Fela And The ‘Spirit Of Lagos’

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20 Years After Fela: Yesterday’s Message As Today’s Reality, By Lanre Arogundade

Fela And The ‘Spirit Of Lagos’ By Tayo Ogunbiyi

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Though the 2017 edition of Felabration has come and gone, its memories linger on. This year’s edition ended with a special Lagos Jump event at the New Afrika Shrine in honour of the 79th posthumous birthday of the late Afro beat icon, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Originated by Fela’s eldest child, Yeni, as a way of immortalizing the late Afro beat maestro, Felabration has since grown to become a huge entertainment and tourism event that attracts thousands of visitors annually into the country from all over the world. This year’s edition also marks the 20th anniversary of Fela’s death in 1997 and it incorporated assorted events such as musical performances, art competition, Afrobics Talent Hunt, Fela Debates, Symposium, Secondary Schools Debate and the Felabration Carnival.

This piece was written by Tayo Ogunbiyi. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

The involvement of the Lagos State Government in this year’s edition of Felabration is, no doubt, a concrete reflection of the current administration’s resolve to make Lagos the tourism and entertainment hub of Africa. Aside this, it is a further opportunity to celebrate the ‘Spirit of Lagos’ which the late music maestro, through his music, amply typified. The ‘Spirit of Lagos’ is a metaphor for the never say die instinct of a typical Lagosian who is rugged, determined and relentless. Even in the face of adversity, he stands strong and refuses to give in to defeat or failure. Fela surely represented this in his lifetime. He was bold, strong and unbowed.

Lagos is a land of freedom, a place where the struggle for the country’s political independence was conceived, fought and won. Lagos is a place where opposing voices against repressive government is often the loudest. Activists such as the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Beko Ransom Kuti, Ayodele Awojobi, Olisa Agbakoba, Femi Falana and a host of others found their voices against oppression in Lagos. Fela was a freedom fighter who used his entire lifetime, music career and resources to promote the liberation of the African people from both colonial and neo colonial tyranny. Not only this, Fela fought all manners of political tyranny from both military and political leaders in the country to a standstill. In the process, he sometimes lost his freedom, got bruised but was never cowed. This, of course, is the ‘Spirit of Lagos’.

Lagos is a land of confidence and opportunity. This is a great hallmark of Lagos. In Nigeria, Lagos remains a bastion of hope for thousands of people, especially youths, who aspire to fulfill their dreams in life. Lagos is a place where a ‘nobody’ could rise to become a noticeable figure in the society. Many have arrived the City-State without a clear-cut picture of what the future holds. But somehow, they eventually become a reference point in their chosen career.

And providentially, Lagos never disappoints! There is something for almost everyone in the city. No focused man stays in Lagos and wallows in hopelessness. Another popular cliché in the city goes this way: “it is only a lazy man that stays in Lagos and has nothing doing’. True! Lagos offers everyone something. From the art to entertainment and from sports to tourism and across every sector, Lagos gives something refreshing to everyone.

Like Lagos, Fela equally provided lots of opportunities for Nigerians from all walks of life. The brad of music he invented has become a source of livehood to thousands of Nigerians who are involved the genre, one way or the other. Fela gave Nigerians lots of confidence through his music, which he used as a weapon to fight against social injustice and oppression of the masses. He gave them the confidence to voice out against oppression and injustice. He sang: “If you no talk your own, one day of course you will die”. This spurred many Nigerians not to tolerate injustice and tyranny. This is the ‘Spirit of Lagos’.

Fela was a highly detribalized Nigerian who never fought a sectional course. His life transcends parochial interests. He was a national figure with the whole country as his constituency. He never dealt with people or issues on the basis of ethnic, tribal and other such primordial considerations. This, of course, is the Spirit of Lagos. This is what Lagos stands for: A land for all. Lagos is a multi-ethnic and multi cultural metropolis where everyone, irrespective of tribe, ethnic and religion affiliation has a voice.

Traditionally, the hospitable disposition of Lagosians is legendary. It is a global legend that Lagosians are hospitable people who go the extra mile to accommodate visitors. In Nigeria, Lagos remains a major melting point where all Nigerians could feel at home, irrespective of ethnic and religious differences. There is no other State that has opened its doors to accommodate Nigerians of various shades as Lagos does. Everyone who resides in Lagos is traditionally referred to as a Lagosian.

In Lagos State, excellence and competence remain major factors in the recruitment of its workforce. Apart from the Federal Civil Service, the Lagos State Public Service remains, perhaps, the only one in the country that employs its personnel without regards to ethnic and tribal factors. Today, the state public service has in its fold Nigerians that cut across the major ethnic/ tribal divides in the country. While some states in the country employ or even retrench based on ethnic considerations, Lagos state has simply continued its policy of absorbing qualified Nigerians into its public service.

Fela’s nationalistic outlook is, therefore, a true reflection of the nature of Lagos. Lagos is home to all. Subsequent administrations in the State, especially since the dawn of current political dispensation, have gone to limitless length to preserve the multi-ethnic status of Lagos. Indeed, the peace the State has enjoyed over the years is a manifestation of unrelenting efforts of the State government in accommodating various interest groups in the state.

Lagos is the home of rhythm. Indeed, it is from Lagos that the nation gets its groove. It is in Lagos that Fela invented the now famous Afro beat. That is Lagos for you. Many artistes have found in Lagos a place where the beats never die. In Lagos, the beat goes on. While other cities go to sleep, Lagos doesn’t because the beat must go on. For years, using Lagos as a springboard, Fela dazzled the world with his unique kind of beat. Though he died 20 years ago, the beat outlives him.

Lagos is truly the home of rhythmic splendor. The late Boby Benson, Victor Ola Iya, late Fatai Rolling Dollar, late Ayinla Omowura, Ebenezer Obey, King Sunny Ade, Onyeka Onwenu, Jide Obi, Chris Okotie, The Mandators, Daddy Showky, Sir Shina Peters and a host of other top artistes have discovered the nexus between Lagos and rhythm. It is in Lagos that they all had the opportunity to showcase their musical dexterity. Lagos gave them the platform. They enthusiastically grabbed it and in return, Lagos happily wriggles to their beats.

It is hoped that in years to come Lagos will help engender more beautiful rhythm. Meanwhile, for Fela and others, Lagos says: Let the music play on.

Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos

This piece was written by Tayo Ogunbiyi. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

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