Nigerians demand registration of Fela’s movement as political party

The annual event celebrates the memory and achievements of late singer, Fela

Members of the audience at the 2013 edition of the annual Felabration series, have urged its organisers and the Kuti family to revive the political party, Movement of People, MOP, on which platform, the late Afrobeat king, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, sought to contest the 1979 presidential elections.

The call was made on Monday during the Fela debates session in Lagos.

“Nigerians need alternative political parties that will truly reflect the needs and mandate of people’s ownership,” one participant, Lekan Arogundade, said.

“The party that will salvage Nigerians from the hands of people who have hijacked the country is what Nigerians need right now and that is what Fela’s MOP stands for.”

Another man who identified himself as Lekan, backed the call. ”It is time for Fela’s Movement of People to be registered as a political party, to rally people who have been continuously let down by the existing political parties in the country.”

Admitting that if the party vied for an elective office it might not win, Mr Lekan urged the family to persist with the icon’s political ideology and see how far it would go.

”We the ordinary people have no one to look up to anymore as the ruling class has overtly failed, Fela’s legacy that is living forever, has showed us that he was a rallying force for the emancipation of Africa and the poor and this can still be achieved,” the young affirmed to a rousing applause from the audience.”

Following an attack on his Kalakuta republic residence by soldiers in 1977, after the release of his hit album ‘Zombie’ which was a metaphor on the Nigerian military, Fela launched his own political party called Movement of the People (MOP). His candidature was however refused and the party has since seized to exist.

There are over 50 political parties in Nigeria spread across the country with different ideologies but only a few of the parties are been elected with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) holding on to power since its election in 1999.

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The 2013 Fela debates with the title Movement of the people; The Fela and Bob Marley perspectives focused on how the Afrobeat legend and the reggae maestro used their music to fight for the downtrodden against the ruling corrupt elite.

One of the guest speakers at the debate, Sola Olorunyomi, noted that the two musical icons used their music to drive a movement of people against their oppressors. They both recorded tracks and album with the title.

The My Olorunyomi, a professor, urged Africans to embrace the movement ideology of the two singers to confront the divisive and ethnic narrative that is currently shredding the continent to pieces.

Movement of the People, Political Statement Number 1(Part 1 and 2) is a track title from Fela’s Live in Amsterdam album released in 1984 while Bob Marley and the Wailers recorded the Exodus ‘Movement of Jah People’ in 1977 urging mass migration of Africans in diaspora back to the motherland.

Meanwhile the Vice-President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, Isa Aremu, in his remark called on labour to endow Fela with a post-mortem comradeship because ”he (Fela) was the epitome of the labour movement with his music and fight for people’s wellbeing in Nigeria and across Africa.”

According to him, Fela was a revolutionary who used culture and his music to spread his message. The labour leader advised African leaders to revisit the works of Fela and Marley, who were not partial to their ethnic groups in any way but fought for the entire continent and development of all black people.

Posthumous national honour

Another speaker during the debate, Depo Towobola, who recalled confronting both the police and the military alongside Fela, also called on the Federal Government to honour the legend with a posthumous national honour.

”The federal government has failed to honour the man who is more popular than any Nigerian president, present or past and they are giving national honours to rogues,” Mr. Towobola stated.

”Yes, if Fela were alive he would have refused the award, but we, his family and friends, will accept the award in his honour now that he is late and his musical legacy is acknowledged across the world. Fela suffered for all of us and his music is our religion.

No peoples’ leadership

The son of the Afrobeat legend, Femi Kuti, in his remarks, decried violence in the fight against the government, noting, ”MOP does not mean we must pick up guns to fight a government.”

The new Afrobeat King who has sustained his late father’s musical legacy, however, admitted the failure of grassroots movement in today’s Nigeria because a lack of leadership.

”Once the NLC compromised during the 2012 fuel subsidy protest and backed out in Abuja, the protest against the government collapsed because there was no leadership of the people,” he said.

Kuti insisted on a peaceful protest stating, “We do not need an Arab spring in Nigeria. It has failed in Egypt, it has failed in Libya and it is failing in Syria; nobody will come to help us in Nigeria if violence breaks out.

”We must insist on peaceful means to fight corruption in government and this is where every progressive in Africa must put on our thinking caps and figure out how to fight corruption without violence.”

Other speakers at the event included British journalist, Vivien Goldman, who met both Fela and Bob Marley during their lifetimes. She shared her experience of both encounters with the audience.

There was also presentations by John Collins- who stared in Fela’s Black President movie, destroyed during the military invasion of Kalakuta. Collins presented a series of pictures of Fela from the 1960’s and explained how Fela was inspired by Ghana’s president, Kwame Nkruma, who was a great fan of Fela.

Felabration is a weeklong event lined up to celebrate the Afrobeat legend with diverse activities planned across Lagos. Fela passed away in August 1997, from HIV/AIDS which he reportedly refused to treat.

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