Archives for posts with tag: Nigeria

Fela-NPR010715 abami

“Beasts of No Nation, egbe kegbe  na bad society, beast of no nation oturu gbeke…..”


For some reason I had heard nothing about this Netflix event that everyone had apparently been waiting on; the film  premiere of ” Beast of No Nation” directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.

Naturally, my face flushed with expectation the minute I read the title: Beasts Of No Nation (BONN).I felt that familiar warmth which happens to my brain whenever I speak about, dance or listen to the music of  the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Had Netflix  outsmarted the competition completely and decided to launch its first movie about one of the greatest musicians of my generation?   These guys got game for real!

images (2) netflix
And It all made perfect sense.The launch of  Fukunaga`s Beasts Of No Nation was slated for the 16th of October. October is Felabaration month. Now in its 18th year, Felabaration  is a yearly music festival at the  new African Shrine in Lagos which brings Fela apostles and  lovers of Afrobeat  together in an intensely spiritual celebration  of a musical maesro and a deeply concious human being.

World Music - Fela Kuti - Lagos - #uj_0114

If Netflix was sharp enough to ride the Fela wave, kudos to them. I was thrilled to be a witness to see how a director might tell both the human and the socio-political stories which Fela vocalised in his political lyrics. Stories of lives in a  society struggling to shape its identity amid corrupt public officials, insane corruption and  a global hierarchy which was only concerned with its own survival.

Alas, as I read teasers and watched the trailer for Joji  Fukunaga`s Beasts of No Nation, a forced acceptance dawned on me and  the applause began to dim.

BONN it is, only in title.
No Fela. No Egypt 80.
No dancers of beautiful vibrant ebony.
No Pepple street.
No lanterns on wooden tables selling many things  for the head.
No Reagan.
No Thatcher.
Not even a Botha lookalike!

So second base jare.
In BONN like most of his songs,  Fela was in a state of direct protest; making a mockery of failed governments and political leaders both within Nigeria and internationally  who were  not just corrupt but cruel and completely oblivious to the suffering of their people.


One such leader  was  P.W. Botha – president of South Africa who in 1986 was famously quoted as saying, “This uprising will bring out the beast in us”, in reference to the U.S  introduction of  the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act.

Fela was fearless. As many nations across the world pretended that aparthied was acceptable, Fela  wanted his voice to ring out clearly at the continued cruelty of  Botha`s brutish and arrogant reaffirmation  that the apartheid system would continue unchanged.

In BONN Fela says:

These words continue to unpeel the layers of  the “beast” , espousing the inhuman attributes of  many leaders who simply are deaf to the voices of the people they govern. He develops  the metaphor  further suggesting  that there are many  leaders who look human on the outside in their suits and fancy  clothes but lack the compassion which qualifies them as human. With their nations in chaos and dissary, these leaders disguised as humans are  really beasts of no nation consumed with an overwhelming sense of their own importance and  a distinct lack of sensitivity and disregard for anyone or anything else. 

Growing up in Nigeria,  listening to these songs was instrumental.  Watching Fela perform live at the Kalakuta Republic at Pepple street was an experience to be repeated over and over again.  It was a deep sizzle of  intensly stirring  rhythms, politically charged lyrics,  an ambiance created by an unleashing of all inhibitions and a journey  somewhere quite extraordinary. Fela inspired me to think outside the box. He inspired me to understand that the process of political agitation to challenge injustice and raise issues of social change in society is a responsibility for every citizen.

Watching his travails and his cruel mistreatment at the hands of  government allowed me to understand that not all of us can be brave and openly fearless in challenging  the wrongs in society. However,  to those who do so at great risk, the rest of us must graciously acknowledge and give revered respect where it is due.

download (1) fela

I remember cutting everything I could find in the newspapers when Fela passed on. And I can safely say the streets of Lagos have not seen such an outpouring of respect  and grief in such numbers for any man dead or alive since then.

Warts and all, Fela was human, a poet whose lyrics even now continue that metaphoric resonance. 26 years after these words were first written, they seem almost prophetic as we watch on a grand stage the tragic consequences of having leaders who are beasts of no nation. 

The beauty of Fela for me is in the freshness of his message, the genius of his music and the truth which he refused to be quiet about. As I sing along to BONN and stomp my whole body in response,  I am still moved to action- no jonesing here-exactly as Fela would have wanted his audience to be.


06_0 naija greatness


Meehn, I’m not ever going back to that death trap again!’

‘Hah, hah wetin happen?”

“Meehen, me wey don commot Naija since, I no even serve self, come go back go marry after 10years, can you imagine, Na small remain I for quench for Ife -Ibadan road”! It’s over for me and Naija Meehn , dem no chase me for Jand, I beg, make Naija just hold imself jare!”

“Eeh eh? Hah, Sorry o. God dey sha“.


And so I ended the conversation in default setting.

God dey”  is always a safely static way to slide noiselessly out of most Naija conversations.

However, the whole 5 minute onslaught of frustrated energy, vigorous head shaking laced with dregs of confused longing got my brain working up some alternative perspectives.

I actually wanted to ask my unhappy Naija tourist one simple question: so why do you think Nigeria owes you good, safe roads?

naija in july 359


Seriously, I mean what have you actually invested in that relationship?

Being of my generation,I know you enjoyed some of that oil money.

Like me, you most certainly had ” free education” for most of your years in school including zero fees towards your university degree.

images education

And you couldn’t wait to leave Nigeria for greener pastures. And they have certainly delivered.

The big house, the swanky car, the “shine shine “extras ( I mean your sister came from Naija to born on the NHS ke) and let’s not forget the fact that you don’t have to pay private for your kids to get a decent education.

I am just saying it as it is. You deserve to be where you are.

No one will begrudge you that. You schooled for it, worked for it, fasted for it, struggled through it, visualized it, believed enough in it, pursued it, and paid enough taxes.

images uk border controls

Your investment in this country means you have earned the right to demand of it according to the laws which you uphold everyday, a political system you believe enough in  and a government which you continue to sustain.

One to which you feel a sense of ownership.

Nobody, and I mean nobody better deny you moaning rights here, but how so for Nigeria?


I can understand my mother’s heartfelt disappointment and grooves of activism with her social peers .

Afterall,she invested over 40years of her working life teaching in Nigeria and to face it’s seemingly unstoppable meltdown complete with a the no pension fiasco must leave her quite shattered.


And yes, I can understand my friends in Lagos moaning about water, light, food, house, but wetin be your own biko?


What have you given back to Nigeria in terms of your intellectual capability, creativity, resourcefulness and your “exceptional aptitude” for hard work ?

Indeed, your well worn way of “raising the bar “and ” reaching your next milestone” and of course, your ability to dream and visualize greatness and hmmmmmm… pay your National Insurance, council and other small taxes …wordlessly?

Oh I forget Nigeria does not need taxes, all that oil money? Right?

Anyone who has seen the mega changes in Lagos metropolis will tell you what promptly paid taxes can do in the hands of decent leaders.

index brt buses in lagos

However, the question still waits: why should you, with a good dose of irritation in your voice and  gnashing of teeth demand good, safe, well maintained roads in Nigeria?

Let’s face it friend, you did not hang around long enough in Nigeria to do what you could, to ask the difficult questions when they needed asking.

Now events have overtaken you, suddenly you recognize your sense of patriotic disorientation, you want what Nigeria has to offer but only the best bits- haba!

Even the people who live and work in Nigeria everyday don’t get the best bits, but they continue to build their lives around the best of what they have.

images ordinary living

So deal with you.

I am always astonished at the way ordinary Nigerians in Nigeria find a myriad of ways to be resourceful despite the orbit of civil loneliness in which they wake up everyday.

They can’t depend on a civil government for much and unlike my tourist friend flying the roost on Arik, Virgin or KLM, leaving Naija is just not and will not be an option – full stop-it’s just not going to happen.

images f;oating school lagos

So they live.

They work hard, hustle, pray, laugh, spend loads of small change on “to match” accessories, colourful geles and crazy caps.

And they raise families and yes, quite a good number drink a lot of Star, Gulder, Big Stout and Origins.

But fleshed into living , is the robust activity of moaning about what needs fixing and how different life would be if there was just a few more honest leaders.

images good governance

It’s their Nigeria, they invest patience, unrequited belief, sweat, blood and tears and I can tell you they are entitled to a lot more than good, safe roads.


So as a parting shot to my friend who won’t stop telling everyone just how “crazy” Nigeria is, I will say this.

If you want correct moaning rights, let’s start to talk about ways to partake and share a different experience of Nigeria.

Put  some of your special talents back in, do something tangible to take your  relationship with Nigeria somewhere…anywhere other than where it is- static central.

Don’t blame the shape of Nigerian roads for your sense of disconnection-what you feel is what it is,- a disconnection, no big ting, just reconnect …find the threads and start pulling...

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