Famous Cases

The day soldiers burnt Fela’s shrine, Kalakuta Republic

By Tope Babalola

On February 18 , 1977(exactly 45 years ago today), over 1000 soldiers stormed and burnt down the Kalakuta Republic abode of the Afro beat musician and Pan Africanist ,Fela Kuti at No. 14A Agege Motor Raod, Idi-Oro, Mushin, Lagos

During the brazen attack ,the rampaging soldiers reportedly pulled down the gate to Fela’s house,
chased and flogged everyone in sight, destroying property, including recording and performing equipment, stashes of recorded music and valuable records and Fela’s freshly produced movie, “The Black President”

Fela surrounded by sympathizers

Some of the soldiers reportedly climbed up to the second storey room where Fela’s mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was staying and threw out the heroine of the Nigerian Nationalist struggle out of the window of the two-storey building . She would later die from her wounds few weeks later.

In a matter of hours, soldiers had razed the entire 2-storey edifice to the ground. Some of Fela’s wives would allege that they had been raped.

There are varying reports of what had instigated this violent attack on Fela’s residence.

The rampaging soldiers had claimed that they had come in search of one of Fela’s boys who had fought a Lance Corporal over a traffic violation and then fled into the commune.

In reality, many believed that the soldiers had come for deeper vengeance; i.Fela’s refusal to participate in FESTAC. ii. The publication of the Fela’s Young African Pioneers News condemning the introduction on our roads of an army horsewhip culture, and iii. the uncompromising views as expressed in his (Fela) lyrics were adduced as reasons behind the attack on Kalakuta Republic.”

Many however believe that Fela’s latest record at that time ; Zombie in which he
described Nigerian soldiers as a bunch of robots with no spine but only waiting on orders from above as they marched like toy soldiers was responsible for the violent attack because the album had generated so much resentment for him among Nigerian military top brass as well as the rank and file .

Fela had used zombie as a metaphor in the album to ridicule the Nigerian military, making fun of everything from their “zombie-like” obedience to the music they marched to and their obedience to the last order even it affects their immediate family.

After the mayhem then head of the Nigerian Military Junta Gen Obasanjo established a commission of Inquiry to investigate the case. After weeks of considering evidence, it returned that “unknown soldiers” from the Abalti Barracks were responsible for the attack on Fela’s House ,killing ,maiming,raping and looting in the process .

Thus no costs were awarded against the Nigerian Army exactly 45 years ago today

Mr Babalola is a Director with Ekiti State Ministry of Information, Ado-Ekiti

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