This is the week of Felabration, dedicated to the life, music, and struggles of the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the Afrobeat legend who would have been 81 on Tuesday, 15 October. He lived from 15 October 1938 to 2 August 1997.
Fela, throughout his career, was a target of persecution by the military authorities. For this, he was harassed, arrested, docked and jailed.
In March 1993, four editors of TheNEWS magazine were sent to Ikoyi Prison by Justice Olugbani of the Lagos High Court, where they spent one week over an alleged ‘criminal libel case’. A dividend of the detention was being incarcerated in the same prison space with Fela, who was then facing a murder charge.
The editors decided to interview Fela on his life, Nigeria and the spirit world. The interview, the most comprehensive that Fela ever gave, was published in the 5 April 1993 edition of TheNEWS. Fela spoke about his life, music, struggles and sufferings.
There was a day he was invited to Burkina Faso by President Blaise Campoure. Fela, in the stadium, poured obscenities on the president. He narrated:
“I was invited to play for Campaore. When we got to Burkina Faso, the airport was empty, no single soul was there, they then began to search us. Me I come realize say this search de dangerous because the Igbo wey I carry on that trip reach two cartons of beer. So I call one of those wey take us from Lagos I said look if this searching continues me I go go back. He said no problem even if bomb dey them go allow am into the country.
“You people want to hear story. Come to think of it, I was lucky to have escaped because it was a serious matter I did not know o. Because I was ordered out of Burkina Faso. On my way back, the plane that was to take me to Lagos stopped in Cotonou and we took buses back to Lagos. The police in Cotonou were just looking at me. They could not imagine how anybody fit go to Burkina Faso stand in front of Compaore and spit at his face and still come out safe like I did. Meself , he be like say I don begin craze small.”
Below is the full interview:
Inside Ikoyi Prison where he has been in detention since January 1993, Fela reflects on his life, the nation and the spirit world.
What is life like behind bars?
This place na different world. I beg, I beg, I beg, in this place people don’t talk, they just look. I mind my business here. I meditate, I try to rediscover myself.
Meditation apart, what other things do you do in prison?
Of course, I dey think now. But I prefer to keep it to myself, not to tell you people. If I discuss my meditation with you, that means I am not meditating. You see I don’t think about outside. For me, once I enter here I don’t think about outside again, outside prison, otherwise you’ll go crazy simple.
Don’t you miss freedom?
Yes, now. I have always been free. I am not free here. Finish. But I still like it here. You don’t know anything. This is the best prison in Nigeria. Go and try Maiduguri or Benin prison.
Are you saying there is no way you can be free while in prison?
Teach me now. You are in prison yourself, go and open the gate and go out if you can. Look what I am getting at is that it is only my mind that is free. My meditation here is spiritual.
Do you miss your favourite pastime – watching television?
Yes of course. I watch television a lot for many reasons. I watch the control of human beings on television. For example, you don’t know that words have roots in spirituality.
How can that be?
If the measurement of knowledge is the ceiling up there, anything that falls below it, is the amount of ignorance somebody has. So, your question how can that be is a question from the mind of an educated man. The Yoruba meaning of education, incidentally, is someone whose mind has been trained and locked with a key. You are that kind of person. Knowledge is how your mind expand reach.
English words even have a Yoruba essence; are you not saying all these because you are a Yoruba man?
NO I know what I am saying. You should not have said “ how can that be.” You should have said “can you explain?” because that kind of question can only come from a foolish man who gets moustache like you. That is what we call M.P. Moustache Problem. Hitler who is one of the most wicked men according to history also has moustache like you people. What you people don’t know is that Yoruba is the secret of the spirit, that is why the Pot was given to Oduduwa to put at Ife. When you hear America, it means ye shall find wickedness in Yoruba and that is why there is so much wickedness in America. When you hear Russia, the real meaning in Yoruba is rush-into-suffering. Really there is nothing called Europe, it should be Europa, it means Yoruba. It is all elliptical variants of Yoruba language they are speaking there. When you hear London, for instance, that was the beginning of the power in Europe. The British was the first to colonize the world. They got the power from Ife. That was where London got the name from L-o-n-d-o-ni from Ooni, which again means crocodile.
Even the name, Windsor Castle palace in London which got burnt last November, is not English, it is Yoruba, from the Yoruba word, Iwin-so meaning the witches talking. Look at the word soldier. It means Isoluja in Yoruba. Again look at the word Police, it means po. They take that word from the dirtiest place, po-potty. Latin was the most treacherous of the European languages that was why they canceled it quickly.
Is Democracy a possible experience in Nigeria?
Yes. You see Democracy like hospital are very latest developments in the white man’s country. They still have a mixture of Yoruba and English together, like hospital for example. They say h-o-o (spit) and spittle, that lowest form of treatment of human beings. People say they go there for treatment but don’t go there. Many people in this country are possessed. Some of them are like those birds lekeleke, (egret) they fly, they are possessed. That is why each time everybody says Babangida should go. I have always maintained that Babangida cannot go. I said so, because he is possessed like the rest of us. He has to stay. The forces in him will not let him go. That is the point.
Can’t he decide to hand over?
No. Look he must play his film finish. Na contract. He must finish his part.
Can’t you predict when IBB will finish playing his part?
Me? I no fit predict. When he finishes he would pack his things and leave. He is the last of this age. We are entering a new age, the age of Aquarius, the age of Water. Our leaders are the last layers of the people that are treacherous to the Africans. Otedola is the mark of that time to remind people of that age. The name means treachery becomes greatness.
But what happens if Chief Abiola becomes the next President?
Wait now make him take over. He don jump there now his eyes go see a lot.
What does this aquarian age signify?
It is the age of good over evil. People will start to know themselves. All the stooges that were supporting the white man to sell Africans during the slave trade are back now as human beings. Those are the ones ruling all states in Africa. That is why Babangida could easily sell Nigeria and call is SAP. That is what Rawlings did to Ghana, Mobutu did in Congo, they all sell Africa and call it SAP. They sell the people, sell the land, sell the whole country. They’ve sold us. SAP means Selling Africans People. It is in my song. That is SAP. They promised Babangida that if he can go by January they would not let dollar pass 20, but as he has stayed, they told him they cannot wait, the Naira is N35 to one dollar now. By next month it is going to be N40, by the time Babangida goes it is gong to be N50.00. That is what Abiola wants to be President of. He go see wen . That means na him then go stone then, no be “Babangida.” Because Nigerians cannot survive as things are going. That means we will have to be buying bread at N100 by August. That is why Babangida cannot go. If he goes he will get more trouble more problems. He don tire, but he cannot go. There is nowhere for him to go. All these things are happening na him sign the money go. It is time for all these troubles to show.
You seem to have become deeply spiritual of late. Why is this so?
I have since discovered that the secret of this world is with the Rosicrucian’s, the Free Masons, House of Amorc, Ogboni’s and all the societies of this world which all the top people of this country belong to.
How come you know all these?
I was given the gift to know from up. I got my spirit on 25 June 1981.
How did it happen?
That one na long story. It is because the Rosicrucians hold the key to the understanding of life that you cannot get their books to buy outside. You have to be a member. And to be a member, my brother, it is difficult.
But the late Awolowo was a member.
Yes. Awo was sent by ISIS to this world, the God of ISIS. It is from isis Genesis came, Genesis is not the beginning my brother, it is Yoruba word. ISIS is white man’s transition of Isi. Isi is the name of the African woman that is the goddess of the whole world. Na him dey control this world, world called Isi…But the Oyinbos choose to call her Isis. Gene is an African world. Gene is Mid-West is god, Ogene and Gini in Yoruba is cat, powerful, Ogini. Ogini and Ogene means god the cat with nine lives. So Isis power has cat. So the gini of Isis is Genesis which people call the beginning.
But all these are not in the Bible?
My brother you can read the Bible but the best books to read are the Rosicrucian books. You can’t get those books to buy. That means there are two separate institutions in this world. If you go to England there are Rosicrucian schools where special children go and those books are there for those children to read. These same children go to Cambridge and Oxford and they rule England. That is how England is. The secret is not Bible. How can it be with Bible, when Adam and Eve born two children, Cain and Abel and they are men. How did they procreate, my brother? And later Cain killed Abel, wetin come happen? Na wa o. I beg, I beg. You see when I talk about the spirit world like this I know wetin I dey talk. I get reason why my life be like this, why I suffer. They born me through the person wey I suppose come through Reverend so I go know everything well well to question them from the beginning to the end of the Bible. My brother it is all tricks. Wayo.
Did you discover these things when you were in school?
A: No, na through Astral travel in 1981. It has since made me understand the world better. For example what people call mother or Iya in Yoruba is nothing other than punishment (iya). The Yorubas know what they are talking about men. The Yorubas get sense pass anybody. Why it is that mothers force their kids to do what is against the spirit of those kids. They force them to eat, especially those educated women. I want my child to be like me, they say, when you are growing you start to go to school, they then call you master which his nothing but mass of star. They begin to disturb. Give you figures, mathematics. Then they go on to call you mister which means you have missed your star. So everything we are doing in this world now is the negative or opposite of what is usually happening.
So how can we redeem ourselves?
It is simple, everybody go start to see his spirit. Whether you like it or not. You come see the master himself who is supposed to rule. You go see yourself how you suppose to be.
So what do you make of the on-going transition programme?
Transition means death. Don’t you know. This is why Dodan Barracks is in the middle of cemetery to remind them that the spirit of the dead people is opposed to the transition programme. Jah is the name of the spirit, isis sent to give Christians and muslims their doctrines. That is why the government has moved to Abuja because Jah has to guide them. Abuja is where Jah himself lives. You see the point.
Have you never considered going on a preaching circuit?
That is what my music is about. That is why I have the shrine. I talk about these things in the shrine on Saturday nights. Any time I go on tour in Europe I talk about it everywhere, even in Germany. The true meaning in Yoruba is Ija ma ni. They came to earth to fight. They came to fight God, that is why Germans start the first World War, the Second World war and even Third War. Look my brother everything is spirit, but education just make everybody know book, just dey waka to salary, white man’s salary.
The white man knows why he makes book, machine and Bible to fuck you up. Does it not surprise you that the people wey invent aeroplane no go school, no go university? So wetin you dey talk? Each time the Christians say Jesus Christ came to take the sins of the world, what they mean to say is scenes. He come steal knowledge. That was why when he come thief finish he come say God oh that death wey you say make I come die you fit commot am for my head. My brother he come thief, he is a proper thief. That was why he was hanged with two thieves. One for right, the other for left because they know themselves before Sango come vex take lightening quench him neck for am. Na Sango kill am. Bible itself talk say thunder strike and Sango is the god of thunder.
Archbishop Okogie may sue you for this?
Sue who? If he hears this he go dey shake ni because he go know say na truth I dey talk. Latin is very funny to me when I hear it because I have deciphered many things in Latin. Each time the Pope talks I get amused. I laugh because I go just hear Laduke…Lakunni. Asake. (All lovely female names).
How come you like giving different meaning to names?
I give names their true meaning. Take for example the name Oyakhilome. It means Oyakilomo, that was why he was kicked out of the place because he go jam Jennifer. The name Jennifer means Ajeni Ifa, meaning Ifa is a witch. They then brought kwajafa, a disciple of Jah to replace him. All of them na spirit.
How then do you explain your love for sex?
Sex is power, if you know how to use it well, finish. If you are given the gift to know how to keep your body for that sex.
Yes, if you know how to, because all the time woman fuck you she take from you. When they are having children they pretend they are feeling pains. Na lie. They are feeling no pain. They are having essence. When you dey fuck woman she go dey cry hey, hey, hey, hey, take it easy now she go dey deceive you say she dey feel pain whereas she dey enjoy am. You can even fuck the spirit of woman. For example if I dey fuck woman here I can be fucking 10 other women at the same time while fucking that one. I will just take my mind away. She can do the same thing to me. So you don’t know? So what is love now? They (women) just call Darling, Husband, Sweety for nothing. You are not even the horse you are the band of the horse. There is so much deceit in sex. That is what Isis did to men – threw us to the ground.
But why do you hate the Bible?
Look God no dey for Bible. Everybody has the knowledge of God. One day I quarrelled with one of the people wey dey come preach for prison here. When S.K. Adebanjo, an accountant came one day, I said S.K. why you do like this, you from Ilesha, my friend you come dey preach Bible for prison. He said look Fela what other way can you teach good to people? So I said so only Bible can show you good and bad. You know fit teach good and bad with mouth? My brother the people wey bring Bible na them start violence, white people, mass killing. You think say black people no no how to make guns. We knew but we knew if we did it we will kill ourselves. That was why we restricted ourselves to bows and arrows. That is sweeter. The only way Nigeria can move forward is if everyone can know his spirit.
Many people are surprised that you didn’t take part in politics. Why?
You think say with all these things I know I go come they jump say I want do politics? Politics wey na flying politics. Na Astral politicis Babangida dey practice in Nigeria. It is crazy men. See, President sit down fly go, form two parties himself, fly go, build party offices himself, choose leader himself, write manifesto himself, register the party himself, fly go and everybody come join am. That is wuru wuru politics. All of you are flying my brother. And you people self they write about it and you say you are journalists and that you are educated. What you do is to press people down, so you are part of the system wey they press people.
Don’t you want the press to report these events?
Yes, journalists should dissociate themselves internationally from participating in falsehood. What is happening in Nigeria today cannot be politics. All those people you see wey de waste their time don craze.
Are you saying if Babangida had allowed more parties you would have participated?
I may not take part, but I will comment, I will discuss. But any journalist who comes to me for an interview now on SDP or NRC will be shocked. I will simply say I beg carry your question go. Don’t turn me into a mad man like you. If you are mad carry your madness go, because right now we are all meditating aloud. That is what I am doing here. You are listening and as you dey go out please do your duty, print all I have said word for word. Print am o. Because nothing dey inside this interview which can annoy President Babangida . So just print this thing as he dey there. I beg. Anytime I think of how Babangida rules this country I just laugh because he be like say many people de under his spell.
Look many of the things wey Babangida dey do today he would not have tried them years back. Because the mentality of people at that time was high, but now it’s low. Awolowo had to quickly commot the Oyinbo name, Jeremiah wey dey for his name at that time because they would have dealt with him. Even Azikiwe too. But look, they have spoilt the youths of today patapata. That Is why Babangida can still say he start party. It is very, very funny. Is it not funny that soldier man say him start political party? Everyone knows that soldiers are meant only to take orders, but for Nigeria, na the other way round. Na soldiers de form party and civilians like Abiola de join. Well, Abiola fit win sha, because anything can happen. In Nigeria even John Major of Britain can stand election and win without even coming here. So I beg, I beg, Abiola can win o. No be Yar’Adua, another soldier want to win recently before everybody begin shout say he don’t do magomago. I tell you, all of us for Nigeria don craze. All those Oyinbos just de watch us and they laugh at how we dey do election. They say to themselves those people are animals. Look we don craze for Nigeria. Me I know that one.
Fela, it seems you are no longer popular as before…
I beg don’t try me o. Me I no get money, I no be government but look if I call press conference na so the place go full ‘paparapa.” Me I popular. Na only me de play my kind of music. When Babangida go France the last time they were surprised, they had to ask him: Is Fela not the President of Nigeria? Babangida was shocked. Everybody know me for Paris. Most record companies can’t stand my smell abroad, even promoters because all of them are establishment people. But me I be revolutionary.
What kind of revolutionary are you?
Do you know there are three kinds of revolutions?
Number one is Naïve Revolution, there is Jagajaga Revolution and the third be Direct Revolution. Number one be for people wey go die for some people else to become president, Jagajaga na him be singing song like say you no sing at all. People like Bob Marley. If I dey sing the kind song wey Bob Marley de sing nobody go touch me. I will have no problem with the police. That is the kind of revolution Oyinbo people want. It means nothing. It is a general attack on issues. The white people know say Rasta na craze man hair. The joy of the white man about Bob Marley is that he can be used to legitimize their theory about all Africans being mad. The problem is that Africans must understand the history of Rastafarians not just copy them blindly,. For example, when Bob Marley’s manager came in the early 80s, he arrived in jeans, and T-shirt looking tattered but the second day when he de go Lagos Island to transact business I was shocked when I saw him dressed up in fine tie, fine blue shirt, felt hat looking like an English man. Even his Rasta hari was neatly packed under his hat. Till today some Rasta people no fit enter taxi. When asked, Bob Marley’s manager why he did not look scruffy that morning he said na because he dey go for business. It is a pity that the Oyinbos de use Bob Marley to legitimize madness.
You still have not explained what you mean by Direct Revolution
I beg wait now. Wetin you know self. The third revolution is a direct one, nack the nail on the head straight. Me I fit yap anybody even Babangida. I yapped Campoaore straight to his face in Burkina Faso. I yap Obasanjo, Abiola, Yar’Adua, name them. Na straight I go hit them gbosa.
Why did you abuse Campaore
You people want to hear story. Come to think of it, I was lucky to have escaped because it was a serious matter I did not know o. Because I was ordered out of Burdina Faso. On my way back, the plane that was to take me to Lagos stopped in Cotonou and we took buses back to Lagos. The police in Cotonou were just looking at me. They could not imagine how anybody fit go to Burkina Faso stand in front of Compaore and spit at his face and still come out safe like I did. Meself , he be like say I don begin craze small.
I was invited to play for Campore. When we got to Burkina Faso, the airport was empty, no single soul was there, they then began to search us. Me I come realize say this search de dangerous because the Igbo wey I carry on that trip reach two cartons of beer. So I call one of those wey take us from Lagos I said look if this searching continues me I go go back. He said no problem even if bomb dey them go allow am into the country.
You know wetin surprise me pass, when we reach stadium there were no people. They laid out a new carpet, they put us in First Class Hotel, gave us four special cars to use, two Toyota seven-seater buses and two Mercedez Benz cars for my use.
But what is the surprise in that?
But why do they have to do that? The riddle is up till today I no know why they did all these. Look at it this way, Government invite me for a show, but people wey dey stadium no reach 2,000. Can you believe they paid me 5,000 pounds cash before we left Lagos? Na their government lottery sponsor us go. Na them get money pass anybody. I was surprised because I enter the place and the place dey empty.
Why is it that you don’t play your old tunes at your concerts?
Well I play a unique music, music for me na mission, no be entertainment. Once I don record something for record he don finish be that. Bye, Bye, my music na gift, that is why nobody fit copy am. I came to this world for a mission, that is why I must keep moving forward, not backward.
Recently there were stories that you were dying, that you had rashes all over your body. Are you now better?
Those people like you wey de write all those things are ignorant. This girl in Sunday Punch newspaper wrote in January that I was sick, that I get rashes but where are they now. You can see my skin, show me the rashes. What happened then was that my body was going through some metamorphosis which I came to prison to complete. See my face my wrinkles don dey disappear. By the time I complete all these, I go shed my skin and I go come look younger. I don’t use western medicine.
You hardly bath everyday in prison. Why?
I don’t see any reason why I should bath everyday because to bath is to look clean, and even outside prison na because of sex I dey bath. I bath every three days.
What do you miss most in Prison?
Sex. Well I am getting out of it. It no longer bothers me. I have overcome it for now spiritually.
Is it true you did not co-operate with police?
Why must I co-operate with them, na me establish them? When they arrest me police go say make I write statement but I have always refused because I am not obliged to write statement if I no want write. Chikena. Look everything I get to say, me go talk am for court.
There is a way you and Wole Soyinka share some radical streak. Why is this so?
Na you sabi. Me I no dey read Soyinka. I tried to read The Man Died I quickly put it down. I would not go beyond the first page, heavy grammar, heavy Oyinbo. But he is my close cousin, in fact, he is my second cousin, He is okay.
Has there ever been a time you’ve felt like committing suicide?
Yes. One day I felt like committing suicide. I just dey tired. That was shortly after they did not register Movement of the People in 1979, but I come dey read for inside book say if you die you go still come back. I come dey read books about African power. I come dey scared of death. Once I went to Ajilete, a village near Abeokuta where they come give me one locally made bullet-proof vest to wear with charms on it. The juju man said once I wear it, nobody fit shoot me. So I go buy goat I wanted to test it. A man near my house had a gun so I borrowed the gun, not knowing the man gave us a blank bullet. We shot the goat but it did not die, I was happy. I then told Beko, my brother and Professor Olikoye to believe in charms. You know Beko now, he then said he would believe only if he tries it. He then called on Dr. Ore Falomo who had a double-barrel gun. Falomo is a good marksman, he come shoot, tear the goat to pieces, I say hey me I no do again, so I would have died if to say I go take am face police. I returned it quick, quick.
Why don’t you make your two brothers, discover their spirit like you?
They don’t believe things easily. Many times I don call Beko into my room to tell am say my body de change. Like my heart beat wey dey show for my hand. Wetin Beko talk? He talk say it is natural people de get am. I am very special person o, I no dey breath for heart, look at my hand you’ll see as the thing dey breath. When I tell Beko in 1981 he come go send for Hindu for Ghana. He came, see me, he say I don craze, Beko’s friend from London Observer came, saw me, spoke to me and went back to write am say I don craze. Na when they charge me for Armed Robbery case that people begin see say I no craze. After this I saw the spirit. Na only my brother Professor believed me. One day I go meet Koye I yap am. He talk say the whole thing be rumour. So I told him a lot of things which he believed. I talk to him for two hours he had no option. When I talk to him finish he talk truth, he say Fela science would win. This is one important truth. Now me self I don know say there is a war between creator and science.
In a book by Carlos Moore titled Fela: This Bitch of a Life, you said so many disparaging things about women. Do you still hold them to be true?
Many of my thoughts have expanded. The man talk say that book was my autobiography. Nonsense! It couldn’t have been. It only contains one third of what we can call autobiography. I know the secret of women, but I have not known the secret finish. Then I was only scratching the surface. I was only getting ready the surface to be scratched, now I have scratched the surface. I have seen the inside of women. All women belong to one planet called Zakhalon. Na them cause jealousy into man. Women should be looked at as stones.
Have you been composing new lyrics in Prison?
Yes, this morning. I just dey tell these boys what came to my mind. Last night, a new music
How do you write your music?
It is easy. I write constantly.
Is it on paper?
No in my head.
What if you forget?
If I write music now and I forget that means it is meant to be forgotten and that it does not catch fine. If I write something and he no stick that means he no be number be that. In the 70s, I used to write a lot. I used to write at least 40 songs a year, every week. In all, I have written about 10 tunes in all. Music comes to me naturally. I don’t see what is happening to me as song yet because is writing music, for me the first sentence is what I need. Once I see the first sentence I’ll complete the rest. Like the music chop and clean Mouth. It took about one whole day to get it. In putting my lyrics together I make sure it must be one I have never used before. First, I get the idea like I want to sing about this, once I get the idea other things would get into place. Let me correct myself. I don’t get the idea, I am often informed by high forces
You must have some regrets?
Wetin I wan regret. I am a strange person, I dey different that is why I was born in the middle of October. The only sign wey no get blood na Libra, scale be the sign. They come born me for 15th at 11:30pm in the night. My life is meant to be imbalance. I no regret anything.
So what music should we expect next?
Read the remaining part here: