Baba Ani: What I learnt from Fela

Baba Ani: What I learnt from Fela

Monday, August 8, 2016 5:03 pm

Baba Ani

Baba Ani

But Fela could have chased him away for being the cause of the fracas with the soldiers…

Fela wasn’t like that. Already, he knew the people in government were after him and they could do anything to get rid of him. The cause of the clashes wasn’t such a heavy thing that could make the law enforcement agencies take it up the way they did. They just looked for a way to nail him. Fela was not a man that would drive his people away. He could scold anybody that did something wrong. He could punish the person as well but he never drove anybody away. But he allowed anybody who wanted to go away to do that and he still welcomed back those who decided to come back eventually. The only thing was that anybody that went away and came back would have been replaced by another person. That meant the person would have to start again from the lower wrung of the ladder.

Kalakuta invasion was a huge episode in the lives of Fela and his household, weren’t you scared that such event might happen again and didn’t it make you to be wary of Fela?

No way. By then, most of us had understood what was happening between him and the government. We were prepared to go through the whole thing with him. That was why I was with him till his death and that is why I am still with his youngest son, Seun. There was never a time such thought came to my mind. I got married in 1967. It didn’t matter to me much because we knew why Fela was having problems and we were aware of the genuineness of his cause. We just decided to stay put because it was a good cause. Fela would not go and play during a marriage or naming ceremony.

How long did it take him to rebuild Kalakuta after it was burnt?

He didn’t rebuild it. He was never allowed to come back there. He stayed at Jibowu (Lagos). One old man had a hotel there and he stayed in the hotel. His mother was in the hotel too. That was where we played our music for Sunday Jump. We eventually left for Ghana. From there, he went to live in Ikeja. That time, he lived at a crescent in Ikeja just a few yards away from his current residence before he passed on. His house then was under construction, so he stayed with his friend, J.K. Briamah who is resident in London now. It took him some years before he finished his house.

Do you think it was the Kalakuta incident that led to the death of Fela’s mother?

When she was thrown from the balcony to the ground floor, what did you expect? She was old. You can imagine what damage could be done to her health. Those who claim she died as a result of that incident are not far from the truth. She was very healthy before that incident and thereafter, she was never the same until she died. More so, she didn’t live long after the incident.

What was the band doing each time Fela was incarcerated?

We kept playing. After the Kalakuta inferno, those clubs we used to perform at refused to let the band perform in their hotels. Nobody wanted to offend the government. But when we parked to Ikeja and African Shrine was established, anytime he was in prison, I was there to keep the band going. We even went on a tour to the Eastern part of the country while he was incarcerated. I led the band to the East. Some of our women who were very fearful decided not to go with us. But those who wanted to go did that and we made some money for the band without Fela. We kept the flag flying.

Was there ever a time you were picked up as well?

No. I was never picked up. The only time I had a problem with the police was when (late Sunday) Adewusi was the police IG. He was a man of the government and he tried what he could to get Fela and nail him. They couldn’t get him in Lagos. We had an engagement at Kwara Polytechnic, Ilorin. The police followed us to the venue. Some of them were in mufti. But because of the way Fela talked and he even announced their presence, they were afraid of the students and their reaction, so they left us that night. But the following day when we were coming back to Lagos, they went some miles outside Ilorin and mounted a road block. We got there; they stopped the vehicle and started searching. Unfortunately, one of us had a roll of marijuana in his hand and when he saw the police, he dropped it under the seat. So when the police searched the car, they eventually found the wrap of marijuana and they asked for the owner. Four of us were sitting at the back seat behind the driver and none of us was ready to disclose the owner, so they packed the four of us and took us to Ilorin Police station. We stayed there for two or three days before Fela’s lawyer came and bailed us out. Eventually, we appeared in court and the lawyer argued the case and we were freed.



How did you feel when you heard the news that Fela was dead?

Ah! I felt very bad. Throughout the period of his sickness, I had the premonition that he wasn’t going to make it. A few months before then, we had noticed the signs that he was going. So when he eventually died, it didn’t come to us as a surprise. But then, I didn’t feel fine about it. We had lost a gem, a prophet (sobs). He suffered. He was killed for nothing. He died because he was on the side of the masses. He would have lived a better life than what happened to him. He was treated as a criminal. It is quite unfortunate. That is the country we live in. Fela was not a criminal. He was a very accommodating man. He accommodated people of all ethnic groups and even people who are not Nigerians. I still miss him so much. I learnt a lot from him. I have never seen a hardworking musician like Fela. He was courageous. He was disciplined. He abhorred stealing and other vices. I learned a lot from him. I thank God for the time I spent with him. I am 80 years old . If not for the time I spent with Fela, maybe I would have broken down now. The whole glory goes to God. But Fela was really a wonderful person to me.

Which of the crises do you think got to him so badly?

It was the incident that led to his broken arms and legs. That should be the Kalakuta invasion.

Credit: The Punch.

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