Fela and Sankara: The October 15 connection
What a date on the African calendar.
What a date on the Pan-Africanist calendar.
On this day October 15, 1938 one of the greatest musicians of all time was born in Nigeria.
However, on the same day, October 15, 1987, one of Africa’s greatest leaders was assassinated in Burkina Faso.
These men do not really need much introduction, for the brief years they spent with us they drove a kind of philosophy into us that had Africa and the citizens of their respective countries at the centre of their agenda.
I am talking about Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and Thomas Isidore Sankara.
These men had the same ideology but different methods of passing on the message of positive change in Africa.
Both men believed in an independent Africa, a continent that should be self-sufficient and not rely on the false promises of the western governments that pretend to care about the situation of African countries, ‘by giving aid with the left hand, but milks the continent dry with other parts of their body; by taking all of its natural resources without giving anything back to the people’, also making the countries to be indebted to them one way or another, with the help of the puppets (few minority) they help to get into positions of power all around Africa.
Fela, as a man, stood for justice for the people of Nigeria and Africa. He enlightened the masses of the corrupt practice of the political elites and their leaders.
He wanted the government to provide better governance and equal opportunities for the people, to provide basic social amenities for every citizen.
He made it a personal agenda to fight against the corrupt leaders, political elites, business men etc, with the power of his music, even though it meant being victimised, beaten and thrown into prison for trying to expose the various establishments and individuals.
Using the medium of his Afro Beat music, Fela could reach millions of people, who could relate to the pain and suffering, having been blessed with so many natural resources, yet Nigeria and Black Africa seem to be in the wilderness, with only a minority enjoying the bounty from the land.
Sankara, on the other hand, was a man in a position to marshal his country in the way of progress and prosperity for all his citizens. He called it the revolution of the people of Burkina Faso (The Land of Honourable People).
After taking over in a bloodless coup, he reformed his country in so many ways. He made Burkina Faso a self-sufficient country in the four years he was in office before he was assassinated.
He made the people of Burkina Faso realise the benefits of being a self-dependent state. Sankara encouraged farming, crafts or small scale businesses.
In his tenure, he achieved the impossible. From being one of the poorest and highly dependent countries in the world, Burkina Faso started producing their own food.
He set up a mobilisation programme to vaccinate all children under the age of 15 against Meningitis, Yellow Fever and Measles. By the end of the programme, he had about 2.5million children immunised.
He cut down government expenditure and promoted made-in-Burkina Faso goods, making it mandatory for everyone in his government to wear locally-made clothes. He also advocated for other African leaders to promote made-in-Africa goods.
He was among the first heads of state/presidents to give equal opportunity to women. Sankara made his nation respect and appreciate the value and importance of women in every facet of life. They no longer sit at home, worship their husbands and take care of the family.
Sankara said no to imperialism, neo-colonialism, racism, puppet regimes, and he made it clear that he was not going to compromise his people for any false promises made by the French and Western powers.
He told his people they could not afford to be lazy, wait or rely on help from the Western governments if they were willing to control their own destiny.
Fela and Sankara became good friends, as the saying goes ‘like minds attract’.
The King of Afro Beat was invited to Burkina Faso a couple of times and he was even writing a song for his friend Sankara before his assassination.
The Abami Eda was very sad that, of all days they had to kill his friend, it was on his birthday October 15. He had to change the song a bit to accommodate the new but sad development, and he came up with a track called Underground System.
Since the death of these men, can we, as Black Africans, say sub Saharan Africa has progressed in any form?
We know one of them died through an illness and the other an assassination, but what they stood for, fought for and laid down their lives for seems to have all been in vain.
Everything Fela sang about seems to have fallen on deaf ears. We still have the same people in government that have been in positions of power since Independence. The situation of our country and continent has deteriorated sharply since the last time he released an album, and Fela died over 18 years ago.
Burkina Faso was taken back into an imperialist system. The struggle of the revolution by Sankara to make his people upright and honourable seems to be left on the road side and the vehicle of change seems to be in reverse.
Why do we, as Africans, like to celebrate those who have no plans for our future?
Why do we rather fight one another along tribal and religious lines?
Why can’t we ask each other honest questions, the way Fela and Sankara asked themselves the question on how to move their people and the continent forward?
My opinion about Sub Saharan African people is very low, especially when it comes to:
• How we like to be governed
• Our understanding of governance
• Why we are not objective
• Why we sell our future and our kids future for a bag of rice and a bottle of oil
• Why we cannot see beyond tribe and religion and actually back someone who has substance irrespective of what tribe he/she is from.
As we celebrate the life of Fela in this year’s Felabration, I would also like us to remember Comrade Sankara in our thoughts and celebrations, and all that they stood for in their life time. We as Africans need to stand up and be counted.
Imperialism! Down with it
Neo-colonialism! Down with it
Racism! Down with it
Puppet Regime! Down with it
Glory! To the people
Dignity! To the people
Power! To the people
Homeland or Death
We will triumph
Everybody say yeah yeah!
BY BOLAJI IDOWU
OCTOBER 15, 2015