After decades of being treated like an outcast, Fela gets a posthumous recognition from Lagos state
Two decades after his death, Fela has gotten his first recognition from the government.
On Sunday, October 15, 2017, Governor Ambode unveiled the Liberation Statue in honour of Fela erected at Allen Roundabout in Ikeja.
"This “Liberation” statue is not an image of Fela but a symbol of Fela’s philosophy. This artwork was created as a form of respect and remembrance to this legend; what he stood for and fought for with his music; his mythology; struggle for freedom; fight for human dignity; social consciousness; courage and Pan-Africanism" said the Governor of Lagos state.
Just like the man, the statue of Fela is unique. The Liberation statue has no fist and head but the posture is instantly recognizable. When you see it, you know it is Fela.
Who would have thought that the sound rebel who spoke truth to power would get a monument unveiled by the Lagos state government?
At the peak of his powers, Fela was public enemy number one. His scathing monster tracks embarrassed the political class and military boys at that time.
Fela's base was in Lagos state. He performed weekly at his Afrikan Shrine and reigned at the Kalakuta Republic. His notoriety led to the burning of his house, attack on him and his band members and the eventual death of his mother.
That horrible episode in the heart of Lagos changed Fela Kuti forever. It would be a huge chapter in Fela's colourful life.
Whether state or Federal government, Fela has always been attacked by the political class and establishment. His Afrikan Shrine at Pepple Street was raided and locked down many times. Shortly before his death in 1997, he was arrested again by the Nigerian Police.
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Fela was never accepted by the government. While honours have been bestowed on numerous singers and musicians in this country, Fela has never been the recipient of any national honour posthumously.
In our generation, Fela's fame would be larger than his acceptance in mainstream governance and politics. He was the one who no one spoke about. The sins of the father would also spill to the son.
In 2009, the new Afrikan Shrine owned by Femi Kuti was shut down by the Lagos state government. "Noise, street hawkers and illegal parking" were the reasons the LASG gave for shutting down the event centre. It was later re-opened a month after.
The mood towards Fela started to change when APC chieftain and former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu pulled enough strings to bring Fela!, the Broadway play on the iconic musician to Lagos.
The event was a success and in 2017 a more stripped down version of the play was brought back to Lagos. The play (more like a concert) was one of the activities lined up to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lagos state.
The unveiling of the statue is the Lagos state government's display that it celebrates and recognizes the legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Once an outcast for his rebellious philosophy and music, Fela is now celebrated as one of the legends of Lagos city.
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