which is very critical in terms of shaping our perceptions with self-realization, who we are where we were coming from …..Fela tried as much as he could to decolonize the African minds.”
Oyebode also said Fela did his utmost best to be ideal with Nigerian society and has brilliants lawyers like Femi Falana, at his side whenever he has encounters with the Nigerian government.
Oyebode, however, said he was not surprised at this cosmopolitan gathering to reflect on the life and times of Fela because his heritage has survived more than twenty years and will continue to live.
“Fela’s music indelible, it is indestructible, like he even said during his lifetime that no one can destroy him because he’s an avatar,” he said.